The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2017.
We have so far this year had mixed fortunes with our wildlife. A fine and often very hot early summer has had benefits that we did not see last year but there have also been losses. The saddest was that our House Martins failed to reappear to breed, and we probably now have to accept that our once thriving colony is now extinct. The number of occupied nests had been dwindling for a few years and was down to only one last year which really meant that there were not enough birds to replace losses on migration. The British Trust for Ornithology is monitoring this species but it is tempting to speculate whether we in our towns and cities are doing anything wrong. The problem may be that there are too few flying insects and it has been suggested that our well stocked gardens are using too many insecticides, successfully reducing greenfly from our roses but starving our breeding insect eaters. We have over the years lost Spotted Flycatchers and it should be noted that our much diminished urban House Sparrows feed their newly fledged young on insects rather than seeds. Having stocked a peanut feeder in my garden I am noting that the Blue and Great Tits are feeding more ravenously than in the winter and at a time when insect and caterpillar food should be readily available.
Swifts however did arrive, and clearly some have bred in the crevices of Victorian and Edwardian houses that they favour. These too have been the subject of anxiety as to whether the breeding population is being sustained. There did appear to be good enough numbers of feeding birds flying high but there was less evidence of the large screaming parties flying round our houses that we used to see and can still see in many European cities.
But of course there is also better news. Kestrels have once more bred in the tower of St Peter’s church at the entrance to Cox’s walk and fledged three young. Hobbys are probably breeding in the woods although the nest has not been found. There are probably up to five pairs of Tawny Owls nesting in our stretch of the Great North Wood. A singing male Firecrest was heard in Sydenham Hill wood in May which can identify it as breeding here, a first breeding record for Dulwich. A Brown Long eared Bat has been seen flying near the Cox’s Walk bridge where of course there is a population of Pipistrelles..
Emma Pooley, a university graduate who lives in Streatham has been appointed the London Wildlife Trust new Hedgehog Officer started work in August. She will be mapping the distribution of our residual hedgehog populations with a view to creating corridors whereby they might interbreed. We know that there are hedgehogs in the woods, in the Rosendale allotments and Horniman Gardens but she will be anxious to receive records wherever they are seen. It should be noted that slug killer pellets are toxic to hedgehogs, slugs being an important item of their diet, so gardeners should be encouraged to keep the use of pellets to a minimum if they know they have Hedgehogs.
After two poor years for butterflies this year is generally proving to have produced a marked recovery with greater numbers of Gatekeepers, Speckled Woods and Skippers and the new appearance locally of Ringlets. More spectacular, we again have Silver Washed Fritillary in the Sydenham Hill Wood. The more colourful Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Commas put in an appearance early on but as at the time of writing we are between broods we will need to see how many emerge in the later summer. We may not however see the numbers that we were used to in years gone by as there is increasing evidence of decline in urban butterfly populations of these species, probably due in part to loss of breeding habitat. Indeed, because of their visibility, butterfly populations may be a marker for other less visible insects and the survival of our insectivorous birds.
None of these butterflies are yet particularly rare but we do have one that is the subject of much more interest to etymologists on account of its relative rarity and this is the White Letter Hairstreak. This is a small dark butterfly, not easy to see as it tends to fly in the canopy of trees and is so named after a wing marking in the shape of a W. It has become red listed as rare and endangered as its caterpillar food plant is Elm, trees that were decimated some years ago by Dutch Elm disease. I have been in touch with Mr. Bill Downey who is the National Butterfly Conservation transect coordinator for Surrey and south west London who has highlighted the White Letter Hairstreak as a key species for conservation. He has found the butterfly, during its flight period in June, in and around elm on Dulwich Common and also that part of College Road which adjoins Gallery Road, where there is a considerable amount of hybrid elm that is relatively disease resistant. He will be monitoring the species on behalf of the DEFRA UK National Biodiversity Plan who sponsor the National Butterfly Conservation scheme on an annual basis but it will of course behove us to identify and preserve the trees on which the butterfly depends.
We in Dulwich are blest with our green spaces, woods and parks but for the preservation of our wildlife there is a lot to consider when we see our well kept gardens devoid of the butterflies we expect to see visiting our scented flowers.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)
If you have been lucky enough to visit the delightful half-acre garden of 105 Dulwich Village on one of the dates it is open for charity, you would be forgiven for thinking that the garden has been carefully preserved ever since the house, and its neighbour, 103 Dulwich Village, were originally built in 1759. However, this is very far from the truth. When Andrew and Ann Rutherford moved into the house in 1983 the garden looked quite different, and lacked the splendour it now has, particularly in the summer. The most striking feature that has disappeared since 1983 was a 10 metre swimming pool at the far end of the garden, with a modernist white wall beyond it. This has since been replaced by a waterfall and pond complete with newts and frogs, and naturalistic planting of shade tolerant plants including hostas, ferns, astilbes and conifers.
There is an ancient mulberry tree towards the end of the garden, and a shrubbery with some quite tall trees, bought some years ago at Columbia Road Market when they were small enough to fit in the car! Various new flowerbeds were also created and there are lots of pots. The latest addition to the garden is the Westmoreland slate spherical sculpture created in situ from recycled roofing tiles by James Parker. The formal fish pond, closer to the house, certainly looks as if an 18th century gardener would have approved it. However, in the late 1970s, the area closest to the house was lawn, with two rectangular rose beds.
When the Rutherfords moved in, they felt that the rose beds did not suit the shape of the garden so they were replaced with the circular pond and associated landscaping, dug roughly 25 years ago. The 5” thick York stone flags surrounding the pond were originally flooring in a factory in the north of England. When they arrived in Dulwich, the whole family spent hours scrubbing the industrial grime from them. They were originally laid flat round the pond but in July 2007 a massive hailstorm which flooded the cellars in local streets, washed away the sandy base from some of the flags, making them slightly uneven but enhancing the impression that the pond and surroundings are contemporary with the house. The first summer saw instant colour with nicotiana all round the pond but the plan was always that it should be surrounded by blue and white flowers, as now, with delphiniums, geraniums, roses, agapanthus, valerian, salvias and annuals for the bees.
The results of the care and work of the Rutherfords are manifest in many ways. Not only have they given hundreds of visitors great pleasure by sharing their beautiful garden every year, but they have also raised thousands of pounds for the National Garden Scheme and St. Christopher’s Hospice with their annual garden openings, in conjunction with their next door neighbours at 103 Dulwich Village, Noel and Caroline Annesley. A less obvious beneficiary has been the wildlife that has been attracted to the garden. Not only are there the aforementioned newts and frogs, a variety of wild birds – including woodpeckers, herons and on two occasions, a kingfisher, over 300 species of moth, bees, dragonflies and of course, squirrels and foxes, have been attracted by the wildlife friendly gardening practices of planting many nectar producing flowers, and leaving some areas undisturbed. There is a log pile for stag beetles and a patch of nettles for breeding butterflies. On open garden days you can see lists of birds and moths that have visited. This wildlife role call would be impressive for any garden but doubly so when it is considered that this garden is so close to central London.
This is the 20th year that the garden has been open to the public, and it really is worth visiting in the future if you are able. It is a rare opportunity to see a lovely flower-lover’s haven, for inspiration for your own gardening or simply to enjoy the owners’ hard work.
Please see the Dulwich Gardens Open for Charity leaflet for next year’s visiting information – this is due to be published in spring 2018.
Does your garden have an interesting history that you would like to tell? If so, please email
Looking south from the top floor of our house in Overhill Road you can clearly see, on the crest of the opposite hill, the bandstand of the Horniman Museum. Rather less visible, in the valley below and a little to the east – and slightly obscured by foliage in the summer months - is the roof of the childhood home of the writer C.S.Forester, best known for his series of ‘Hornblower’ naval novels set during the Napoleonic Wars. An English Heritage Blue Plaque records that he lived at No.58 Underhill Road. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of his death in 1966.
Forester was born Cecil Louis Troughton Smith in a top-floor flat on the Shoubra Road, Cairo, Egypt, on 27 August 1899. He was the third son and fifth child of George Foster Smith MBE (1863-1947), a London-trained English teacher working at a British-style public school in the city who had moved to Egypt shortly after the birth of his first child in 1889. He was later Professor of the Normal School for Teachers in Cairo and wrote Talks With the Children (1904) - an English primer for Egyptian students - and other educational books. He received a number of awards for his work including an MBE in 1920. His mother was Sarah Medhurst Troughton (1867-1949), also a teacher.
After 15 years in Egypt, Forester’s mother and her five children moved back to London in 1901 and lived at 37 Shenley Road, on the border of Camberwell and Peckham, near George Smith’s brother Harry (also a teacher). The children’s father remained in Cairo, but regularly returned on leave. In Shenley Road Cecil was looked after at first by the family’s maid, then, in 1902 ‘a week after my third birthday, I went to school’ as he recalled in his memoir, Long Before Forty, written while he lived in Dulwich but not published until after his death.
Cecil followed his older siblings to the nearby London County Council primary, Lyndhurst Grove School (which was, by coincidence, the first school of my wife). It was while Cecil was at Lyndhurst Grove School that he managed to buy ‘three penn’orth of gunpowder’ from a local shop, poured it into a wood-lined socket for holding a clothes-line post in a school friend’s back garden, replaced the post and lit a home-made fuse. Describing ‘The Big Bang’ mine later he said: ‘Underneath that clothes-line post was about as much powder as was used to charge a thirty-two pounder in Nelson’s day.’ There was an almighty explosion, the post was blown into a garden two doors away, numerous windows in the neighbourhood were shattered and a policeman arrived...
While at Lyndhurst Grove School, Cecil also won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital School. However, the offer was withdrawn when it was discovered that by then his father was earning too much. Instead he attended Alleyn’s School as a fee-paying student like his oldest brother Geoffrey. As there was only one vacancy at the time he entered (aged 11), he joined the fourth form with boys of 13 and 14. Here, needless to say, he was bullied as a ‘skinny bespectacled shrimp’ by some of the boys until he began to grow rapidly (five inches a year for four years) and took up boxing.
Cecil walked to Alleyn’s, later recalling, ‘In those days Green Lane, Dulwich, [now Green Dale] really was a lane – we walked along it twice a day to and from school – and down one side ran a little stream, brown with iron, one of the mineral springs which once nearly made the district a popular watering place. To dam that ditch was a usual pastime...’
Cecil met his first wife when he was at Alleyn’s, at the age of 13. She was 10-year old Kathleen (Kitty) Belcher, then at James Allen’s Girls’ School (and later a teacher of gymnastics), who was the younger sister of his Alleyn’s school friend, Frank Belcher. Their father, George Joseph Belcher, was himself a schoolteacher and they lived in Hawarden Grove, Herne Hill. (According to Cecil’s son, John, Cecil also got a girl expelled from JAGS when he asked Kitty to pass on a letter to her and it was opened by a teacher: ‘Whatever the note said, it was apparently not serious enough to have the boy who wrote it expelled from his boys’ school, but it was sufficient to send the girl to whom it was addressed away from her girls’ school.’
Cecil claimed that he learnt to read from studying his brothers’ bound volumes of Chums comic, especially its adventure serials by Samuel Walkey. Other early reading included Henty, Ballantyne, Rider Haggard, W.M.Thackeray and Dickens (‘whose work I found I disliked intensely’). He and his brothers also had long battles with lead soldiers and paper battleships representing the navy of Nelson’s time.
In 1914, Cecil, his older brother Hugh, their two sisters and their mother were still living in Shenley Road (Geoffrey was then abroad). However, by 1915 Hugh had joined up as a machine-gun officer and Cecil, his mother and two sisters moved to 58 Underhill Road, East Dulwich. Then, with financial assistance from Geoffrey (who had made a lot of money as the Medical Officer of a Shell Oil base at the port of Res Gamsah on the Red Sea, and later Borneo), Cecil entered the sixth form of Dulwich College as a boarder in September 1915.
At school he played cricket and rugby and served in the Officer Training Corps but was deemed unfit for military service in the First World War as he had a weak heart. Instead, still living at home with his mother and two sisters (later just his sister Marjorie), he left Dulwich College and in October 1917 began to train at Guy’s Medical School (following in the footsteps of his brother Geoffrey and cousin Harry) and wrote humorous articles for the hospital’s Gazette. However, having discovered he was unsuited to the career he left in his third year.
In 1920, when his father returned to Dulwich on leave, Cecil told his family that he had decided to become a writer. His father gave him six months to live at home without paying room and board to get him started and, as Cecil’s son John says, ‘except for one trip to France, Cecil did not leave home until late 1927’.
He immediately set about writing 6000 words a day for a fortnight. A friend, Gladys Roberts, typed up the manuscript and suggested his pseudonym should be Cecil Forester (possibly after Mrs Cecil Forrester, a character in Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four), which he changed to C.S.Forester, and it was sent off to a publisher. After it had been rejected by a number of publishing houses he wrote another novel in six weeks which was eventually published by Methuen as The Paid Piper (1924). Though Forester claimed that this book was largely written in Free Libraries (such as Dulwich Library) his son says that he actually did most of his writing in Underhill Road. He started his third book while the first two were still doing the rounds of publishers. It was set during the Napoleonic Wars (as the Hornblower series would be later) and was called A Pawn Amongst Kings. After being rejected by three publishers it was accepted by Methuen in 1924 and was his first published book
However, he was by now very short of money. He thus took a casual job selling carpets at the Ideal Home Exhibition in Olympia, worked as a male escort (dance and dinner partner only) for wealthy ladies and sold poetry to some magazines. Methuen then commissioned him to write, in two months, a non-fiction book about Napoleon (Napoleon and His Court, 1924) which was well reviewed and led to another book, about the Empress Josephine.
The Josephine book introduced Cecil to the British Library and also to the typewriter: ‘By the time I had finished the eighty thousand words of Josephine I was almost a competent typist.’ Another novel (the crime thriller Payment Deferred) was then rejected by Methuen for whom he produced two more ‘hack biographies’. To make extra money he also wrote articles for the Goldsmith’s Journal, guidebooks for the Pullman company, edited the memoirs of an old Greek millionaire who lived in Forest Hill, tutored the son of a neighbour and worked as a professional bridge-player.
In 1925 he also worked briefly as a copywriter for the Imperial Advertising Agency (he was sacked after a month) and the following year (1926) set up his own short-lived company, Brady & Smith, selling advertising space in newspapers with a former colleague from the IAA. Then eventually, having been rejected by Methuen, Collins, Heinemann and Jonathan Cape, Payment Deferred – which is set in south London - was published by John Lane (Bodley Head) in 1926, a week before the General Strike which ‘almost killed it dead’. The book was a critical success and in the 1930s theatre and film versions appeared starring Charles Laughton. On 13 May 1931 (shortly before Forester left Dulwich) the cartoonist W.K.Haselden even drew two illustrations (featuring Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Paul Longuet) to accompany its review of the original production at the St James’s Theatre.
Meanwhile his father had returned from Egypt for good in 1924 and settled down at 58 Underhill Road for the remaining 23 years of his life. On 3 August 1926, having broken off an engagement to a local girl, Cecil married his first wife, Kitty Belcher. Later, backed by his publishers, he bought a 15-foot-long dinghy (a ‘ridiculous little motor boat’) named Annie Marble after the heroine in Payment Deferred. He and his wife then spent 11 weeks boating in France and later Germany, which would lead to the books The Voyage of the ‘Annie Marble’ (1929) and The ‘Annie Marble’ in Germany (1930).
It was in 1927, while he was preparing for these trips, that Forester bought three bound volumes (18 issues in all) of the monthly Naval Chronicle (1790-1820) for his library on the small boat, and it was after studying these that the Hornblower series began. The name itself (he claimed that Horatio came from Hamlet, not Nelson) may have been inspired when he visited Alleyn’s School in 1922 for the unveiling of the memorial boards in Christ’s Chapel to those who had fallen in the Great War (he was a keen member of the Alleyn Old Boys’ Club). One of the names was Private Edward S. Hornblower, who was one of the oldest members of the school to have died during the war (he was 43). Cecil may also have seen the name on a war memorial in the old St Barnabas’ Church (destroyed by fire in 1992).
Around this time he wrote Long Before Forty, at the end of which he meditates on his uncertain future with his wife and motorboat before they set off on their journey along ‘the more dangerous half of the Loire’. From the autumn of 1928 to the spring of 1929 Cecil and Kitty lived in the attic of 58 Underhill Road. Their first son John was born in the house on 7 October 1929, shortly after their return from Germany (John would later himself attend Alleyn’s School). That same year Cecil published his last and best biography, Nelson (1929), and the novel, Brown on Resolution (1929), his first naval story, which was also the only one of his books to be filmed twice (the first version starred John Mills in one of his earliest films).
In the autumn of 1930 Cecil, Kitty and John then moved into a little flat with a tiny walled garden on the lower front of Gothic Lodge, situated on the corner of Mount Adon Park and Lordship Lane.
During this period he published his second crime thriller, Plain Murder (1930), which, with Payment Deferred, was praised by the Guardian in 2011: ‘These two short novels establish Forester as the improbable pioneer of a very English form of noir crime fiction – domestic, darkly ironic and as hard as a hanging judge.’ He also published his first play, U-97 (1931), and Death to the French (1932) - the last book which appeared while he was living in Dulwich (it was published in September 1932). A novel of the Napoleonic wars, Death to the French directly influenced Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books (its hero, Matthew Dodd, even appears in Sharpe’s Escape).
Forester and his family moved to 36 Longton Avenue, Upper Sydenham, at the end of 1932 where Forester would write The African Queen (1935) and the Hornblower series, beginning with The Happy Return (1937). In all, he published nearly 20 books (almost a third of his total output) while in Dulwich – biographies, crime thrillers, travel books, historical fiction, drama, verse and short stories.
In an article for Holiday magazine in 1955, Forester acknowledged the influence of his early years in Dulwich and Peckham on his work:
No writer ever quite escapes his own childhood I have gone back to that part of London again and again in my books for events, for people, for stories, for tiny details, for settings and houses and furniture. When we left Peckham, we moved to a house in Dulwich; halfway between these two homes Mr William Marble of my Payment Deferred later buried a corpse in his back garden, and not far from there Randall (of The River of Time) spent his married life. It was while I wandered along those same quiet streets much later on, in the 1920s, that plots formed in my mind; Rifleman Dodd went through his adventures one evening as I walked along Court Lane, and The Gun played its part in the Peninsular War in Spain as a result of watching workmen removing a fallen tree down towards Herne Hill. These books were written in all sorts of odd places in the world, but that was where they had their start.
An extraordinary stroke of good fortune set the world-famous Picture Gallery at the heart of the Village and the Dulwich Estate, monumental and magnificent on its lawns: two hundred years ago, the first free public gallery in England; intended to educate and inspire young artists. We can’t know the full story why its founders eventually determined on Edward Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift as beneficiary – an ineffectual small charity school to breed up orphan boys for university, with a dull almshouse; a sleepy sinecure (at that time, of course), offering lavish hospitality to cultivated visitors from across the Thames that it could well afford. In 1824 The Somerset House Gazette said the collection was left to Dulwich ‘almost unaccountably’. The bequest comprised Old Masters (some of the first quality) and other paintings, now the main collection, followed by the gift of the Gallery itself, Soane’s own ‘favourite subject’, on the site of the College stables. It is also something to celebrate that Dulwich College Picture Gallery was rebuilt after severe bomb damage and developed as the glorious and (since 1995) independent, Dulwich Picture Gallery.
When its founders, Noel Desenfans and Sir Francis Bourgeois, set about establishing a Gallery, Dulwich College was in fact their third choice as location. Desenfans had got together the Old Master collection for the last King of Poland, Stanislaus Poniatowski, as both a royal and a national gallery, but the King was forced to abdicate, and it never happened. In 1799 Desenfans offered the collection to the British government for something new in this country, a National Gallery, if the government would come up with the premises; William Pitt the Younger declined it. Thank goodness, for us, and thank goodness again for the contumely of the Duke of Portland: when Desenfans died in 1807, the pictures were at his Charlotte Street house in Marylebone, on the Portland Estate, where he lived, a ménage-à-trois with his wife Margaret and his friend Sir Francis Bourgeois, RA. In 1810 Bourgeois asked the Duke to modify the lease for a National Gallery, ‘gratuitously open… to artists as well as to the public’, as both ‘a source of professional improvement’, and ‘an object of national exhibition’. The Duke replied (the letter is in the College Archives), pointedly naming Bourgeois as ‘esquire’ rather than by his Polish title (the equivalent of a knighthood, as agreed by George III), and saying he didn’t think he could do that, and would not bother to find out. Presumably he did not like the idea of an art gallery with outreach to riff-raff on his London estate. Thus the Gallery never was a neighbour of Mme. Tussaud’s, but grew ‘to posterity for the benefit of the nation’ at Dulwich College, under the aegis, as Bourgeois put it, of the ‘unpretending merit’ he admired there.
Bourgeois told Launcelot Baugh Allen, the Warden of the College and a barrister, who negotiated the gift, that he had visited the College and it was ‘dedicated to an excellent purpose’. Bourgeois was himself an orphan, adopted by Desenfans; as was Desenfans, probably, with obscure French origins and a surname commonly given to foundlings from the Des Enfants institutions. Bourgeois told Allen another advantage was Dulwich’s moderate distance from London, in delightful countryside. Possibly the same motive as Edward Alleyn’s, perpetuating his childless name, influenced him: art collections in London in aristocratic mansions were known by the name of their owners; the College in early days referred to ‘the Bourgeois Gallery’. Leigh Hunt wrote that there was certainly vanity in Bourgeois’ bequest, ‘though attended with touching circumstances’. Soane, the Founders’ friend, was specified as architect, to include a Mausoleum in the Gallery for them and Margaret. Soane in his Memoirs says that at one point he thought of leaving his own Library and Collection of Antiquities to the College, inspired by Bourgeois; the spare fourth Mausoleum sarcophagus was perhaps for himself. What a thought: to have added the riches of the Soane museum as teaching aids to the superior amenities of the current Dulwich College boys. An important mediator among these dramatis personae was the Rev. Robert Corry, who was the College’s Third Fellow and Usher (schoolmaster): he also ‘occasionally officiated at Sir Francis’s private chapel’ at Charlotte Street. This was Soane’s original mausoleum for Desenfans, prototype of the later one at Dulwich, domed and top-lit. Bourgeois put it (not altogether tactfully) that the College Fellows were ‘not shackled with any onerous duties to divert them from the care of the paintings’; the country air would ‘operate favourably in preserving them from the atmospheric and other evil influences of the metropolis’. When Bourgeois died in 1811 the College and Margaret (née Morris), Desenfans’ wealthy widow, almost immediately began discussions with Soane, who designed the Gallery and gave his services without fees.
Another factor in the choice of Dulwich College was perhaps its current celebrity for housing Alleyn’s theatrical archive. John Philip Kemble, the grand actor and a friend of the Founders (whose portrait by Beechey is in the collection), was a frequent guest of the College, where he had studied the manuscripts. At the Old College in those days Alleyn’s Long Gallery, eighty by thirteen feet, was on the first floor of the west wing; in the 1670s John Aubrey called it ‘a Picture Gallery’: ‘in it are several worthless Pictures, and some not so bad, viz. The Founder, and his First Wife, Henry Prince of Wales, Sir Thomas Gresham, Mary, Queen of Scotland, and several others given by Mr. Cartwright, a Comedian [=actor], whose Picture is at the Upper End’. Alleyn’s own collection of portraits included the kings and sibyls he bought, noted in his diary. After a visit in 1791 Horace Walpole, that fastidious aesthete, called all these old pictures ‘mouldy’.
In this gallery indeed hung some of the interesting if second-rate pictures William Cartwright the younger left to the College in 1682, in memory of Alleyn. His father William, also an actor (fl. 1598 – 1636), was Alleyn’s colleague. Few of these are worthy of display nowadays, except for the famous group of portraits of actors. Both Cartwrights were prominent actors and theatre moguls, like Edward Alleyn. The elder was with Alleyn in the Lord Admiral’s Company in 1598; in 1606 he was a senior member of Prince Henry’s Company at Alleyn’s Fortune Theatre. After Alleyn retired from the stage to Dulwich, Cartwright’s name appears several times as a dinner guest in his Diary, in 1620 as one of ‘ye King of Bohemes men’ (the acting company) from the Fortune Theatre. Alleyn no longer ran the Fortune, and Cartwright had leased it with some others in 1618 for £200 a year; the agreement also promises Alleyn ‘two rundlettes [small casks] of wyne, the one sack, the other claret’ each Christmas. Sack, incidentally, a fortified wine rather like sherry, was Falstaff’s favourite drink: it ‘illumineth the face’, he said, produces ‘excellent Wit’, and confounds ‘Pusillanimitie, and Cowardize’. Falstaff’s educational policy was simple: ‘if I had a thousand Sonnes, the first humane principle I would teach them… should be to addict themselves to Sack’.
In the reign of Charles I, Cartwright was once again playing at the Fortune and elsewhere. ‘Ould Cartwright’ is last mentioned in theatrical records in May 1640. The theatres were closed by law from 1642-60. The younger Cartwright (1606–1686) is known to have been on the continent and with a company who performed for Charles, Prince of Wales, in Paris in 1646, and was possibly performing at The Hague. In 1648 he was in trouble with a scheme for secret performances at the Cockpit. We know nothing about the parts the elder Cartwright played, but his son’s Restoration work is well documented: he was in the King’s Company, with a ‘thundering’ voice, and specialised in revivals of Ben Jonson, playing Corbaccio in Volpone and the plum roles of Morose in Epicœne and Sir Epicure Mammon in The Alchemist. Shakespearean roles included Brabantio in Othello and a Falstaff that Pepys admired in 1667: ‘after dinner my wife and Willett and I to the King’s House and there saw Henry the Fourth; and contrary to expectation, was pleased in nothing more than in Cartwright’s speaking of Falstaff’s speech about What is Honour?’ He performed six roles by Dryden and the cuckold Sir Jasper Fidget in Wycherley’s outrageous Country Wife. Like his father, he was a co-lessee of the Fortune Theatre. His final role was at the age of seventy-eight, by which time he was bookselling from his home in Great Turnstile, Holborn. In 1658 (when the theatre was still banned) Cartwright revised and published Thomas Heywood’s An Apology for Actors (originally of 1612). He discussed British actors, such as Tarlton and Kemp, especially praising ‘the most worthy famous Mr. Edward Allen’ and his second vocation, ‘his Colledge at Dulledge for poor people and for education of youth’ and his humility and charity, eating and dressing like one of his pensioners.
Cartwright was a collector. He asked (in vain) to retire to the College with his servant and be buried in the chapel. Ailing, he was cheated by his two servants of seventeen years, Francis and Jane Johnson, who did all they could to obstruct the Deed of Gift of December 1686, neglecting to name an executor. Cartwright had left to the College (as major beneficiary) £400 ‘of broad old Gold’ (Commonwealth twenty-shilling pieces); ‘his Books and pictures, two silver Tankards, Damask Lynnen, an Indian Quilt’; a ‘Turkis Carpet’ for the Dining Room; ‘one large damask Table Cloth with other convenient lynnen for the Communion Table and the beautifying of the Chappell’; and ‘severall pictures of Storeyes and Landskips for the beautifying the Dyninge Roome and Gallery’. After his death in 1687 the College had to take the Johnsons to court: Francis was imprisoned two years in the Fleet, before escaping. Details of the College’s troubles, under the Mastership of Richard Alleyn, are recorded in its Register and Weekly Account books. John Alleyn, the Warden, ‘with great difficulty got into possession of all goods appraised, except such as are mentioned at the latter end of the Inventory’. These the Johnsons ‘with their confederates’ had carried away, together with £390 of the gold. Just £65.5.0 was left; the College collected this, and nine pounds half-year rent from a tenant of Cartwright’s. Eventually these items were handed over, and ‘old household stuff’ was sold for £20.13.0.
The Johnsons had pawned, among other items, a mouth-watering collection of six volumes of playbooks, for twenty shillings; other playbooks of his did survive in the Fellows’ Library at the College. Some plays in manuscript, as result of fishy depredations by Garrick, with other items from the College Library somehow ended up in the British Library, in the Egerton Collection. The books at Dulwich include the two volumes (of three) of the First Folio Shakespeare (missing the Tragedies) and the truly wonderful copy of Mercator’s atlas with the hand-coloured maps; these are often shown to current pupils.
As for the pictures, the intended subject of this article, an exemplary exhibition with catalogue, Mr. Cartwright’s Pictures, (1987) was mounted by the late and grievously missed Giles Waterfield, the Gallery’s first Director. That charming and erudite young magnifico taught us about the meaning of the collection and the building while he excitedly researched them. Giles deftly described the collection as ‘a rare survival (albeit not intact) of that belonging to a man “of moderate means”’. A seventeenth-century Turkish carpet fragment, a historic lace cloth and period chairs were borrowed from the V & A, in allusion to Cartwright’s bequest; a bright idea of creating a real still-life exhibit on a table with actual strawberries, imitating a Flemish still-life painting but accidentally stained the cloth. When Giles lunched at the V & A, mortified and apologetic, he was served strawberries in bowls on an antique white cloth as a stark reminder.
Cartwright owned no Old Masters; his pictures were mostly by contemporary British or Dutch painters; they came with Cartwright’s remarkable ms. Inventory of 239 pictures, of which the College received all but 46, stolen by the Johnsons. As we have seen, some of the paintings were hung in the Long Gallery by the end of the century, but the Collection was ‘distributed throughout the College’. In the way of institutions, the pictures were treated abominably, many disappearing. In 1752 they were said to have been ‘neglected in a garret’ and made havoc of by a College butler; some were in the Fellows’ rooms. Cartwright’s taste was not very sophisticated: he owned a Last Supper but also rather gamey ‘cabinet pictures’ listed in the Inventory, such as ‘Woman in a smock, her pimp holding a chamber-pot’, or ‘a Soulderr & a wench at it’. A bad loss was the engraved View of London, taken by Mr John Norden in 1603. Representation of the City Cavalcade on the Lord Mayor’s Day. 76 portraits are listed in the Inventory, 48 of them named and six of them of royal subjects. Portraits included some by John Greenhill, a pupil of Lely, who was Cartwright’s (too often inebriate) friend and neighbour, including a mid-1660s portrait of the actor (‘my picture in a black dress, with a great doge’), together with ‘my first wife’s pictur Like a Sheppardess’, and a fine self-portrait as a young man. The rest comprised 27 religious pictures, 42 genre subjects, and 10 canvases depicting secular history; of 41 landscapes, 19 were seascapes; there were 24 still lives. In 1890 they were transferred to the Soane Gallery. Only 77 survive there now. A remarkable album of drawings is retained by the College Archives.
A double portrait dated 1560, The Judde Memorial, is striking, a fashionable memento mori, in which the sombre couple unite their hands on a skull, standing above a cadaver, with the legend ‘Lyve to Die and Dye to Live Eternally’. Literary portraits are of Michael Drayton and of Richard Lovelace (with six others of his relations), the Cavalier poet once called ‘the most amiable and beautiful person that ever eye beheld’, who wrote a comedy for Queen Henrietta’s Men and was most likely a kinsman of Cartwright.
Of the famous theatrical portraits there is Cartwright père at the age of 59, his expressive ringed actor’s hand prominent, like Edward Alleyn’s in the Board Room at the College. Something amazing is the Shakespearean Richard Burbage, the most famous actor of his day, the original Hamlet and Lear, catalogued as ‘mr burbig his head’, and thought possibly to be a self-portrait. Nathan Field is a haunting image, in costume and with pearl earring, actor and playwright, who fathered a child by the Countess of Argyll, and was the actor at the Globe (listed among the Players in the First Folio) who replaced Shakespeare when he left the stage. Other theatrical portraits include Cartwright’s colleagues, Thomas Bond and Richard Perkins. Perkins was the star actor at the Cockpit in the 1630s, and played (with Queen Henrietta’s Men) the diabolical Barabas in a highly successful revival of Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, the title role made famous by Edward Alleyn.
Dulwich benefits from a number of bequests: first the College of God’s Gift, from its Founder, that most magnificent player, Lord of the Manor; this drew after it a second, sixty-eight years later, from Cartwright, another actor; and both in turn influenced two painters of continental extraction in London (together with Margaret Desenfans) to give the third, the Bourgeois Gallery – free, public, and now jubilant.
As to a fourth bequest – the Linley family portraits, or the fifth, the gift of collector Fairfax-Murray, we will explore these in future articles.
Built in the grounds of the historic Pond House between 1958-63, Pond Mead consists of 17 two and three-bedroom maisonettes in two and three-storey blocks facing landscaped garden areas - though there are also three units over the garage blocks. The north–east end of the site contains five two-storey terrace houses in a stepped layout, and all the units are in grey brick - presumably chosen to compliment the old house. Pond House itself dates originally from 1759, but a large part of its appearance today is the result of a major refurbishment scheme which took place at the same time as the construction of Pond Mead.
The pond which gave the property its name was open to the road, but after an unfortunate accident in 1823, when the local butcher's boy fell in and drowned, it was ordered to be enclosed within the garden of the house. Now, of course, it has disappeared completely. The original house was probably a re-build of a much earlier house and was the work of John Tinkler, carpenter of Covent Garden. In 1753 Tinkler apparently designed and built nos. 1 & 2 King Street, Covent Garden, two substantial 4 storied houses, as well as another in nearby Bow Street. He served as church warden of St Paul’s Covent Garden in 1760/61. It therefore seems unlikely he was the actual occupier of Pond House but perhaps a developer. From 1772 a Thomas Dunn lived there, followed by William Schneider (1784-85), John Henry Schneider (1785-1792) and Peter Thompson (1792-1807); one of his sons is buried in the Old Burial Ground in Dulwich Village.
The house and its contents was up for sale at auction in July 1836 but the purchaser, a Mr Groucock, only lived in it for a short time before subletting it to a Mr Boull and then a Mr Beaston. The 1851 census records the occupant as a city wine and spirit merchant, John George Marzetti - the local press reported that his daughters ‘were such striking beauties that they were known as the "Toasts of Dulwich"’. In 1861 the tenant was Herman Kerkhoff, 45, General Merchant (born in Hamburg but a naturalised British citizen) plus wife, 2 children and 3 servants. He was followed in 1864 by Thomas Lynn Bristowe, a wealthy stock broker, future MP for Norwood, and the man behind the creation of Brockwell Park. At the time, the Estate minutes described the house as having three sitting rooms and six bedrooms, with convenient, but rather low, basement offices, and a billiard room. It also had a three-stall stable and a double coach house.
Bristowe occupied the house for a very short time as, within a year, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company had compulsorily acquired the site to build the railway line between North Dulwich and Tulse Hill. The track must have been constructed quickly, as by September 1866, Fullers, the London Auctioneers, were selling the house on behalf of the railway company. They described it in glowing terms as the ‘leasehold family residence known as Pond House, Dulwich, with stables and outbuildings, lawn, pleasure grounds, and grounds, prettily laid out and timbered. Held upon lease from Dulwich College for a term of which about 20 years unexpired, at a low rent and well worth £250 per annum.’
The purchaser, who agreed to pay only £150, was Richard May, a wealthy timber merchant, and managing director of R May & Sons, whose yard was at Acorn Wharf on the Grand Surrey Canal. Founded in 1853, the business dealt mainly in English timbers, especially oak from Kent and Surrey. He died in November 1869 and the house was taken over by his son, Richard James May, then just 23 years old.
Richard James May remained in occupation until his death in 1932. It was not always a happy time, a newspaper report on 12th January 1891 reported the death of a son, Charles Musgrove, aged 17 months, and just over a year later, on 26th September 1892 another newspaper noted ‘the death, from scarlet fever, of Richard Stanley, eleven-year-old son of Richard and Ellen May’. He carried out major changes in 1885-86 when he renewed his lease at the same rent, £150 a year. The Estate agreed an extended term of 28 rather than the usual 21 years on the basis that he improved the house by spending at least £500 in taking down the old wing and rebuilding it to provide a new large billiard room with two bedrooms and a new bathroom above it.
When he died his executors paid dilapidations of £280 and the lease was then acquired by James Cornell, previously living nearby at 8 Red Post Hill, who ran a chain of butchers’ shops. The Estate asked for £250 per annum but agreed to £155 – only £5 more than it had been 100 years earlier. In February 1933, Cornell applied for permission to build an aviary and, in May, he advertised for two moorhens, presumably to go in it. In 1936, he put in a swimming pool. His wife was still in occupation when the lease ran out in 1953 – the dilapidations report noting that the house was in generally good condition and ready to be re-let.
Pond House was listed Grade II in 1954 and Mrs Cornell finally left the property early in 1955. In the summer, the Estate advertised it for rent – at £250 a year. There were four prospective purchasers, one of them a language school, but the successful applicant was Edward Light RIBA, an architect. He clearly saw the development potential of the site and, in spring 1957, he approached the Estate seeking a new 99-year lease on the old house along with permission to build additional houses or flats in the garden. In December, the Governors agreed to a redevelopment scheme for three small detached houses and a planning application was submitted in the following February. Unfortunately, in September, Camberwell Council turned it down on the basis of inadequate density. Mr Light tried an alternative scheme for a block of 12 three-storey flats but, when that too was rejected, he put the house on the market for a premium of £4,000. The Estate offered him £2,500, which he finally took. Almost immediately the Estate offered Pond House to Dulwich College as being suitable for assistant masters’ housing – finding reasonably priced accommodation for them was a particular problem at the time. The College were initially very keen but the conversion cost proved to be too high and it could not be delivered quickly enough.
Over the next few months Austin Vernon & Partners produced a detailed flat conversion scheme for the old house while, at the same time, submitting a planning application for a block of 12 maisonettes in the garden, very similar to Mr Light’s. Tenders for the scheme came in very high and Russell Vernon was told to talk to the London County Council about demolishing Pond House, notwithstanding its listing. Clearly the LCC were not enthused as, in January 1962, the Manager reported that he had tried again to lease the main house but without success – the problem being not so much its by then dilapidated condition but the prospective blocks of maisonettes to be built in the garden.
However, luckily for the Estate, the adjacent property, Lorne House, 5 Red Post Hill, had come onto the market and it purchased it for £5500, 10% less than the asking price. Including this site with Pond House meant that 5 additional houses could be added making the development more financially viable. In July a revised scheme with five houses, 17 maisonettes and 20 garages, in four separate blocks, was agreed. The lowest tender was £103,805 – from local Dulwich Village contractor, W J Mitchell & Sons Ltd.
While the maisonettes were under construction the Estate Manager continued to try and let Pond House as a single property. The problem was finally resolved in November 1962 when a young couple, Mr & Mrs Nigel Graham Maw (he was the son of one of the former Estate Governors) agreed to take the house and pay a premium of £3,000 as well as funding the cost of a more imaginative and radical refurbishment scheme. The aim was to return the house to a more ‘Georgian’ appearance – the upper part of Richard James May’s extension was removed, the front entrance was reconstructed, and garages and a loggia added on the ground floor. The house was sold again in 1970 to the current owners.
Pond House is currently available for sale through Knight Frank at a guide price of £5.5m. All enquires to