The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2020.
In November 1915, the Admiralty took possession of a piece of land near JAGS and the old model farm that had belonged to Sir Henry Bessemer. They claimed it was for a searchlight station but in fact they also placed a gun battery there. During WW1 concentric rings of searchlight stations and gun batteries were set up around London, as a defence against Zeppelin attacks. Central stations in places like Hyde Park were ringed by satellite stations in Dulwich, Wandsworth and Richmond with an outer ring in Croydon, Bromley and Morden. Teaching through the raids, Miss Howard, the JAGS Headmistress, said with dry understatement 'the noise of the neighbouring guns was rather alarming'. Following the war's end, most stations were dismantled but the gun battery in Dulwich seems to have lingered for several years.
In January 1920 there were still about a dozen huts plus guns near North Dulwich railway station, in between Red Post Hill and Green Lane (now Greendale). The huts ranged in size from sentry boxes to 80ft long buildings and they still contained engines and dynamos. The War Office seemed in no hurry to clear the site. The Estate offered £100 for the lot and said they would release the War Office from reinstating the ground. The War Office didn't accept, stalemate ensued.
In March Winston Churchill (then Secretary of State for War) spoke about the site in Parliament, saying that due to the difficulty and cost of disposal, the War Office Disposal Board were trying to sell the equipment onsite. The War Office did give back some land, adjacent to the gun and searchlight station, which the Estate promptly let as tennis courts to the United Dairies Sports Club for £50 pa. The Estate then offered to buy four of the huts for £30 with a plan to sell two of them to cover their costs, leaving two in situ to serve as sports pavilions. The Estate eventually paid £125, of which they recovered £106 by selling the largest hut to Alleyn's for £50, two smaller huts for £10 and various shells and loose timber left behind by the War Office. The Estate moved a further two huts (with a value of £70) to the Gallery and Burbage Rd tennis courts, leaving two huts (value '£50 or £60') for the use of the North Dulwich tennis club.
By May, the land had still not been cleared and JAGS were lobbying to use it for sports fields. Lt Col. Hill, who was in charge of the guns, said they still had rather a large amount of stores to divest but if forced to move they would. There were also some buildings left over from Bessemer's Model Farm which would need dealing with but again, nothing happened.
There were still 12 guns, one officer and five men stationed in North Dulwich in July when Sir Frederick Hall, MP for Dulwich, stood up in the House of Commons to ask why they were still there, despite repeated requests from the Dulwich Estate to have the land back, especially as the soldiers were not carrying out any duties. Hall asked Churchill to remove the guns and deploy the men elsewhere. The stalemate now attracted the attention of the national press and both the Times and the Mirror sent journalists and photographers down to Dulwich. Two men from The Times were refused entry to the site but 'in the lane leading to the entrance' the pair could see 'a row of guns encased in canvas covers, a number of huts…an officer and two or three men'. The photographer obtained access to the gun station 'by a back way' (Greendale?) but was chased and forced to give up his photographic plates.
The Daily Mirror had fun with the story, saying the guns were in a 'idyllic retreat' and that neighbouring residents found the guns gave them 'such a sense of comfort on moonlight nights'. The guns were guarded by an artilleryman with 'brightly-polished buttons and a swagger cane. He glanced quickly around the horizon as if looking for hostile aircraft'. The paper continued that the guns 'lay ready to simply pulverise any hostile Bosch planes that came to Dulwich', even though some 'light-hearted young people' were playing tennis opposite the camp (presumably employees of the United Dairies). But, said the Mirror, all the rigorous secrecy of wartime was being maintained. It was a 'hush-hush' camp, unknown to most people, even to the military authorities who denied all knowledge of it, nearly two years after the end of the war. The report concluded that 'all is very quiet on the Dulwich front'. The Yorkshire Post speculated that the War Office had simply forgotten they had 12 guns and six soldiers in North Dulwich, claiming that for over 150 years soldiers had guarded the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and only following a dispute over their accommodation was it discovered that the guard had been set when George II attended the theatre one evening and had never been countermanded.
It wasn't just the newspapers who were having fun. Aron Schmitz, better known as Italo Svevo, an Italian businessman and close friend of James Joyce, joked that 'on the meadows of Dulwich…an anti-aircraft battery continues to function with its sentries and officers, just as if the Huns might still attack the city'.
The War Office finally moved the guns and cleared the site in August 1920. The newspapers couldn't resist one last dig, pondering whether the guns would be sent to the Sahara to watch for messages from Mars, or perhaps detailed to count the stars in the Milky Way.
The transfer of the guns away from Dulwich may have been when this photograph was taken outside Bell House. It shows a large gun in transit, of about the same size as the ones under canvas in the Times photo. The gun appears to have got stuck in the mud, which suggests College Road had yet to be made up as a road.
The Durrells and Dulwich
Including Gerald, His Family and Other Animals
Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was well known for his conservation work, his zoo on Jersey, and his many books describing his life with animals. Most notable of these is My Family and Other Animals (1956), about his childhood years on the Greek island of Corfu, which was dramatised recently in the TV series The Durrells (2016-19).
However, less well known is that, prior to this, when the Durrell family first came to Britain from their original home in India, they lived for a number of years in Dulwich and nearby Upper Norwood, and that Gerald's older brother Leslie spent two years at Dulwich College.
Gerald's father, Lawrence Samuel Durrell (1884-1928), was born in India of British parents and became the chief engineer of the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (or 'Toy Train'), which was featured in the TV series Great Indian Railways. Then, in 1920, he left to found his own company, Durrell & Co, in Jamshedpur (an industrial boomtown in the state of Bihar), which was involved with the construction of the famous Tata Iron & Steel Works and other projects. It was in Jamshedpur that Gerald was born, on 7 January 1925. His mother, Louisa Florence Dixie (1886-1964), was the daughter of the head clerk and accountant of the Ganges Canal Foundry.
When Gerald's oldest brother, Lawrence George Durrell ('Larry', 1912-90) - later a diplomat and writer best known for his series of novels, The Alexandria Quartet - reached the age of 11, his parents decided to send him to a boarding-school in England. As a result, in April 1923, before Gerald was born, he came to London with his parents and younger siblings, Leslie (1918-83) and Margaret (Margo, 1919-2007). It was the first time any of them had set foot in Britain.
According to Gordon Bowker in Through the Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell (1996), the whole family stayed in Dulwich: Disembarking at Tilbury on 27 April 1923, they stayed for a while at a London hotel, then found lodgings in East Dulwich, at 36 Hillsborough Road, a large suburban house, backing on to the playing fields of Alleyn's School. The house may well have been that of a relative of R.C.Dyson, Lawrence Samuel's former supervisor on the NW Railway. Edith Dyson became their landlady, and, when Louisa returned to India, she became the guardian of the two boys. No. 36 was situated at the Thorncombe Road end of Hillsborough (now Hillsboro) Road, but was demolished to make way for the Alleyn's Junior School in 1992.
While in Dulwich they visited Lawrence's relatives, the Rickwoods, who lived on Dulwich Common. Then, before they returned to India with Margo in September 1923, his parents sent Larry to a school in Tunbridge Wells (where they also had relations) for a year. However, it is not clear where they sent Leslie. As Bowker says: 'Whatever schooling the two boys had for their first year in England it could not have amounted to much, possibly a local day-school in Dulwich or some tutoring at home, though [Larry] remembered his guardian Mrs Dyson as kind but ignorant'.
In September the following year, Larry was enrolled at St Olave's & St Saviour's Grammar School ('St Oggs'), near London Bridge. Larry was then still lodging with Mrs Dyson in Dulwich and travelling to school each day by train to London Bridge from East Dulwich station. In Lawrence Durrell: A Biography (1998), Professor Ian S. MacNiven quotes Larry's later descriptions of Dulwich at that time: 'A few streets from Mrs Dyson's stood Dulwich College, which was “a fair candidate for the wildest nineteenth-century building in the whole of London”, with “a crazy Dostoveskian gleam in its eye”. In nearby Dulwich Park Larry would note a “cold toy lake” that was home to “a few bedraggled swans'.
At about the same time Leslie was enrolled at Caldicott Prep School, which was then situated in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
Then in the spring of 1926 Louisa, Margo and the one year-old Gerald returned to London. As Lawrence Durrell was planning to leave India for good and settle in Dulwich, Louisa bought a large house with a garden at 43 Alleyn Park in West Dulwich. It was almost opposite Dulwich College Preparatory School (now Dulwich Prep London) where, by coincidence, half a century later, Hugh Bonneville - narrator of the 2010 audiobook version of My Family and Other Animals - would be a pupil.
Later in 1926 Lawrence came to Dulwich to inspect the house and enrol Larry in a new school - St Edmund's School in Canterbury. He returned to India in September that year and moved his business to Lahore, where he set up another new home. Louisa took the younger children to join him there in 1927 and it was in Lahore that Gerald first set foot inside a zoo. As he later recalled: 'It was a magic place. Having been there once, nothing could keep me away.'
In their absence, according to the 1928 edition of Kelly's Directory of Dulwich, the house in Alleyn Park was occupied by 'R.H.Blaker'. This is presumably their relative Richard Henry Blaker ISO (1866-1940) who had been Assistant Secretary in the Indian Government's Department of Education. His son, Brigadier Eric Henry Blaker MC had been to Dulwich College, and other members of the family - Percy Stanley Blaker and his wife Mamie - lived nearby in Norwood (see below).
Early in 1928, Lawrence Durrell became seriously ill and was moved to a hospital in the nearby hill-station of Dalhousie where in April he died, aged 43, of a suspected brain tumour. After the probate was granted on his will in July, Louisa and the younger children caught a train to Bombay where they took a ship to England.
Back at 43 Alleyn Park, Louisa's cousin Prue (known as Aunt Prue), who lived nearby, came to help them settle back in and suggested that Louisa should employ a manservant. According to Michael Haag's The Durrells of Corfu (2017), 'Eventually, Stone was hired, a polite man in his fifties, who polished the silver and cooked simple meals.'
Aunt Prue also suggested that they buy a guard-dog. The result was an enormous bull mastiff ('about the size of a Trafalgar Square lion', Gerald later recalled), named Prince, who was stationed in the sitting-room at night to ward off any intruders. However, they did not reckon with ghosts. One night Prince refused to go into the sitting-room and growled, hackles raised, at an apparently empty armchair. Louisa, confused, asked Gerald what he could see. The little boy replied that he could see his father sitting in the chair, smoking, and wearing his smoking-jacket. However, the ghost soon departed and the dog entered the room without a murmur. Prince himself would also depart before long after attacking a number of small dogs in the area. He was sent away to a farm in the country where, as Gerald later said: 'he could pick on something more his size, liked a bullock. I wept passionately at our parting and gave him a bag of peppermints to remember me by.'
During their last two years in Alleyn Park, Gerald and his mother were mostly alone as the other children were away at boarding schools - Leslie at Caldicott Prep School, Margo at Malvern Girls College in Worcestershire and Larry (who had left St Edmund's in December 1927) with a coach in Cambridgeshire, trying to pass his university entrance exams.
As a result, towards the end of 1929 Louisa began to feel that the house was too big. She thus let it and moved a mile and half south to Upper Norwood, near the Crystal Palace. Here they rented a serviced garden flat at No.10 Queen's Court, an annexe behind the imposing Queen's Hotel in Church Road. The hotel was the home of her relative Aunt Fan (Fanny Hughes), mother of 'Aunt Prue'.
Gerald loved the flat because it had a side entrance which opened on to the garden and (to his mother's horror) brought in every kind of insect and animal he could catch. Larry, however, who had by then briefly rejoined the family (having given up the idea of university in favour of becoming a writer), detested it. In The Black Book (1938), he described it (as the Regina Hotel) as being full of chain-smoking old colonials and having 'mouldering corridors' and 'mouse-chawed wainscoting'. He also hated the area: 'Larry wandered disconsolately about Upper Norwood and Dulwich. Everything seemed grey: the buildings, the rain, the faces. The Crystal Palace “glittered” with “grimy glass” in the “sooty darkness” and its towers were “two black phalloi” ' (MacNiven, p.72). Britain for him was 'Pudding Island'.
Meanwhile, though, Larry had become friendly with a second cousin, the novelist Richard Sidney Blaker (1893-1940), who would become best known for his First World War novel Medal Without Bar (1930). Blaker, who was also born and brought up in India, had come to England in 1909 and was then living nearby with his Uncle Stanley and Aunt Mamie. His novel Scabby Dichson (1928) had recently been published and some commentators have suggested that Larry's own first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers (1935), which he claimed he wrote between the ages of 16 and 18 when he was still living in Dulwich and Norwood, borrows from Blaker's book.
It was also at this time that he became friendly with Cecil Jeffries, who later published Larry's first collection of poetry, Quaint Fragments (1931), written between the ages of 16 and 19 when the family lived in the Dulwich/Norwood area.
Louisa, however, was increasingly on her own with Gerald: Larry hung out in bars in Soho, and Leslie and Margo were still at their boarding-schools. So when Louisa's friends at the hotel, the Brown family, moved to Bournemouth in Dorset (where Louisa already had family) in March 1930 she decided to go there too. As a result, early in 1931 they moved to Berridge House, a large Victorian mansion in Parkstone.
In September 1931 Leslie left Caldicott Prep School to go to Dulwich College. According to Calista Lucy, the College's archivist: 'He was a boarder in Elm Lawn, which was then one of our boarding houses, and is now the (head)Master's house. He spent his whole time at Dulwich in the Middle Form.'
Two of his contemporaries were the future war heroes Noel and Jack Agazarian who lived with their parents in Alleyn Park (at No.21). Jack was an SOE agent in the Second World War, while Noel became a Battle of Britain fighter ace and close friend of Richard Hillary (author of The Last Enemy) - his Spitfire hangs in the Imperial War Museum. In 1923 (when the Durrells first arrived in Dulwich), their mother bought a First World War Sopwith Pup biplane from a Croydon auction for £5 and installed it in their back garden!
Louisa eventually sold the house in Alleyn Park in 1932 and in December 1933 Leslie was removed from Dulwich College after it became evident that he was being bullied and joined the rest of the family in Dorset.
This, then, ought to be the end of the Durrell link to Dulwich, but in fact it has lasted long after the 1930s, right up to the present day. In 2009 the 'Year 9 Entrance and Scholarship Examination: English' for Dulwich College featured texts from My Family and Other Animals. Two years later a portrait of Gerald Durrell was included (alongside those of David Attenborough, Peter Scott, Charles Darwin, Patrick Moore and others) in local artist Marlon Brown's 'Wall of Heroes' mural outside West Dulwich station. Then in 2017, Dulwich College hosted the first two days of the three-day 'Conservation Optimism Summit' organised jointly by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science at the University of Oxford, the Zoological Society of London and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The conference brought together environmentalists from all over the world and culminated on Earth Day (Saturday 22 April 2017), with a public event at the London Zoo.
Added to which, John Lovering, a Gornor of Dulwich College and Chairman of Dulwich College Enterprises, is also a Trustee of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. And last but not least, Nick Breeze - grandson of Margo Durrell and hence Gerald and Lawrence Durrell's great-nephew, currently lives in the area.
An English Heritage Blue Plaque will be erected on 43 Alleyn Park in 2020.
Creech Jones lived in East Dulwich before the First world War and founded both the Camberwell branch of the Independent Labour party and the Camberwell Trades and Labour Council. In his political career, he had two main interests - workers education and colonial self-government. He served first as under-secretary of state and then as Colonial Minister in the post-war Labour government from 1945 to 1950 and has been regarded as the founder of the modern Commonwealth. In the Spring 2018 issue, John Taylor's article on the 'Conchies of Dulwich' referred to Creech Jones' political activity in the First World War, when he was sent to prison as a conscientious objector. This article focuses on his later political career. Creech Jones is one of the least known members of Attlee's cabinet - he has not been the subject of any monograph, and does not have an entry in the 14 volume Dictionary of Labour Biography, though there is an entry by Patricia Pugh in the Dictionary of National Biography.
Creech Jones was born in Bristol in 1891. Having passed the civil service junior clerk's examination, he moved to London in January 1907 to work as a clerk in the war office. Known as Arthur Jones (adding the middle name of 'Creech' later), he lived at 46 Keston Road near Goose Green, lodging with relatives, the Tidman family. He appears to have been a Methodist, joining the Liberal Christian League. He was secretary of the Dulwich branch of the League of Progressive Thought and Services and also joined the London Egyptian Debating Society. In 1910, he became lecture secretary for the Liberal Christian League study group. Jones was secretary of the Dulwich ILP from 1912 to 1916 and of the Camberwell Trades Council from 1913 to 1922. The Dulwich ILP was based at Hansler Hall in Hansler Road, off Lordship Lane. Jones organised anti-conscription meetings there for the ILP. A member of the No Conscription Fellowship and the South London Federal Council against Conscription, he was an absolute pacifist. He applied to join the Society of Friends (Quakers) ambulance unit but in September 1916 he was court martialled and sentenced to six months hard labour, which he served in Wormwood Scrubs, not being released until April 1919. Having lost his civil service post, he did some research for the Labour Party on prison conditions before being appointed organising secretary of the Docks, Wharfs and Shipping Staffs union, of which Charles Ammon (later MP for Camberwell and Baron Ammon), London County Council member for Camberwell, ILP'er and leading member of the No Conscription Fellowship, was secretary. This union, originating in the Port of London Authority staff association, was in 1922 incorporated into the Transport and General Workers Union. He therefore became a colleague of Ernest Bevin the union's general secretary, who was to become his political mentor. In July 1920, Creech Jones married Violet May Tidman, a second cousin with whose family he had been lodging. Creech Jones was elected to the London Labour Party Committee in 1921. The TGWU sent him to the Ruhr with Ben Tillett (the veteran trade unionist and TGWU international and political secretary) in 1923 to report on the effect of the French occupation of the Ruhr on the workers.
Creech Jones' interest in Africa apparently originated in being inspired by the campaigns of Edmund Morel and Roger Casement against colonial atrocities in the Congo. In 1925 he was asked to help Clements Kadalie, who had established a union for black workers in South Africa, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). He commented later that “ I felt that the struggle of the African workers in South Africa could be helped by a type of organisation which had contributed so much to the making of British democracy….”. He had been in contact with Winifred Holtby (the subject of Vera Britain's Testament of Friendship and later the author of South Riding) who was an active feminist and member of the ILP, who had visited South Africa and who had contacts with liberals there. Holtby had already been seeking to obtain funds and books for ICU libraries through the ILP's New Leader paper. Holtby had asked the ILP's Noel Brailsford to support the ICU and then approached Creech Jones. Kadalie also wrote to Creech Jones and then visited London to seek support. Holtby acted as host and the ILP's imperialism committee, which included Creech Jones and Fenner Brockway, the ILP secretary who also had a lifelong interest in Africa, organised a promotional tour of England. Kadalie also attended the TUC conference as a visitor, though his request for delegate status was turned down on the grounds that the ICU was not affiliated to the (white) South African Trade Union Congress. Holtby and Creech Jones set up a fund to send a British trade unionist to South Africa to help Kadalie - a trade unionist from Motherwell was selected, William Ballinger. Holtby in fact supported the fund from the sales of her African novel Mandoa Mandoa! Kadalie and Ballinger however soon fell out though Ballinger stayed in South Africa supporting the African National Congress , serving in the senate between 1948 and 1960 as a representative of Africans in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State (Africans not themselves being allowed to sit in the parliament), while his wife Margaret Ballinger also sat in parliament and became a vice--president of Alan Paton's Liberal Party.
Creech Jones also had an interest in workers education, becoming a governor of Ruskin college, the trade union college in Oxford, in 1923 and was an active member of the Workers Education Association, who in 1928 published his handbook Trade Unionism Today, which was widely used in the colonies. He unsuccessfully contested the Heywood and Radcliffe parliamentary constituency in Lancashire in the 1929 election. Creech Jones had been involved in the Workers Travel Association since 1921, and in 1929, following his failure to get into parliament, left the TGWU to take up the post of WTA organising secretary. He was to lead trade unionist delegations to most countries in Europe and also visited Palestine. Through the WTA, he was later to direct the emergency rescue of hundreds of Czechoslovakian socialists and Jews by train, ship, and aeroplane from Prague after Chamberlain signed the Munich agreement in 1938.
Creech Jones became involved in the New Fabian Research Bureau established by G D H Cole and with the fall of the Labour government in 1931, Creech Jones joined the Socialist League, a Labour left group established by Stafford Cripps, which involved a number of Fabians and ILP'ers, though his association with the League was brief. With the ILP being disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 1932, Creech Jones left the ILP focused his involvement in the Labour Party and was selected to stand for Shipley in Yorkshire in the 1935 general election. On election to parliament, Creech Jones joined the Labour Party's committee on imperial questions, also joining the Colonial Office's advisory committee on education in the colonies. He had been a member of the Fabian Society executive committee since 1925. In 1940 he helped to found the Fabian Colonial Bureau, which was to be the main focus of his political activity until 1945, when he became a Minister. Creech Jones also helped to set up a Trades Union Congress colonial affairs committee in 1937. Together with the Fabian Colonial Bureau secretary, Rita Hinden, he became the leading supporter of African nationalists advocate of both colonial self-government and native education in the colonies as well as a constructive critic of British colonial policy under the succession of wartime coalition government colonial ministers, Malcolm Macdonald, Lord Lloyd, Lord Moyne, Viscount Cranborne and Oliver Stanley. He campaigned against the suppression of African associations in Kenya. In 1942, he argued that “There must be a recognition of Africans' rights and status. There must be a big drive in social services, in education and in economic development. We must also associate the African in the administration of local government. We should nationalise the mineral resources of these areas. We should redistribute the land and there should be planned development of smaller industries… “ Despite being a critic of government colonial policy, Creech Jones served as vice-chairman of the Government's commission on higher education in the colonies, visiting Africa with the chairman, the Conservative MP, Walter Elliott. This led to the publication by the government of a report on Mass Education in African Society in 1943. In 1945 he contributed the introduction to Fabian Colonial Essays, edited by Rita Hinden, as well as writing an essay on the need for an accelerated policy of social reconstruction in the colonial empire.
Between 1940 and 1944, Creech Jones was PPS to Ernest Bevin, minister of Labour in the wartime coalition. With the election of a Labour government in August 1945, Creech Jones was appointed under-secretary of state in the colonial office, with George Hall as Minister. In promoting the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill in parliament, Creech Jones acknowledged that the Labour government was aiming at 'the liquidation of colonial status', commenting that “ I doubt if any Imperial Power has ever before embarked upon a policy of deliberately disintegrating its Empire.” In August 1946, Hall was given a peerage and Creech Jones was promoted to the cabinet position, which he held until his defeat in the 1950 general election. In this role, Creech Jones focused his attention on the social and economic development of the colonies, preparing them for self-government and with a continuing focus on the role of education. In 1948, he published a report on Education for Citizenship in Africa. He established the Colonial Development Corporation (later renamed the Commonwealth Development Corporation) to support agricultural development in the colonies. The independence of India and Ceylon threatened to continuation of the Commonwealth as an institution, but Creech Jones managed the transition of the organisation to a voluntary federation of independent countries and self-governing colonies. He chaired the first conference of the West Indian Federation in 1947 and then the London conference of African colonies held at Lancaster House in 1948. His memorandum on local government issued in 1948 confirmed the government's intention gradually to transform indirect rule to responsible government. The Fabian Colonial Bureau published in 1947 a pamphlet by Creech Jones outlining the Labour Government's colonial policy.
On leaving parliament, Creech Jones continued to use the Fabian Colonial Bureau to promote colonial self-government. In 1951 he published a pamphlet on the Future of the African Colonies and in 1959 he edited the Fabian New Colonial Essays, contributing a positive review of the Labour government's colonial policy and achievements. He also worked with the Anti-Slavery Society and the more radical Africa Bureau established by Rev Michael Scott. He was active in the opposition to the Central African Federation (which federated Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland under white leadership) and supported Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland, who was exiled from his country by the incoming Conservative government in 1951. Creech Jones failed to get re-elected to parliament in 1951, this time standing in Romford, but succeeded in fighting a by-election in Wakefield in 1954. He retired from parliament in August 1964 on the grounds of ill-health and died two months later. He was a vice president of the Workers Education Association as well as involved in the Oxford based Institute for Commonwealth Studies. He was also on the committees of the Ramblers Association and the Youth Hostels Association, having piloted the Access to Mountains Act through parliament in 1939 as a private members bill.
As Patricia Pugh's biographical entry in the Dictionary of National Biography comments, Creech Jones “was unimpressive in appearance; he was not a brilliant or witty speaker; but he was one whom the House of Commons greatly respected for his knowledge, integrity, and sincerity.” It may be appropriate to leave the last word to Ernest Bevin, trade union leader and Foreign secretary who on Creech Jones losing his seat in the 1950 election wrote to his former cabinet colleague -
“ Looking back over the history of colonial development, I do not think anyone has a greater record - the constitutional changes you have carried through, the development of education, the promotion of universities, the constant attention you have given to economic development, the way you have applied your mind to the problems of soil erosion and transport. If only it had been done long ago. What a different world it would have been!
MELTON FISHER, R.A., 1856-1939
Your article about Samuel Melton Fisher (Summer 2020) implies that Dulwich College is neither aware nor cares about this Old Alleynian artist. It is true that, as you say, he is not currently mentioned 'on its extensive alumni sites' online, but not that he has 'completely fallen off Dulwich College's own radar'.
Dulwich pupils interested in the past can see Fisher's name and achievements on those splendid Honours Boards in the Great Hall, in letters of gold. In my own days at the College - I retired in 2007 - they might have been curious about his name once a year at Prize-giving, from the Melton Fisher Art Prizes which he endowed (for many years choosing the winners himself), but I gather these have since lapsed. The boys won't know about the debt the school owes Fisher for his devoted advice and his constant interest in the Art School at the College (involving at times his sharp criticism), nor will they know about his zealous work as RA representative on the Dulwich College Picture Gallery Committee. But the boys now at the College could point you to something important about Fisher and Dulwich: you might have suggested villagers look at the moving set of portraits in the Lower Hall that Fisher painted of the College's five Victoria Cross holders (four of them posthumous). Fisher charged the College 'a much reduced rate' for these oil-paintings and exhibited them all at the RA in 1924. These have recently been researched and promoted by Calista Lucy, the Keeper of Archives, and Dr. Nick Black, World War One Historian and the Head of Middle School. Once upon a time, until the Barry Buildings were refurbished, Sixth Formers climbing the stairs of the North Block were overlooked by a photographic portrait gallery of Dulwich old boys famous in the Arts to inspire them: poets, writers, a film-maker, a stage-designer, a jazz musician, academics - and the prominent row of artists naturally included Fisher. In 1981 Barry Viney's exhibition Dulwich College. A School and its Art at the South London Art Gallery and its catalogue had drawn attention to Fisher's work.
I worked as teacher and Keeper of the Archives at the College, privileged over several decades to have had access to its astonishing records. The school has published three history books under my name. Dulwich College, A Brief History and Guide to the Buildings (1990; now out of print) cites Fisher as among the successful pupils Sparkes taught when Canon Carver was Master, one of his men who had 'done more in Art than those of any public school.' Dulwich College publications currently on sale from the Commissariat at the College are surely some 'radar' of its awareness: one can find in them more about Fisher, his two (less worldly) brothers who were also professional artists, and about John Sparkes's teaching methods in my (heavy, but detailed) Dulwich College, a History, 1616-2008. I record that Stef Fisher, his son whom you mentioned, in fact was the Principal Art Master for 25 years at the College. Dulwich 400, the abbreviated, updated College history (so well illustrated, a Quatercentenary gift from the College to all the boys last year) makes three references to Fisher.
Fisher was one of the three Dulwich RAs from the golden age of Sparkes's teaching. Obviously I can't speak for the College on his merits as an artist. Tastes differ: my view is that his commercial success and the fact that many paintings of his were reproduced as prints, together with the variety of subjects by him you illustrate, all suggest he would have been better off sticking to portraits of rich and famous gentlemen and society ladies, such as were always noticed in the College magazine, The Alleynian, in the annual reports of works by Old Alleynian artists at the Royal Academy exhibition. Fisher was not as interesting a painter as the two other RA OAs of that period, H. H. La Thangue and Stanhope Forbes, nor indeed (as artist) the architect and designer C. F. A. Voysey. On the other hand, Melton Fisher's portrait of A. H. Gilkes (RA 1909) in the Board Room, superior to the one of Canon Carver (1882) used to illustrate your article, I much admire: it is full of insight into character, and of very accomplished technique.
Gilkes, by the way, had strong suspicions about Art on moral grounds, in line with his superb refusal to allow any lawn tennis or drama productions at the College out of genuine belief that they were harmful for schoolboys' character development. This of course had a very bad effect on the teaching of art in his day; by contrast, Carver's favouritism towards the subject, and for Sparkes personally, produced the well-known artists. When Gilkes accepted Fisher's portrait of himself from the Alleyn Club (who had paid for it), the two things he said about it in his speech were disarmingly philistine and in character: he was surprised to observe that Fisher had found four oil-colours necessary to portray his famous beard, and he had decided at last to buy a new black academic gown on seeing the one in the picture looking so shamefully old.
Dr Jan Piggott, FSA
Having spent the majority of my life in Dulwich, I suspect I'm not alone in being deeply disappointed that the Dulwich Society has stated that it is supportive of the so-called 'experimental' closure of the Dulwich Village / Court Lane / Calton Avenue junction, even with caveats around further evaluation.
Traffic and pollution has been a lively issue here for decades, particularly back in the 1980s when most cars ran on leaded petrol, Gilkes Place had busy fuel pumps and the traffic outside Dulwich Prep was legendary. It has no easy solution other than London-wide measures around road pricing, transition to small electric vehicles and a massive investment in public transport.
As many predicted, this unilateral action by Southwark Council, supported by the Society, is causing traffic chaos and increased pollution in the very centre of Dulwich Village and elsewhere. Matters will get substantially worse when the schools return in September. Closing roads and pushing traffic and pollution to less affluent neighbours in East Dulwich Grove, Lordship Lane etc. while some try to create a bucolic semi-rural idyll is shameful. We do not live in a sleepy corner of the Home Counties, but are an integral part of a highly connected, global city. Many of the vehicles that use that junction, often in our name (e.g. supermarket deliveries, couriers, builders, utility providers, careworkers, emergency vehicles, the elderly etc.) simply have to use vehicles to get around and we are forcing them to sit in long traffic jams or make wide detours around this area. Adding more road closures, which some are touting as the solution to this predictable chaos, will only make matters worse.
Moreover, the idea that we desperately need to prioritise a 'Village Square' is deeply lacking self-awareness, given by the standards of most of London we already have an embarrassing number of areas to relax and watch the world go by (e.g. Dulwich Park, Belair, the Gallery garden, the Village orchard, Lovers Walk etc.) and, in much of the Village, wide tree-lined pavements.
The Dulwich Society is also providing tacit support for a Council which, in many people's eyes, appears to be playing fast-and-loose with its obligation to good governance, particularly in relation to the use of Covid-19 as a thinly-veiled excuse to impose this closure and its breathtakingly biased online feedback tool.
If, as a community, we want to have a fair and balanced debate about timed restrictions and/or truly 'permeable' access for essential vehicles and perhaps some residents, that's fine. But at present you're on the record as supporting a blanket closure of this junction, which is indefensible and creating many unintended - but entirely predictable - negative consequences. Moreover, I don't
recall any attempt being made to canvas the Society's membership before arriving at this stance, which is deeply disappointing. I would urge the Dulwich Society to reconsider.
I am delighted to see the measures Southwark council are implementing to address Dulwich's serious through traffic problem. The first step, closure of the Village junction has reduced commuter traffic and improved the quality of life for many residents, pedestrians and cyclists.
Of recent years, areas like Dulwich, have suffered from traffic flow being drastically altered by the big tech companies. App-based sat navs e.g. Waze have had a detrimental effect on residential neighbourhoods. Car sat navs did not direct traffic through residential roads, apps calculate the shortest route, hence our streets are badly affected. As a result, during a period of little economic growth, the amount of traffic in our neighbourhood has risen significantly. I see this every day in Court Lane. Ten years ago, it was rare to see a queue turning into Lordship Lane. Lately, and before Southwark's interventions, the queue often reached several hundred feet back.
Since the junction closure, it is a pleasure to walk to the Village and enjoy the traffic-free square. The two separated ends of the Village are re-united, shoppers no longer have to cross a polluted, dangerous junction. This helps footfall, much needed in these challenging times. The square will be an exciting community space, which could host a farmer's market for example, and further enhance footfall. You only need to look at the successful scheme completed in Herne Hill to see how the area around the station has thrived. Another significant benefit is the improved access to Dulwich Park at the Court Lane gate, now a much easier and safer place to cross. The same applies for children accessing the Village schools via the former junction and also Calton Avenue. From my perspective, for the first time in years, I no longer need to use asthma medication due to better air quality.
The scheme provides an exciting opportunity to discourage some local car journeys, thus decreasing the net number of trips. Consider this: In the area, bordered by Court Lane, Lordship Lane and Calton Avenue, I would guess there must be in excess of six-hundred households. If each of these takes one fewer car journey a week, the immediate effect on traffic is enormous. I have already spoken to neighbours who will be making more trips on foot and bike.
I am very aware of the issue of traffic displacement, so moving forward, it is essential further measures are urgently taken across the wider Dulwich area, in order to mitigate against rat-runners seeking new routes. Other streets in Dulwich should benefit from restrictions to improve air quality and road safety, and I look forward to the phase two proposals.
Finally, Southwark's measures are the best way to achieve the desired outcome of restricting through traffic, and enabling traffic evaporation, whilst maintaining reasonable access for residents, every house is still accessible by car. Some journeys will take a little longer, but I believe this is a small price to pay when balanced against the environmental benefits.