The Dulwich Society Journal for Autumn 2021.
Some people say Thomas Tilling was such a household name that he is cockney rhyming slang for shilling and while I only remember a shilling being known as a bob, Tilling was undoubtedly an important figure in transport history and in South London in particular: Blanch’s 1875 history of Camberwell calls him ‘an institution’. By the time he died his firm was a major participant in London’s flourishing public transport and the largest supplier of horsepower in London with more than 4,000 horses.
Thomas Tilling was born in 1825 on the family’s dairy farm in Hendon. Tilling’s milk was delivered by women who wore traditional Welsh costume and carried yokes across their shoulders - perhaps a sign of where Thomas got his marketing skills since the family was actually from Gloucestershire. When he was 21, Thomas married Cornelia Searle, the daughter of a Walworth dairy farmer; he described himself as the son of a cow-keeper on his marriage certificate. In 1847 Thomas took his grey mare called Kitty, spent £30 on a carriage and moved to Walworth. He hired out himself, Kitty and the carriage for weddings and other functions and soon earned enough to buy a second grey mare called Carrie.
In 1851 Tilling bought a horse bus and ran four journeys a day between Peckham and Oxford Street. He drove the bus and hired a conductor named Joseph Eagle, who worked for Thomas for over forty years. By 1857, Tilling owned 70 horses, used for bus and general carriage work. The firm was run from the parlour at Winchester House in Peckham (an early 19th C house demolished in 1952) and from here it grew and grew, enriching other businesses in this part of South London: local tradesmen bought Thomas a silver cup to show their gratitude. A Walworth tradesman called Benjamin Soddy, who agreed to provide horse fodder on credit early in Thomas’s career, became one of the largest corn-chandlers in London. One of Soddy’s sons went on to win the Nobel prize for Chemistry.
Tilling’s success, with 4,000 horses by 1892, was down to his many innovations. His horse buses ran to a fixed timetable, leaving stops on time rather than waiting until the bus was full, making them much more reliable than the competition, not for nothing were they known as ‘Times’ buses). They stopped at predetermined points, rather than wherever the driver or passengers wanted. He even introduced an early form of the Oyster card: a ‘correspondence’ ticket which enabled passengers to travel across London on any omnibus, with ticket receipts being pooled among the different firms. Tilling soon became the biggest supplier of horsepower in London loaning horses for canal barges, the Lord Mayor’s Show and the Royal Family. When the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was formed in 1866, Tilling supplied and trained the horses that hauled the fire engines. These horses had to respond quickly, straight out of the station and cope with varying conditions. Thomas always supplied greys, the Tilling trademark, and trained them on his Peckham bus route to gain experience with heavy traffic.
One of the Tilling stables was in Milo Road, between Lordship Lane and Beauval Rd. Tilling accounts show a purchase in East Dulwich in 1898 for £5,463 which may be this site. An aerial shot shows just how large an area these stables covered, and Tilling had 500 such stables. His yards were always organised to the same plan: stables in long lines with the horses facing inwards. The stalls were partitioned with wooden walls as opposed to a hanging bale chained to the ceiling, which he said was uncomfortable for the horses and made it harder for them to lie down. A five-year-old bus horse cost £35 and had a working life of around four years, after which it was sold to the knacker for £5. However, Thomas’s motto was ‘Do them really well’. He had his own horse infirmary, employed many vets and each horse was well-fed with a weekly ration of 17lbs of corn, 10lbs of chaff plus hay. The feed was later supplied by a custom-built granary in Peckham.
In stables like Milo Road each horse-keeper was responsible for a stud of 12 horses with each horse working 10 days in 12; both men and horses had Sundays off. Tilling needed huge supplies of horses as driving buses was tiring work, especially in Dulwich: horses driving up Lordship Lane to the Plough had to be taken off the route every other week and worked on an easier one. Days were long. The first buses left Milo Road in time to allow passengers to be at work by 8.30. So, at 5am the keepers started grooming and feeding the horses. At 5.30 am the vet would inspect every animal and take off any that were unfit for work. Horses and buses would then head off for the day’s work. The last bus would arrive back at the Milo stables around 10pm and the horses, having been on the road all day, were handed over to the horse-keepers by the drivers while the conductors checked the buses for dropped coins and lost property. The horses were fed while elsewhere on the site the bus washers and carpenters were finishing their supper ready to start repairing, cleaning and readying the buses for the next day. By 3am the washers had left and the stables were quiet for a few hours until the whole cycle started again.
Doctors were a large market for Tilling, especially around Dulwich where so many of them lived. If a doctor did not want the trouble of keeping a hard-worked horse healthy and fed, Thomas would lease him a carriage horse, coachman and deliver the fodder. Tilling vets would visit to check the animal’s health and Thomas claimed he could replace a lame horse, broken carriage or drunken coachman within an hour.
Thomas died in 1893 and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery. His sons Richard and Edward, together with their brother-in-law Walter Wolsey, took over the business which now had over 6,000 horses and in 1904 they introduced the first double-decker motorbuses built for public service in London. A year later Tilling had 20 motor buses but still owned 7,000 horses. In 1909, the company operated a route from Peckham to Turnham Green, via Oxford Circus. This was route 12 and the service between Peckham and Oxford Circus still operates and still uses the number 12, making it possibly the oldest operating bus route in London.
By 1913, although Tilling had 150 motor buses, horses continued to comprise the larger part of their business. However, the writing was on the wall for horse-drawn transport and the firm announced plans to reduce their stabling, selling 500 horses immediately and advertised several premises for sale, including Milo Road. The auction advert says the Milo Road premises covered nearly 20,000 square feet and was a ‘well-placed … capital block of substantial ground floor buildings’ suitable for conversion into ‘factories, garages or laundries’.
The last Tilling horse-bus ran in August 1914 on the Honor Oak-Peckham Rye route, after which the horses were requisitioned for war work. Tilling supplied thousands of horses for the army and if you’ve read or seen War Horse, you’ll know just how horses were deployed in WW1; Britain lost nearly half a million horses in the war. Richard Tilling wrote to the Secretary of War warning of the diminishing number of horses available due to the rapid increase of motorised transport. He calculated that the number of horses used for public transport in London had declined from 74,000 in 1904 to around 7,000 in 1912. He continued ‘For all practical purposes the omnibus horse and the cab horse no longer exist… after Christmas next we shall have disposed of the balance of our omnibus horses.’ He suggested the army buy up the horses being sold by the omnibus companies and jobmasters to ensure their supply. The War Office was reluctant to incur this expenditure as they did not believe ‘the horse was vanishing to such an extent’.
In 1933, when their buses in London were nationalised, Tilling still owned 300 horses. But the company had also diversified away from transport and later owned, amongst others, Heinemann, Pretty Polly, Cornhill Insurance and Pilkington Tiles. Today, the Milo Road site is garages, and the only Tilling buses in London are in the Transport Museum but we do have bus stops, timetables and possibly some rhyming slang, to remember him by.
In former times when maps were rare, it was usual to make a formal perambulation of the parish boundaries on Ascension Day or during that week, on what were known as Rogation Days. Knowledge of the limits of each parish needed to be handed down so that such matters as liability to contribute to the repair of the church or the right to be buried within the churchyard were not disputed. The ceremony also had an important practical purpose. Checking the boundaries was a way of preventing encroachment by neighbours; sometimes boundary markers would be moved or lines obscured, and a folk memory of the true extent of the parish was necessary to maintain integrity of borders by embedding knowledge in oral traditions.
The priest of the parish with the churchwardens and the parochial officials headed a crowd of boys who beat the parish boundary markers with green boughs, usually birch or willow. Sometimes the boys were whipped or violently bumped on the boundary stones to make them remember. The object of taking boys along was to ensure that witnesses to the boundaries should survive as long as possible. The priest would pray for protection of the parish over the forthcoming year, and might also make declarations such as "Cursed is he who transgresseth the bounds or doles of his neighbour".
Parish markers were traditionally made of stone, often replaced in the 19th century by cast iron. They are known to have been used in Ancient Egypt and in Greece; in the Iliad Athena throws one! The oldest known stone is in China and dates from AD 12; the 1731 stone in Stratford is thought to be the oldest surviving dated boundary marker in London.
Many parish and estate boundaries were also marked with trees, in particular oaks, and some survive. We believe that the parish and estate boundary has left its mark in several lines of trees. Members may know the recent Vicar’s Oak installation at the south west entrance to Crystal Palace Park, with an oak tree stump from Dulwich Woods and a very instructive story board [invisiblepalace.org.uk]: it is well worth a visit. Also worth a visit, although beyond Dulwich, is a fine boundary oak where Lawrie Park Avenue meets Sydenham Avenue, with a seat attached.
Parish and manor boundaries tended to follow natural features, such as the ridge of hills such as Herne Hill/Denmark Hill and Sydenham Hill, or possibly ancient tracks like Crokestrete, or Lordship Lane. Water courses such as the Upper Norwood branch of the River Effra which rose near the Vicar’s Oak defined a lengthy stretch of the Camberwell/Lambeth parish boundary. The boundary followed the route of the stream from Farquhar Road into Jasper Road; boundary marker C12 is by the dip where the stream crosses Jasper Passage. Along South Croxted Road it also followed the edge of the Dulwich Estate and joined the Lower Norwood branch just north of Thurlow Park Road. The Effra was gradually culverted between the 1830s and 1890s.
The odd indentation in the boundary between Ruskin Walk and Danecroft Road arises from this land being alienated prior to Alleyn's purchase of the manor in 1605, probably by the Priory of Bermondsey or the Caltons. In 1900, this area was incorporated in the newly created Borough of Camberwell, creating a straighter boundary along Herne Hill and Denmark Hill.
There were significant changes to the boundaries through the 19th century. In 1858, the Dulwich Estate purchased 60 acres of land to the west of Croxted Road, which once formed part of Lord Thurlow’s Knight’s Hill Estate. It was able to do this with money recently received from the sale of a small portion of land to the Crystal Palace Company. Around 1886 the Estate exchanged land comprising what is now Beauval Road for a freehold property in the centre of the village. The 20th century also saw changes, some as a result of compulsory purchase. Beating the bounds of the Estate would not be a simple exercise!
One of the earliest maps of the parish of Camberwell, Poole’s map of 1834, shows the boundary markers then in place and states that it follows a perambulation of the parish that year. A number have been identified as still standing in the Dulwich area, notably around Sydenham Hill. Most are dated 1870 and replace earlier markers; the figure on many of the Camberwell posts represents St. Giles, to whom the parish church is dedicated, holding his crozier and stroking his tame hind.
Two markers are on the local list of historic buildings and monuments and it is hoped that others will be added as a result of this survey. There are many other Camberwell boundary markers shown on large scale Ordnance Survey maps, including that on One Tree Hill, dated 1870, and a stone one on Westwood Park dated 1858 and 1896: but this survey covers only those in Dulwich. The authors would be delighted to receive corrections or additions, particularly of any markers seen in private gardens, and we will be maintaining an up to date list.
Camberwell Parish Boundary Markers
C1 36 Champion Hill, at crossroads: flat metal Camberwell post 1874, next to D3
C2 Sydenham Hill, west side, near the junction with Eliot Bank and Kirkdale. Stone with Camberwell parish on front, Dulwich Manor on side, very rubbed (also listed as D5 below)
C3 131/133 Sydenham Hill driveway, 1870 Camberwell post, traces of painting (possibly moved from another position)
C4 Top of Cox’s Walk, to west of gateway, 1870 Camberwell post, partially submerged
C5 Crescent Wood Road, junction with Sydenham Hill, inscribed Camberwell Parish, metal bollard, undated (older than C5A)
C5A Stone inscribed “27ft S.E. from this point is the boundary of the Borough of Camberwell”
C5B Wood House car park, 39 Sydenham Hill, stone half submerged, similar to C5A. Inscribed “ 39 ft S.E. from this point is the boundary of the [Borough of Camberwell]”
C6 Rock Hill junction with Sydenham Hill, in hedge on roadside: Camberwell 1870 post
C7 Sydenham Hill west side outside No 9 Sydenham Hill, Camberwell 1870 post
C9 Crystal Palace Parade opposite garage: Camberwell 1870 post
C10 Crystal Palace Parade opposite garage entrance, 15 metres south of C9: Camberwell 1870 post
C11 Crystal Palace Parade, on north side of railings around subway entrance to former High Level station: Camberwell 1870 post
C12 Jasper Passage, halfway between Jasper Road and Woodland Road: 1870 flat marker, partially submerged
C13 Gipsy Hill, opposite No 7 Grazeley Court, 10 metres south of gateway to Green, Camberwell 1874 post, partly submerged
C14 Gipsy Hill, at junction with Gipsy Road, Camberwell ?1874 post, partly submerged
C15 Thurlow Park Road, between 120 and 122A: Camberwell 1870 post
C16 Thurlow Park Road, opposite C15, metal plate on wall inscribed CP 1874, Berry of Westminster
C17 Ruskin Walk corner with 119 Herne Hill, 1870 flat Camberwell post removed in 1926 from a point 25 foot north east: near D8
C18 1 Warmington Road, metal wall plaque on side wall, marked CP 1889
C19 3 Warmington Road, metal wall plaque on front wall, marked CP 1888
C20 11 Red Post Hill, stone set in gatepost marked C P 1870, very rubbed
C21 169 Denmark Hill, best example of free-standing Camberwell 1870 post
D1 Champion Hill, south end of Ruskin Court fence, stone at ground level, inscribed “Dulwich Manor extends from this stone eastward 27ft”: recut 1846 and 1928
D2 Champion Hill, on gatepost of KCL Champion Hill Residence (The Platanes) inscribed “ Dulwich Manor extends from this stone eastwards 24(?) feet 4 inches 1806”, recut 1846 and 1883
D3 36 Champion Hill, granite stone at the crossroads, inscribed “Dulwich Manor extends from this stone eastward 9 ft”, recut 1846 and 1928: next to C1.
D3A Alleyn’s School at Lytcott Grove entrance, inscribed plaque set in wall indicating that the face of the wall is boundary of the Dulwich College Estate
D3B Alleyn’s School playing field edge, stone block inscribed Dulwich Manor
D4 Lordship Lane, west side opposite Wood Vale, stone largely buried in tarmac
D5 Sydenham Hill, west side: same as C2
D6 Behind 2 Crescent Wood Road, dated 1798
D7 234 Rosendale Road at pavement edge, inscribed “Alleyn’s College Dulwich 1908”, partly submerged
D8 Ruskin Walk, near C17, inscribed “Dulwich Manor extends from this stone north eastward 25 ft 1792”, recut 1928
M1 Milestone outside 18 Red Post Hill, inscribed “4 1/2 Miles from Treasury Whitehall/ Standard Cornhill (listed Grade 2)
M2 Milestone at Dr Webster’s Fountain in Dulwich Village, inscribed “ V miles from Treasury Whitehall/Standard Cornhill 1772”, reverse “Siste Viator[ ie Stop,Traveller] T.T. 1772.- (Thomas Treslove was the surveyor of roads in Camberwell Parish.)
Dulwich Wood Avenue is one of the few roads in the southern part of Dulwich which still retains a number of its mid-Victorian houses. Originally called ‘The Avenue’ and only renamed ‘Dulwich Wood Avenue’ in 1939, the road runs along the east side of Long Meadow connecting the roundabout at the bottom of Dulwich Wood Park with Farquhar Road. The junction which is now the roundabout was known at one time as ‘Avenue Gate’, though there was no gate as such. Long Meadow also had a different name, it was known for many years by locals as ‘French’s fields’ after the local dairyman, Thomas French, who grazed his cows there - his dairy, at No 74 Gipsy Hill on the northern corner of Cawnpore Street, is still there.
The previous article on Farquhar Road in the last Journal described the impact of the opening of the Crystal Palace on the demand for housing in the area. Dulwich Wood Avenue was part of that section of woodland purchased by George Wythes in 1853 and then sold on a few years later partly to the Crystal Palace Company and partly to a local Gipsy Hill based house builder, Richard H Marshall. While it took the Crystal Palace Company until 1863 to agree housing layouts with the Dulwich Estate for the southern end of the road nearest Farquhar Road (Nos 2-8), Marshall was far more adept and he agreed his layouts facing Long Meadow by the middle of 1859 and also managed to renegotiate the start dates of his leases, from Lady-day 1859 rather than the Crystal Palace Company’s Lady-day 1853. His first houses were built and occupied by the time of the 1861 Census. His original intention was to construct 19 houses, though only 18 were actually built (Nos 10-44) and four (Nos 22-28) remain. His obituary in the Norwood News in July 1902 noted that ‘He took great pleasure and pride in the improvements he had been able to make in the neighbourhood, having built houses and planted trees on Gipsy Hill, Alleyn Park, Kingswood Road, and the whole of the Avenue.’ While his houses may have been well built, it would appear that he paid less attention to the quality of the road, within ten years the residents were writing to the Dulwich Estate about its deteriorating surface and demanding that something be done about it. A few years later they were complaining about the small triangular area at the southern end of Long Meadow saying that it was being used both for fly tipping and as a playground by local boys. The Estate agreed to enclose it with a ‘rustic lattice of larch poles, somewhat similar to the field opposite.’ - it remains fenced off today though with metal railings rather than the original timber.
It took another ten years before the Crystal Palace Company completed their four houses in the road, in 1872. They were actually built by a builder based in Forest Hill, John Paterson Waterson, who had also worked on houses on the east side of Farquhar Road, and others in Crescent Wood Road, Dulwich Wood Park and Lordship Lane. He should be best known today as the builder in 1867-68 of most of the shops in the north parade (formerly called Commerce Place) in Dulwich Village - now 35-45 Dulwich Village. Of the four houses he built in ‘The Avenue’, three remain, Nos. 2, 6 and 8. No. 4 was there until demolished in the 1950s to provide a site for a double story block of garages for the adjacent tall block of flats, Lowood Court.
A few years earlier, in the late 1860s, there was a development of ten smaller semi-detached houses (Nos 1-19 odd) on the west side of the road, south of the junction with Colby Road - the builder was Edwin Cole, from West Norwood. On the other side of the junction another building contractor called Arthur G Owen leased the long thin triangular site backing onto the backs of the Colby Road gardens and built a large house for himself which he called ‘Oakfield’ even though there were at least two other houses with the same name in Dulwich at the time. In the early 1880s he added two more houses in his side garden by the junction with Gipsy hill, ‘Staffa House’ and ‘Iona Villa’.
As early as the First World War the larger houses on the east side of the road were seen as less desirable for wealthy residents. No 44, at the junction with Avenue Gate was a school as early as 1901, with German born Miss Anita Henkel running it as a ‘finishing school for the daughters of gentlemen.’ It became a Red Cross run hospital in 1916. In January 1917, ‘Woolsthorpe’, No. 10 Dulwich Wood Avenue, was acquired by the promoters of the Montessori Kindergartens - the Estate agreed to grant a licence to use the house ‘as a college for the training of young children and students in the Montessori system of education.’ Over the next few years, the organisation also acquired No 38 as a student hostel and later, Nos 40, 42 and 44
In the late 1930s, on the other side of the road, the Estate demolished six of the small semi-detached houses (Nos 1-11) and leased the sites, plus the corner site of No 63 and 65 Farquhar Road, to a building firm called Connell and Truett. They started a number of detached houses with Tudor style half-timbered elevations but WW2 intervened and they were not finished until the early 1950s. The remainder of the old houses down to Colby Road were demolished after WW2, with two sites leased to individual owners to build their own houses, and the remaining land went to the self-builders from the Enterprise (Camberwell) Building Society. Despite some bomb damage, most of the large houses on the east side of the road survived but their size, and the short leases remaining, meant that they were even less appealing to potential owners - indeed, there was talk in 1948 of three of the sites being sold for the construction of a Methodist church.
The Dulwich Development Plan produced in the early 1950s identified this part of the Dulwich Estate as ripe for redevelopment but, a combination of the need to have the London County Council’s agreement to the plan, and the impact of Building Licence controls, meant that there was no opportunity to move forward. In the spring of 1954 Camberwell Council tried to compulsorily purchase several of the sites but it was overruled by the Minister of Housing following a public enquiry. He referred to the evolving Dulwich Development Plan saying that the Dulwich Estate was preparing its own development scheme and it should be allowed to implement it. A preliminary site layout was agreed later in the year but it was not until February 1956 that the Estate Manager and Architect met developer/builder Wates to discuss how the scheme could progress. To speed things up they agreed that a small initial scheme should go ahead while a more comprehensive master plan was prepared. This first phase was on the site of Oakfield, and it was carried out using standard three-bedroom Wates semis designed by the in-house architect’s department - with some input from the estate architect, Austin Vernon & Partners, on the elevations. It was the first Wates development in the area and perhaps it was also a test to see how well the builder and architect could work together and whether Wates would deliver what they promised - the 14 semi-detached houses were completed within a year. By previous Dulwich standards these were very modern houses and, in his description to the Board meeting which approved the scheme, Austin Vernon, the Estate Architect, noted positively that ‘the elevations are designed in the modern contemporary style, which I think are not unattractive and, as the whole of the surrounding lands will be eventually developed with buildings of a somewhat similar kind, these elevations could be permitted’.
Planning consent for a mixed scheme of houses and flats on the site bounded by Dulwich Wood Avenue and Farquhar Road was achieved in January 1957. The first houses, Nos 1-4 Oakfield Gardens (named after the old house formerly across the road), were completed in October 1958 with another five terraces, Nos. 5-9, 10-15, 16-20, 36-38, and 39 - 41 Oakfield Gardens following, the numbering suggests that there were going to be others at a later date on the sites of Nos 22-28. The wide frontage two-story house had an L shaped plan and a large garden and were laid out in short terraces perpendicular to the road. Access to each house was via a footpath leading from the parking area and garage block at the front of the site. The front door was approached via a small courtyard behind a full height metal grille gate. On the other side of the projecting kitchen block there was a ‘back door’ which opened on to a smaller courtyard providing storage space for refuse bins and garden tools. Only in Dulwich would the sales brochure refer to it as a ‘tradesman’s entrance’!
The sites of Nos 36-44 Dulwich Wood Avenue, were not redeveloped until the late 1960s when the site was sold to W & C French. Two new service roads, Hunters’ Meadow and Bell Meadow, with detached houses on either side, were brought into the triangular site and a block of flats built in the acute corner. The detached house types alternated, wide frontage/narrow frontage, but were substantially the same in plan and elevational treatment, with all elevations clad in clay tiles above brickwork.
The final development in the area was in 1975-78 when Wates built two blocks of 12 flats and maisonettes at the southern end of Paxton Green. This was the last development to be built by Wates on the Dulwich Estate before they returned in the 1990s to build the ‘Huf’ houses in Woodyard Lane in Dulwich Village. The old houses on the site (‘Staffa House’ and ‘Iona Lodge’), were demolished in 1969. Planning consent was obtained in 1970 but it took a number of failed agreements with other developers, before Wates took over the scheme in 1975.
John and Alice Harris, anti-slavery campaigners, lived at 191 East Dulwich Grove from 1910 to 1921. John Harris was born in Wantage, Oxfordshire in 1874, son of a plumber. He attended King Alfred School in Wantage. He worked in the city of London at Cooks, a gentleman’s outfitter while training to be a protestant missionary, carrying out evangelical social work in common lodging houses. He was ordained at Cliffs Theological College in Derby. Alice Seeley was daughter of a silk works manager, who was a civil service secretary, and an active Christian who heard a ‘call’ to go out to Africa from the Baptist preacher, Dr F B Meyer of Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road, later known as ‘the archbishop of the Free
Churches’, the same preacher who had ‘called’ John Harris. Although they had apparently known each other for several years, Alice’s parents had objected both to Alice’s wish to be a missionary and to marry a fellow missionary. John and Alice were nevertheless married on 6 May 1898 and within a few days the newly married couple sailed to the Congo on behalf of the Region Beyond Missionary Union, which had been founded in 1892 as an inter-denominational protestant mission by Henry Grattan Guinness and his wife Fanny. The Union’s mission statement was ‘ The Lord Jesus Christ Cares for Central Africa’. Fanny Grattan Guinness had written a book on the history of the
Congo mission, ‘The New World of Central Africa’ and it seems reasonable to assume that the Harrises had read the book before leaving England and had some idea of what to expect. The Harrises appear to have kept a house in Croxted Road in West Dulwich, where they stayed while they were on furlough from the Congo mission.
Arriving at the mission at Bololo, the Harrises first sought to learn the local language and teaching the natives basic skills such as housebuilding, but soon found themselves shocked by the way in which both the rubber plantation managers and the agents of King Leopold of the Belgians, the personal owner of the so-called Congo Free State, treated the natives. In 1903, the Harrises supplied Edmund Morel of the Congo Reform association with evidence of the abuse, including a series of photographs taken by Alice on her Kodak camera. The photos were shocking, showing natives being whipped and workers and children whose hands and feet had been amputated as punishment. Some of the photographs were included in Morel’s book King Leopold’s Rule in Africa, which was published in 1904. John Harris also published a pamphlet Rubber is Death. The Story of the Bonguranga Rubber Collectors, giving the names of victims and their children. On returning to England, the Harrises became active campaigners for the Congo Reform Association, of which in May 1906, they became joint organising secretaries, speaking at some six hundred meetings between them, including an American tour, giving lantern lectures using Alice’s photographs and displaying shackles and chicottes - the slavedrivers whips. John Harris presented the evidence to the public enquiry established in 1904 by King Leopold in response to the agitation. When the enquiry report was published it excluded the Harrises’ evidence and photographs. The British consul in the Congo, Roger Casement, submitted his own report to the British foreign office in 1904, which was published in a censored version. The Congo Reform Association established a ‘parliamentary committee’, which included the leading Liberal MP, Sir Charles Dilke, a Conservative MP, Sir Gilbert Parker and the Labour leader Ramsay Macdonald. In 1903, Henry Fox Bourne, the secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society, had published his own critique of King Leopold’s Rule - Civilisation in Congoland, with the sub-title A Story of International Wrong-Doing, with a forward by Sir Charles Dilke. In July 1909, John Harris had an argument with Edmund Morel after he had interviewed the foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, without informing Morel, The Harrises therefore dropped out of the Congo Reform Association. Morel published a second book on the Congo, Red Rubber, in 1908. Books critical of the Congo regime were also published by Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and the Belgian socialist politician Emile Vandervelde.
In 1910, John Harris became secretary of the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society, the two separate organisations having merged, a post he held until his death. Moving to Dulwich, he became president of the Dulwich Liberal Association, in succession to Allan Octavian Hume. John Harris was extremely prolific publishing at least twenty-five books and pamphlets, including Dawn in Darkest Africa (1912), Present Conditions in the Congo (1912), Portuguese Slavery (1913) and in 1933, a history of the Anti-Slavery Society: A Century of Emancipation.
John Harris was keen to get into parliament. In the 1922 general election, he stood as an independent (Asquithian) Liberal against the sitting National Liberal MP and Minister, Dr T J Macnamara in North Camberwell. Macnamara was returned. Harris came third with 3,270 votes, with the Labour candidate, Hyacinth Morgan in second place. Morgan was to win the seat for Labour in 1929, the Conservatives having captured the seat in 1924. Harris switched his candidacy to North Hackney, where he was elected in general election in November 1923, narrowly defeating the sitting Conservative, Walter Greene. However, his time as an MP was short-lived as in the election in December 1924, he was defeated by the Conservative candidate, Austin Hudson. He tried to recapture the seat in 1929, but this time came in third place. He made a final attempt to return to parliament in 1931 this time as the Liberal candidate in Westbury, Wiltshire, coming in third place again. In 1933, John Harris was awarded a knighthood for his services to the Anti- Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. He only retired from his position as general secretary in1940. Harris had lobbied on behalf of the anti-slavery society at the Paris Peace conference in 1919. He became a leading advocate of mandates to manage the former German colonies in trust for their native populations, publishing articles in the press as well as pamphlets on the issue. He had a special interest in the ’B’ mandates in Tropical Africa - Togo, the Cameroons and Tanganyika (formerly German East Africa). He represented the anti-slavery society at the League of Nations annual assemblies in Geneva. One of his main concerns was to avoid the abuses he had witnessed in the Congo where Leopold II had asserted a humanitarian trusteeship in his personal kingdom, when the practice of his administration was neither humanitarian or operating in the native interest. He was also a member of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union. Harris, given his experience, acted as an advisor to the League of Nations mandates commission and staff.
Alice continued to contribute to the Anti-Slavery Society campaigns, lecturing widely as well as writing articles. She was active in speaking out against lynching in South Africa and in the southern states of the US. She wrote about slavery in the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome, stressing the impact on women and family life.
John Harris died in 1940. Alice died in 1970, at the age of 100.
With thanks to Sharon O’Connor for Information on John and Alice Harris’ home in Dulwich
At The Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College, Dulwich Common, London, SE21 7LD
"If you can't say something nice about someone, come sit next to me."
To say it has been a strange ole year is an understatement. To protect ourselves we have to give up so much, including so many enjoyable activities. This has included giving up without realising it what makes us, culture. Through this we have realised so many of the important things in life, love, friendship, family and of course theatre.
The Dulwich Players are therefore delighted to announce that their next production will be Steel Magnolias. What else could be so warming for the soul? Originally planned for 2020, in many ways the essence of this play epitomises so much of the last year. We have all had to be Steel Magnolias (or ‘steel roses’ if we go to the British translation).
Steel Magnolias charts a path though the life of Shelby Eaterton, from her wedding day to less happier events. What a way to explore love but with a wedding in the air. Love which is full of hope, and risks all. Love that is lost, rekindled love, love on the wane, love that is blind and a mother’s love. All of this is bound in solid friendships that offers oxygen to life. Friendships that are so solid they can be tested, for they won’t break.
All of this takes place within the walls of Truvy’s hair and beauty emporium in the American deep south. What better place to throw shade on everyone in the local community and further. Some killer lines that will fill your soul with the best chicken soup you could imagine or have you rolling in the aisles or hopefully both.
Give yourself a treat.
Wednesday 20th October: 8:00pm
Thursday 21st October: 8:00pm
Friday 22nd October: 8:00pm
Saturday 23rd October: 8:00pm
Tickets: £12 available online via www.dulwichplayers.org
Patrick Darby has transcribed and translated the surviving Dulwich court rolls from the first half of the 15th century. We can now compare these with those which he translated from their original Latin from 100 years earlier. The 14th century rolls were discussed in two editions of the Dulwich Society Journal in the Spring and Summer of 2017 and these can be read online by going to the journal archive on the Society’s website. The court rolls are kept at Dulwich College.
The rolls record the affairs of the manor of Dulwich, which was owned by the Priory (later Abbey) of Bermondsey from 1127 until 1531. From them we can gain a picture of life in medieval Dulwich, discover who the inhabitants were, learn the names given to their fields and roads, understand how law and order was maintained and obtain a unique glimpse into a Dulwich of 700 years ago.
Interestingly, we can discover the similarities we share with our forebears, as today we grapple with the Covid pandemic as they had struggled with life after the Black Death of 1348-50. As we noted in the articles compiled four years ago, that pandemic not only caused a massive death rate of between a third and a half of the population of Surrey and London which would have included Dulwich, but we can see that it resulted in a serious labour shortage. Today’s virus has caused its own labour shortage among some of the workforce. Seven hundred years ago, without the benefit of vaccines, the mortality rate was far higher and the labour shortage affected agriculture. This led to the break-up of serfdom or villeinage where the individual was bound to his lord of the manor for labour and in return received accommodation and a small plot to work for himself.
This upheaval of the existing structure of England took several decades to make itself fully felt - today we are seeing a change in the way people work but at a faster rate. By comparing the evidence of the court rolls now translated with those a century earlier, i.e. before the Black Death, we can see that a completely new structure had emerged. Interestingly, it was to the great benefit of the agricultural worker of that age. Will post-Covid deliver benefits to workers today?
By 1435 the population of Dulwich had recovered beyond its pre-pandemic level with around 170 names in the documents, suggesting that the population might number over 500 thereby exceeding by some 50 persons the 14th century estimated total. What was markedly different was that Dulwich’s society was now clearly divided into four different levels. While a hundred years earlier a handful of peasants might have gained their freedom and paid rent, by the early fifteenth century a large element were copyholders, meaning that they had an open-ended right to remain in their crofts or holdings and paid rent to the Priory. Previously they had worked as a direct labour force for the manor for 264 days a year plus occasional boon work. On the remaining days, including saints’ days they cultivated their own smallholdings. Thus the copyholds now passed down through the families or were sold on. Upwardly mobile families might own several copyholds. Although most were of 2 - 4 acres, a number were of 10 - 30 acres. A termination fee called a heriot was payable to the Abbey when death or infirmity ended a tenure, even if passed down to an heir. This was assessed according to the area of the land and took the form of a payment of a farm animal, although if no animals were kept, the payment was converted into a cash sum. Similarly, an entrance fee was payable by the incomer even if it was the heir of the copyholder. Widows could, and did, inherit and run the small holdings. In some cases there are descriptions of the copyhold as consisting of strips measuring 1- 2 acres in part of a larger field. This evidence supports the belief that the common field system may have persisted in Dulwich for longer than previously thought.
Just as earlier, the customs of the manor were enforced. The copyholders and also wage labourers who hired themselves out to the Abbey formed what was called a tithing. The tithing was responsible for the fair and orderly management of local society; its members were responsible for each other’s conduct. Local officials like the head borough, the ale-taster and the constable were elected out of the tithing at the manorial court. The name Court Lane suggests that Dulwich’s manorial court met there, probably at the Abbey’s demesne farmhouse (later named Court Farm). The Abbey’s steward, whose name was John Sturmy, would have presided at the quarterly manor court, held on a saint’s day which was a holiday. Also present would have been the bailiff, John Houchyne, a clerk who compiled the rolls, and sometimes the beadle, the reeve and the reap master whose responsibility it was to ensure that labour service at harvest time was carried out. On occasions the office of woodward is mentioned, whose task it was to maintain the valuable Dulwich wood and keep out intruders. Everyday life therefore was carefully regulated by an established bureaucracy.
The second level of Dulwich society at that time was formed by those individuals who rented land, with or without buildings, from the Abbey or from absentee leaseholders. They might also be copyholders and members of the tithing. These were farmers, and the word ‘yeoman ‘ occurs in the rolls. It is clear that a number of farmers also had land in adjacent Camberwell, Peckham or ‘Southlambethythe’. The Dockyng family, who are described in various documents as ‘tile-makers’ may indeed have carried out that trade in Dulwich but they were also small-time farmers. The same may also be said of John Casinghurst and John Colcok who were fined frequently for digging turfs on the lord’s land without licence. They were probably business partners or employees of Simon Dockyng at the tile kiln, so it is very likely they were actually digging clay for tile manufacture. The Casinghursts would be a presence in Dulwich for the next 200 years when their descendants were friends of Edward Alleyn. Other family connections are inscribed in the parchment of the court rolls. One example is that of an old lady, Elena Edys who found her house and 30 acres too much for her to manage in 1429. She had inherited it from her father Richard Berlyng whose name appeared in the 14th century court rolls, and so William Lane and his son Richard took over the property on behalf of his other son Thomas.
The third level were the large-scale farmers who ran very big numbers of sheep. While some are described as ‘citizens and butchers of London’, others are not and indeed all might well have been engaged in the important wool trade. As we saw from the 14th century documents, the production of wool and cloth were the mainstays of Dulwich’s, indeed England’s economy. London was now the major centre for wool and cloth production and dominated the trade in the south-east. It was the crown’s cut from the export of wool which helped it pay for the Hundred Years War which was being fought on and off throughout this period.
While small holders might well have kept a score of sheep or so, and probably combined with neighbours to transport their wool to the Staple at Westminster, where according to the historian John Stowe, writing in 1598, there were at the time no less than six ‘wool houses’ i.e. warehouses, the main players in sheep rearing and wool production were Thomas Haukyn and Richard Baker of Peckham. with flocks, numbering 600 sheep or William Ingolf, Robert Goodsone, John Hyndefot and Christina Knyght who had 300 sheep while William Haukyn’s flock numbered 400, and Cecelia Horley had 200. John Laweman and John Brutone also had 160 each. All were fined on frequent occasions for putting too many sheep to graze on the common. These are large numbers of animals to handle. The usual practice was to graze 10 sheep per acre, so we are talking of large acreages of the manor being taken up with sheep grazing. Indeed, there might well have been others involved in sheep farming but the people mentioned all ‘overburdened the lord’s common pasture more than they ought above the common extent to serious damage’. As some did it on more than one occasion they must have thought the fine was worth the risk. William Haukyn was fined by the court for over loading the common pasture with 240 sheep for a period of over 3 months in November 1438. Cheekily, Richard Depeham illegally made a droveway for his sheep without getting a licence. He too was fined. The question arises, were these farmers grazing their own sheep for wool or meat or were they providing temporary grazing for other, more distant farmers who were driving their animals to market?
The Knyght, Haukyn, and Sampsone families were all connected with the London meat trade and were members of the Butchers’ Company. London’s livery companies were (and are) close-knit and as part of this fraternity Thomas Haukyn and William Knyght provided surety for a fellow butcher who was accused of misappropriating various monies. Fortunately for them the defendant was cleared of the charge. The Knyght family have the distinction of having their name perpetuated; 700 years on, Knights Hill off Rosendale Road, bears their name
Sir Robert Denny
The last level of Dulwich’s society was made up of an emergent class in London; that of property investors and financiers. They grew out of the guilds and companies which controlled London’s trade, manufacture and government. They were largely an absent one, only turning up at the manorial court to confirm a property deal. Instead, they sub-let their Dulwich holdings. However, Sir Robert Denny does appear to have resided in Dulwich towards the end of his life. He was not exactly an asset. Born around 1354, he came from a family of fishmongers of comparatively modest means. However, inheritances of property in London from his relations on his mother’s side, later added to by his marriage to a comfortably off Cambridgeshire widow, allowed him to enjoy an income from property and land and represent Cambridgeshire in Parliament. Now a man of position, he inhabited the ranks of landed knights and esquires and embarked upon a new career as a soldier and attained knighthood before 1387. He then enlisted as one of a contingent from East Anglia in the naval force commanded by Richard, Earl of Arundel.
Denny was considered a man of aggressive disposition, prone to violent outbursts on occasions. In 1392 he was granted absolution by a bishop for having assaulted a priest, though he was required to perform a suitable penance. Five years later, on a royal commission to arrest William and Robert Clipston and find the whereabouts of their goods which were then to be confiscated, Denny far exceeded his authority, threatening the lives of the accused men. Although the Clipstones complained of their treatment to the king, Richard II, Denny was nevertheless given another royal commission a month later to seize the Clipstone possessions. To cover himself from any recriminations he purchased a royal pardon. However, he was not yet finished with the Clipstones and in 1404 Denny accused the jury which exonerated them, of being bribed. Three years later, Denny’s son Thomas lay in ambush and killed one of the Clipstones with a blow to the head with his sword. He too purchased a royal pardon.
After 1400 Denny switched his interests away from East Anglia towards the south-east and when his step-brother, Thomas Stanmere, also a fishmonger, died in 1401 Sir Robert,Denney inherited Stanmere’s leases and properties in Stockwell, Camberwell and Dulwich. He had a further black mark against his name when he failed to honour a bond of 200 marks (worth £84,000 at today’s value according to National Archives) payable at the Staple at Westminster to William Weston. Weston acquired Denny’s Dulwich property in part payment but was still struggling to get back the balance of this debt in 1419, after Denny’s death.
William Weston, a draper, on the other hand was London’s model citizen personified. Nothing is known of him until 1396 when through his wife, Joan, he acquired on his marriage, a house and shops in Southwark, a property portfolio which he subsequently added to with acquisitions of land and tenements in Dulwich, Camberwell and Lambeth. Although little information on his business affairs has survived, he was clearly a rich and successful man. It is known that in 1415 he became one of the major suppliers to leading members of the royal army. He was relied upon to outfit the men with liveries and cloth and Weston may have made a small fortune out of the war. Although he only attended parliament in 1416, it was as an enthusiastic supporter of the war with France and its continued hostilities. He was not, apparently, patronised by the crown until 1421 when he supplied the Wardrobe with cloth. His main customers were the baronage and gentry. He was warden of the Drapers’ Company on two occasions and made a huge donation to the building of Drapers’ Hall which was begun in 1419. For almost 25 years Weston played a full and active part in civic life. When he died in 1428 his Dulwich property consisting of over 50 acres and several houses passed first to his wife and after her death to his sister Agnes.
By the 1430’s, when Robert Clopton appears on the scene, a changed economy gave less scope to ambitious men to acquire great wealth as London politics became less turbulent. London now tended to be governed by a group, headed by one of their leaders, rather than a leader assisted by his fellows. Robert Clopton, alderman of Lime Street ward, was such a man. He was an alderman from 1434 to 1448, although his last known attendance of a meeting of the court of aldermen was in October 1446. His earliest documented position of responsibility was as commissioner to collect a parliamentary subsidy in 1434. In 1435 he was elected one of London's sheriffs and from 1437 to 1439 acted as a city auditor. He represented the city at the parliament of 1439/40.
By 1441 he was prominent enough to be elected mayor, the same year that the building of the Guildhall, which still stands, was completed. However, there are indications his mayoralty ran into problems. It began inauspiciously with a disturbance at his election, caused by some of the skinners and tailors, who had wanted another alderman to be chosen. By coincidence, over 350 years later, Thomas Wright who built Bell House in College Road had his procession through the City after his election as Lord Mayor of London in 1785 also marred by some rival livery companies. For Clopton, in November 1442, after the end of his term, he found it advisable to obtain a pardon ‘for all trespasses and contempts’. committed as mayor between 28 October 1441 and the same date the following year, and of any legal actions that might be brought against him in the king's name, stemming from his activities as mayor. In April 1445 he, described as king's serjeant and alderman, obtained a royal exemption from being obliged to serve in any office, although whether this is connected with his difficulties as mayor or with the onset of old age is unknown.
Like many of his fellows, Robert Clopton was a relative newcomer to London, hailing from Cambridgeshire, where he held property. He later acquired more in Middlesex and Kent. Although the Dulwich court rolls describe him as a ‘baker and citizen of London’, more accurately he was known in London as a draper, which meant he was active in the international cloth trade. He therefore must have known William Weston, a fellow draper. His connection with Dulwich dates from 1435 when he turned up at the manorial court meeting and acquired from William Haukyn, a member of the Butchers’ Company and Dulwich resident, a house and 30 acres of land. Clearly there was as much networking in livery circles then as there is today! Clopton persuaded the manorial court to grant him a tenure of 18 years. Perhaps he fancied the idea of settling down here. Robert died in early 1448.
Everyday Life in Dulwich
There appears to have been little oversight by the Abbey of the management of the demesne farm and lands. As a consequence, the ditches for which the farm manager was responsible were often blocked causing flooding of the surrounding land, roads and paths. The ditch along Crokestrete (Croxted Road) and opposite Myllewardeslond was blocked a length of 20 perches (130 metres) and the lord’s farmer was ordered to ‘make amends before the next court. This he signally failed to do and the fine rose by 6s8d (£214) each time. So the concept of paying for an offence promptly is not new. This same ditch, which over its length was the responsibility of more than one farmer was constantly causing trouble. John Wynter also neglected to scour it and was fined. He also had land near Half Moon Lane between Myddelfielde and Blaunchysdoune where again he allowed his ditch to remain unscoured so causing flooding. By this time his fine had risen to 20s (£643). Not only that but he also allowed ‘the public footpath towards the church to be overgrown with bushes to the nuisance of the neighbours’.
It is clear that Dulwich’s local inhabitants tried their luck when they thought they would not be caught for causing infringements of local law. In the autumn of 1438 Simon Dockyng carried away 100 bavins (bundles of underwood from the woods or the common, for fuel), probably to fire up his tile kiln. Word must have got around that Thomas Gryme, the woodward, was absent because Thomas Ingolf took 3 horse-loads, Richard Ode 4 cartloads and John Longe took one, all without procuring a licence. However, someone noticed and at the court held on the Thursday next before the feast of St Andrew the Apostle in the 17th regnal year of king Henry the sixth (27th November 1438) they were fined a total of 20 shillings ( the equivalent today of £643). On another occasion, Thomas Gryme ensured that the half dozen inhabitants who gathered acorns and then sold them on, almost certainly to the legion of local pig breeders, were summoned and subsequently fined. Another regular misdemeanour dealt with at the court was the offence of brewing and selling ale ‘by false measures’. Women, as well as men, feature as ‘common huxters of ale’ and were just as culpable as their male counterparts; so Lucy Brutone, Olive Cartere, Joan Bryght and Joan Dockyng all had to pay the usual 1d fine. In contrast the only case of false measures in bread was recorded, when George Wylsone’s ‘bread pastry’ let the side down. Everyone living in Dulwich in a copyhold had, in addition to paying rent, to provide workers at harvest time to the lord of the manor i.e. the Abbey’s demesne farm. The number of men to be supplied and the days they would work depended on the size of the copyhold. For some reason, perhaps an argument with the manor’s farm manager resulted in multiple absences being noted by the Reap Master at the Bid Reap in 1440. Altogether five farmers failed to bring their men and were fined accordingly.
In contrast to the previous century, there were no acts of violence recorded although there were several accusations of bad debts. The lending of money was now common. The solitary mention of any serious crime is in regard to William Wedone who abandoned his 13 acres and house before he died. The reason for his flight became clearer when it was found that ‘Richard his son and nearest heir of full age has been indicted, arrested and convicted of a ‘hanging felony at Radynhe ( Reading). The affair of his abandoned farm was finally settled when his daughter Agnes Laccine took it over.
It is worth noting that all the fines levied at the manorial court were subject to a percentage being deducted for the benefit of the crown and that the Court of the Exchequer which oversaw this process was an extremely efficient tax collecting body with a sophisticated system which ensured that all manors paid up. So no change there to HMRC!