This winter will be remembered by ornithologists and many more as the Waxwing winter. Apparently the berry crop in Scandinavia failed and these exotic birds flocked across the North Sea in their hundreds to feast upon our plentiful berry and seed crops. Obligingly they are not only quite tame but seem to favour towns where gardens can supply their chosen food. It is not unusual for single birds to be reported in Dulwich during the winter but on 21st December we had the first sighting in Burbage Road of a flock of twelve or possibly fourteen feeding on the ash keys at the entrance to the sports ground. The same or a similar flock appeared in Court Lane during the Christmas period. There was then a flood of reports of perhaps the same flock in Turney Road and Rosendale Road on the weekend of the 21st January. I expect many more of us will have seen them and heard them giving their high musical trill as their contact call, ornithological gems which will hopefully have given pleasure to many.
But these are not all that we have seen in this snowy and rather bleak winter. Siskins, small finches that resemble canaries and Redpolls that resemble small Linnets have been feeding in the Birch and Alder trees of Belair Park. These are more typical winter visitors which are often seen coming to garden nut feeders in the late winter when the seed crop begins to run out. There has been a report of a cock Brambling in College Road. This is also a winter visitor from Scandinavia and may be seen with flocks of Chaffinches taking seeds on the ground or perhaps visiting a bird table. You may first spot it as different from a Chaffinch by its white rump that shows when it flies, but closer observation will demonstrate a rich rusty orange on breast and shoulder which becomes progressively brighter at the breeding season approaches and its feather tips wear.
It is a good year for Goldfinches which have discovered that gardens in towns offer more than our countryside, but the casualty of the past two or three years has been the Greenfinch. Whereas in past years we were seeing parties of a dozen or more birds competing for place on our nut feeders this year there are just one or two. The explanation for this lies in a disease organism called Trichomonas which the medical fraternity will associate with a different sort of illness, but alas in Greenfinches appears to be fatal.
Those other regular winter visitors, Redwings and Fieldfares are in shorter supply this winter, in contrast to last year when the numbers of Redwings were huge. The explanation may lie in the very cold weather of December causing them to continue their Autumn migration south and west in search of higher temperatures. However our resident Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes are now singing in preparation for the breeding season, and exceptionally I have a Blackbird in full song from mid January. I usually expect Blackbirds to reserve their first full song for St Valentine’s day, a good note on which to end this report.
Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)
I love watching Swifts in summer – they bring life to our urban skies. They are birds with sickle shaped wings that seem perfectly designed for life in the air. Feeding, sleeping and mating are all performed on the wing. In fact, they only land to breed when they are four years old. They migrate 5,000 miles every year from southern Africa to their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia; only spending three months in the UK from early May. For me they bring a sense of the “wild” to long summer days in London, especially when they zip over rooftops in “screaming sorties”.
But Swifts, like many migrant birds from sub-Saharan Africa are in trouble. According to the British Trust for Ornithology they declined by nearly a third in the UK from 1995-2008. It is unclear what has caused this, but one of the main reasons is probably the loss of nest sites. Swifts nest mainly in pre-1944 buildings and as these get refurbished and re-roofed they can no longer access them. Modern buildings are also too well insulated to let Swifts in. Fortunately, Dulwich and particularly East Dulwich still has good numbers of Swifts and I regularly count 59 birds over my garden at the end of July once juvenile birds join the adults in the air. If you are lucky enough to have nesting Swifts and are planning building work then please follow the advice of the organisation, Swift Conservation (www.swift-conservation.org). They recommend doing the work when Swifts aren’t there (from September to April, as it is an offence to disturb nesting birds) and to:
- Leave existing nest places undisturbed
- If re-roofing or replacing soffit and bargeboards, make new access holes to match the old ones exactly
- Install internal nest sites instead of external ones, as the former have more longevity
- If you can’t do the first three. Then fit external nest boxes.
Steps have been taken to help Dulwich’s birds as nest boxes, funded by Dulwich Park Friends are due to go up on College Lodge once the refurbishment work is finished. The Dulwich Society has also applied for a Big Lottery Grant to put boxes on Dulwich Library and a local primary school. If you would like advice on putting Swift boxes on your own home then please contact me via the Local Help and Assistance page on the Swift Conservation website.
Edward Mayer from Swift Conservation will be giving a talk about helping to protect Swifts on 27th April at The Francis Peek Centre, Dulwich Park following the Dulwich Park Friends AGM at 7pm
The Judas Tree - Cercis siliquastrum
This is the very pretty small tree in the angle between the Gallery and the Cloister. In late Spring it is covered in pink pea-like blossom, some escaping directly from the trunk and branches. Later the light green rounded heart-shaped leaves appear, and the long seed pods can be seen, hanging vertically. By the autumn they have become flat and brown, staying to dangle from the tree right through the winter, and even mix with next year’s flowers.
It grows to between 10 – 15m and comes from Southern Europe and Western Asia, and this may be the source of its name, the dry limestone slopes of places like JUDEA, though in fact it survives well enough on our cold clay soils here.
The name is more commonly associated with the story of Judas Iscariot who it is said hanged himself from its branches. Seeing it in April in Rome, in full floral display, the branches flowing down over the high walls of the Forum, you can see why in Italy it is called Sangue di Juda.( Blood of Judas)
The Judas tree has been known in this country long enough to appear in 16th and 17th centuries Herbals and it is said that the flowers have an acidic bite and can be used in salads, or fritters. Pollination is by bees, and your own Judas tree can be grown very easily from seed.
Ivy (Hedera helix) is native to Europe and Asia and forms an important part of our British ecosystems. Ivy may be viewed as an invasive plant in the United States, but it does not originate in the US and out-competes American native floral species. Here in the UK, however, it forms complex communities with other species of our native flora and fauna, and even if it climbs trees or covers the floor of recent woodland it is acting entirely naturally. Importantly ivy does not damage healthy trees. If a tree is dead then a great weight of ivy could contribute to the tree falling in high winds, but this is simply part of the natural process of decay and nutrient cycling.
Ivy has two forms; juvenile and adult. Juvenile ivy has distinctive lobed “ivy shaped” leaves and is found creeping along the ground, climbing up walls and on the base of trees. Commonly it is the adult flowering form of the plant that climbs up into trees. When ivy is severed at the base of trees this flowering form is killed off thereby removing an important food source for many animals. Over seventy species of invertebrates are known to feed on ivy, including the holly blue butterfly which depends on ivy as a food plant for its summer brood. Ivy flowers are produced from summer to autumn and provide a significant late source of nectar for bumblebees and other insects. Following pollination ivy produces black berries that ripen over winter. At least 17 species of bird including blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and redwing (Turdus iliacus) have been seen feeding on the berries, which can be a vital food source at the end of harsh winters. Ivy’s evergreen foliage provides shelter for many animals, including birds in and out of the nesting season. In particular the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) benefits from the protection that ivy gives in winter; the large numbers of breeding wren at Nunhead Cemetery are likely to be down to the high abundance of ivy. Furthermore, a thick covering of ivy on a mature tree increases its value as a roost for bats, one of the UK’s most highly protected species.
Although the article in the December issue briefly mentions the benefits of ivy the author appears to advocate removal of ivy from shrubs, trees and buildings from his view of what he judges to be aesthetically pleasing, which is highly subjective. Unfortunately this view is not unusual. The culture of arboricultural and horticultural aesthetics over the past two centuries has influenced attitudes to ivy, by denigrating it for its wildness rather then recognizing it as part of our ecology.
The December article also featured pictures of two trees along Cox’s Walk. Cox’s Walk is managed by the London Wildlife Trust with the conservation of wildlife habitat as its utmost priority, and whilst we maintain our trees to be safe, our policy is to encourage ivy where we possibly can. We are concerned by the practice of ivy being severed at the base of trees and hope that knowledge of the importance of ivy to wildlife may dissuade people from carrying this out in future.
Ashley White, Manager of Sydenham Hill Wood and Cox’s Walk & Conservation Projects Officer, Southwark www.wildlondon.org.uk
Richard Randall was an engaging companion. There can be no doubt about it; his diaries tell us so. Almost every day he is receiving hospitality from friends and relations alike. He does not appear to reciprocate this hospitality, so what does he offer this wide circle of people ready to give him breakfast, tea, supper or a bed for the night? His diaries tell us this too. He moves through different social strata as a professional musician and he must have had many stories to tell. Not that that comes out in his diary. There are no confessions, no scandal, not even many opinions. But there are very many statements of fact.
The diaries which cover the period 1762-1785 were given to Dulwich College in 1915. They have been rarely looked at and never researched. The reason they were given was that Richard Randall had been Organist and 4th Fellow at the College for most of this period. They are not, at first glance, as interesting as those of Pepys, Evelyn or Gilbert White but they do provide a window into the busy life of an energetic eighteenth century musician.
Randall was already ascending the ladder of professional success when he received news on 18th December 1762 of the death of Samuel Hawkes, the elderly organist at Dulwich College who had been in that post for 31 years. It must have been an inconvenient time of year to be without an organist but the musical bush telegraph clearly was in overdrive because Richard Randall obliged the College and played in the College Chapel that Boxing Day. He may well have let slip that he was playing at Westminster Abbey the following day.
The world of first class organists was a small but close one in mid-18th century London, just as it is today. They all knew each other and many began their musical careers as choirboys in the choir of the Chapel Royal under the mastership of the celebrated Bernard Gates. Gates was credited with restoring the fortunes of George Frederick Handel when, in 1732 he revived Handel’s opera Esther at a Crown & Anchor concert which provoked Handel to take up seriously the composition of English (as opposed to Italian) oratorio. Handel also conducted the Chapel Royal choir when Richard Randall was a member and late in his life Randall officiated at a gathering of his old musical friends who, as choirboys, all sang under Handel’s baton. Randall would become a celebrated tenor and was a favoured soloist of George II. Nor did Randall forget his former mentor in later life. On more than one occasion he visited Gates in his retirement at the manor of Aston in Oxfordshire, making a stop in September 1769 after he had performed at David Garrick’s famous, but disastrous Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, possibly to dry out after the drenching he and the audience received from the continual rain which ruined the last two days of the event.
Richard Randall must have made a good impression in Dulwich that Christmas in 1762 because he came again from his mother’s house in Stockwell, where he lived, to play for Sunday service at the Chapel on the 9th January and the following day was successfully elected as Organist and 4th Fellow whose duties also included teaching the boys to sing and assist the Warden on administrative matters when required, at a salary of £18.6.8 per quarter, a share of the annual dividend and board and lodging. He returned to Dulwich with his father a few days later, perhaps to show off his rooms and the Chapel and especially the new organ, built by George England only two years earlier which still survives today and was restored in 2009 at a cost of £_million. On Saturday 15th January 1763 there was a celebration dinner at the College and Richard took the oath of new office the following day.
There is no doubt that the College took its music very seriously. In 1740 it had come to an arrangement with Abraham Jordan, a local resident who lived in a house where Brightlands, the DCPS boarding house at the end of Gallery Road stands today. Jordan, who was a noted organ maker himself (he is credited with the invention of the swell box) regularly maintained the existing organ in the Chapel. Later, it may have been Jordan, now probably retired, who suggested the name of George England to the College when the need for a new organ became urgent.
The College statutes required the four Fellows (a preacher, schoolmaster, assistant schoolmaster and organist) to be unmarried and not to undertake any additional employment elsewhere. This last requirement was no longer strictly observed, just as well for Richard Randall who was already an extremely busy musician and singer. In the year before his appointment he was regularly playing the organ at the Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, singing at Covent Garden, Drury Lane and at a number of private and fund-raising concerts.
At the theatres he was either in the chorus, or was providing interval or after show solo performances, although in that year he stood in for the principal tenor in Handel’s Acis and Galatea and a fortnight later sang the principal part in the Royal Command performance of Handel’s oratorio Samson. In the following weeks of the opera season he sang in Judas Maccabeus, Jeptha, Semele, Alexander’s Feast and Messiah. In March a revival of Israel in Egypt had required extra rehearsal time at Covent Garden. When he was singing a principal part Richard was paid half a guinea a performance but when he was in the chorus or singing an interval song or afterpiece his payment was only five shillings.
Actors and singers engaged on a contract were given benefit nights to augment their salaries but pay was low in contrast to the stars of Italian opera who commanded £1200-£1500 a season but who in the process bankrupted theatre owners like Vanburgh and drove promoters like Handel abroad. Competition from operas in English followed the success of John Gay’s Beggars Opera and audience tastes were increasingly attracted to a form of pantomime developed by John Rich at Covent Garden which was presented as an afterpiece to a play. Richard Randall appeared in numerous pieces of pantomime at both Covent Garden and at Drury Lane. Private singing recitals brought in a half guinea a performance and he was in demand from St Margaret’s, Westminster and Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital. On top of all this he gave private music lessons, invariably to young ladies.
An invitation to breakfast by Lord Delawarr must have convinced the 26 year-old that he was on an upward trajectory and he splashed out £6.16.0 on a new suit of clothes and half a guinea on a flowered waistcoat. A new wig, price £1.11.0, completed his new wardrobe. For fun he went to see cricket played at Westminster School where the Town boys beat the King’s Scholars. Although a keen cricketer himself, the game he played most frequently was Trap Ball. Trap Ball is virtually unknown today but was a game which could be played in a small garden with a few players. In between all this he was managing to compose his own music and had 150 copies of his works printed at his own expense. Several years later, he would get his uncle, who was a music publisher with premises in the Strand, to print some further compositions for him.
When he arrived at Dulwich that January 1763, he was befriended by the Rev William Swann who was the preacher and who had been a poor scholar at the College from 1739-48. Swann was a College success story; he had gone to Christchurch, Oxford, taking Holy Orders after gaining his BA. He was elected Schoolmaster at his alma mater in 1752 and in 1766 was promoted to 1st Fellow or Preacher. Swann, who was a few years older than Randall, took the new arrival for a walk to Dulwich Wells, later introducing him to The Green Man tavern which also stood at the extremity of Dulwich Common. Swann would be a close friend of Richard Randall during his many years at Dulwich. Towards the end of January 1763 Richard moved his goods from Stockwell to Dulwich and refreshed himself at the Greyhound which was to be his regularly used ‘local’ and where he on occasion enjoyed boiled goose.
His busy musical career soon collided with his duties at Dulwich and two months after his appointment he was fined by the Master, Dr Joseph Allen, 5/- for being absent without leave. Dr Allen, who was born in Wexford around 1712, had, in 1740, accompanied Anson’s harrowing four year-long voyage around the World as ship’s surgeon and would become the last survivor of that epic journey. He was appointed Warden at Dulwich in 1745 and Master the following year following the death of James Allen. Late in life he retired to marry Elizabeth Plaw, the daughter of the village shoemaker. He was a kindly man and an eminent physician. Clearly he thought that the new young organist’s liberty needed curbing.
Actually Richard Randall was over his head with commitments. An odd pantomime called Harlequin Cherokee had been a big hit. It was inspired by the visit of several Cherokee Indian chiefs to London to petition the King over a land issue. Their appearance at Vauxhall Garden in July 1762 had attracted thousands of the curious, including Randall, to see them, some to see them get drunk. David Garrick, like his rival theatre managers, was always on the lookout for novelty and a pantomime invoking this unusual event was produced which became an instant success. There had been 27 performances at Drury Lane, including a Royal Command, almost nightly in November in which Richard Randall had a part. Its success was hardly fleeting, it was revived by Garrick several times the following February, once as an afterpiece to Romeo and Juliet and Richard, with a part in all of them, as well as singing five different Handel oratorios at other venues, was already falling down in his new Dulwich appointment.
Some kind of understanding must have been reached between the Master and his organist because Richard Randall’s profession career did not miss a beat. Two days after this admonishment Richard performed in Messiah but the following week he notes that he “heard the boys sing”. Thereafter there are plenty of references to his teaching duties and later that year he would give the boys a chance to learn to play the organ. He must have done a fair amount of duty-swopping with his colleagues at Dulwich and there are a number of references of him standing in for them in their teaching duties almost certainly as reciprocations.
(In the next issue we hear how Richard Randall becomes a popular guest at Dulwich houses and vows to “Live as Happy this year as I did the Last and if possible Go to Bath!)
Some thirty years ago, David Price, a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and violin teacher at both Dulwich College and Dulwich College Preparatory School, thought that it would be nice to encourage his pupils to play with others during the holidays to gain some orchestral experience. Ninety courses later, Dulwich Youth Orchestra (DYO) continues to flourish, meeting every holiday for five days of rehearsals in one of the local schools.Ranging from seven to eighteen in age, and from piccolo to double bass, musicians are coached by a team of expert teachers and professional players. They are coached to a high standard in a wide variety of musical styles: recent performances included music by Mozart, Dvorak, Delibes, Holst and the music to ‘Lord of the Rings’!
The final concert is a showcase of the different groups – the String Ensemble for younger players; the Wind Band, which of course includes brass players and percussionists as well as wind players of every variety; the Senior Orchestra for the more advanced players, which fluctuates from chamber orchestra to symphony orchestra in size; and a final item by the ‘Great Orchestra’, in the hallowed British tradition of massed performance in which all participate!
For many Dulwich families, DYO has become a popular holiday activity, the courses being short and intensive - mornings only - enabling other commitments or relaxation for the rest of the day. It is for many a ‘first orchestral experience’ although high standards are constantly sought and achieved, and for the older, more experienced, the repertoire is more demanding, with solo or concerto opportunities arising. Over the years excerpts from major concertos by Grieg, Bruch and Elgar have been presented, but interesting unusual repertoire is also chosen, such as the Moscheles Concertino for Flute and Oboe.
Many, many young musicians have ‘cut their teeth’ at DYO; for some it is simply a part of the kaleidoscope of Dulwich life, hopefully giving them a long lasting passion for musical activity (and London has wonderful opportunities for the amateur musician given a reasonable level of competence!) but for others it has been the start of a very serious interest – one young lady who went on to the National Youth Orchestra and Cambridge University said ‘You know it really was DYO that woke me up, musically speaking’, and many former members have gone on through music colleges or university to successful careers in music.
Barbara Dalton, Tim and Gill Hewitt-Jones, have now been together for sixteen years, and with their overlapping skills and local knowledge, have a good sense of the possible when it comes to planning programmes for performance. Barry Graham joined the team in December 2009. Barbara Dalton, formerly at DCPS and now Director of Music at Alleyn’s Junior School, is the Musical Director of DYO. All four have taken a keen interest in musical education, and sincerely believe that introducing music of good taste to young people at an early age is a vital ingredient in a civilized society!
Some DYO facts
- DYO was started in the early 1970s by a group of local music teachers
- Several of our current players are also members of the National Children’s Orchestra
- Many are members or have gone on to join LSSO
- One member this year and two members last year won places with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – we think there are about 15+ who have done so
- An ex-member has been commissioned to write the music for the 2012 Olympics
- There are children on our courses whose parents were members in the 70s
- One of the 2010 BBC Young Musician String Finalists was a member
- Several ex DYO members have won scholarships to the London Conservatoires
Tuesday 8th Dulwich Picture Gallery – Contextual Lecture Series – ‘It will not quite eclipse Napoleon’: John Nash’s plans for London. David Watkin. Linbury Room 10.30am £10
Thursday 10th Dulwich Picture Gallery – Masterpiece of the Month Lecture – Vermeer – The Music Lesson by Desmond Shaw-Taylor. 7 for 7.30pm Linbury Room. Tickets £10
Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – The Art of Conversation: painting & family life in 18th century England by Catherine Parry-Wingfield. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre 8pm.
Saturday 19th Dulwich Helpline Antiques Discovery Day/Arts and Crafts Sale from 10.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. at Herne Hill Baptist Church, Half Moon Lane, SE24 9HU
Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery – Flamenco music, dance and supper – Juan Ramirez St Barnabas Hall, Dulwich Village at 6.30pm £17 (under 16’s £10)
Wednesday 23rd Dulwich Subscription Concerts – Accordion music from all eras and countries. 7.30pm The Old Library, Dulwich College. Tickets £15 (concs £10, students £5).
Thursday 24th Dulwich Society Garden Group – Talk – ‘The work of the Metropolitan Gardens Association, past and present’. Speaker Mrs Joyce Bellamy. 7.45 for 8.00pm at the St Barnabas
Centre, Calton Avenue SE 21. Admission free.
Tuesday 29th Dulwich Picture Gallery – Contextual Lecture Series – The Cockney Moment: Metropolitan Art and Literature in the Regency. Gregory Dart. Linbury Room 10.30am £10
Saturday 9th Dulwich Society visit to Buckingham Palace garden and Trees walk. 3.30pm (see page ?? for booking form)
Sunday 10th Christ’s Chapel Organ Recital – Marilyn Harper, Organist Christ’s Chapel 7.45pm
Thursday 22nd – May 8th. Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery. Friends Easter Open Exhibition. Linbury Room.
Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – Emma, Lady Hamilton: scandal, celebrity & art in 18th century Britain by Kate Williams. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre 8pm.
Dulwich Picture Gallery Masterpiece of the Month – El Greco. Lecture by Rosalind Whyte Linbury Room 7pm for 7.30pm £10 (includes glass of wine)
Saturday 16th Meridian Brass – Concert – in aid of Practical Action, the international development charity. Music of Haydn, Ravel, Gershwin and Brubeck. St Faith’s Church, Red Post Hill SE 24 7,30pm Ticket £12 020 8670 4800
Tuesday 26th Dulwich Picture Gallery – Contextual Lecture Series – The Peninsular War: the End of the Beginning? Charles Esdaile. Linbury Room 10.30am £10
Wednesday 27th Friends of Dulwich Park Annual General Meeting - 7pm in the Francis Peek Centre, Dulwich Park. Following the meeting there will be a talk by Edward Mayer from Swift Conservation about helping to protect swifts and reducing the threats to them. All welcome.
Sunday 8th Dulwich Festival – Woodwarde Walk- architectural walk conducted by Ian McInnes. Meet junction of Calton Avenue/Woodwarde Road 2.20pm.
Thursday 12th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – Art in Paris 1850 – 1900: the most decadent city in the world! By Linda Collins. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre 8pm.
Saturday 14th Dulwich Festival Trees Walk conducted by Letta Jones for the Dulwich Society. Meet at the Old College Gate, Dulwich Park in College Road at 2.30pm
Sunday 15th Dulwich Festival – The Life and Times of Richard Randall – a talk by Brian Green with musical illustrations by Marilyn Harper on this eighteenth century professional Dulwich musician. Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich Village 3pm. Tickets £4
Monday 23rd Dulwich Society Annual General Meeting St Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue
SE 21 at 8pm
Tuesday 24th Dulwich Picture Gallery - Contextual Lecture Series – Jews in Britain under the Georges. Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok Linbury Room 10.30am £10
Wednesday 25th Dulwich Subscription Concert – The Bozza Ensemble (wind and piano ensemble) Mozart and Poulenc quintet and sextet. The Old Library, Dulwich College at 7.30pm. Tickets £15, concs £10, students £5
Tuesday 31st Dulwich Picture Gallery – Contextual Lecture Series – The Founding of the Dulwich Picture Gallery 1811: Dulwich College and ‘the Bourgeois Gallery’. Jan Piggott, Linbury Room 10.30am £10
Sunday 5th Christ’s Chapel Organ Recital – Robert Woolley 7.45pm
Thursday 9th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture - The Amish People: their history, culture and quilts by Jane Jefferson. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Lecture Theatre 8pm.
Thursday 23rd Dulwich Society Garden Group. Full day visit to Pashley Manor and Scotney Castle Gardens. Price £28 including transport, tips and admission to Pashley Manor. Bring your National Trust card for admission to Scotney Castle. Reservations to Ina Pulleine, 1 Perifield, SE21 8NG. Telephone 8670 5477 after11am
Ildersly Grove by Ian McInnes
In his essay, ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’, John Ruskin described a walk he took in March 1880 from the Half Moon pub at Herne Hill to Dulwich College, via Croxted Road, and passing Acacia Grove and Ildersly Grove, the latter then still being built.
“In my young days, Croxted Lane was a green bye-road traversable for some distance by carts; but rarely so traversed, and, for the most part, little else than a narrow strip of untilled field, separated by blackberry hedges from the better cared-for meadows on each side of it: growing more weeds, therefore, than they, and perhaps in spring a primrose or two--white archangel--daisies plenty, and purple thistles in autumn....... There, my mother and I used to gather the first buds of the hawthorn; and there, in after years, I used to walk in the summer shadows, as in a place wilder and sweeter than our garden, to think over any passage I wanted to make better than usual in ‘Modern Painters’.
So, as aforesaid, on the first kindly day of this year, being thoughtful more than usual of those old times, I went to look again at the place.
The fields on each side of it are mostly dug up for building....... half a dozen handfuls of new cottages, with Doric doors, are draped about here and there among the gashed ground: the lane itself, now entirely grassless, is a deep rutted, heavy hillocked cart road, diverging gatelessly into various brickfields or pieces of waste; and bordered on each side by heaps of – Hades only knows what! – mixed dust of every unclean thing that can crumble in drought, and mildew of every unclean thing that can rot or rust in damp: ashes and rags, beer bottles and old shoes, battered pans, smashed crockery, shreds of nameless clothes, door sweepings, floor sweepings, kitchen garbage, back-garden sewage, old iron, rotten timber jagged with out-torn nails, cigar ends, pipe bowls, cinders, bones and ordure, indescribable: and, variously kneaded into, sticking to, or fluttering foully here and there over all these, remnants, broadcast, of every manner of newspaper, advertisement of big lettered bill, festering and flaunting out their last publicity in the pits of stinking dust and mortal slime.”
Ildersly Grove is located on a former ‘copyhold’ field lying between the Acacia Grove development (built 1866 -67) Park Road (now Park Hall Road) and the back of Park Row Cottages and the Alleyn’s Head - at that time located on the site of the current Majestic Wine shop. In March 1877, Mr John Harris, a ‘Gentleman’ by profession, living at “Oakfield House, Dulwich in the County of Surrey” (now 41 College Road on the corner with Dulwich Common), purchased the field from the tenant, Mr Thomas Wright, for a premium of £1000.
‘Copyhold’ tenure dated from feudal times and, by the nineteenth century, was considered to be largely an anachronism. This particular plot had been acquired as compensation for the loss of grazing rights on Dulwich Common after enclosure in the early eighteenth century. A ‘copyhold’ was effectively a freehold as it was held in perpetuity from the landlord as long as the rent was paid. The owner of a ‘copyhold’ was entitled to enfranchise it as a freehold and Mr Harris paid the Estate £621 10s by way of compensation. He subsequently appointed builders, Messrs Edward George Paull and Henry John Paull of Gypsy Road, Lower Norwood, to build houses on the site – on both sides of the new road and along part of Croxted Road. He also built a small row of shops along the north side of Park Road.
There was no further mention of the site until March 1926 when the Estate Solicitor reported that he had received a letter from a Mr H T Young who represented the head lessee, Mrs Louisa Taylor. He offered to sell the freehold ground rents Nos 1 to 13 lldersly Grove, and other houses in Croxted Road and 1 & 2 Oakfield Cottages for a price in the neighbourhood of £8000. The Manager was instructed to offer £7500 but, in April, was able to report that he had actually acquired the properties for £7250. The deal was completed in late June and a visit to Ildersly Grove was included in the 1926 Governors’ annual review. Late in the year the Estate also bought in the leases on the adjacent sites of the Alleyn’s Head and the Park Row Cottages – thus giving them ownership of all the land on the north side of Park Hall Road, east of Croxted Road.
Now that the Estate was in control it started preparing schedules of wants of repair to bring the houses up to standard. The condition of the road and pavements in Ildersly Grove were also the subject of continuous discussion in the Estate minutes over the next few years. The road itself remained private until the late 1940s and the lessees had to contribute the sum of 17s 11d at Michaelmas each year towards the cost of any repairs. There was a suggestion in the mid 1930s that Camberwell Borough Council should be asked to take over the road.
In June 1937 the road was described as “in bad condition and it should be scarified and coated on top, either with a water bound surface, subsequently tar sprayed, or with a new tarmac surface.” Tenants also complained about the size of the plane trees on the footpaths and some thought was given to remove them and replace them with slow growing trees such as Japanese Flowering Cherry, “thus making a picturesque grove in the spring time similar to Burbage Road”.
Unlike most roads in Dulwich we cannot be sure why Ildersly Road is so-named; it is possibly a misspelling of the surname of Thomas Iddersleigh, onetime Chairman of the Crystal Palace company. Whatever its origin, there is no denying it’s a charming little street with its wide bay windows and uniform wooden fences. Tucked away behind the bustle of Croxted Road the two rows of semi detached villas follow the curve of the road, finishing in a small sweep of taller houses before joining Park Hall Road.
The residents of Ildersly Grove listed in the 1881 Census are all British subjects but their birth places show some interesting geographical mobility. Nearly half of them were born in London with another third elsewhere in England, 14% in India with the remainder from Wales, the Netherlands and St Helena in the South Atlantic.
All the servants living in Ildersly Grove at this time were born in England or Wales with two thirds born outside London. The rest were born in London although none are from Dulwich which is surprising, the nearest birthplaces being Covent Garden and Hammersmith. Of those from outside London 20% came from Wales and the others from all over England including Yorkshire, Lancashire, Worcestershire, Suffolk and Dorset. Only one house in the road did not have any live-in servants. Of the other households, if they had one servant she (and in this road they were always a she) was described as a general servant. If a household had more than one servant there was usually a cook and a housemaid or a governess and a general servant. Even childless households or bachelors living alone in Ildersly Grove had a live-in servant.
The professions represented in Ildersly Grove show a fascinating range of occupations. Among the bank clerks there was a builder (albeit one employing 27 men), a shorthand writer, an assistant chaplain to Dulwich College, a railway clerk, a tutor, a barrister/dramatic author and a professional cricketer. Several widows are listed as heads of households, including the wife of a judge in the Bengal Service and the wife of the President of Montsurat (could this be Montserrat?).
Perhaps the most famous resident of the street was Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the Garden City movement and the subject of a Dulwich Society article by Bernard Nurse earlier this year. However, Ildersly Grove had other residents who have left their mark on history in their own ways.
Take William Shepherd. Born around 1840 in Kennington he was a professional cricketer who played for Surrey. He umpired, captained and travelled with the Australian Aboriginal cricket team on their tour of England in 1868. This team made history as the first group of Australian cricketers to tour overseas and their first match at the Oval was attended by 20,000 spectators. The tour attracted a lot of publicity and spectators and must have made a considerable amount of money. There was talk of it continuing on to Europe and America and William Shepherd and his wife were booked to travel with them. However, a lack of a cricketing infrastructure in those countries and illness in the Aboriginal team put paid to this idea. Two team members had to return to Australia due to sickness and one player, King Cole, died of tuberculosis while on the tour and is buried in Tower Hamlets. In his memoirs William Shepherd said “The Aborigines, at heart, did not like the white man, and were of rather a sulky disposition, but by exercising tact I got on extremely well with them, finding them all right with a little bit of 'sugar’, i.e. humouring”.
William and his wife Lucy lived in Ildersly Grove with their four children and were the only family in the 1881 Census not to have live-in servants. He died in Tooting in 1919.
Or take Arthur Ernest Pearce, born in 1859 in Angell Road, Brixton. The son of an architect, he studied design in London and Paris before teaching drawing and exhibiting at the Royal Academy. In his early 20s he joined the pottery firm Doulton where he remained for the rest of his career, becoming head designer of ceramics and terracotta at their Lambeth studios. He designed many large scale works including the firm’s pavilion for the 1893 Chicago World Fair and the colossal Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green: at 46 feet high it was the largest terracotta fountain in the world. At the time it was described as “an alliance of the beautiful and the useful” and “a sculptural extravaganza”. Designed in the French Renaissance style it commemorates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee with all the pomp of the imperial heyday. The statue of Victoria at the apex was struck by lightning in 1891 and rather than let the city fathers replace it with something inferior, Doulton paid for a replacement, an expensive undertaking since Pearce’s original moulds had been broken up.
Pearce was also a superb watercolourist and one of his responsibilities was to illustrate the manuscripts which were presented to long serving Doulton employees. He also painted a vase which was presented to Queen Victoria.
One of seven children, the rest of whom remained single, in 1886 Pearce married Katherine Mary Hughes whom he had met at the Doulton studios and together they had three children. They lived in Ildersly Grove with a general servant called Louisa and Mabel the nursemaid. At some stage they moved to a house in Marius Road, Tooting (called “Ildersly”) where sadly Katherine committed suicide, being found by her daughter. Pearce then married again in 1921, to Lily Troake. He died in 1934.
In 1881 a widow, Mrs Grace Jacobina Strickland, can be found living in Ildersly Grove with her grandson Percy who was at Dulwich College, Annie, their cook and a general servant called Elizabeth. They had two visitors on Census night, Mrs Longmore and her son Henry. Both the Stricklands and the Longmores were born in India. There seems to me to be rather a large number of residents of Ildersly Grove who were British subjects born in India (9 out of a total of 63 residents). I don’t know whether that is unusual or not for the time but I like to think of people in India during the Raj discussing returning home to England: “Oh yes you must move to West Dulwich, it’s the in-place”. I do know that the vicar of All Saints in Rosendale Road, the Rev James Beeby, commented in 1900 upon the changes which had taken place in his parish: "There has been a complete change in the character (of the parish) in the last 14 years; then everyone had something to do with India, Indian civil servants and aunts of Indians bringing up their children and drawn by the nearness of Dulwich College and Dulwich High School (a girls' school now occupied by Rosemead School in Thurlow Park Rd). They are almost all gone now."
Grace was the mother of Lt William Strickland who won a medal while serving in the Burmese Expedition of 1852-3. His son, Percy, studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s after leaving Dulwich College and was a member of the BMA for 51 years. He became a surgeon in the Indian Medical Service, rising to Colonel and he also won a medal in the Burmese Expedition of 1889-90.
However, India isn’t the most unusual birthplace for Ildersly Grove residents. Mary Ann Jefford Peterson was born in St Helena in the South Atlantic in 1845. At that time it was a Crown colony so Mary was a British citizen. The population was declining due to emigration and although it is not known when she left the island she lived in India at some stage after her marriage and she is found in Dulwich in 1881. She lived in Ildersly Grove with her two young sons who were both born in Simla, India, her daughter Eveline who was born in Jalpaiguri, India and her daughter Hilda, born in Dulwich. They had a cook, a housemaid and a nurse who all lived in. In the 1881 Census she describes herself as the head of the household but also as the wife of a Judge in the Bengal Service; her husband was Frederick William Voysey Peterson who must have been still in India. I presume the two sons, described as scholars, were at Dulwich College but the Petersons also had an older son, Frederick Hopewell, who was at Rugby and who later joined the Bengal Staff Corps. He was mentioned in dispatches and won medals in various Indian expeditions.
Another resident, Sydney Grundy, described himself as a “dramatic author and barrister not in practice”. The son of an alderman, he was born in Manchester in 1848 and although his plays began to appear on the London stage from 1872 he showed commendable caution and continued to practise as a barrister until 1876.
Grundy became known as an adapter of French and German plays, re-shaping them to suit the British theatre audience but his most celebrated works were his original comedies and his librettos of comic operas. In 1892 he wrote Haddon Hall with Sir Arthur Sullivan after Sullivan had begun to chafe at the absurdities of Gilbert’s plots. The opera was performed at the Savoy and went on tour but did not lead to further collaboration with Sullivan.
Grundy’s partnership with Edward Solomon was very popular and Solomon and Grundy operas (not to be confused with the man who was born on Monday) toured Britain and the English-speaking world and were particularly popular in Australia. About a dozen of Grundy’s plays were performed on Broadway, where they were described as “brilliant” and “daring” and several were made into films. In Jersey the play chosen to re-open the Opera House in 1900 after a major fire was Grundy’s “The Degenerates” and Lillie Langtry curtailed her holiday in order to appear in it, having created the role of Mrs Trevelyan at the Haymarket in London the previous year.
Although his obituary in the New York Times described him as unmarried in fact Grundy lived in Ildersly Grove with his wife Maria, their daughter, Emily and their servant Annie before moving to Addison Road in Kensington, gaining a cook, a parlour maid and a housemaid on the way. He died in July 1914.
The Lost Houses of Dulwich - Ryecotes Mead
By Bernard Nurse with additional research by Ian McInnes
Ryecotes was demolished in 1967 to make way for the present development of Ryecotes Mead. It had been one of the large houses with extensive grounds on the Dulwich Estate which attracted wealthy business men. Its occupiers included William Young, the historian of Dulwich College, Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun and Sir William Lane Mitchell, MP for Streatham. In more recent times, it has been better known as the temporary club house which the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club used after their original clubhouse was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.
Rycotes was rebuilt and extended several times since the 18th century, but fortunately the leases survive in Dulwich College Archives to record the changes. These show that two houses built earlier in the 18th century were converted into one and rebuilt in 1787 by Henry William Atkinson (1753-1834). One had been occupied by the local surgeon, but with the arrival of Atkinson the properties were transformed into a far grander building. Atkinson was a moneyer of the Royal Mint then in the Tower of London and one of those responsible for the ensuring the quality of the coinage. By the time of his death he had held this position for 64 years, during thirteen of which he had been the provost or most senior official. He first took out a lease in 1783, but with a growing family of four sons and four daughters clearly needed more space. The children are listed in Burke’s Landed Gentry which notes that one son died at sea and two were knighted. His long marriage was commemorated by a medal on the occasion of their golden wedding in 1830, when ‘they were surrounded by children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and relation’.
The schedule of fixtures provides considerable detail about the size and layout of the new house. There was a nursery, maid’s garret, man’s room, footman’s room, powdering room, several bedrooms, a drawing room with veined marble chimney piece, only one water closet ‘fitted with seats and flaps’, a butler’s pantry, kitchen, laundry, washhouse and beer cellar. The house was constructed with bricks and slates and had parapet walls coped with stone. Outside was a small farmyard with stable, cowhouse, pigsties, corn room, tool house, coal and wood houses. The grounds included a kitchen garden, pleasure grounds and meadow. The front part of this building survived until 1967 and can be seen in photographs taken prior to demolition.
It appears that William Atkinson did not live in the house very long and at the time of his death he was living in the Royal Mint opened in 1810. He assigned his lease in 1798 to John Bowles, a local magistrate. The number of burglaries in the neighbourhood at the time was a matter of great concern. Blanch’s history of Camberwell records that Bowles was thanked in 1816 for helping to establish a patrol of constables ‘whereby many criminal persons have been in the course of a few nights apprehended’. By 1821 his widow had taken over the lease and it was assigned to a succession of city merchants and stockbrokers, who made no substantial changes to the property until purchased by William Young in 1858. William Young (1825-1896) was an insurance broker, the son of a Glasgow merchant who became deputy chairman of Lloyd’s. After his death, the Edward Alleyn Magazine described him as ‘a fine type of the business Scotchman, clear headed and energetic, and though somewhat brusque in manner, was thoroughly kind-hearted and universally esteemed by all who were brought into contact with him’.
He was appointed a governor of Dulwich College in 1872 and in 1876, in order to meet the demand locally for accommodation for the low paid who provided essential services as gardeners or grooms, he, with others, formed the Dulwich Cottage Company. The company had a limited capital of £6000 in £10 shares and it retained Charles Barry jnr. to design houses that could be let cheaply but which would harmonise as far as possible with the general character of the locality. The cottages, set in small gardens, were built between 1879-82 at the bottom of what became Calton Avenue and in Boxall Row (Road).
Young also spent many years researching for his monumental two volume History of Dulwich College, published in 1889. In it he noted that the college had been granted by its founder ‘lands, woods and waste grounds called Ricotes als Rigates in Dulwich’ among other properties. The land was roughly where the sports grounds are now on the south side of the South Circular going towards Cox’s Walk. Young chose the name ‘Ryecotes’ for his nearby house. In 1864-5 he spent more than £1500 (c. £140,000 today) on repairing and improving it and obtained a new lease of 45 years. From the later photographs, the rear section seems to have been extensively rebuilt. It accommodated himself, his Australian wife, six children and five servants, but in 1883 he moved to Stanhill Court, in Charlwood, Surrey, where he built an even larger house in the Scottish Baronial style, now Stanhill Court Hotel. The photograph of William and his wife, Frances, belonging to his great-granddaughter, Sarah is taken there. Despite moving away, Young remained a Dulwich College Governor until his death in New York in 1896.
None of the residents who followed Young stayed as long, most remaining for between five and ten years. One of the shortest periods was the three years when Sir Hiram Maxim occupied it with his wife and grandson from 1909 to 1912. Maxim moved from Thurlow Lodge, Norwood Road where he had lived most of his working life in London. There he had experimented with his prototype machine gun whose ‘unusual noise created a sensation in the vicinity’ and his ‘Captive Flying Machine’ which was erected at Crystal Palace. However, by the time he moved to Ryecotes at the age of 69, Maxim had become more interested in developing an aeroplane which could drop bombs. In 1911 he registered three patents for a release mechanism with a device to make them explode on or above ground, demonstrating one of them at the new Hendon aerodrome, using bags of flour. Although he accurately predicted the importance of aerial bombing in future warfare, his ideas came to nothing at the time. Maxim agreed to spend at least £200 in repairing Ryecotes, but soon moved to Streatham High Road where he died in 1916.
After the First World War in 1919 a new 21 year lease was granted to William Lane Mitchell (1861-1940), Mayor of Camberwell 1906-8 and Conservative MP for Streatham from 1918 until 1939. His obituary in The Times says he was a well known figure in the frozen food industry and in the early days of refrigeration was established as an importer of frozen rabbits. He was knighted in 1921, and after his first wife died in 1925, he married Sarah Lady Vestey, the widow of Sir Edmund Vestey whose brother William lived nearby at Kingswood House. Both William and Edmund made their fortunes in cold storage, and Lady Sarah Lane Mitchell’s Rolls Royce ‘in need of attention’ has recently been sold. The schedule of fixtures attached to Lane Mitchell’s lease shows how the house had changed internally since the 18th century. There were now nine bedrooms, more bathrooms and toilets, a library and billiards room, conservatories and a lodge with two bedrooms and outside toilet. It was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain: when Lane Mitchell left in 1927, the Estate Surveyor estimated the cost of making good at £710 (about £33,000 today).
The repairs were carried out by the new tenant, Bernard Wilden-Hart, who had been, Professor of English and History in a Japanese University before the First World War, and then employed on military intelligence. He formed a flat and garage out of the stable block, but left in 1930, was declared bankrupt in 1931 and died the following year. In the 1930s, the house was occupied by F J Bryant . At the end of September 1939, three weeks after war was declared, Mr Bryant, wrote to the Governors asking for permission to double the poultry area on the site and to grow potatoes on the 2 acres of the garden not covered by the orchard. He said, patriotically that “both would be of service locally” and the Governors agreed. However his 21 year lease ended not long afterwards - in June 1940 - and the Governors entered into negotiations with the military, a Royal Army Service Corps unit stationed at Highwood Barracks, Lordship Lane , who were considering requisitioning Ryecotes. Nothing came of these negotiations and there remained the matter of dilapidations for which Mr Bryant was responsible. In the event Bryant was apparently caught up in the Japanese occupation of Singapore and the matter was closed.
The house’s future was saved by a V1 flying bomb that demolished the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill golf clubhouse at 02:24am on 26th June 1944. The Centenary History of the Golf Club notes that, at an emergency meeting at 7pm the following evening, the Governors agreed to let the Club use Ryecotes as a temporary clubhouse. At the subsequent board meeting on July 8th the Manager confirmed that “the secretary of the Club enquired whether the Club could be given temporary alternative accommodation until such time as the club house could be rebuilt and with the approval of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman the Club has been allowed the use of ‘Ryecotes’ as a club house.
After being empty for three years and with the outstanding repairs not being effected, the house was in a poor condition and on the wrong side of Dulwich Common, which became increasingly hazardous for golfers to cross. Male members used the front entrance, ladies the back and had to have their drinks in the hall. It would be twenty two years before the club was able to raise sufficient funds for a new clubhouse ‘back up the hill’. In 1966 they left Ryecotes and the old house was demolished the following year.
In April 1966 Russell Vernon, the Estate Architect, had outlined his proposal to develop the 1.45 acre site with 6 houses in a short cul-de-sac – at a density of about 40 persons to the acre. The Governors thought this insufficient and he was instructed to submit a revised scheme for a higher density. A denser scheme comprising a cul-de-sac on the east side of the site with four bungalows and eight ground and first floor flats on the ‘Glenlea’ side. He said the problem was that the site is long and narrow between the development in Frank Dixon Way and the scheduled building of Glenlea. The buildings should not be too high or overlooking will occur. This consideration was achieved and the following January the development was costed at £100,000 -£110,000 - with an expected ground rent income of £640 per annum. The Governors debated whether to develop the site themselves but because of the unsettled state of the property market at the time and their other capital commitments they decided against it. In the event, a local builder, W J Mitchell & Son was selected.
In December Russell Vernon recommended that the name of the new road be Ryecotes Mead “for this development as Ryecotes is perhaps the oldest name in Dulwich and it would probably be inappropriate to call it anything else.” Construction continued through 1968 and the development was complete early in 1969.