The Society is 50 years old this year. Looking back over its records, ably maintained by our current secretary Patrick Spencer, it is fascinating to see that many of the residents’ concerns in the early 1960s were not so different from today. There were repeated references to the rising levels of traffic (in those days Dulwich Park was often used as a short cut from Dulwich Common into the village), the loss of trees, and the lack of accountability on the part of the Dulwich Estate.
And when you look at photos of the Village taken around the early 1960s, the only apparent difference is the cars and the clothes people were wearing, the buildings are still the same.
But there have been major changes of course, the range of shops is very different - there are no butchers, fishmongers, dairies, or greengrocers any more. Instead we have estate agents, delis and restaurants. Belair House has been rebuilt, the Village C of E primary school is no longer a vacant site, Dulwich Picture Gallery is now a world class art gallery, and the foundation schools have expanded to offer education from kindergarten upwards. The general appearance of the area has also improved - old cars were apparently regularly left rotting in Gallery Road and, on traffic, Dulwich is much better - we now have extensive 20 mph zones, speed humps, and Dulwich Park is closed to traffic.
The major change, however, is unseen. In 1963 the Estate Governors presided over Dulwich in a very paternalistic way. It was the introduction of the Scheme of Management in 1974 that brought the Estate into the 20th Century and led directly to the enhancement of Dulwich’s housing stock and the area’s general appearance.
The Society can claim to have played its part. It was a key player in the formation of the Scheme of Management, it campaigned for many years to introduce traffic calming measures, and it fought long and hard, with others, to stop the Estate’s proposed developments in the Sydenham Hill Woods. It also helped to retain the Village Post Office, restricted the construction of mobile phone masts, and encouraged the continued use of the Herne Hill Velodrome.
But what of the next 50 years, what will Dulwich look like in 2063? Will it still have its green open spaces; will it still attract residents to its schools; will there still be shops in the Village; and will the older houses remain? I suspect the answer is yes.