The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2018.
The new road junction of the five roads which converge in the middle of Dulwich Village has since its onset been a source of disquiet. In efforts to ensure the safety of cyclists many residents claim that if the new scheme, which so far has taken five months and has yet to be completed, ensures the safety of no road users whatsoever.
Court Lane residents held their own survey in 2016 before Southwark Council decided to proceed with the work. The remarkably high number of 138 residents contributed their opinions. There was overwhelming opposition to the junction changes and the respondents from Court Lane and Court Lane Gardens expressed a lack of confidence in Southwark Council's traffic modelling,
Southwark ignored all the residents’ findings except for one - that the railings around the pavement outside the Hamlet School should be retained. The Scheme called for their removal on safety grounds to cyclists. It was just as well that this aspect was retained as just a few weeks after the junction had opened, the railings had already been badly damaged by a vehicle crashing into them.
Court Lane and Court Lane Gardens’ residents, along with the Dulwich Society and other local residents’ associations have submitted responses to the recent SDG Traffic Study commissioned by Southwark Council. They highlight the dangerous nature of the redesigned Junction and reject Southwark’s claim that 10% of Dulwich Village residents commute to work by bicycle, which they say is a wild exaggeration and is not supported by any up-to-date or objective evidence. They also claim that as a result of changes to the junction, priority is given to the few cyclists and not for the many pedestrians, particularly schoolchildren who use the junction every school day. They claim that pedestrian safety, especially for schoolchildren, has been compromised, the speed of vehicle traffic has increased and aggression of drivers has created an effective battleground at the extended box-junction. They add that there is confusion both about the change of priority; and what the new traffic signals mean. The removal of the refuge at the bottom of Court Lane is a threat to pedestrian safety.
There was also criticism of the new layout from individual residents - ‘drivers often don't know where to go’...driving from Turney Rd to Calton Avenue is now at a very strange angle’, ‘the split pedestrian crossing is very strange and quite offputting as a driver when you see lots of people in the middle of the road. Why on earth was this done ?’
Southwark Council has informed residents that the junction has been designed following the guidance in London Cycle Design Standards with road-widths narrowed to 3.2 metres in order to protect cyclists. However, the resulting pavement build-out and removal of the refuge has created a blind spot and makes crossing the road at the bottom of Court Lane dangerous for all pedestrians. It also results in cyclists using the newly-widened pavement and jumping the lights.
It has been a bleak winter but we are perhaps fortunate in being spared the rigours of the weather further north. However bad weather further north brings winter visitors to us and we have been seeing flocks of Redwing. This is a Thrush similar to our Song Thrush but with a red underwing patch and a pale stripe above each eye. There were upwards of fifty birds in Dulwich park in mid January and smaller flocks in the velodrome site and also the woods with single birds turning up in gardens. There are two populations of Redwings that visit us in winter, one from Scandinavia that come in association with the larger and noisier Fieldfares, and the other from Iceland where there are no Fieldfares. We have not seen any Fieldfares this year so one can speculate that these may be Icelandic birds. If they stay into March they may on a fine day give a delightful flock chorus of subsong, not the same as their song on breeding territory which is much more strident, with similarities to that of a Mistle Thrush and not often heard here.
We have had other visitors. A Buzzard took up residence in the woods in December and was regularly seen being mobbed by Crows. It has not been seen in January but as Buzzards are now the commonest raptor nationwide no doubt more will appear. Blackcaps have been seen visiting bird tables. These winter Blackcaps are not the same birds as our mellifluous summer songsters who have gone to Spain for the winter, but are German and east European birds. They are reputed to be aggressive and bullying to others at the bird table (followers of Dad’s army could take note!)
Many of the Tufted Duck that we see on the Dulwich Park lake are winter visitors as also are the Shoveler that are often present. The Shoveler do not come to be fed at the waterside and it can be amusing to see a pair head to tail rotating with their heads down shoveling the lake bottom with their large beaks. We have also had vast numbers of Black headed Gulls this year with over two hundred in Dulwich Park and a few Common Gulls with them that reflect the inclement weather on our coasts.
Of our garden birds this winter the feeding flocks of Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits have been coming to nut and seed feeders in usual numbers with often one or two Coal Tits, the smallest of the clan increasingly reported in gardens. Robins and Blackbirds are well maintained but Song Thrush numbers seem to be very low and along with our Sparrows we are not seeing many of our seed eating finches and surprisingly that LBJ (little brown job) the Dunnock is for the first year absent from my garden. There does appear to be a problem with the survival of some of our urban passerines.
Finally, however, I have for the first time to report a new resident in Dulwich and this is the Jackdaw, distinguished from other Crows by its smaller size, grey patch on its neck and the “Jack -Jack’ call from which it gets its name. It is surprising that it has not been here before as a breeding bird as it will be familiar to holiday makers as a common bird outside London, particularly where there are old buildings, barns or cliffs or indeed outdoor cream tea cafes. In the countryside they associate freely with Rooks but their reluctance to settle here may be that our abundant Carrion Crows are not good neighbours. We may also lack good breeding sites and Carrion Crows can be voracious egg predators as can be seen in their wars with Magpies. However there is a noisy group of at least six Jackdaws in Dulwich park whose calls compete well with the ubiquitous parakeets.
If readers have more winter records, photographs or comments I will be delighted to hear them and try and include them in my next article.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567 )
Few people will know that the artists Ben and Winifred Nicholson lived in Dulwich for two years in the 1920’s and even fewer will have heard of Marcus Brumwell who played a major role in the promotion (amongst many other things) of British Modernism. Surprisingly, what brought them together was a local tennis club. Family memory says it was named the East Dulwich Tennis Club, although the Camber Tennis Club was situated only yards away from the Nicholsons’ house at 20 Dulwich Common. Most likely, however, it was the Gallery Tennis Club, once situated at the corner of Gallery Road and Thurlow Park Road and which was founded in 1885 and claimed to be the oldest tennis club in Surrey. Today the ground is covered by the car park and appropriately, the existing tennis courts in Belair park. Each year the Gallery Tennis Club would stage a prestigious challenge tennis tournament and in 1924 and 1925 the Ladies’ Singles Champion was Irene Strachan who lived in Elmwood Road. It was at the tennis club that she and her fiancée, Marcus Brumwell, met another young couple, the Nicholsons, who had recently moved into the newly built house on Dulwich Common.
The friendship blossomed and the following year Irene and Marcus married, honeymooning at picturesque Pill Creek at St Feock in the Carrick Roads near Truro, Cornwall, where Marcus had been introduced to at an early age by an aunt. In 1928 they invited the Nicholsons to stay nearby, at their uncle’s bungalow and they too fell in love with the area and rented their own house, Haylands. It was there that fellow artist Christopher Wood (1901-30) joined them, and all three would paint the local landscape together, each painting a view of Pill Creek. A 1928 painting by Ben Nicholson of Pill Creek sold at Bonhams in 2016 for £722,500. Another artist to join the group was John Wells who was staying with cousins nearby. On a visit to St Ives, they made the acquaintance of Alfred Wallis, a self-taught local man. His primitive form of painting inspired Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood and they made a point of promoting Wallis’ work. Summer stays at or near the Brumwells’ Cornish retreat continued although a move was later made to St Ives. Marcus, meanwhile, had already begun to buy Ben’s works.
Marcus Brumwell (1901-83) was born in Dorset in 1901 and his father tragically died when he was an infant, according to one report, he fell off his horse on his way to register Marcus’ birth. His mother remarried five years later and with her new husband moved into 22 South Croxted Road. Marcus’s step-father was a a comfortably-off meat purveyor and, as his family grew; Marcus would have two step brothers and a step sister, moved to a more spacious house, 34 Alleyn Road where Marcus grew up. After education at Rugby he had a couple of jobs, including the publicity for AC cars. This job might well have come from contact between the founder of AC cars, James Portwine, who as Ian MacInnes wrote in the Spring 2016 edition of the Journal, lived in College Road and like Marcus’ step-father was a wealthy butcher. In 1924 Marcus joined the company of Hugh Stuart Menzies the proprietor of a small advertising agency which Menzies had started two years earlier. The agency initially only handled the Fortnum & Mason account, for which it developed stunning Christmas catalogues, however, two years later, by which time the young Brumwell had became company secretary and later a partner in the agency, It had become one of the country’s leading agencies with Elizabeth Arden, Toblerone, Shell-Mex, Crosse & Blackwell and many other major companies as clients. Marcus became managing director when Menzies retired in 1938, remaining in active control until the agency was sold in 1962.
Marcus Brumwell was a keen art collector with an eye for the avant- garde, almost an earlier incarnation of Charles Saatchi. He liked abstract and modernist art and bought such works during the 1930’s when such forms were branded degenerate by Nazi Germany. Artists such as Mondrian and Gabo, Moore and Hepworth were friends of the Brumwells and their works featured in Brumwell’s growing collection. In 1936 he helped financially to support Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and John Piper, among others, in financing Nicolette Gray’s exhibition Abstract and Concrete which travelled from Oxford to London via Liverpool, Newcastle and Cambridge. The exhibition also exhibited works by Piet Mondrian. Brumwell’s friendship with Mondrian led to the then struggling artist giving Marcus his Composition 1937 when Marcus visited the painter in 1938, just before Mondrian went to the USA. The gift was for paying off the artist’s rent arrears amounting to £31.5s or as Marcus liked to say, that he got the painting for 30 guineas.
When Naum Gabo was experimenting with clear plastics and an industrial thread for his sculptures it was Brumwell who was able to put the artist in touch with ICI who played a key role in making Perspex for aircraft cockpits. Brumwell even managed to send Gabo the glass thread he needed.
In 1943, following discussions with the poet and writer, Sir Herbert Read a year earlier, Brumwell founded the Design Research Unit, a design consultancy dedicated to combining expertise in architecture, graphics and industrial design - “ a service equipped to advise on all problems of design”, addressing the needs of “the State, Municipal Authorities, Industry or Commerce”. The DRU anticipated a time of post-war reconstruction; the reconditioning and redesigning of public utility services, especially railways and transport generally. Not all the projects would get off the ground; the car designed by Naum Gabo for Jowett was abandoned by that company. Headed by Herbert Read and sharing offices with another Marcus Brumwell supported project - Mass Observation, in Kingsway, the DRU got underway. It had great success at the wildly popular Britain Can Make It exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum in 1946, in the rebranding of the newly nationalised British Railways and in 1951 for The Festival of Britain when it was involved with the design of the Regatta Restaurant and a series of displays in the Dome of Discovery.
The DRU still exists and continues to work on a wide range of projects with numerous well-known companies, and more recent work has included the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line extension. Marcus Brumwell remained one of the partners for twenty-nine years. In 1968 he was awarded the Royal Society of Arts Bicentenary Medal. The citation reads “ as a person who in a manner other than an individual designer has exerted an exceptional influence in promoting art and design in British industry.” In the Silver Jubilee Honours list he was awarded the CBE for services to art and design.
The Mass Observation project, mentioned as sharing offices in Kingsway with the DRU, had been started in the late 1930’s by the anthropologist Tom Harrison to study the everyday lives of the ordinary people of Britain. During the war, Mass Observation was financed by the Advertising Services Guild, a collection of half a dozen advertising agencies who pooled resources when advertising revenue had sunk. Marcus Brumwell was one of the main backers and it is clear that MO could be of immense value to the advertising industry - indeed it was able to identify social trends decades before today’s algorithm identification through social media. Harrison would report on his recent surveys at the Advertising Services Guild luncheons. These were particularly useful in the ASG’s work for advertisements for the Ministry of Information. Topics like ‘Reaction to Clothes rationing’, ‘Problems of demobilisation’, ‘How will people react when Peace comes?’ and ‘post-war housing’ were all addressed by Harrison’s Mass Observation studies.
Marcus Brumwell was also at home in the world of politics and became chairman of Labour’s Arts and Culture committee. He played a central role in promoting the discussions between Labour politicians and leading scientists which culminated in Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’’ stance in the 1964 election.
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) would remain a friend for fifty years and the pair maintained a frequent correspondence when Nicholson settled in Switzerland with his third wife. In the 1930’s Nicholson had left his wife Winifred, for sculptor Barbara Hepworth and they set up home in Hampstead where Nicholson had a house. When World War 2 was about to break out, Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth loaded their triplets into a small car and drove to Cornwall. Marcus offered to clear their Hampstead house of all of Nicholson’s artwork in case it was bombed. This then adorned the walls of the Brumwell home near Dorking which delighted Marcus who wrote to Nicholson that he was now surrounded by beautiful things.
Ben Nicholson was a sports lover, indeed while he was living on Dulwich Common he leased the land behind his and some of the other houses, whether it was for tennis or perhaps to use to practise his golf swing, is uncertain. However, his enthusiasm for games encouraged him to invent a new form of table tennis which he called Tablehazard or Bridgepong. The game involved using a raised platform instead of a net with the ball allowed to roll off the top of the platform to the opponent’s side. He was convinced it would catch on and enlisted Brumwell’s support to approach various games manufacturers. Suzy Gauntlett says that in his correspondence with Brumwell, Nicholson included little annotated drawings of his idea. He also wondered what to call it. In one note he wrote: “Can’t think of a good name. Bridgepong is too like cards. Hazardpong might do. It is long but conveys the idea...Demonstrations arrangeable at short notice as Henry Moore has got very good”. Sadly the game was not taken up despite several meetings with top games companies.
In 1939 Nicholson and Hepworth, together with Naum Gabo and the potter Bernard Leach joined the St Ives Art Society. They were to form the nucleus of a modern art movement and come into conflict with the traditionalist members of the Society. By an odd coincidence, also drawn to St Ives at this time was the former head of art of Dulwich College, the portrait painter Leonard Fuller (1891-1973).
Fuller, who had also gone to Dulwich as a schoolboy, served in France in the Royal Fusiliers and later the Machine Gun Corps in World War 1. He served in the same regiment as fellow painter, Robert Borlase Smart and they became firm friends, and, deeply affected by the war, made a pact that after the war they would set up an art school in St Ives, where Smart painted.
Almost twenty years elapsed until in 1937 Borlase Smart wrote to Fuller reminding him of their pact. Together they founded the renowned St Ives School of Painting and went on to teach and work alongside some of the great St Ives painters like Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham and Peter Lanyon. The School’s stated aims were “To assist the many resident and visiting students in attaining the requisite proficiency to enable them to express themselves adequately in various mediums: especially to enable them to combine their studies in landscape with figure and portrait work, carried on simultaneously.” Terry Frost recalled “We young painters used to go to the painting school, it was the cheapest way we could get a model. There was Peter Lanyon and Sven Berlin. We were some of the early pupils that went along to draw”.
Fuller, a traditionalist was nevertheless sympathetic to new ideas and together with Borlase Smart, welcomed Nicholson and his fellow Modernists and later other younger artists to join the long-established St Ives Society of Artists which Smart had helped to invigorate. A lid was kept on the division between the conservative and modernist members but a rift occurred when Borlase Smart died in 1947 and the conservative members called a meeting at which they criticised the inclusion of the modernists. As a result 24 modernist members resigned, including Leonard Fuller, Nicholson and Hepworth and they decided to form a breakaway society to include craftsmen and named it The Penwith Society of Arts. Leonard Fuller was elected chairman and Herbert Read its president.
The Society was a great success and later Nicholson claimed that.... “outrageous as the present art establishment in London would find it, a case could well be made for considering St Ives the most influential centre of Western painting during the late Fifties”.
Brumwell was friendly with several successive directors of the Tate, inviting them to stay with himself and Rene in Cornwall. In 1962 he told the director, John Rothenstein that he wanted his Mondrian to go to the Tate - “I love it dearly and do not want to part with it, against which I feel selfish and nervous about keeping such a valuable thing in the house, because I am not a suitably wealthy type - in short if I do consider selling it, I will give you the first refusal.” Soon after he commented “It begins to be very difficult for a private individual of my comparative small stature to own such an expensive painting. In 1965 he solved his dilemma by selling the Mondrian for £18,000 to the Marlborough Gallery in order to finance the building of his house at St Feock and in doing so helped launch the careers of some of Britain’s best known architects.
The Brumwell’s daughter Su had married the architect Richard Rogers and had gone with her husband to study architecture at Yale where they teamed up with Norman Foster and his wife to form an architectural practice - Team 4. Su, who would later co-design the Pompidou Centre with Rogers, persuaded her parents to give Rogers and Team 4 the commission for the new house, named Creek Vean House. The design has two wings connected by a corridor which served as an art gallery for the Brumwell’s extensive collection. It remained in family until 2004 following Rene’s death.
Friendship and hospitality in Cornwall by the Brumwells to Sir Norman Reid, Director of the Tate, led to Reid becoming president of the Penwith Society following the death of Herbert Read. In 1964 Marcus Brumwell gave Barbara Hepworth’s Three Forms (1935) to which he was very attached, to the Tate. In 1969 he was elected chairman of the Penwith Society and under his stewardship the gallery premises were extended by acquiring a neighbouring building.
Marcus Brumwell’s friendship with Ben Nicholson and other artists survived through the years. Many he commissioned to illustrate his company’s advertisements. Sarah Fox Pitt wrote at the Tate in 1981: “Without your own brilliant insight and your great support many of the artists would have a much harder time, and for all of these it was a great struggle.”
The author is grateful to Frances Twinn in drawing his attention to the Nicholson connection, and also to Tate Archives, Sharon O’Connor, Richard Deacon and Rita Green.
Bright Ties Bold Ideas - Marcus Brumwell, Pioneer of C20 Advertising, Champion of the Artists by Joe Brumwell has been invaluable in compiling this article.
A hundred years ago, in the present borough of Southwark, there were two centres of opposition to the First World War. One was in Bermondsey around the Christian Socialists Alfred and Ada Salter, who were both active at national level. The other, much less well known, was in East Dulwich, tucked away between Hansler Road and Shawbury Road. Here, behind where Dell Autos now is, was Hansler Hall. The gabled building still stands. Lately converted into a residence, it featured I’m told on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. Back then, as the HQ of Dulwich Independent Labour Party (ILP), it was a hub of political and social activity. From 1916 the Dulwich branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship, or NCF, met there.
The Fellowship, with 31 branches in London alone, swung into action to oppose the introduction of compulsory military service. There were repeated demonstrations on Peckham Rye in the early months of 1916, even after the initial legislation for the conscription of single men was passed at the end of January. In Dulwich the Women’s Labour League declared,
As working women and mothers of the race, we detest and abhor militarism in all its forms, because it leads to the sub-ordination and oppression of our sex and the training of our children in ideas that are ‘Prussian,’ and for which we have nothing but repugnance.
They were the women’s section of the Labour Party. From his soapbox the trade unionist Arthur Gillian said he believed that “ the real motive behind the Bill was that the enemies of workers were seeking further means to enslave them The trade unions would smash it if they could.” (Cheers) Campaigning continued, partly to repeal the Act and partly because pressure quickly built up for the conscription of married men, which came in at the end of May. .
Thereafter the NCF concentrated on supporting the men who refused military service on grounds of conscience from a variety of religious, ethical and political motives. “The destruction of our fellow men - young men like ourselves- appals us; we cannot assist in the cutting off of one generation from life’s opportunities,” was how the Fellowship’s manifesto put it.
Many objectors, probably most, saw it as a way of taking a personal stand against the war. At national level Bertrand Russell and others had hopes that their resistance might mobilise the desire for peace he believed was latent in ordinary people.
The initiator with others of the Dulwich branch was Arthur Creech Jones, a bookish civil service clerk, aged 24 in 1916. Though born in Bristol, he lived with his aunt and uncle and two cousins in Keston Road, a superior part of Peckham bordering on Goose Green. He was secretary of Camberwell Trades and Labour Council as well as of the Dulwich branch of the ILP. He may well have helped start these organisations too; it’s not clear.
For some reason neither Lewisham nor Deptford, then a separate borough, had an NCF branch, which explains why the Dulwich branch came to have members from there (as well as from other parts of the borough of Camberwell) and why the secretary lived in Lewisham town centre.
She was Sarah Ann Cahill, aged 53, the wife - or widow - of a railway signalman, born in Ireland. Hansler Hall was a comfortable stroll from Keston Road for Creech Jones. It was quite a trek for Sarah Cahill, who presumably made the journey by tram.
The military authorities caught up with Creech Jones in September 1916. At Hounslow barracks, by his own account, he refused to stand to attention when paraded, and told the sergeant, “I refuse to do anything for the Military as I am a conscientious objector.” He told the court martial, again according to his carefully preserved notes:
I view War merely as a test of might, resulting from dynastic ambitions, commercial rivalries, financial intrigues and imperialistic jealousies. It is a stupid, costly and obsolete method of attempting to settle the differences of diplomatists, in which the common people always pay with their blood, vitality and wealth.
The court was not persuaded and sentenced him to six months’ hard labour, which he served in Wormwood Scrubs.
The Asquith government handled the conscientious objectors with some finesse. For a start the tribunals that adjudicated on claims for exemption were able to direct them to service with the Non-Combatant Corps - building roads, digging ditches, and so on. Those who refused this as still assisting the war effort, or were not offered it, then had their cases reviewed in prison. Those judged genuine were given the option of transferring under the “Home Office scheme” to work supposedly of national importance at various civilian labour camps. A majority accepted.
Creech Jones was one of those, determined to demonstrate maximum opposition to the war, who refused the offer. Like the thousand to fifteen hundred other absolutists, he was released when his sentence expired, but then called back to the colours. When he refused to obey he was court-martialled and sentenced to hard labour again. And so it went on. Creech Jones faced four courts martial in all and was finally released only in April 1919. He went on to become Colonial Secretary in the Attlee government. We have his prison letters but also letters to him from his cousin (and future wife) Violet Tidman. These give glimpses of the anti-war campaigning that continued outside.
At national level the NCF maintained careful records to keep track of the movement and well-being of objectors, and was always prompt to take up cases of bad conditions and ill-treatment. Ada Salter oversaw a maintenance committee that provided financial support for the dependents of the men in prison.
At local level the Dulwich branch, meeting at Hansler Hall on Wednesday evenings, heard the men’s letters read out, gave friendship and support to the families, carried out prison visits and fed information back to head office. Sarah Cahill was active in this work, as was Clara Cole, whose husband Herbert taught at Camberwell School of Art.
In July 1917 the branch published a smart buff-coloured brochure, 4” by 7½”, entitled What Are Conscientious Objectors? The main part consists of court martial statements but it also gives some interesting figures - up to that date 75 objectors from the branch had been arrested. Of the 63 men offered work under the Home Office scheme 28 had accepted; 35 had refused to accept what they held to be a compromise with militarism. Then there’s an analysis by political and religious affiliation. Of the 75 men arrested, we read, 27 were members of the ILP and 17 were “unattached socialists,” a category not explained. Twenty-seven were trade unionists. Many, says the brochure more vaguely, were members of the various churches.
One imagines the booklet was used for local campaigning, but the papers by this stage in the conflict give no space to anti-war activity. We know from Vi Tidman that there were rallies on Peckham Rye, certainly towards the end of 1917, calling for the release of imprisoned objectors.
Further reading: more can be found on the pdf of my research - Against the Tide: War-resisters in south London 1914-16 - on the University of Hertfordshire’s Everyday Lives in War website: https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk
Present - GRIMM TALES FOR YOUNG AND OLD by Philip Pullman
adapted for the stage by Philip Wilson to be performed in the gardens of Bell House, 27 College Road, Dulwich, SE21
Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd June at 8pm
Saturday 23rd June at 5pm and 8pm
Sunday 24th June at 3pm and 5pm
Rediscover the magic and wonder of the original Grimm Tales, retold by the master-storyteller Philip Pullman. In this stage version by Philip Wilson, the audience meet some familiar characters including Rapunzel, and some unexpected ones too, such as Hans-My-Hedgehog, the Goose Girl at the Spring and the remarkable Thousandfurs. Each tale is full of deliciously dark twists and turns - a delight for adults and children alike.
This will be a promenade performance although some seating will be available. Tickets: £12 and £8 available from early May at :Dulwich Players Box Office 07936 531356 or email : email@example.com Online at www.dulwichplayers.org and from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.
The recent refurbishment of Holmehurst, the house on the corner of Burbage Road and Half Moon Lane, was the original spur for this article but, because the house has been in institutional use for the last 60 plus years, there initially appeared to be little to say. Research on the original builder of the house, however, proved to be much more rewarding and provided a story of a prosperous Victorian professional making a major contribution to the development of south London until he was almost brought down by a very modern mistake, forgetting to pay for his rail ticket.
The Dulwich Estate minutes confirm that, between 1874 and 1887, architect Henry Parsons was involved in the development of Holmehurst and five adjacent houses (Nos 48-54). A previous Journal article on Delawyk Crescent, built in the early 1960s on the site of these houses, quoted some 1883 auction particulars from the South London Press about ‘Howlettes’, (No 52). They said that the house had ‘recently erected for his own occupation by the owner, a London architect of repute, in a modified form of Modern Queen Anne style of Architecture.’ Clearly Henry Parsons was this ‘London architect of repute’ but who actually was he?
Born in Isleworth in 1828 he was articled to Thomas Cubitt and later became an assistant to John Thomas, a sculptor who also had a small architectural practice in the country. In 1858, aged 30, he was appointed as the District Surveyor in South Lambeth. Before the London County Council came into being in 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Works (founded in 1855) appointed architects in private practice to the role - their job was to make sure that all buildings built in their particular area complied with the relevant London Building Acts.
Parsons was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) in 1861 so he must have had a reasonably sized practice - which initially it seems, was based on the design for rural churches and vicarages. That he was not performing his District Surveyor duties as he should, presumably because he was travelling around the country, was confirmed in a May 1864 newspaper report about the Metropolitan Board of Works writing to him ‘directing him to reside in the district, and personally to perform the duties of his office’. He must have done so as another press article in September 1868 about residential voter qualification in Lambeth noted that he had successfully demonstrated that his office at 20 Devonshire Road also had a bedroom in which he occasionally slept.
But what of Henry Parsons’ connection with Dulwich? In the 1871 Census he was living at Forest Lodge, Park Lane, Ashstead, in Surrey and was apparently heavily involved in a large land speculation in the 180-acre Copthorne Estate, near Leatherhead. He must have done very well out of it, and it was his share of the proceeds of the sale which probably allowed him to approach the Dulwich Estate in October 1874 offering to take 110 feet of frontage in Half Moon Lane ‘to erect a detached house thereon at a cost of £1500 at the least’. He was clearly optimistic over the area’s potential as, in January 1875, he agreed to take the rest of the frontage westwards (a further 315 feet) which included an older house, Elm Lodge, down to the planned entrance to what is now Burbage Road (but was then the boundary of the Springfield Estate). He agreed to build six houses in total. Whether the first house, ‘The Hawthornes’ (No 54), was intended for his own occupation we do not know, but perhaps he had an unsolicited offer, as he sold it almost immediately to one Charles Miller, a wealthy jeweller.
At the same time, he was also working on the designs of a major project in Brixton, what would become the Bon Marche, arguably one of Britain’s earliest department stores. The building remains largely as he designed it though the main elevations have been rendered and painted. Under the heading of ‘A new Public market at Brixton’, the Builder Magazine of January 1876 reported on the ‘intention being to erect on the site a large and commodious market for the sale of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, and every description of provisions, and also for the sale of clothing for men and women, whilst one portion of the market space will be specially set apart for the display and sale of articles of furniture’. His next large project was the Loughborough Hall in Coldharbour Lane - Victorian London had a number of public halls where entertainments such as concerts ,dances and political meetings were held. If you travel into central London via Loughborough Junction you will know it, it lies between the Loughborough Junction Station and the railway line - and is now used as a church by the ‘Celestial Church of Christ’.
As well as his architectural work, Parsons was vice chairman of the local Dulwich Conservative Association and also the quartermaster of the 21st Middlesex Rifles, a City of London based volunteer battalion. His own house, ‘Howlettes’ (No 52) was finished in 1880 although the 1881 Census recorded him as living next door at Elm Lodge. An 1882 directory shows the occupier as his son, the unusually named ‘Maydwell’, a lieutenant in the army. The new houses were large and some of the poorer locals clearly saw opportunities - as a court report in the South London Press of 28 July 1883 showed. Henry Blencowe (16), living in Poplar Walk Road in Loughborough Junction, was charged with being on the premises ‘for the supposed purposes of committing a felony’. The report added that Mr Henry Parsons, architect, residing at the Howlettes, confirmed that his garden had been frequently plundered, even though he had a high fence. He had complained to the police, and the prisoner was caught coming out of the garden, with several others who ran away. In 1884 Parsons moved on, to Hampton Wick, and the new owner of ‘The Howletts’ was Julius Augustus Hewitt, a civil engineer, previously resident in Dulwich Road, Brixton.
Burbage Road was not actually completed until autumn 1886. In January 1887 Parsons complained to the Estate that the delays in its construction had impacted on the timescale for the completion of his houses and that he had lost money as a result. He applied to vary his original agreement and build only three more houses and also assign it to a builder, Charles Bowden. Glengarriff (No 48), and Elm Lodge (No 50), named after the old house on the site, were finished by late 1888 - and not demolished until the 1980s. The 1891 census lists the occupiers as Thomas Helby, a member of the Stock Exchange, and Edwin Edward MacAlpine Woods, at 35 a relatively young (and presumably wealthy) Hemp Flax & Jute Merchant. Woods remained at Elm Lodge for many years but Helby moved on quite quickly, and his successor was Robert J Brinkley, a very successful publican. The owner of the Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich Village when it was rebuilt in 1896, he was also later the owner and/or the proprietor of the Victoria Hotel, Kings Cross, the Salisbury Hotel, Haringey, the Rockingham, Newington Causeway, and the Horns Hotel, Kennington. He clearly made a great deal of money as, when he died in 1907, he left nearly £250,000 - when a large house cost £2,500.
Sydney Bourne (1857-1930), a wealthy newspaper man, was the next owner of Glengariff. His claim to fame was a sporting one - he was the first chairman of Crystal Palace Football Club. A local football enthusiast, he oversaw the building of the club's stadium at Selhurst Park. In 1909 he was quoted on the subject of football club viability and players forming a trade union. He noted that, even then ‘nine out of ... ten clubs ... in England are ... insolvent, and are only kept alive by the personal sacrifices of their directors. If trade unionism is going to step in and interfere in every petty dispute there is not a director who will risk another shilling ... for the sport.’
But back to Henry Parsons. In May 1886 he was unanimously elected chairman of the Hampton Wick Local board where he was described as ‘a gentleman eminently fitted to the post. Mr Parson’s ripe experience as a District Surveyor cannot fail to be of great value to the Board.’ This was the high point of his career. His professional reputation never fully recovered from a court case that September when he was accused of travelling on the Southwestern Railway without a ticket. He was fined 40 shillings and 5 guineas costs on each of two summonses at Lambeth Police Court, mainly because the prosecution said that he had been doing it for several years. If that was not bad enough, the Metropolitan Board of Works then fired him from his position of South Lambeth District Surveyor. He took them to court and won, and was re-instated, convincing the appeal judge that the original verdict was wrong - and it does seem that he just probably forgot to pay once. He continued as District Surveyor until he died aged 74 in 1902 and his last local connection was his involvement with the construction of Hollingbourne Road and Holmdene Avenue in 1891.
14 February - 7 May 2018
Dulwich Picture Gallery presents a major exhibition of one of Canada’s greatest modern painters, David Milne (1882-1953). For the first time in the UK, it showcases a wide selection of his oil paintings alongside watercolours, drawings and photographs, to reveal an artist of true originality and vision. Through periods of intense experimentation, often working in solitude in the wild, Milne tdeveloped an extraordinary body of landscapes, fusing influences from Monet, Matisse and Cezanne into a bold modernist language of his own.
David Milne: Modern Painting follows Dulwich’s revelatory ‘Painting Canada’ show of 2011, which introduced work by Milne’s contemporaries Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, and ‘From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia’ in 2014.
Arranged chronologically, the exhibition follows Milne’s artistic development as he moves from the bustling sidewalks of New York to the war-torn landscapes of northern France and Belgium and back again to the woods, fields and skies of the northeastern US and Canada. Focus will be given to Milne’s experimentation with colour, line and negative space and his mastery of painting the visual effects of light and reflection.
Born in a small Ontario farming community, Milne was in many ways an artist beyond nationality and visitors will first encounter him in his formative years in New York. He arrived in the city in 1903 to seek commercial work, but the thriving vitality of the city with its many museums and galleries quickly turned his ambitions to fine art. The busy sidewalks and advertising hoardings provided the subject matter through which he could shape influences from Monet and Matisse, balancing representation and abstraction and reducing his subjects to their essentials. Highlights include Fifth Avenue, Easter Sunday(1912) which was included in the landmark Armory show of 1913, where Milne’s paintings were exhibited alongside works by Matisse, Braque, Monet and Van Gogh as well as Billboards(1912) and Columbus Monument(1912), which offer a visual record of the early history of commercial outdoor advertising.
The show follows Milne to Boston Corners, a village in New York State, where, in 1916, he and his wife, Patsy Hegarty, set up an austere life with Milne’s time devoted to his painting. This room showcases a period of major advancement, as we see Milne experimenting with conjuring light reflections in watercolours such as Bishop’s Pond, 1916. This room also includes a series of experimental paintings of Patsy seated in the landscape, where Milne explores the phenomenon of camouflage through patterned composition. The central rooms in the exhibition showcase some of the most formally daring works of Milne’s career, revealing a shift in his style as he sought to record military training camps in the UK and later, the recently emptied, war-ravaged landscapes and villages in France and Belgium for the Canadian War Records. The harrowing scenes he encountered during his months as an official war artist prompted a new painting style of sparer means with subjects splintered into shattered brushstrokes and areas of startling blankness used to dramatic effect as in Montreal Crater, Vimy Ridge(1919), one of Milne’s most famous war paintings.
The exhibition goes on to explore Milne’s periods of solitude, which deepened his explorations of the natural world and his place within it. Inspired by the writings
of Henry David Thoreau, which extol the value of communing with nature and the withdrawal from consumer culture, Milne spent the winter of 1920-1 alone on the side of Alander Mountain, behind Boston Corners, and there engaged in some of his boldest experiments yet. He built himself a hut in the style of the military Nissen huts he had seen in Europe and there created a series of remarkable paintings including White, the Waterfall (1921) one of Milne’s favourites.
The exhibition concludes with a series of elemental still-life studies and sky paintings made during Milne’s time at the remote Six Mile Lake. Again he built himself a cabin to live in alone, and there his creativity was unleashed anew in works that express a profound connection to the natural world. For the first time, he enjoyed sustained contact with like-minded artists, curators and critics in Ottawa and Toronto, with whom he corresponded, and in 1934 he finally began showing his work commercially in Toronto. He was starting to find recognition at last as one of Canada’s most distinctive and sophisticated modern artists. Highlights include a series of horizon pictures which represent his final surge of modernist work including Summer Colours, 1936.
Anthony Harding was already aged seventy when he came to live at Bell House, College Road in 1832 moving from Streatham. He was born in Hoptown in Derbyshire on New Year’s Day 1762, one of four children of a member of the local landed gentry. On 12 November 1792, aged 30, he married Frances Ashby, also from Derbyshire and the daughter of one of his business associates. They married by special licence in London. Special licences were issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury and were expensive, a sign of status for the more wealthy and well-connected who did not want the ‘vulgarity’ of a public wedding. In Pride & Prejudice, on hearing of the wealth of Elizabeth’s suitor, Mrs Bennet exclaims ‘A special licence! You must and shall be married by a special licence’. The Hardings had two children, Elizabeth born in 1793 and Frances born in 1795. Mrs Harding died in 1801. When Elizabeth married she and her husband lived with her father at Bell House. Elizabeth’s husband was Thomas Scholes Withington who played a significant part in the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and was the subject of an article in the Journal by Bernard Nurse in 2008 (Journal 157).
Anthony Harding, inventor of the department store
Anthony Harding described himself as a silk mercer but he was actually much more. In 1795 he was living in Holborn and became a freeman of the company of musicians by redemption, meaning he paid a fee of forty-six shillings. At this time the musicians’ livery was a kind of general guild open to anyone. The fact that he chose this guild rather than the drapers suggests that perhaps he was not a trained draper, that is he had not undergone an apprenticeship. This makes his later success all the more impressive. Harding, Howell & Co.'s Grand Fashionable Magazine was located in Schomberg House on Pall Mall, a mansion originally built for one of William III’s generals, where Gainsborough had lived and which was later used as the War Office.
Founded in 1789, Harding’s can be considered the first modern department store. For the first time women were able to shop on their own, safely and respectably. They did not have to walk along the street in public to visit different shops and so did not need a male chaperone, neither were they tied to buying the limited range of the tradesmen who visited door-to-door. They were free to browse and choose for themselves. These women were members of the newly-affluent middle-class, their good fortune buoyed by the Industrial Revolution. They went to the department store to shop, to meet their friends and to examine the latest fabrics to pass on to their dressmakers; ready-made clothing for women would not be available for another century. Drapers like Anthony Harding understood this newly emerging class of women and saw that shopping could now be a social activity and it is no coincidence that many of London’s famous department stores such as Whiteleys and John Lewis were started by drapers.
The shops were designed to be as attractive and enticing as possible with large glazed windows, glass chandeliers, tall ceilings from which to hang the fabrics and large glass-fronted cases to display the merchandise.
As the premier shopping street of this nation of shopkeepers, Pall Mall was one of Georgian London’s most fashionable streets and regency ladies came here for the most fasionable textiles. It is often mentioned by Jane Austen and it is outside a shop in Pall Mall that Colonel Brandon hears of Willoughby’s engagement in Sense and Sensibility. Indeed, the most frequently mentioned item of shopping in Jane Austen’s letters is fabric for dressmaking and she would undoubtedly have known Harding’s. By 1809 it employed forty people in the store plus countless artisans all over the country supplying them with items for sale. To further attract the ‘beneficiaries of the new affluent’ Harding’s had a refreshments room on the first floor. Harding was said to be a man of ‘vision and vigour and a business genius’ and he redesigned the shop to suit his needs. The shop was on the ground floor, divided by glazed mahogany partitions into five ‘departments’: first furs and fans; secondly silks, muslins, lace and gloves; thirdly jewellery, ornamental articles in ormolu, French clocks and perfumery; fourthly millinery and dresses and lastly textiles, especially chintzes and their accessories. There was ‘no article of female attire or decoration, but what may be here procured in the first style of elegance and fashion...the present proprietors have spared neither trouble nor expense to ensure the establishment of a superiority over every other in Europe, and to render it perfectly unique in its kind’. On the first floor above the ground floor shop were workrooms where many of the forty men and women employees worked. On the top floor, reached by Schomberg’s original 1698 painted staircase, was a café known as ‘Mr Cosway’s breakfast room’ where customers met for ‘wines, teas, coffee and sweetmeats’.
Harding possessed a talent for advertising and was especially keen to reassure potential customers (or ‘families of the first rank’) that all their furnishing fabrics were made in England but that they could also supply ‘every article of foreign manufacture which there is any possibility of obtaining’ (J Ashelford The Art of Dress 1500-1914) The shop had many royal customers. St James’ Palace was a short walk away and Marlborough House even had a connecting door to the shop. George III had many connections with Harding. He commissioned Harding & Howell’s to design and make the hangings for his bedroom at Kew. He asked Harding to market the cloth produced from the royal flocks of merino sheep grazed at Windsor and King George himself would bring his daughters to visit the shop. Harding would close the shop so that the royal family might browse in private and while the king would take great interest in the goods for sale the princesses loved to go behind the counters. Queen Charlotte asked the store to design particular dress silks for her, which Harding would then cannily market under the name ‘Queen’s silk’. When the Prince of Wales asked them to design a new chintz for his bedroom at Carlton House, Harding’s marketing acumen led him to arrange for a cutting of the fabric to be pasted into every issue of Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts alongside the advertisement of their shop. He also arranged for each entrant in the newly published Debrett’s Peerage to be sent a sample of chintz and reminded of the shop’s royal patronage.
Shops were open much later than they are now, until around ten at night and in 1807 Pall Mall was the first street to be lit by gas which would make the printed chintzes and textiles look particularly ravishing. When a patent was granted for the first permanent green dye for chintz Harding secured the sole selling rights. The fabric was advertised as ‘a discovery never before offered to the public’. Harding also cleverly always suggested possible linings for every fabric, thus potentially doubling sales volumes.
Anthony Harding was innovative in other ways too. London’s place as ‘the greatest and most dynamic city in the Western world’ was secure and just as Thomas Wright had sent goods out to North America so Anthony exported around the world. Although the shop covered only one third of the large Schomberg House, in 1804 Anthony Harding bought the lease for the whole building and let the other two shops; when his shop needed renovating the firm took over another part of the building, so minimising the impact on business. When they saw the demand for lace, they set up their own lace factory. They brought over a Flemish woman skilled in making French and Flemish lace and advertised for apprentice lace-makers. The Flemish expert would instruct ‘young women respectably connected and of good conduct’ in the art of lace-making, for a fee of £10 each. They also sold a hair dye which claimed to be ‘the best Dye in the universe for immediately changing red or grey hair.
In December 1819 Harding & Howell moved their business to 9 Regent St, ‘opposite Carlton House’ where they were ‘quite prepared to offer a regular succession of novelty throughout the season’. This idea of novelty was important for the sale of clothes and accessories. Disposable income was increasing and the empire was providing a wider range of goods, people were beginning to buy new things even when they didn’t need them and it was important to offer new items to ensure customers kept returning to the shop. In an 1834 report from China the correspondent talks of the demand for things ‘pretty, odd and new at Howell’s or Harding’s’. Harding & Howell were obviously highly successful and in the process they secured a Royal Warrant as ‘Silk Mercer by Appointment’ to Queen Victoria.
Although Harding once behaved unusually generously in taking back an employee who had stolen from the Company, his involvement in a charitable enterprise in 1796 sounds more of an advertisement for his shop than an act of philanthrophy - a notice placed in The Times on behalf of the ‘peculiar and distressful circumstances’ of a lieutenant in the East India Company, struggling under sickness and poverty while caring for his two infant children and was threatened with ‘the cold and loathsome damp’ of a debtors’ prison. Donations were invited to be left at Harding & Howell’s on Pall Mall.
At home at Bell House
In 1832 Anthony bought a new lease on Bell House which obliged him to contribute to the cost of lighting Dulwich village. Joseph Romilly, whose family lived at The Willows on Dulwich Common, records in his diary: ‘2 April 1833. Called with Lucy [his sister] on Mrs Withington at Bell House....civilly received’. Calls were an essential part of social networking. Ladies often had a particular ‘at home’ day where they received callers for tea and cake. People did not stay long and it was not rude to say you were ‘not at home’, the convention was that the caller would simply leave a card. All calls and cards had to be returned however and daughters were expected to accompany their mothers from when they were old enough until their marriage when they would commence their own round of at-homes.
A full house
It was a large household at the time of the 1841 census with Anthony, his daughter Elizabeth and her children Alice, Frances, Florence and Elizabeth. There were six female servants, a manservant, Sophia Hegley, the children’s governess and George the coachman, his wife Hannah and their daughter Harriet. There would also have been ‘daily’ servants such as gardeners or ‘charwomen’, who did not live in but came to work each day or to help if the family were entertaining. The lives of these figures are even harder to recover than those of the live-in servants as we have no names or particular duties and they were at the bottom of the domestic pecking order. However, we are familiar with life below stairs thanks to recemt films and television series
Most of the Harding servants came from London or the home counties as was usual at this time. Often the best way to get a reliable and trustworthy maid was through the recommendation of friends or acquaintances at church. Later, servants would come from farther afield, either travelling with a family when they moved to London, or obliged to leave the countryside because of mechanisation or agricultural depression. The nature of service was also changing at this time. No longer considered part of the family, servants were now exclusively working-class and usually female, with a heavy workload and expected to be neither seen nor heard. At this time a large extension was added to Bell House for servants’ quarters.
Anthony Harding died in 1851, aged 90 and is buried at St Leonard’s Church, Streatham. It seems that he still had a business interest in Schomberg until the day he died.
Look out for tree labels appearing on some trees in Dulwich Park. We have an exceptionally good variety of tree species locally, including rare and special specimens, particularly in our parks. Some of the trees in Peckham Rye Park already sport identification labels, thanks to the Friends of Peckham Rye Park. The Dulwich Society Tree Committee thought it would be a good idea to similarly label a selection of trees in Dulwich Park. There's no shortage of trees to choose from in Dulwich Park, so it would be a case of deciding which ones to select. The Friends of Dulwich Park were enthusiastic at the suggestion and wll be helping us to label 100 trees. The Park management and the Head Gardener, Gerry Kelsey, are also supporting the project and the Dulwich Society is providing the funding. The labels which are being used in both parks are small lightweight ones, as used by Kew - ones which will not damage the trees. The Tree Committee have selected a good range of trees for labelling. For example, there will be labels on 12 species of oak, including the rare Chinese Cork Oak. The labels have been purchased and will start appearing as the trees come into leaf. So, look out for the labels!