The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2013.
The unveiling of the first of Society’s World War 2 memorial plaques got off to a very satisfactory start in January. On Sunday 6th January, Corinne Wakefield, who survived the V2 explosion which killed seven residents of Court Lane, unveiled the plaque to commemorate those who died. Her graphic account of the war and more particularly the afternoon of 6th January 1945 was published in the Winter edition of this Journal. Dr Kenneth Wolfe, Vice-Chairman of the Society gave a very moving address in front of a considerable gathering of members and residents.
On the Saturday following, 12th January, a second plaque was unveiled at the corner of Lytcott Grove and Melbourne Grove to commemorate the twenty civilians killed in air-raids on 16th September 1940 during the Blitz and on 17th January 1943 in a German retaliation raid for the bombing of Berlin. The plaques were unveiled, and names of those killed were read out by former Playfield Crescent resident Alan Woodfield. Also present, at the invitation of the Society was Major David Dalziel representing the Salvation Army, a reminder of their presence on the morning following the raid when the Salvation Army dispensed mugs of tea and words of comfort to the survivors. Dr Wolfe also ably conducted this unveiling and spoke of those whose life was taken from them by war.
The weather was bitterly cold, which whilst it did not detract from the gathering of a large number of attendees was nevertheless a reminder of the extreme discomfort suffered in January 1943 by those who had already faced the horror of such widespread devastation of their homes and the death of their loved ones.
After the unveiling, Alan Woodfield composed the following poem:
THEN AND NOW
It is a Sunday evening
In a wartime winter
In a residential patch
Of South East Twenty Two.
The air raid siren wails
Search lights sweep the skies
Ack ack guns send up their flak
A bomber’s engine drones
Offloads its deadly cargo-
A landmine on a parachute
Which, hidden in the darkness,
Floats down unseen and silent,
Ominous, and then arrives….
In one dire moment, detonates,
Destroying roads of terraced homes.
Ambulance teams search through the chaos
Pull out bodies from the wreckage.
Next day the papers state the number,
Absorbed by London’s mounting total.
But who were they?
All of seventy years have passed
But now The Dulwich Society
Removes vague anonymity.
Transforming numbers into names.
Almost to the very day
Almost at the very spot
When and where that mine touched earth,
A quiet group assembles
To remember those who died that night.
A neat memorial plaque’s unveiled,
The eleven names read out
Of those found in the ruins-
A needed fitting closure
Of that far off tragic night.
The Dulwich Society will unveil a commemorative plaque to World War II victims of BURBAGE ROAD on Saturday 13th April 2013 at 12 noon (at the junction of Burbage Road and Turney Road)
In commemoration of those killed in an air raid on 17 April 1941
ELIZABETH FEAVER 59, FREDERICK FEAVER 56, JOAN FEAVER 17, RAYMOND FEAVER 18
And those killed by a V1 flying bomb on 22 June 1944.
WALTER BOUTALL 55, HENRY DUCK 63, KATE DUCK 59, BARBARA WILSON 23
Burbage Road’s first serious loss of life was towards the end of the Blitz,on 17th April 1941 when a high explosive bomb exploded on number 9 Burbage Road killing four members of the Feaver family, both Frederick and Elizabeth and their teenage son and daughter, Raymond and Joan.
Just over three years later the road had a further multiple fatality when a V1 Flying bomb exploded on a row of houses between the entrance to the Velodrome and Turney Road..
Eileen Thorn who is a member of the Dulwich Society and was born in Pickwick Road recalls the incident clearly. “My mother and father had decided before the war that our house was not big enough for them and my sister Molly and myself and Father bought number 118 Burbage Road, just around the corner.”
Both Eileen and Molly had joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) early in the war and in February 1944 Eileen was stationed at Portsmouth where she was employed in working on the logistics for DDay and the days and weeks afterwards. She recalls watching the landing and assault craft sail out of the harbour. She and her fellow women soldiers attached to the War Office were billeted in a number of old forts along the harbour and she says it was an eerie experience, when, after finishing her shift, which began at 1pm and often finished at 1am, to find her way in the pitch dark back to these forbidding quarters which the ATS shared with the WRENS (Women’s Royal Emergency Naval Service).
Eileen’s mother wrote every week, there were no telephone calls in those wartime days. Around the 23rd June the usual letter arrived but written on the back of the envelope was the message ‘Bombed out and at Auntie Win’s’. Eileen was devastated, only a few days before she had celebrated her 21st birthday by driving to Winchester in a borrowed jeep and enjoyed her first-ever cocktail. Her understanding commanding officer gave her a 24 hour pass to travel up to London and find out what had happened.
Eileen says that when she arrived on a tram at Herne Hill from Waterloo she walked down the opposite side of Burbage Road with her eyes averted. She did not want to look at the devastation wrought on her home and those of her neighbours. “When I got opposite, I looked up. The walls were still standing at 118 but the houses to the left were gone.”
She found her mother at her aunt’s and was distressed to discover that the family’s cat, Dido had been missing for three days despite her mother searching for it. “That cat will come back” her mother exclaimed. And so it did a few days later when a passer-by delivered Dido, none the worse for wear, to 100 Turney Road. Indeed the charmed life of Dido stretched to an amazing 19 years.
Eileen’s mother and father had been sleeping in a home made shelter added on to the side of the house and garage. It was narrow and uncomfortable but had room for 2 bunks and sleeping chairs. It was almost impossible to squeeze four people in. Visitors names were scratched on the walls, including those of George Brown who lived with his twin sister down the road and were family friends. It was the custom for visitors to the shelter to scratch their names on the wall and George who was the local air raid warden and whose memories of the Blitz were published in ‘The Warden’s Post’ was a regular visitor. Undoubtedly the shelter, however inadequate, saved Eileen’s parents’ lives.
Her mother explained her distress at what had happened after the explosion - “An old fashioned dust cart came along and put all of our furniture in it and took it to an empty house in Farquhar Road where it was stored. We did not expect to see it again. To see your home carried away on the back of a dust cart was heart-breaking”. The repairs to 118 Burbage took 10 months to complete and the family moved back in. To Eileen’s mother’s amazement the furniture was all returned (with the exception of one small table) and was virtually unmarked. The same furniture –sideboard, glass-fronted china cabinet, dining table and matching chairs and an easy chair, continues to grace Eileen’s lounge in Pymers Mead to this day.
At the end of that long day Eileen returned to her unit at Portsmouth. She was not demobbed until 1947 and she spent the closing years after DDay at the War Office in London where she was billeted with five other ATS girls in a rather smart house in Chelsea. Later, when helping her father to restore the croquet lawn in the rear garden (Eileen still plays regularly at The Old College Croquet Club in Gallery Road), countless pieces of shrapnel and debris continued to appear.
Margaret Siddall (née Green) as a child lived at 107 Burbage Road, a house diagonally opposite the site of the explosion. In her book Safe as Houses: Childhood through the Forties she vividly describes the tragedy.
“Goodnight kittens, Goodnight Tigger, I said one evening peeping into their basket. I ran upstairs to get undressed but hardly had reached my room when the stomach-churning siren started up. I was searching in my dressing table and had pulled both drawers out, but the previous winter the wood had swollen and slightly distorted, so the drawers jammed when I hastily tried to push them back. The siren was wailing and already I should be on my way downstairs. With one final tug, I left the drawers half open and hurried down to the shelter.
Mother, Nigel and I huddled at one end, with Father and David squashed at our feet by the entrance. Fluff crawled in to curl up on the blankets before the end panel was clipped on, and we lay there, listening to the threatening sounds we knew so well. As each deep-throated rattle grew louder, I shut my eyes hoping the dreaded engine would pass overhead before it cut out and with every terrifying explosion we tried to estimated where it might be.
Towards early morning I heard a distant clatter becoming persistingly louder and deeper, losing height as it kept on coming. Locked in our own private thoughts, no one spoke. It was so close now it sounded almost overhead. ‘Please keep on going’ I whispered.
But I heard the slight uptilt as the engine cut and with a sudden eerie crack of branches it clipped the oak tree in the allotment at the end of the garden. I buried my head under my pillow as a rush or air swooped down, immediately followed by a reverberating, crashing, glass-shattering roar. As the last rumblings died away something clattered somewhere in the house, and I slowly raised my head.
Peering through the caged side of the shelter, I could see the playroom was intact, no windows were broken; the ceiling was still secure. We were alive. As soon as it was safe to do so, Father unclipped the end panel and climbed out to see what had happened…..the hall was a mess, brightening morning light shone through the space where the front door had been, the once solid door and the inner porch doors now lay in splinters of jagged wood and glass. With great care I climbed over the chaos and made my way, after the others through the open space to the front garden……
I looked beyond the crossroads hardly noticing the group of people standing on the pavement, with wardens coming and going, or the tangle of hose pipes lying in the road. I only saw stark white trees at intervals down the road, as though a heavy covering of snow had just fallen. From the gateway the demolished house was hidden, so I stared, amazed by the dust-covered trees. And the picture stayed with me.
We soon learned that Barbara, the daughter of the house that had received the direct hit, had worked late (she was in the ATS) and being over-tired she had decided to sleep on the settee instead of with her parents in the cramped Anderson shelter in the garden. Barbara had been killed outright; but her parents were rescued.
Also killed in this incident were Major Walter Boutall MC, a World War 1 veteran and a Commanding Officer in the Army Cadet Force, and Kate and Henry Duck, two local church workers.
Sunday 3rd Dulwich Society 50th Anniversary – Local history walk - Dulwich Common Old & New led by Ian McInnes. Meet corner of College Road and Dulwich Common at 2.30pm
Monday 4th Dulwich Society - A Public Meeting with Councillors and representatives from all three main political parties. It should give local residents an opportunity to hear what the Council has planned for our area and to ask questions on any aspect of the council’s work.
Wednesday 6th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery - El Greco (1541 – 1614) Lecturer: David Davies, emeritus professor of the history of art, University of London 10.30 -11.30am Linbury Room tickets £10
Wednesday 13th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture - Velasquez (1599 – 1660) Seville and beyond . Lecturer: Gail Turner, independent lecturer, lecturing at V&A and Courtauld 10.30am-11.30am Linbury Room. Tickets £10
Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – The Phillips Collection : the First Modern Art Collection in America by Hilary Hope Guise. James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Centre 8pm
Friday 15th 7.30 - 9.30 p.m. In the Holst Hall at JAGS, East Dulwich Grove. Dulwich Helpline and Southwark Churches Care (DH&SCC)
“ALL THAT JAZZ”
An Informal evening of sing and swing, blues and brass, big band, bebop and barbershop jazz by the talented pupils of Alleyn's, Dulwich College, Charter School, Dulwich Prep, JAGS and Kingsdale.
Tickets in advance from DH&SCC 020 8299 2623 or www.dulwich-helpline.org.uk or s.a.e. DH&SCC, Dulwich Community Hospital, East Dulwich Grove, SE22 8PT
Tickets £10 including glass of wine. Children under 16 £5 including soft drink. Wine, soft drinks and snacks for sale.
Sunday 17th Dulwich Society 50th Anniversary series – talk by Ian McInnes Wates and reinvention 1945-1969. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Linbury Room 2.30pm in conjunction with Friends of DPG.
Wednesday 20th Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery Lecture - Picasso (1881 – 1973)
Lecturer: Gijs van Hensbergen, author of Guernica: The Biography of a 20th century 10.30am-11.30am Linbury Room. Tickets £10
Sunday 24th Dulwich Society 50th Anniversary series – talk by Ian McInnes Leasehold Reform, conservation and wealth 1979-2013. Dulwich Picture Gallery Linbury Room 2.30pm, in conjunction with Friends of DPG.
Tuesday 9th Dulwich Society 50th AGM 8pm Crown & Greyhound, Dulwich Village (upstairs) to be followed by the showing of the restored film of the Millennium celebrations to mark Dulwich’s 1000 years of history in 1967.
Thursday 11th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – Isabella D’Esate, Collector and Patron of Art: by Fair Means or Foul by Shirley Pamela Smith 8pm James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Study Centre.
Saturday 13th Dulwich Society World War 2 memorial ceremony. Unveiling of a plaque at the junction of Burbage and Turney Roads at 12 noon.
Thursday 18th . Dulwich Society Garden Group
Evening talk by Mr Paul Cooling, Chairman: Cooling’s Garden Centre
7.30 for 8.00pm at the new Belair Recreation Centre, Gallery Road. Admission free. Non members welcome. Refreshments served at 7.30pm
Paul Cooling will tell us how to get the best from our plants and gardens. He will suggest suitable plants and shrubs for the smaller garden which give both interest and colour. His talk will be illustrated with examples of many of the plants that he will be talking about. Plants will be available for sale after the meeting.
Saturday 20th Dulwich Helpline and Southwark Churches Care (DH&SCC)
Antiques Discovery Day in association with Rosebery's Auctioneers 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Herne Hill Baptist Church, Half Moon Lane. Experts will identify and value pictures, ornaments, jewellery, small items of furniture and other antiques. Stalls selling cakes, books, bric-a-brac and handcrafts. Refreshments
Tickets available on the day.
Tuesday 23rd Dulwich Park Friends AGM and Review of the Year - speaker Letta Jones, tree specialist. Francis Peek Centre 7pm.
Monday 6th - 1.00pm – 4.00pm- Old Alleynian Club, Dulwich Common. Parents at Dulwich Village Pre-school are holding a Jubilee Barbecue to celebrate the opening of the original group, Dulwich Village Playgroup, fifty years ago. They hope that lots of parents from the Playgroup era will see this invitation and come to join current parents to share their memories. www.dulwichvillagepreschool.com , or phone 0208 693 2402.
Thursday 9th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society Lecture – The Musée D’Orsay and its Collection by Margaret Davis. 8pm James Allen’s Girls’ School 6th Form Centre.
Friday 10th – Sunday 19th DULWICH FESTIVAL
Sunday 12th 2:30 pm Dulwich Society ‘Wates in the Woods’ – A walk led by Ian McIness
The 1960s saw the Dulwich Estate and Wates Homes build a number of innovative housing developments in the woods between College Road and Sydenham Hill. Sensitively designed and landscaped to respond to their wooded locations, and still largely unchanged, they remain excellent examples of mid-century modern housing aspiration.
Meet at the Tollgate on College Road and please note we will be walking up steep hills and there will be some rough ground in the woods.
Wednesday 15th Dulwich Society - Illustrated talk by Brian Green – Dulwich and World War Two: Evacuation, Air raids, Rationing, Civil Defence, Spies – Dad’s Army and real bombs. 2.30pm Dulwich Library Lecture Hall. Admission Free
Sunday 19th Dulwich Helpline and Southwark Churches Care (DH&SCC) Garden Safari 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Explore four lovely private gardens plus the famous Lettsom Gardens near Camberwell Grove (by kind permission of the Lettsom Gardens Association, an active community group) Plant stall, tea and homemade cakes.
Programmes/maps available on the day from 189 Camberwell Grove SE5 8JU
Adults £5 children under 16 FREE
2.30pm Dulwich Society - Delving Further into the history of the old village of Dulwich – Local History Walk led by Brian Green. Meet Belair Car Park.
Monday, June 24. A date for your diary. Dulwich Society Garden Group.
Full day visit to Parham House and Garden
‘Beyond Words’ Poetry and more ...
The ‘Beyond Words’ poetry venue started the year with a January visit from Christine Webb who read from her collections ‘After Babel’ and ‘Catching your Breath’. Christine’s poetry has been described by Poet Laureate Andrew Motion as both courageous and moving, which indeed it is, though we could also add wry and full of humour and good sense too. The new year also brought a great example of the ‘and more’ that we are trying to promote as playwright Claire Booker brought in her enthusiastic troupe of actors to do a monologue and a 5 minute play Harriet at the Park – with startling results! A bright and diverse beginning to the year.
On March 5th we welcome the London collective Malika’s Kitchen who started over ten years ago, meeting on Friday nights in Malika Booker’s kitchen to learn and develop their craft. This led to their collection ‘Handmade Fire’, and the anthology ‘A Storm Between Fingers’ as well as publications by individual poets, several poetry prize winners amongst them. Malika teaches at The Poetry School in London as well as City Lit and was the very first Poet in Residence at The Royal Shakespeare Company.
Glyn Maxwell will bring us his poetry on April 5th, though he could bring us his plays (numerous), his novels (several), or indeed his music (his libretto for an opera based on Philip Pullman’s The Firework Makers Daughter being premiered at the ROH in April this year). Glyn studied poetry and theatre at Oxford and in Boston and his work flows across the genres creating verse plays and narrative poetry. I wonder what treat he will share with us?
Beyond Words hosts household name John Hegley in May. John presented the BBC radio series Hearing with Hegley and the Border Television series Word of Mouth. His poem Malcolm was voted the second most popular comic poem in a BBC survey. John’s poetry ranges from surreal and humorous to personal and emotional, is occasionally accompanied by a mandolin and often utilises audience participation. Never has the phrase ‘hold on to your seats’ been more apt.
Beyond Words poetry venue meets every first Tuesday of the month at The Gipsy Tavern, Gipsy Hill. We always invite an established poet to read and also have a time when we welcome poets from the floor to the microphone to read their own work. You are welcome to bring yours along. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friends date their existence from 21st May 1988, 100 years to the day after Mr Horniman threw his collection open to the public. Mike Hitchcock and Bob Pudney, representing the Museum and Gardens, hosted a meeting that led to the formal foundation of the Friends on 2nd July of that year. The first committee comprised Philip Spooner (Chair) and some fifteen others, including Liaison Officers from the Horniman. The main object would be to raise money for the Museum.
The first Newsletter appeared in September 1988, and the first sum raised was £500 for the repair of the Apostle Clock. Mr Horniman’s Conservatory was rescued from disuse and re-erected in its present position the following month. Annual Christmas Concerts also began in 1988 and charitable status was granted the following year, when at the AGM Barbara Sutcliffe, Pat Hollingshead, Margaret Spooner and Margaret Birley joined the Committee. The usefulness of the Friends, as proof that the community valued the Museum, and as a lobby, was shown when ILEA was abolished in April 1990, threatening the future of the Museum.
Over the years, projects assisted by the Friends included tiling the floor of the Conservatory, major help with the cost of refurbishing the Gardens, scale drawings of the Hoffman Baroque Lute, the Centre for Understanding the Environment (now the Library), the Aquarium, publicity materials for the Education and other Departments, maintenance of statues and sundials and numerous donations to expenditure outside the Museum’s departmental budgets: all these and many more.
In all, well over £200,000 has been raised by means of Annual Art Exhibitions (beginning in 1991), Plant Sales, Christmas Fairs and Concerts, lectures, outings and guided tours, some led by Bob Pudney and David Allen, musical events, Tim Lund’s Marathon, Michael Houlihan’s cycle-ride to Santiago de Compostela and the efforts and generosity of countless Friends.
Dulwich Artist in Residence - R B Kitaj (1932-2007)
By Brian Green
Ronald Brooks Kitaj became, in 1994, one of the most controversial of modern artists when he received scathing reviews of the retrospective exhibition of his work at the Tate and when he was at the height of his career. So disturbed was he by the critics’ reaction to the exhibition that he placed the blame on them for the death of his beloved wife, the artist Sandra Fisher who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm shortly after. “My enemies intended to hurt me and they got her instead” he told the Guardian. In 1997 Kitaj took revenge by producing a work entitled “The Killer Critic Assinated by his Widower, Even”. That same year Kitaj left Britain permanently and settled in Los Angeles, where he died in 2007.
R B, as he was widely known, was born in 1932 in Chagrin Falls near Cleveland, Ohio. His Hungarian father left the family home soon after the birth and Kitaj took his mother’s maiden name, Brooks as his middle name and that of his step-father, with whom he was very close, for his surname. Both Dr Walter Kitaj and Jeanne Brooks were Jews but professed atheism. Although R B also grew up as an atheist he would, in later life increasingly identfy himself with his Jewishness and especially Jewish culture.
In his late teens he had a spell as a merchant seaman, sailing on a Norwegian freighter to Mexico and Cuba. The presence of his step-mother, a Holocast survivor, in New York might explain his subsequent admission to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York from 1950-51. In 1951 he left the USA to study at the Academy of Fine Art, Vienna, where he remained until 1954. This period in Vienna would almost certainly lead to a number of connections which would deliver Kitaj to Dulwich in 1959. However, in 1956 he was required to perform two years of military service in the US Army and was drafted to the US Army of Occupation Central Europe at the Allied Forces Central Europe HQ .
Somehow Kitaj the soldier managed to become simaultaneously Kiitaj the art student because between 1957-1959 he became an undergraduate at the Ruskin School of Drawing, University of Oxford on a grant made under the GI bill of rights. These would be his most formative years as he studied under the charismatic Professor of Fine Art, Edgar Wind. In his unpublished ‘Confessions’, he wrote: Wind led me to his master, Warburg, who died semi-mad in 1929, and Warburg led me to his legacy and to his legatees – Panofsky, Saxl, Bing, Wittkower, Otto Pacht, the younger Gombrich and all the rest” (1)
In 1959 R B won a place at the Royal College of Art and he and his wife Elsi Roessler (they married in 1953) and their infant son Lem (now the screenwriter Lem Dobbs) moved from Oxford to Dulwich where they first settled in 27 Pickwick Road. With teaching posts at Camberwell and the Slade and following the success in 1963 of his first Marlborough Gallery exhibition at which John Rothenstein bought Isaac Babel riding with Budyonny for the Tate, the family was able to move to 131 Burbage Road with its views across playing fields and trees.
Among the pictures exhibited in London in 1963, R.B. Kitaj presented “The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg” as a historical painting. The canvas doesn’t show the murder itself – as the title suggests – but the moment in which the dead body is thrown into the water. The corpse seems to float in the centre of the painting. In the upper half, the figures of Germania and Count Helmuth von Moltke allude to the historical context of the murder: a social climate that was nationalistic, with a military influence, which started with the founding of the German Empire. The monuments at the left and lower part of the painting are symbolic of the historical appreciation for the life and work of Rosa Luxemburg.(2)
In the right corner of the painting, Kitaj placed a note in which he explains the sources of the images he used and quotes a publication on Rosa Luxemburg. It was the over-use of this conceit which would eventually lead to the confrontation of 1994.
"My Rosa Luxemburg painting was not as radical as she was, but radical enough for a student in an art college. Although Rosa was of course, a Communist I never was. All my life I've been an American Democrat of the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Clinton varieties. It's just that Jewish cultural life with all its disasters, brilliance, learning, evasions and daring has conducted me and my art like an excited zombie or Golem stumbling into real trouble, like my Jews so often do.
My first show and its catalogue was a kind of first shot across the bows of painterly convention, as befits a young radical artist. Rosa, Popper, Wind, Warburg, Isaac Babel, Gertrud Bing, Walter Kaufman, Karl Marx, Kafka, and other Jewish ghosts haunted my show and are named in my catalogue in a youthful feeding frenzy. Most of the critics treated me like a painter version of T. S. Eliot and even Ezra Pound. No one mentioned the J-word. Not even me. I was on the verge of it though, but like almost all Jewish artists, I wanted to appeal to a universal standard." (3)
It might not just have been the presence of the Dulwich Picture Gallery or the convenience of travel in commuting to his new teaching posts that brought Kitaj to Dulwich. Dulwich had a reputation of a place of sanctuary for Jewish families escaping from German occupied Europe in the 1930’s. Getrude Bing and Fritz Saxl, who had brought the Warburg Library to London from Germany where it had fallen from favour by the Nazi authorities because it had been founded by a Jew, had settled in 162 East Dulwich Grove. It was there where they held an open- house for many young art historians, including the young RB Kitaj.
One of Kitaj’s greatest influences was Percy Horton who was his teacher as Ruskin Master of Drawing at Oxford. Horton was the subject of the Dulwich Artist in Residence article by Judy Fitton in the Winter edition of this journal. Horton, who had been taught by Sickert, a former pupil of Degas provided the pedigree that appealed to Kitaj’s sense of history. Kitaj’s skill as a draughtsman was also compared with that of Degas.
Living at the time at College Gardens (in the 1960’s still a group of large Victorian houses) was Johannes Wilde (1891-1970), a devout Roman Catholic and Michaelangelo expert who had been forced to flee Vienna in 1938, fearing for the safety of his Hungarian-Jewish wife, Julia, also an art historian, after the Anschluss. Living on the opposite side of College Road was Leopold Ettlinger (1913-1989) a friend of Saxl and who was also Jewish and was also forced to flee Nazism. Ettlinger, an expert on the Italian Renaissance, worked initially at the Warburg Institute.
It was Johannes Wilde’s former pupil in Vienna, Count Antoine Seilern (1901-1978) who would be the conduit and financier who spirited Wilde,and others, out of Nazi-controlled Europe. One of these was Fritz Grossman (1902-1984), a fellow Jewish art historian in Vienna and an expert of Brueghel and Rubens. Grossman would assist Seilern in the cataloguing of his huge art collection. Like his associates at the Warburg, Grossman would also settle in Dulwich,
Count Antoine Seilern figures in a number of extraordinary extractions to safety of Jewish art historians centered in Vienna in the 1930’s where he was studying for his PhD on the work of Rubens. In addition to those mentioned they also include Ludwig Munz (1889-1957) who Seilern spirited out of Austria to England and who took up a post at the Warburg Institute where he was an expert on Rembrandt. There is no evidence that Seilern was any kind of patron of Kitaj but quite certainly they were part of the same circle.
When R B Kitaj sold 131 Burbage Road in the summer of 1967, it was to Count Antoine Seilern who then allowed Johannes Wilde and his wife to move in. After Wilde died in 1970, his widow Julia remained until her death, still at Seilern’s expense. When Fritz Grossman and his wife Annie returned to England in 1972 following his retirement from the University of Washington in Seattle where he had been Visiting Professor, they also became residents at 131 Burbage Road and also at the expense of the generous Seilern. They were allowed to remain there even after the Count’s death in 1978 and until their own deaths.
For Kitaj’s wife Elsi, the Burbage Road years were not happy ones. Her increasing depression had been heightened by the miscarriage of a daughter. In Dulwich her depression was displayed in over- concern about the loss of her cherished view across the fields beyond the garden fence by the erection of a shed in a neighbouring field. The nascent Dulwich Society’s help was sought in attempting in vain to halt this development. Elsi committed suicide in 1969 leaving Kitaj to raise his eleven year old son and six year old adopted daughter Dominie.
Around Dulwich, Kitaj was an attractive, burly and tough looking character, more out of Hollywood than the Ruskin School of Art, but one not without a sense of humour. The move from Dulwich eventually led to Califromia and to the UCLA and a teaching post and his meeting with Sandra Fisher (1947-1994). R B and Sandra Fisher were together for twenty four years and married for the last twelve. He was dazzled and obsessed with Sandra and she lived in awe of him, declaring him to be one of the world’s great artists. They were mutual friends of David Hockney who was also living in Los Angeles and with whom Kitaj had become a close friend while they were both at the Royal College of Art in London.
Kitaj was reponsible for referring to a loose group of figurative artists, who were drawn together by shared respect and aspirations from the 1950’s onwards, as ‘The London Group’ in his catalogue introduction of the exhibition entitled ‘The Human Clay’ in 1976 at the Hayward Gallery. The London Group, in addition to Kitaj himself, included Michael Andrews, Leon Kossof, Francis Bacon, Iuan Uglkow, Lucien Freud and Frank Auerbach. At the same time Kitaj began to position himself explicitly as a Jewish artist coupled with his study of role models such as Franz Kafka. Later, he would confront the history of the mass murder of Europe’s Jews in his art.
In 1985 Kitaj was elected to the Royal Academy, the first American to join the Academy since John Singer Sargent. He received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1995 and in 2001 staged another exhibition in London, at the National Gallery entitled “Kitaj in the Aura of Cézanne and Other Masters”. It was however the fateful Tate exhibition for which Kitaj will ever be remembered. Alexander Adams, the writer and artist says that it showed both critics and artist in a bad light. “The critics were peevish and unprofessional, Kitaj was rashly forthright and later as intemperate as his detractors.”
Andrew Graham-Dixon of The Indepenent complained:
‘In the absence of any apparent emotional drive to create pictures, Kitaj has spent his life concealing an absence, a lack in himself….The Wandering Jew, the T S Eliot of painting? Kitaj turns out, instead, to be the Wizard of Oz: a small man with a megaphone held to his lips’…..’Ron Kitaj is an egotist and at his best when giving interviews’
The principal complaint of his critics was his practice, one might say obsession with minutely referencing his work, often from obscure and scholarly books, by using labels on the work itself. It was of course a device he had used as far back as his Rosa Luxembourg painting. It will now be possible to judge for oneself whether this improves or detracts from appreciating R B Kitaj’s work as some seventy of his pictures are now on exhibition in Britain.
R B Kitaj: Obsessions – The Art of Identity 21st February- 16th June. The Jewish Museum London and Pallant House Chichester are concurrently showing of a selection of work drawn from OBSESSIONS, the exhibition previously at The Jewish Museum, Berlin.
1 Edward Chaney in Warburgian Artist: R B Kitaj, Edgar Wind, Ernst Gombrich and the Warburg Institute
2 Obessions - catalogue
3 2012 R.B. Kitaj, Confessions of an old Jewish Painter, unpublished autobiography, R.B. Kitaj Estate
J P Collier: Scholar and forger: in amongst the Alleyn and Henslowe Papers, 1830-46
By Jan Piggot
Security at the College Archives in the nineteenth century was rather lax. In 1806 the theatre scholar Edmund Malone borrowed a trunk and basket full of documents, including the star of the collection, Philip Henslowe’s Diary, in which he recorded performances and his box office takings at the Rose Theatre and contracts with actors and playwrights; these were not returned until his death, six years later. It was later discovered that he had cut out signatures to put in his own albums; he had also lost important items. In 1840 when John Payne Collier was permitted to borrow the Diary, out of Alleyn’s great studded oak Treasury Chest (now in the Lower Hall at the College), his two-month loan extended to five years, and he returned it with seventeen additions he had forged. In 1860 the College had to admit that the Diary was missing, until Canon Carver found it in ’a locked cupboard’.
Collier (1789–1883) for all his crimes was an astonishing bibliophile and scholar. His origin was humble, but he knew Charles and Mary Lamb well and met many luminaries of the day such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Without a degree, and rather than taking up the Law for which he qualified – title-pages of his books call him Collier ‘of the Middle Temple’ – he made his living by journalism, but was one of the many mono-maniac literary antiquarians of the age: for over seventy years he studied almost all the surviving Elizabethan and Jacobean literature, especially the drama, in books and manuscripts.
His was an age of factual and textual scholarship; the dating of plays and their authorship, the annals of the theatre companies, and especially the elusive facts about Shakespeare’s life (however trivial), were sought with cut-throat rivalry among scholars, as they still are – witness the Letters page of the Times Literary Supplement. Collier might be forgotten today, however, were it not that he ruined his reputation by substantial forgery, making additions to manuscripts at the British Museum, the State Papers Office, and elsewhere; at Dulwich he made a total of roughly forty identified interpolations. The secretive psyche seems to entertain a gleeful cunning in deception; Collier’s enthusiasm led him to pencil in ‘discoveries’, mostly Shakespearean, in gaps on manuscripts, in studied ‘secretary’ hand of the period (sometimes tremulous, sometimes assured) which he would then go over in ‘antique’ ink; sometimes he did not bother to erase the pencil properly. He also forged whole documents on old paper, with a special facility in inventing whole ballads and letters. At Dulwich he too cut out sections from the documents, including a page of Henslowe’s Diary; he claimed it fell out of some old books he bought at auction.
Collier was the Director of the Shakespeare Society, and brought out three remarkable publications with full and fairly careful transcriptions of many Dulwich papers. Though a rogue, it was he who really popularised Edward Alleyn with the Society’s first publication, Memoirs of Edward Alleyn (1841), followed by The Alleyn Papers (1843); and the Diary of Philip Henslowe (1845). Among Collier’s spuria at Dulwich were his addition to cloaks listed in Alleyn’s inventory of costumes (1600) of the words ‘for Leir’ and ‘Romeos’, as if the genuine ‘Faustus his jerkin his cloke’ were not romantic enough. To Alleyn’s Diary he added references to attending performances of As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet, to Ben Jonson coming to dinner at the College, and that Alleyn ‘went to see poor Tom Dekker’. To one of Joan Alleyn’s letters to her husband (when he was acting outside London during the plague) Collier printed additional sentences about a man calling on her who claimed to know both Alleyn and ‘Mr Shakespeare of the globe’; when challenged that this was not in the original ms. he said that the edge of the paper must have crumbled away subsequently. He interpolated ‘Mr. Shaksper’ twice in Alleyn’s Southwark papers, to make a case for his being a Bankside resident in 1596 and 1609.
When Sir George Warner, of the Manuscript Department at the British Museum and the meticulous author of the Catalogue of the Dulwich papers (1881), composed Collier’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography he concluded that ‘in one fatal propensity Collier sacrificed an honourable fame won by genuine services to English literature’; he cautioned that ‘none of his statements or quotations can be trusted without verifying, and no volume or document’.
In 2004 Arthur and Janet Ing Freeman published John Payne Collier, Scholarship and Forgery in the Nineteenth Century (Yale), assessing in 1483 pages the complexities of Collier’s achievements and forgeries. When I was Keeper of the Archives at Dulwich his known forgeries gave me constant anxiety about items that seemed too good to be true, and I tended to suspect further impostures. One day Katherine Duncan-Jones and I decided that Alleyn’s record of buying ‘a book Shakesper Sonnets’ for 5d, written at the end of a column of his shopping list for ‘howshowld stuff’ of 1609 on the back of a letter [MS II, 12] was Collier’s work. Luckily, Arthur Freeman pronounced it quite genuine, as Alleyn’s handwriting and the ink were kosher; Collier, ironically, must have overlooked this genuine reference to Shakespeare; a final proof of its authenticity is that he did not publish it, as he did all his faked ‘discoveries’. And so, Edward Alleyn bought the first edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. What became of it?
Collier was in time rumbled for his Dulwich and other forgeries, a challenge first made in 1848. Howard Staunton (1810-74) was the greatest chess player in the world of his day (and in 1868 a Dulwich Village resident who gave the Estates Governors great vexation), but was also a notable Shakespeare scholar who exposed many of Collier’s forgeries in his famous edition of the plays in 1860. The same year Nicholas Hamilton published a detailed and convincing Inquiry into Collier’s impostures. Collier, at 71, continued working and publication; he replied to these exposures in print, with obvious lies: he was a feeble old man; his friends who could have vouched for what he saw were dead; it was Malone who made the Dulwich interpolations; manuscripts crumble away. In a diary entry, however, the year before his death at 94, he wrote of his ‘many base’ actions, that ‘my repentance is bitter and sincere’.
In 1856 Charles Dickens chaired a meeting petitioning the Charity Commissioners to assign some of the new ‘astounding wealth’ of the College Estate to support indigent actors. Brian Green has pointed out to me that in his speech, reported in the Illustrated London News for March 22, he referred to what he had learned about Alleyn from ‘the industry of my friend, Mr. Payne Collier’: Collier had helped the young Dickens to get work as a parliamentary reporter on the Morning Chronicle. Dickens actually quoted from Alleyn some sentences ventriloquised by Collier: these were an interpolation to a genuine draft letter of Alleyn’s [MS III, 93] printed in the Memoirs and often quoted since then in books and articles about Alleyn, but a significant forgery, incidentally, not noted among the thousands by the Freemans. Dickens quoted (Collier’s) Alleyn saying he was not ashamed of his past, retorting to an imagined taunt by Calton about his being an actor before he was a landed gentleman:
‘And where you tell me of my poore originall and of my quality as a Player. What is that? If I am richer then [= than] my auncesters, I hope I maye be able to doe more good with my riches than ever your auncesters did with their riches… That I was a player I can not deny, and I am sure I will not. My meanes of living were honest, and with the poore abilytyes wherewith god blesst me I was able to doe something for my selfe, my relatives and my frendes, many of them nowe lyving at this daye will not refuse to owne what they owght me. Therfore I am not ashamed’.
Collier noted in his Memoirs of Edward Alleyn that these sentences were ‘on a loose slip’ (never seen by anyone else) at the end of the letter, and marked with corresponding asterisks. The genuine original letter is in Alleyn’s own characterful voice, bitterly complaining to Sir Francis Calton about dodgy dealing in selling him the Manor of Dulwich; Collier must have believed he was enlivening this further by creative writing. It must have given gleeful private satisfaction to Collier at that meeting to hear this romantic fiction of his delivered aloud from the stage of the Adelphi Theatre in 1856 by the world-famous novelist believing it to be the authentic words of old Alleyn. He must also be smiling on the ledge of the circle of Dante’s Hall reserved for literary forgers at the fact that a ballad he forged is printed as authentic in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: ‘Love me little, love me long’, ascribed to ‘Anon.’, 1569-70; it is a something he made up for his Extracts from the Registers of the Stationers’ Company, 1557-70, published by the Shakespeare Society in 1848.
Note: over 2,000 pages of the Dulwich College manuscripts can now be studied online with the marvellous Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project (www.henslowe-alleyn.org.uk).
Dr Jan Piggott, FSA, was formerly Head of English and Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College
The Lost Houses of Dulwich - Toksowa - A name never understood
by Tony Korris
Among the old houses of Dulwich none had quite the mixed usage and diverse fortunes of this one. For the best part of two hundred years, being frequently changed and expanded in its physical shape and subject to unexpected development in its function, it survived until late in the 20th century. This essay is an attempt to capture the history of this building and some of its many residents.
The house stood on the south side of Dulwich Common road, immediately to the east of the Mill Pond and the College sports hall, and is now largely occupied by the gated community of Hambledon Place. Its origins date back to the re-ordering of land and buildings at the end of the 18th century in the era of enclosure as the College estate sought to capitalise on parts of the “ancient meadows” to further subsidise the then small educational and welfare provision of Edward Alleyn’s bequest. This needed to be ratified by private Act of Parliament enabling longer leases to be established to encourage development. The first of these relating to what became Toksowa was in 1789, eventually listed retrospectively in the Schedule to the Dulwich College Act of 1808.
These were essentially several tranches of land of which the relevant one was leased to Charles Frederick Hennings in 1803 covering upwards of 22 acres. It needs to be said that the system of leases and sub leases which developed made the parcelling out of land a complex and often changing process during this period. The Corporation of the College had transferred 5 acres to a mason for the construction of a “good and substantial messuage and dwelling house….to cost at least £500”.
The property was leased in October 1796 to George van der Neunberg, a Merchant Taylor of St Michael Cornhill, one of the many City figures, often of German background who figure in the records of Dulwich. Nothing further is known of him but in 1803 the lease passed to John Prestwidge (of Mincing Lane) with additional fields. He proved to be highly dissatisfied with the quality of the premises which he made clear to the Governors, fulminating “that the persons who built this house did great injustice to your estate and from the imperfection of its building I perceive it every day more dangerous to live in.” The college offered no remedy to him so Prestwidge demolished the property, rebuilding on a grander scale at his own expense with the encouragement of a large extension to his lease from the Corporation and this he assigned to his daughter Matilda on his death.
I am indebted to Patrick Derby (“The Houses In-Between”, 2000) for his charting of the next transition in occupation. On Matilda’s death it reverted to Charles Henning and on his demise in the mid 1840’s to his daughter Charlotte. She had married another local prominent figure Thomas Devas and had been living at 52 College Rd, the ‘Corner House’, (which even then had the zelkova tree in its front grounds which would far outlast the house itself). So, on her father’s death in 1848, the couple moved to the more substantial premises nearby, known locally as ‘the Devas house’. It was reported that Thomas also practically rebuilt the house. He had a distinguished local record as the Surveyor/Solicitor for the College and continued to occupy the property till his death in 1860. Thereafter, following a lengthy period of legal administration complicated by the death of the executor, the property went on the open market in 1868 and was sold at Tokenhouse Yard in the City, near to the Bank of England.
We are fortunate enough to have access to the documents advertising the sale which give a fuller picture of how a mid-century estate was described, making allowances for an element of Victorian hype of a more orotund flavour than now applies.
“A most convenient Family Residence of Handsome Elevation in the Italian style of Architecture, replete with every convenience for a Gentleman’s Establishment” What it actually consisted of was a considerable three storey property with “commodious” accommodation for a large family with a plentiful provision of servants, internal and external, with a Servants Hall. A “lofty paved entrance hall and Ionic columns and portico…..An excellent billiard room gave onto the Pleasure Grounds with superior and well-arranged stabling, two kitchen gardens, a peach house and vinery together 92ft in length.” With a continuation of “rich park-like meadow” and land to the south, it now amounted to nearly 67 acres in total. Sadly the eventual sale price is not recorded.
The new owner was another city merchant of German ancestry who had moved with his family from New York, Hermann Loehnis. His wife, formerly Henrietta Brandt had been born in Archangel, Russia and part of her family was already established in Denmark Hill at Elmswood. They had two sons and four daughters. Presumably these joint factors help to explain their settling in Dulwich as both sons attended Dulwich College. Before the move Hermann had joined the family firm, Wm. Brandt’s Sons & Co. as a director. This was a merchant bank at this time dealing exclusively with Russia.
This brings us to the vexed issue of the name given to the house by the newcomers. It appears in the Ordinance Survey of 1870 as Toksowa, There has been much speculation as to the origin of the name but never any resolution. There is no Japanese connection and, contrary to some local belief, it never functioned as their embassy. The word appears to have no meaning in any language at all so the significance may be entirely idiosyncratic or have some personal link now beyond recall.
For my own part I shall offer an alternative possibility. There was a German Protestant church, opened in 1855, in what was then known as Windsor Rd, Denmark Hill, which was a response to the significant community in the surrounding area. The Brandt family was Lutheran and, being of Russian origin, it may well therefore be of significance that there is a district of the St Petersburg region called Toxowa, evidently a beauty spot, which is referred to in documents of the period, pointing to its Lutheran connections. This cannot be proven but, for the exchange of a single letter and having the same pronunciation, it just might constitute a perhaps sentimental link from the past. For a family growing up in Archangel, not a great distance away in Russian terms and likely linked to a specific expatriate religious community in northwest Russia, it seems a workable hypothesis. In any event the name stuck and would go on identifying the house for nearly a hundred years.
The Loehnis family link to the property matched the sons’ educational needs, the older one, also Hermann, became a barrister and was admitted to the Inner Temple; the other, Charles Augustus, died at the age of 20 in Bonn in 1881. This may well have influenced the outcome. The father withdrew his capital from the family firm and they transferred to Berlin and Bonn at the end of the 1870’s. There is no clear trace of the early subsequent occupation of the house from then. Perhaps there was some local activity to bring about a new tenant, but the 1881 census records Gardener in Charge with his family. Anyway, by 1887 the house and estate were up for sale again. It is therefore possible to make some direct comparisons with twenty years earlier.
The first thing to be noted is that the house yet again has changed, “the larger portion of which has been entirely rebuilt by the Vendor.” There had clearly been some further upgrading in the house facilities, with “a suite of noble Reception rooms comprising a Library, Lofty Ball or Entertainment Room.” The property now boasts “a gas supply throughout” there are now five servants’ bedrooms, a separate cottage for the gardener and expanded stabling for six horses. It was coming to its peak as an opulent family residence as the Edwardian era came closer. The estate itself however is much smaller having reduced from 67 to just over 22 acres, a significant development for the future and reflecting societal change. Land was being required for other purposes, of which the driving force was increased population growth and recreational demand in the area. The College Governors were beginning to respond to this over subsequent years.
The new owner in 1889 was Thomas John Edward, also a barrister, probably reflecting that the holdings were now professional rather than trade in origin. He lived with his wife Elizabeth, five older children and four indoor servants. The new century found another family, the new head, John Kyffin “living on his own means” with his largely grown-up children and a new army of servants, sometimes described as ‘domestics’. Adjoining fields were being granted for the Alleynian Rugby Ground and Camberwell Grammar School Athletic ground. The other significant pressure was the demand, both local and national, for golfing facilities. This was beginning to result in the formation of the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club, built around the neighbouring Dulwich Wood Farm, “that rural retreat which has for years past been actively discovered by the popular press as the only surviving farmstead in London and actually only five miles from Charing Cross”. Gradually over these years the course grew, absorbing by 1907 several meadows from Toksowa to make a full 18 hole course by 1911. Even today the 16th hole, looking down from the clubhouse towards where the old house was, is still called the ‘Toksowa hole’.
The fact that the last owner was reported as having financial difficulties could only mean that the property’s days as a private estate were drawing to a close. The crucial development came in 1910. A group of City merchants evidently decided that the reduced estate offered commercial opportunities. At a rent of £222 10s. per annum, Messrs. Carlill, Collins and Spurway took out a 42 year lease with the intention of offering a “high class boarding establishment” on the estate, but crucially including a patch of nearly five acres where the College Sports Hall now stands. Thus was born the Toksowa Hotel. It was vested in a new company called White Lodge Ltd, presumably describing the appearance of the rear of the property as it appears in contemporary photographs. With permission for an ambitious project of additions and alterations being obtained from the Governors, an adjoining building with 53 bedrooms and bathroom accommodation was developed. The tariff was to be £2 2s per week for a single room and £4 4s for a double. Each room had a fixed slot meter for electric or gas light and heat. For guest visitors lunch was 1/6, afternoon tea 6d, and dinner 2/6. The 1911 census shows Mr. Carlill installed as Hotel Proprietor and a tally of seven servants, though he had a separate residence nearby at Ruskin Manor, Denmark Hill.
On the additional land to the west a “Covered Tennis Courts Club” was to be established. Following on the golfing developments, there was the intention of responding to the increased popularity of lawn tennis during the winter season. It was intended that this facility would be a rival to the Queen’s Club, now described as “enormously overcrowded.” When constructed (162ft by 136ft) it was accordingly promoted as ‘the Largest Covered Courts in the World’. This considerable claim referred to ‘3 full size courts plus gallery accommodation for a thousand spectators and by night scientifically illuminated by 90,000 candle power high pressure gas.’
The Club was to be managed by a “committee of gentlemen who are well known throughout the lawn tennis world, a guarantee [the Governors’ reported] that the club will be composed of members of good social position and will be properly conducted….It will bring in a number of people from the Home Counties to play in Dulwich and will therefore make the district better and more widely known”. The subscriptions were to be 4 guineas for gentlemen and 2 for ladies.
Toksowa’s advertising also included golfing facilities as by 1912, having leased meadow land adjoining College Rd to create a two-field wide strip south of Pond Cottages to the Tollgate, which was set up with 9 holes. This had the considerable advantage over the adjacent Dulwich and Sydenham Club of enabling its residents to play on Sunday afternoons, a privilege denied to its larger neighbour. Toksowa thus became a significant business enterprise, the owners having spent £7,000 for the Covered Courts and £9,000 for the housing additions.
Although set up quite quickly, by 1912 the business was to suffer some early disruption. The impact of the First War doubtless began to affect its trade and by 1916 the Courts were requested by the Red Cross to store temporarily some of their ‘motor ambulances at once as the War Office requires at least 50 cars to be stored ready for any emergency’. This was quickly agreed for the duration of the war. The following year the Courts suffered damage from German aircraft and by May 1918 ‘immediate approval’ was granted by the College, prior to the Governors’ consideration, for the erection of a temporary building to accommodate more ambulances ‘in view of the impending German offensive” It was completed by the end of the year. The Hotel itself continued to be profitable, applying in 1924 for a dancing license, the following year for a garage block for 10 guests, and in 1929 for permission to build ‘a comfortably furnished lounge for the use of tennis players,” implying that outdoor courts also were once again thriving.
One continuing problem recorded was the name of the hotel. In 1932 the Hotel Director wrote to the Governors that “prospective clients often gain the impression from the name Toksowa that the hotel is run with the hope of attracting foreigners, whereas in fact the majority of their guests are British subjects, also that the name is always difficult to understand on the telephone, and requesting to change the name to White Lodge.” This was not agreed and so the name remained a source of confusion and misunderstanding, and somewhat ironical in the light of what was to happen in a few years. Through the 1930’s there were further attempts to develop the tennis facilities with squash courts and hard tennis courts, the hope being to modernise the facilities and extend the licence for another 50 years. The Governors felt there were some positive aspects of the plan. The College architect commented that he “has no happy regard for the Covered Courts as they now exist… they are now ugly and incongruous in this beautiful setting and in such proximity to the heart of the Foundation.” But they were not the only ugly development of the period!
In 1936 a new manager emerged at Toksowa, Stewart Cole, and it is at this point that the story merges in briefly with that portrayed by Brian Green as part of his recent account ‘The Hotel at Spy Corner’ ( Spring 2012 Journal.172). to which reference should be made for the full sinister story. Under Cole’s aegis a number of associates of his, including his successor as manager, Albin Schmidt and his wife Rene, (probably German agents masquerading as Czech refugees), and miscellaneous unsavoury others involved in espionage and membership of the National Socialist League, were under the observation of MI5. This lasted throughout the Second World War and continued for a period afterwards.
Of course the War affected the ability to run the business successfully. The Covered Courts were again closed and eventually requisitioned by the Government for other usage. Although as late as1944 efforts to renovate and revitalise the recreational side were still being made, further war damage was sustained. But the game really was up.
In a world of post war austerity and shorn of some of its sporting assets, the business languishing, the lease soon to expire, it was the end of the road for Toksowa as such.
But, perhaps surprisingly, a new lease of life began in 1948.when the house was leased to King’s College Hospital as a Nurses home. After 80 years bearing its name it became Hambledon House. It was named after the title conferred on the family of W.H. Smith after his death as a senior figure in Lord Salisbury’s government, and referred to the village close by his country home near Henley. The reason was that the 2nd Viscount had been, as well as running the family business, the Chairman and leading figure of the Hospital at its original site off the Strand. Indeed he had paid for the new location in Denmark Hill and presided over its transfer there. His son, the 3rd Viscount, continued in this role after his father’s death and he died the same year the Nurses home opened, so the naming doubtless reflected the debt owed by the Hospital to the continued philanthropic work of the family.
Although held on a ‘peppercorn’ rent (£330 p.a. later reduced to £260), KCH found it difficult to maintain the land and additional buildings, and this as well as post war development elsewhere, prefigured the eventual end of the building’s use. In the meantime it functioned in this role with a Warden and resident Matron in charge, with transport to the hospital provided for the nurses. There was a touch of the old house in the staging of regular dances there to which younger men from the nearby Golf Club and 6th Formers from the College were invited. However the College was keen to regain the Covered Courts building for its own usage as an examinations hall and with the Estates Governors’ support this was achieved in the mid 1960’s pending its eventual translation to the current Sports Hall.
The arrangement came to an end in 1972 and the building was vacated. Later there were further attempts by Guys Hospital in 1974 for the same usage given evident concerns over their ability to offer services “unless we can attract staff to work in our part of London”. Delays by the Ministry of Health seem to have marked this period and still later there was a curious reversal in which King’s College considered taking it over for a students’ hostel. However it all came to nothing and decades of institutional usage doubtless meant that major expenditure for refurbishment would be required. In the meantime the property continued to deteriorate.
The decision to turn it over for commercial development came about subsequently in the 1980’s with the demolition and rebuilding of the site by Barratt Homes as a gated estate. During the later 1980’s one of the new homes, number 11, was sold to Margaret and Denis Thatcher who had been looking for a future home since selling their previous Chelsea residence. It was little visited during her premiership but, when she fairly speedily required a new address after her enforced resignation in 1991, it was a providential bolthole. Her characterisation of the move provided the press with a headline for the day, “John Major has moved to No10 and we have moved to No 11.”
Suddenly the area had a new focus. The requirements of continuing high-level security protection for the ex-Premier meant that a police surveillance area at the top of the north block of Dulwich College was created, though it was apparently little used. But it may be surmised that Denis was not too unhappy at the turn of events, allowing him ready access to the adjoining Golf Club to which his “old Cortina” was often seen to visit. He also utilised his experience as a rugby referee on the College playing fields. However the inconveniences of travel into London as an ordinary citizen perhaps became irksome and it was not long before the Thatchers disappeared to the metropolitan conveniences of Belgravia.
This has been an attempt to capture the whole experience from the 1790’s to the 1990’s of a single much-altered property site which saw a remarkable progress from elegant residential usage, through hotel and recreational purposes, to subsequent health authority, and back to modern residential living. An extremely varied and unlikely history.
Sources include Southwark Archives Library, Lambeth Minet Library, and the Dulwich College Archives. My thanks also to Patrick Darby, family descendants of earlier occupiers, especially Peter Brandt, and Alan Poole of the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club.
Death of a Soldier: A Mother’s Story by Margaret Evison.
Reviewed by Kenneth Wolfe
The number of fatalities in the Afghanistan conflict is now well above four hundred; more mothers will be lamenting, and asking why their sons chose to join the army knowing that these days, the fanatical terrorist is the enemy; and knowing that it’s all happening in a hostile desert terrain, access to which both for people and equipment is forbidding.
Margaret Evison writes precisely how her son Mark – Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards – came to join up, how he trained and finally found himself leading a platoon in Helmand. In May 2009 he was shot in the shoulder – and it was serious: blood was being lost at a rate. Where was the helicopter they asked? Delay and more delay. Mark was eventually dragged back from the danger point and taken to a plane and brought unconscious to Selly Oak. He never awoke and died with his mother at his bedside.
‘A Mother’s Story’ is a unique insight into the facts and into the mind of a highly analytical mother able to describe the aftermath of her son’s loss: the compassionate care given MoD personnel and the abject sadness. But more: her energetic endeavour to make sure that Mark did not die in vain. Margaret speaks for all four hundred and fifty or so mothers who come to mind every time the television pictures show a young chap in uniform with the words ‘his family has been informed’ - just another statistic or that lively chap from around the corner?
Mark had kept a diary that makes shocking reading not the least for its minute-by-minute account of being under fire in charge of a bunch of loyal comrades-in-arms as anxious as he to win this skirmish against the fanatics. He lost. Margaret wanted to know why and how; the precise details were not easy in those ghastly moments of panic and fear. They were short of batteries, the radios didn’t work; the heat, the flies, the sand and only one ‘medics’ pack. ‘We’re walking on a tightrope’ he wrote and will fall ‘unless drastic measures are undertaken.’ There was no helicopter to get him to desperately needed medical support. This story tells us how his mother trod a narrow path between irritation with officialdom and admiration for those on the ground. But above all it’s a story of terrible loss.
We have never been there among Afghans one hopes are friends; never taking every step for fear of a roadway bomb - even inside the compound with caution and often fear that a sniper or a rocket might at any moment come your way. Mark had seen his chum die and knew all about it. Margaret too now knows all about it. This is a sort of book-length obituary – about the talented boy, the handsome man and about a clash of cultures from which he suffered – as have his mother, father and sister. There’s no other book of its kind; Margaret narrates her journey into loss for all those other four hundred and more mothers who - months later - receive a large parcel from the MoD on their doorsteps: ‘your son’s effects’ – and there will be more. This book brings it all home.
Mark lived in Court Lane and is remembered on the seat in Dulwich Village around the tree outside Harold George.
Death of a Soldier is published by Biteback Publishers 2012
How a King’s art collection came to London: the history of Dulwich Picture Gallery by Jan Piggott, 2012.
Reviewed by Bernard Nurse
The Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery have published an attractively produced booklet on the history of the gallery. Written by Jan Piggott, it focuses on the 1811 Bourgeois bequest of the most significant collection of 370 paintings, and develops the account in his magisterial history of Dulwich College. It has been edited by Peter Belchamber, then editor of In View magazine.
In the same format as the 40 page booklets published in 2009 on the Polish Connection and the furniture collection, it is even more heavily illustrated with 12 full-size pages devoted to details from some of the best known paintings. Numerous other images depict the founders, those connected with them and the building. Especially revealing is the 1944 photograph showing the extent of bomb damage and how much had to be rebuilt after the war.
The remarkable Dulwich connection is well explained as far as it can be. Sir Francis Bourgeois, who left the paintings to the College, never gave his reasons except for saying that he wanted them kept together and the country air would help preserve them. The two theories that he was influenced by the actor, John Philip Kemble or the College Fellow, the Revd Robert Corry are both shown to be plausible but still only based on hearsay.
The booklet describes how the College was fortunate to have been provided not only with a collection particularly rich in fine 17th century northern European paintings but also a new gallery largely paid for by the benefactors, whose architect charged no fee. Soane’s design of such an innovative and influential building is well described. 19th and 20th century changes and use are covered only in outline. Other gifts have almost doubled the size of the collection: most of the British pictures for example, fully described in the recent scholarly catalogue by John Ingamells, came from elsewhere. The story, however, is brought up to date with the major successes of recent years. The post-war rebuilding, the growth of the Friends, the achievements of directors from Giles Waterfield onwards, the huge efforts in fund raising by the new trust set up in 1995, the much praised work of the education department, the millennium extension and the astonishing increase in visitor numbers are all rightly highlighted.
As a new short visitors’ guide to the history, buildings and collections, on sale at a reasonable price and well researched and illustrated, the booklet deserves to be a popular success. However, the gallery has played such an important role in British cultural life and is so well regarded nationally that there is still scope for a fuller history to be published. Perhaps the 200th anniversary in 2017 of the opening of the gallery to the public (the first public art gallery in Britain in continuous use) would provide a good opportunity. There is much to write about.
A Gilded Vagabond by Keith Hindell
reviewed by Greville Havenhand
A Gilded Vagabond is how Keith Hindell characterises the life of a journalist “He often stays in the best hotels but often reports on the underbelly of society.” Hindell was not just a journalist. He was a soldier, BBC producer and editor, a mountaineer, author and a leading light in the Pregnancy Advisory Service. His long, eventful and often distinguished life, though, did not start with what many would call “a gilded youth”. He was born in 1933. His father, Eric, a welder with the Tottenham Gas Company and a left wing shop steward with the AEU, was a cultivated man, keen on poetry (particularly of a Left-Wing persuasion.) The family life was close and for the time and background, quite unusual. They did not smoke and drank little; they preferred hiking and foreign travel to the local cinema or sport. In 1939 Keith went with is parents to Chamonix in the Swiss Alps which started a lifelong love affair with the mountains.
His early education was at the local primary schools and then to Tottenham Grammar School, where he did well in most subjects and was accelerated to sit School Certificate a year early. The Education Act of 1944 opened the way for children from State schools to go to Public Schools. Having shown outstanding academic ability Hindell was given one of the five places at Harrow awarded by Middlesex County Council
He went up to Oxford in 1954 and remained to do post graduate work on labour relations in the USA which led to two pleasurable years in that country as a research assistant in the Institute of Labour and Industrial Relations in Illinois, He felt more at ease there than at Oxford. His knowledge of the American way of life and the American way of thinking must have been a great help later on when he was based at the United Nations in New York. On returning to England Keith became a senior research officer at the think tank “Political and Economic Planning.” While there he wrote a number of academic papers for learned journals, but after two years’ dissatisfaction with research he made the move that was to shape the rest of his working life.
Seeing an advertisement for the post of Producer on the BBC radio current affairs programme “10 ’Clock” he applied, was accepted and a new career stretched ahead. This was a serious, nightly Current Affairs programme which had been both more serious and adventurous than what had gone before, but had become ossified under its then editor. Being of an independent frame of mind Keith later moved, successfully, to Documentaries, and, in 1970, to the newly crated “The World Tonight” as a Producer and Editor. Here I must declare an interest. I worked on the World Tonight for a few years at the same time as Keith and can verify that his account is both accurate and perceptive – an indication of the quality of his other recollections. His picture of how current affairs were treated in the nineteen seventies is probably the best yet written. As well as editing and producing in London he did a good deal of reporting for the programme, often while acting as the programmes producer in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles, and in the United States at the time of the Watergate scandal, the closing years of the Carter Administration and at the time of the Jonestown massacre.
In his spare time he became heavily involved in the issue of abortion. He had been deeply affected in the Sixties while producing documentaries at the time of the abortion law legislation. He co-authored a seminal piece for the Political Quarterly and became a leading member of the Pregnancy Advisory Service charity, while never letting this interfere with his broadcasting work,
Perhaps the most fascinating section is his chapter on four and a half years, beginning in 1980, as the BBC’s United Nations Correspondent., working also for Canadian Broadcasting and National Public Radio in the USA. It was a time which covered the Falklands conflict, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Apartheid years, the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear installations and continued Middle Eastern conflict. He throws much light on the behind the scenes manoeuvring in what he calls “The Peace Palace”. He interviewed and observed most of the protagonists there. His views on the Secretaries General and the various ambassadors are worth a whole book in themselves.
A long time resident of Dulwich his book, although a very personal memoir, is also a tour d’horizon of the latter half of the twentieth century. What is more it is extremely readable.
A gilded Vagabond Published by Book Guild Publishing £17.99