The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2019.
Whereas the late summer and early Autumn may have given us small numbers of birds in our gardens, winter weather brings the feeding flocks of Tits and other passerines in to food sources that may not be so readily available elsewhere. Our resident bird populations are topped up by continental immigrants, not just the Redwings which and have come in small flocks this year but Blackbirds and Chaffinches and even Robins. Our familiar breeding birds therefore may not be the individuals that graced our winter gardens.
With our garden birds come their predators and in one week we received three photographs of Sparrow Hawks. Most of our Sparrow Hawk photos are of the brown females which favour a diet of pigeon on which they may stay to feed but Kit and Alison Farrow managed to get this picture of the much smaller and colourful male. The males specialize on small birds that they may find at our bird tables so their visits are often fleeting and rapid with the only evidence being the agitation of the small birds that escaped. Kit Farrow was lucky to get the photo opportunity. Their colouration has led watchers to mistake them for Merlins which are birds of coasts and moorland and unlikely to be seen here.
Brian Green has provided this photograph of a Goldfinch. Goldfinches have been one of the conservation successes in recent years when other passerines such as Greenfinches and House Sparrows have been declining. In part this is due to Nyjer seeds in our garden feeders which has proved to be a favourite.
Goldfinches have an interesting history. From the middle ages they were much favoured as a cage bird as they are pretty and would sing and they would unkindly be taught to draw water out of a bucket with a string. There is a famous picture of a Goldfinch in the Mauritzhuis in the Hague by Rembrandt’s pupil Carel Fabritius of a Goldfinch with a bucket indicating this activity and indeed one of the local names it was given was the Draw Bird. The caging was so popular that the Goldfinch population became severely depleted in the
nineteenth century and it was one of the first birds to be prioritized by the RSPB after the Protection of Birds act in 1880.
Another name for the Goldfinch was Thistle Bird from its liking for thistle down. Its Latin name is Carduelis carduelis (Carduus is the Latin for a Thistle!) As a result of this it appears in a large number of devotional pictures from the middle age Italian Renaissance, the most famous of which is the Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael in the Uffizi in Florence. The legend has it that the red area on the bird’s face came from the blood of Christ when it plucked a thorn from his crown, and this has given this very lovely bird a special significance.
On a more mundane level we can report that the numbers of wintering Shoveler on the Dulwich Park lake has often been up to ten and may soon outnumber Mallard which seem to be declining. There are also two Little Grebes, a pair of Egyptian Geese and a burgeoning population of Moorhens which suggests the its ecological health remains good. A Cormorant airing its wings on a small branch on the island overlooking the lake was a bizarre sight one day in January. Perhaps it might have an interest in the Carp which someone has introduced.
I look forward to more of your photographs which furnish these regular articles, and I am always available to answer questions about any observations that crop up.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (email:
Common Alder Alnus glutinosa is a tree that likes to have its roots in water. There can be few rivers in the land which do not have have stands of it somewhere along their length. In Dulwich, alder grows on both sides of the water in Belair Park and its presence there in such numbers, behaving exactly as it does in the wild, strongly supports the view that the present stretch of water has its origins in a natural stream, whether the Effra itself or a tributary to it. William Gilpin, the 18th century proponent of the picturesque, considered alder “the most picturesque of the aquatic trees, except the weeping willow. He who would see the alder in perfection must follow the banks of the Mole, in Surrey, through the sweet vale of Dorking and into the groves of Esher”. The Mole, indeed, is far from being a beautiful river; but what beauty it has it owes greatly to the alder, which fringes its meadows and in many places forms very pleasing scenes”. The ‘sweet vale’ of Dorking and the ‘groves’ of Esher have changed beyond recognition since Gilpin’s day but Belair is still a good place to enjoy ‘pleasing scenes’ and to get to know the alder at first hand.
Alder is a member of the birch family and, like the other members of that family, it is wind-pollinated. The male catkins are usually the first to shed pollen in spring, when they turn a striking red-purple colour. They are carried on the tips of the twigs and drop after they have released their pollen. The female catkins are at first hard, green, and somewhat fleshy; after their flowers are pollinated, the female catkins become dry, brown and woody. At maturity, these woody cone-like structures (technically known as strobili) open to release tiny nuts, just as the cones of coniferous trees do. These ‘cones’ can be seen at any time of the year but are particularly striking in winter, when they attract birds such as siskin to Belair Park. Alder’s distinctively stalked leaf buds have a purple waxy bloom which can be very beautiful in the low sunlight of a winter’s day.
Alder has dark green leaves which are covered with a sticky resin in early summer, as are its young shoots. Hence the glutinosa of the scientific name. They are roundish, serrated, blunt (never pointed) and often indented at the end. Alder is particularly noted for its symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni, which forms nodules on the roots of alder trees. The bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air which it makes directly available to the tree, the bacterium receiving sugars from the tree in return. Alder wood is easily worked and was much used for the making of clogs. It is very durable if kept submerged or buried in wet earth, and so was extensively used for foundations for bridges, water-pipes etc. As a widespread native tree, alder frequently appears in English place names. The Welsh word for alders is gwern and the Scots Gaelic is fearn. Forms of both words are similarly common in place names, particularly farm names, in those countries.
Common alder has various cultivars, but I have not yet come across any in Dulwich. Two introduced species of alder, Grey alder (A. incana) and Italian alder (A. cordata), have been frequently planted as street trees in central London in recent years, as both are more tolerant of dry conditions and urban pollution than the native tree. The only mature example of either I know in Dulwich is an Italian alder in Turney Road (on the southern pavement towards the railway bridge), though young specimens of both species have recently been planted in Dulwich Park.
The Festival will run from 10th- 19th May with a celebration of the Arts, Music and Literature. As always, the Festival also celebrates the local artistic community with the ever-popular Artists’ Open House taking place across both weekends when over 200 local artists invite the public into their homes and studios, providing a close up and personal dialogue and insight into their art.
The Festival is also a celebration of the local history and architecture as Dulwich treasures such as the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Bell House, Dulwich College and Christ Chapel play host to events.
For music lovers, The Harlem Meer Cats are back! Recreating the music heard at the Cotton Club in the 1920s and 30s, these musicians play the great hits of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway among others. The sounds are infectious, mysterious, seductive, at times menacing, yet always swinging! Dancers will be most welcome, as indeed they will be at the ever-popular Festival Ceilidh.
Adam Norsworthy also returns to the Festival after two previous sold-out shows. Regarded by many as one of the country’s finest Blues singer-songwriters, he will be playing a first set with LSO second violinist Tom Norris and then a full band set with his group The Mustangs, one of the UK’s most established Blues bands.
Over 400 years old, Christ’s Chapel is one of Dulwich’s hidden gems and will be hosting both a Chapel Organ open afternoon, featuring the exquisite organ built in 1759. Onyx Brass will also perform at the alluring venue.
The wonderfully uplifting Festival of Choirs will also feature in this year’s line-up.
For younger members of the community the children’s art competition and concert return plus Kingsdale will play host again to the Youth Concert where local schools/music groups showcase their incredibly talented young musicians.
Tommy Foggo - Superhero is a magical multi-media tale of a life saved by music based on a true story, composed by award-winning Stephen Deazley and ‘extraordinary cellist, virile baritone and compelling actor” (Daily Telegraph), Matthew Sharp.
You can learn more about Dulwich’s Street Art through the Street Art Walk. Other walks taking place throughout the Festival include Ian McInnes ‘insight into Dulwich’s Georgian heritage’, Lette Jones’s Tree Walk and Brian Green’s History walk.
The Handlebards are a troupe of cycling actors who perform a charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe. Join them for their original take on Much Ado About Nothing. Also taking inspiration from the great Bard, Tim Crouch will perform his one man show, I Malvolio which re-imagines Twelfth Night from the point of view of Shakespeare’s pent up steward.
The Dulwich Festival would not survive without the huge amount of support and enthusiasm by the organisers and volunteers. If you would like to join the happy team, please do get in touch. Your festival needs you!
Booking is highly recommended for all Festival events, which tend to sell out ahead of the Festival itself so please visit the website for all information: www.dulwichfestival.co.uk
Of all villages Dulwich deserves an award as the most commemorative - lucky in its resident local historians! Dulwich derives from theatre history, the estate bought with entertainment industry wealth. Alleynians celebrate the quatercentenary of Alleyn’s Foundation; Burbagites remind us that in 1619 also Richard Burbage died. Of these two actors, far and away the most celebrated in the golden age of English drama, Burbage died at the age of fifty, the younger by two years. The Burbage Road enterprise is called ‘Exit Burbage’ - tersest obituary of all time, reputedly on his grave-stone.
Both had fathers involved in court entertainments and acted young, Burbage at sixteen. Unlike Alleyn, Burbage’s whole career was on the stage, and very demanding it was. Burbage was star of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men), creating the great rôles Shakespeare wrote for him, a famous Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, King Lear and Richard III, at the Globe on Bankside and (in winter) at the roofed Blackfriars. His sinister Ferdinand in The Duchess of Malfi was famous. Alleyn, leader of the Admiral’s Men, created the parts Marlowe wrote for him, at the Rose on Bankside and at the Fortune in Golden Lane. Both men regularly played at court, and in masques. When James I arrived from Scotland, the City of London in 1604 chose Alleyn, its most famous lungs, to welcome him with words by Ben Jonson, from a triumphal arch in Fenchurch Street for The Magnificent Entertainment: music and actors on a series of decorated structures, King and entourage processing through the streets. Likewise Burbage, during a City water pageant in 1610, on the back of a great wooden fish on the Thames addressed the promising Stuart heir, Prince Henry, who died so young soon after. The two actors’ styles must have been markedly different, Alleyn thespian - swaggering, mannered and orotund - a virile presence as Tamburlaine and Faustus, his strutting walk imitated by young men on the streets. In the pub scene in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II the low-life braggart Pistol comically rants select famous Alleynian phrases, such as “Holla, ye pampered jades of Asia!” from Tamburlaine (while he whipped kings on all fours pulling his chariot). Burbage’s range was wider, his diction more ‘natural’ and subtle to deliver ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more’, or indeed ‘To be or not to be.’ At Christmas 1598 Burbage and his actors carried the wood and timbers of their theatre at Shoreditch, when the ground landlord would not renew the lease, across London Bridge for the frame of the first Globe, built by Peter Street who put up the Fortune Playhouse and Alleyn’s large riverside home.
Burbage perhaps played at the Rose in his early days: in the Archives is a piece of paper called a ‘Platt’, a very rare plot outline, hung in the wings for the actors’ entrances, for a lost play of 1590-92, The Seven Deadly Sins. A named actor performs two main parts - ‘R. Burbadge’. Preserved by Alleyn, it was recycled as a book-cover for a much later manuscript play. Another actor is named ‘Ned’, but Ned was clearly a boy actor, and Alleyn too old by that date. In Shakespeare in Love, Tom Stoppard made much of a scabrous legend to present Martin Clunes as a lecherous Burbage, but Geoffrey Rush made of Alleyn’s father-in-law Philip Henslowe a magnificent eccentric character, after a visit to Dulwich to study the theatre papers. Ben Affleck played Edward Alleyn as little more than a callow American College kid.
One might imagine that as Lord of the Manor Alleyn chose the names of our own roads that were just fields, hedges and stiles in his day, and that Burbage Road was his tribute to a great rival; or that he called another road by his surname backwards (or almost: droll Eynella). But Burbage Road was built and partly developed as suburban dormitory in the 1880s, from a lane or cart-track. Once it had been the idyllic habitual walk of young John Ruskin from Herne Hill; a mile of chestnut, lilac and apple trees among the meadows of the Dulwich valley, with cows and buttercups. The great odour of hay in summer there was famous. Arrived at the Gallery he brooded ideas, then on to the woods by Croxted Lane (with its streamlet) composing paragraphs for Modern Painters. Ian MacInnes kindly sent me an article from the South London Press dated 2 February, 1886. It was Burbage Road by that date: ‘the long talked of new road from Half Moon Lane to Dulwich College has been constructed and opened’. It was crossed by ‘one of the finest pieces of railway architecture anywhere to be seen’, Barry’s viaduct of red and white brick and Portland stone balustrade, with monograms of ‘AC’ (Alleyn’s College) dated 1866, in which year ‘the road was already contemplated’. It was just half of the ‘magnificent thoroughfare…to be called Burbage Road’. Ian McInnes’ article on the extended road and building developments can be read online in the Dulwich Society Newsletter Archive (Winter 2004).
The Governors’ Minutes record no discussion of the choice of name, but say ‘The name of the road, decided on by The Metropolitan Board of Works, is to be Burbage Road’. If anyone at Dulwich had suggested Burbage, it would have been Canon Carver, as Master of the College (1858-83) still playing a major executive part in the Estate. Carver had a scholarly interest in the College’s theatre papers and other collections, and with a Christian gentleman’s fair-mindedness might have proposed Burbage. He was erudite and truthful, with a special interest in Burbage. In 1875 he sent the Picture Gallery portrait said to be Burbage (DPG 395) to Manchester for its massively popular Art Treasures exhibition for a British Portrait Gallery section, one of over two hundred pictures the College inherited in 1686 from the actor William Cartwright, son of William Cartwright, Alleyn’s theatrical colleague and Burbage’s contemporary. This collection was actually hung in Carver’s family quarters in the North Block at the New College. In 1888, with John Sparkes, ‘Head Master of the Art Department’, Carver published a catalogue of the Cartwright Bequest, Carver writing biographical entries for the subjects of the portraits, and he is not afraid of being thought a disloyal Alleynian by saying that Burbage ‘was the most eminent and popular actor of his time, not excepting even Edward Alleyn’. Sparkes began the tradition that the painting might be a self-portrait, because Burbage was said also to have been an artist. Cartwright’s rough catalogue in his own handwriting includes ‘a womans head on a bord, dun by mr burbige ye Actor’. But many pictures were lost before they reached the College, and this painting (DPG 380) is on canvas, not wood, clearly of a quite different style to the ‘Burbage’ portrait; since 1987 it has been called ‘North Italian’. Carver pointed out that ‘Mr. burbig his hed’ in Cartwright’s handwritten list does not say it was painted by Burbage himself. The only other extant documents mentioning actual painting by Burbage refer to payments for decorative heraldic work.
Looking up with awe and affection at Burbage at the Gallery it is vexing that modern scholarship won’t allow us (‘safely’ is the word) for a number of reasons to think it Burbage. No other image of him exists. Daniel Lysons in 1792 wrote the first book to call it Burbage, describing Dulwich College in his Environs of London. This was the era of excitable antiquarian ‘discoveries’, and two years earlier Silvester Harding, hunting out Shakespearean theatrical portraits had published stipple engravings of the two Dulwich portraits, Alleyn and Richard Burbage. Of the five important theatrical figures of Cartwright’s father’s day traditionally claimed among the portraits, only one is thought likely (but still not ‘safely’) truthful: Nathan Field, young King’s Man with an ear-ring, ‘in his shurt’ (DPG 385).
Dr Jan Piggott, FSA, was formerly Head of English and Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College. With Dr Nicholas Black he is the co-editor of the new DULWICH COLLEGE - The First Four Hundred Years, to be published on June 21st of this year.
Burbage Road Celebrates its Namesake
Dulwich residents have a long tradition of celebrating the anniversary of the building of their roads. This year it is Burbage Road’s turn and the difference is that it commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of actor Richard Burbage.
It will be celebrated by a street party, a talk on Burbage, a historical walk and the painting of a mural under the Burbage Road railway bridge. Generously supported by Network Rail and painted by artist Lionel Stanhope it will be unveiled in May and will be the latest addition to Dulwich’s Outdoor Gallery.
27 College Road SE21 7BG
Tuesday 14th May 7.30-9.30
For further information:
Bell House website: https://www.bellhouse.co.uk for further details
Following three very successful evenings of poetry and music this will be our fourth evening. The series started a year ago with stunning voices and music. Four featured poets and six open microphones. All welcome!
September 11th. I don’t think the first tower had fallen when I left to collect our girls from school. But when I returned home, it was gone. Then I watched on the telly as the second tower fell. I remember thinking as I watched, What is that? — my brain unable to process the fact that I was watching a 110-story building, in real time, collapse.
A new age had begun.
Travelling to the States, which we did at Easter and in August, became an ordeal not only of push-chairs, car seats, luggage and air-sickness bags, but of airport security. In the spring of 2003, the US and Britain—with broad public support in both countries—invaded Iraq. The Iraq army was easily defeated, but chaos followed as the country fragmented. During the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s, the question I’d often hear was “Why doesn’t the United States do something?” The mantra now was “Who appointed the United States policeman of the world?”
Teddy entered Dulwich College. Stephanie entered JAPS. The village, in almost imperceptible degrees, was constantly changing. The butchers, the greengrocers, and the bakery were long gone, as was the timber merchant, whose premises had been converted into numerous Aysgarth Road townhouses. The Post Office had long since moved across the street and stopped vending hats. Cafes proliferated. Pizza Express arrived, as did Café Rouge, which replaced Bella Pasta, which had replaced Sweeney Todd’s. The grocery, which was where Gail’s is now, closed shortly after the arrival of Shepherd’s, which was sandwiched between Pizza Express and the newsagent. The P4 bus stop was moved in front of our house and, across the street, the first of an eventual four or five ancient Chestnut trees was cut down, to be replaced by gangly pre-adolescent saplings. The iPod appeared. Social media. Being American had ceased to be a thing - or so it seemed to me - as the village became demographically almost cosmopolitan. More than once I caught myself obliviously discussing immigration as if I were talking about people other than myself. Can there be a more manifest example of making oneself at home? Teddy felt sufficiently at home in Shepherd’s that I felt compelled to suggest to him that a bathrobe and flip-flops were perhaps not appropriate shopping attire.
Our flat-roofed two-car garage, which had been grafted onto our Edwardian house, had somehow received planning permission during the 1960s. Yet it took us two years to get permission to knock it down and replace it with something more attuned to the original construction. For the better part of two years, we lived in a building site. In 2004, around the time the renovations were completed, Dulwich Park FC—by winning the Surrey Cup and, in their final match ever, defeating the winners of the London Cup—laid claim to be the best Under-16 football team in London and Surrey. Around the same time, our old Burbage Road crew delivered a full coach to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for Palace’s promotion playoff final against West Ham. Neil Shipperley - “in off his shin” - sent us home “glad all over.”
In our newly landscaped front garden we planted pink roses in demure tribute to our first Dulwich home in Roseway. We also planted a winter-blooming cherry tree that Stephanie—trend-setter that she was—named Mr Peach. In the rear garden, Katherine named a freshly planted, unassuming birch tree Steve. Later we would add a gum tree in front who went by the name of Bazooka Joe. Both girls were at JAPS by 2005 and in 2007 Billy was about to join his older brother at Dulwich College. The Dulwich Prep Leaver’s Day celebration was just beginning when news arrived of the central London suicide bombings in which 52 people were killed and 700 injured.
With Dulwich College sports matches taking place on Saturday afternoon, the boys and I had reluctantly surrendered our Palace season tickets. Teddy and Billy would go on to play six consecutive years of first XI football between them, captaining the team four times. They played two years each in first XV rugby as well, Teddy captaining the side in his final year. Our girls, who found these matches less than riveting, especially when, frequently, inclement weather was involved, quickly learned to plot alternative Saturday plans with Sarah or with their friends. I, however, would haunt Dulwich College touchlines for years.
Southwark Council spent several months digging up the rotary in front of Christ Chapel, clogging traffic through the village. The new rotary prevented vehicles on Gallery Road from turning left onto Burbage, instead squeezing them into a bumper-to-bumper 365-degree churn around the rotary, constipating movement through the village even after the roadworks were complete. In the wake of angry complaints, the Council spent more months congesting traffic while they dug up the rotary a second time, returning it to its original state, save for a short slip of a bike lane and a pedestrian crosswalk to nowhere.
In the summer of 2008, Teddy, who had entered Harvard the previous fall, learned the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a pre-requisite to representing the USA at the Under-20 World Cup in Wales. Meanwhile, stock markets were falling. Then the financial crisis hit. Worse was to come. On a summer afternoon in Portugal in 2009, Henry Fraser, one of Billy’s closest friends, broke his neck taking a running dive into the ocean. Barely surviving and paralyzed from the neck down, Henry was eventually transferred from Lisbon to Stoke-Mandeville Hospital, where he began the arduous process of adjusting to his new life. As the Dulwich College school year began, Billy and his friends formed a rota that ensured that, each day after school, one or two boys would travel by train from Dulwich to Stoke Mandeville. The boys also began raising money to defray the costs of Henry’s care. Among other projects organized were a dinner with an auction, generously hosted by comedian Jack Dee, a Dulwich College parent, and a football match at Dulwich Hamlet FC that pitted the Dulwich College 1st XI against a celebrity team that included, among others, four former Premiership players and the chef Gordon Ramsay, who was also a Dulwich College parent. For the event programmes, I solicited advertising from shops in the village, where the outpouring of support and generosity was nothing less than astonishing. Katherine Opie-Smith, a dentist in the village, slipped a £500 cheque through my mail-slot. David Isaacs, at William Rose Butchers in East Dulwich, donated £1,000 plus the burgers and sausages for the football match. In the end, something like £135,000 was raised. Henry, who returned to the College the following year to complete his A-Levels, now works for Saracens Rugby Club and is an accomplished mouth-painting artist. He’s given inspirational addresses to the likes of the England Rugby 7s team and recently published a moving memoir called The Big Little Things.
I had the first of two hip replacements and began listening to the first of the 199 audiobooks I’ve since enjoyed while walking in Dulwich Park or working out at ESPH on Lordship Lane. A truck rammed a pillar outside the Post Office and wound up supporting the overhanging roof. Billy left for the University of Pennsylvania and Stephanie left JAGS for a US boarding school, where she promptly achieved a kind of immortality for asking, during Maths class, if anyone had a rubber she could borrow. The next year Katherine followed her there, leaving Sarah and me alone in a house that, like a thing organic, had somehow grown bigger.
Suddenly nothing much happened. Years blurred. Everyone but me had a “smart” phone. But even I had an iPad. In Dulwich Park I’d high-five a jaunty middle-aged woman each day as we power-walked past each other in opposite directions. Le Piaf was replaced by the estimable Rocca’s. Southwark dispatched a spy car to our corner of the village. Like a U-boat, it had a periscope, with which to spot unwary mothers dashing into Shepherd’s for milk or some tea-time ingredient, whereupon it would unleash a torpedo. Whether it was public outrage or local partisan activity I do not know, but the spy car was eventually removed—or blown up. A barbershop opened, complete with barber’s pole and sidewalk café. In 2014 The Dog closed for refurbishment. After about 20 years, it re-opened in 2017. Southwark commenced roadworks again, this time at the Dulwich Village traffic light, snarling traffic and inconveniencing everybody so to install several feet of dedicated bike lane and a new zig-zag crosswalk with a raised curb for people to trip over. The Post Office moved into the chemist shop, bringing with it the now little-used, royal red post box, which, like the telephone box outside Dulwich Vintner’s, soldiers on, a monument.
Everyone’s past is a lost world. Very late at night, I’d sometimes gaze down from my loft window at the corner outside Café Rouge to see three or four foxes hanging out like teenagers, all but smoking fags. Café Rouge reincarnated as The Real Greek. Shepherd’s, the newsagent, Park Motors—all gone. The England football team’s 30 years of hurt metastasised to 50 years and counting. Dilwihs, the meadow where dill grows. In Saturday morning drizzle, boys playing football on a makeshift pitch in Dulwich Park. The restrained and sombre spectacle of Remembrance Sunday observances. Skirting around the Dulwich College tollgate. The joy of a home goal at Selhurst Park. A flash of feral parakeets, incongruous as monkeys, swooping from a tropical dream into a village tree. Shackleton’s boat at Dulwich College. The Founder’s Day picnic with concert and fireworks. Jo Brand at the Post Office or at Dulwich Hamlet waiting for school to let out, worth a dozen Cruise or Kidmans any day. Rain or shine, Sunday mornings, a woman named Sandra with her collection cup outside the newsagent, faithfully collecting money for Alzheimer’s research. The legacy of Edward Alleyn and that of Richard Burbage, without whom we wouldn’t know Shakespeare half as well as we do. The ghosts of bomb-struck buildings, of majestic Plane trees, of Dickens and Ruskin, of Lord Haw Haw and of Oswald Mosley, upon whom P.G. Wodehouse based Roderick Spode, the British fascist leader of the Blackshorts. P.G Wodehouse, Dulwich Old Boy, his study frozen in time in the Dulwich College library. A line of schoolchildren beneath my loft window, led by Mr Green to the Old Burial Ground and then on to the site of the village stocks next door to Village Books. Mr Green, dapper and bespectacled unofficial Mayor of Dulwich, cycling past in jacket and tie, helmeted, on his unfolded bike. Home from a holiday in the States one August, driving through the dappled light beneath the canopy of trees lining College Road, being struck by the unassuming beauty of this place and thinking the actual words I can’t believe I live here. Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, where you get a free drop if a fox takes your ball, transforming you (or so I’ve heard) into the village idiot, cartoonishly brandishing a 9-iron while chasing Foxey-Loxey into the woods. Abandoning my car one late afternoon in a snowstorm: trekking home through a snowdome, the eerie beauty of Dulwich Park in the twilight, virgin footprints, still air, branches white, the pristine enchantment and foreboding of Narnia. The reassuring harmony of a cricket match on the periphery of awareness. Rhododendrons blooming in the park. Evenings at The Dog. Rembrandt’s girl at the window. Memorials to the war dead at Christ Chapel and at Dulwich College. New Year’s Eve with our oldest Dulwich friends. The hypnotic poetry of the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4. The houses, the shops, the trees and the streets, the people my family know by heart.
As with any good journey, you end up discovering something you didn’t know when you started. You start off writing a retrospective and you end up composing a love letter. On a recent July day at Dulwich College’s Old Library, our son Teddy married his JAGS sweetheart, Lucy Lyons. Teddy’s lifetime has spanned our time in London. And so it seems fitting that on a sunny summer day, attended by friends and family, his wedding should bestow upon our life here the sort of pure happy ending one might hope for, but rarely find, outside a novel by Jane Austen.
Good-bye, Dulwich. Thank you for everything.
Tartuffe By Molière
Directed and translated by Anne-Lise Vassoille and Jane Jones
Edward Alleyn Theatre - Dulwich College
Wednesday 10th April to Saturday 13th April 2019
This spring, The Dulwich Players are taking the stage at the Edward Alleyn Theatre for a new version of Tartuffe. Hypocrisy, delusion, pride, betrayal… What’s not to laugh about in Moliere’s classic comedy? We are in Paris in the early 1960s, at a time when the advent of television and rock’n’roll music is at odds with traditions, religion and, well, good old manners. George, a wealthy property owner and war hero, has blindly welcomed Tartuffe, a seemingly religious and well-intended man, into his home, to the horror of his children and second wife. Now George wants Tartuffe to become part of the family and marry his obedient teenage daughter, Marianne. Can the falsely pious man be unmasked, and his true intentions revealed? How much will the family have to endure under Tartuffe’s powerful and inexplicable influence? And will they succeed in opening George’s eyes before it is too late? Come find out all that happens in a comedy that would be tragic if it wasn’t so funny…
Date and Times Wednesday 10th April to Friday 12th April 2019 at 8pm Saturday 13th April 2019 at 7.30pm
Tickets: £10 (£12 on the door) and £5 (under 16 years of age)
Online at www.dulwichplayers.org (Ticketsource)
Dulwich Players Box Office 07936 531356
or email :
and from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village
Dr William McVicker is probably better known to the wider public as the performer of one of Classic FM’s most requested pieces oi music - Widor’s Toccata in F, a piece which gained for William the prestige of once reaching No 1 in its ‘Hall
of Fame’. He has been the musical director of St Barnabas Church for the past thirty years and is also a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music where he teaches Organology. He is also Organ Curator to the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre and a freelance organ consultant.
William spent his early years in north Manchester, attending Stand Grammar School for Boys and joining his local church choir at the age of eight.
“I think I must have been interested in music from a very young age; we had a piano in the house and my mother was musical and played the piano well and I evidently taught myself to play it before having lessons. As a chorister at All Saints’ Church, Stand, on the north side of Manchester, I watched our choirmaster, Mr Middelton, playing the organ. I was mesmerised. He was brilliant. The setting was incomparable. The church was one of the Million Pound Grant churches built after the Battle of Waterloo; the architect was Charles Barry: it is an elegant neo-Gothic building with the slenderest of pillars holding up a high vault. The church had a fine organ and excellent acoustics. The choir was huge — 44 boys when I joined! It is the sort of thing which doesn’t exist anymore in the Church of England. I now realise that it was the combination of arts — architecture, music, colour, art (all of which come together in a church) which heightened my interest in the organ.”
Asked what inspired him to take up music as a career he said:
“At school I used to look at the school honours board and see that one JB Jones went to Downing College Cambridge as Organ Scholar in 1962 (I later met him) and noted that in the 1950s the eminent architect and recitalist Gordon Thorne won a Scholarship to Manchester Art College. I thought then that you could be anything you wanted to be. The person who was the greatest influence was my parish priest, Robert Warner; he taught me the organ for free for most of my teenage years. He taught me to listen to what I was doing — and this has had a profound influence on my career for which I’m truly grateful”.
His first professional job in music was as a deputy lay clerk in Manchester Cathedral Choir — between school and university. He also sang in the BBC Radio Chorale, based at the Deansgate studios in Manchester. William says,” I can hardly sing a note now (except in the shower), so I’m not sure how I achieved all this by the age of 18.”
He gained an Organ Scholarship at Durham University where he sang in the Cathedral choir and was again a deputy lay clerk. He won a series of awards which took him to Paris to study the organ, before being appointed Fellow in Music at St Hild & St Bede College, Durham and its Director of Chapel Music. - “ I never had to think about money or work until one day it all stopped — when Mrs Thatcher began to clamp down on universities (and freeloaders like me, I suppose). I had expected to get an academic job — but there were none available; redundancies were the order of the day.”
He landed a post as Director of Music at a girls’ boarding school near Hitchin; “…..I hated it. I had not expected to meet children at a school who did not like music. Although I made some long-term friends, I gave up the job as soon as was honourable and moved to London. I realised I had to be creative.”
William and his wife Sally arrived in London (living in Battersea) and he applied for the job at St Barnabas.
“There wasn’t really a choir when I started - there was a small group of children (maybe three or four) and some adults. But I met Ian Hubbard who was the honorary curate and was suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was in a very bad way. He told me he wanted to write down some music and needed an amanuensis. Reluctantly, I agreed to help him. What flowed out from his pen was remarkable. Initially I thought I could easily copy and emulate his music style; but I soon realised he was a tunesmith. We gathered some parish children together and expanded the choir — using Ian’s music as the attraction. Some of the children could see Ian was unwell and so, out of sympathy, they sang his music privately (with me) for Ian to hear. We often went to people’s houses to meet and sing. Eventually this trickled into the choir and it started to grow rapidly. Ian recovered and left to become a curate in Battersea”.
(When I celebrated 30 years as Director of Music at St Barnabas’s Church last November, we sang one of Ian’s pieces; it seemed poignant and logical to do so. Ian came to hear the performances at Harvest and he was deeply touched.)
Then in 1992 the fire burned down the church with all the choir’s music and mine going up in smoke. The tragedy gave the choir great solidarity. We knew we had a mission to carry on with business as usual and it gave us great determination. We also knew we had a role to play in the church’s rebuilding. Around the time the church burned down, Gavin Moralee, Head Chorister, won the Choirboy of the Year award. We raised funds for new music, made recordings, broadcasts, sang concerts and had a crack team of about 12 choristers who went round the country with me giving concerts.
For William, whose wife, Sally, was expecting their first child, it also provided a challenge for longer-term plans. Having considered testing a vocation in the church, some of the trauma of the fire and the uncharitable hostility from some of the community to the plans for the new design caused a rethink of any such ideas, redoubling instead his efforts to rebuild the church as part of the parish project team.
He recalls “…Fortunately, the organ was insured as a separate item, for £200,000 and our rebuilding project Director, Keith Jackson, was adamant we should replace what was lost. I thought it would be a good idea to get the organ builder (Ken Tickell), stained glass artist (Caroline Swash), the architects (HOK) and furniture maker (Luke Hughes) together to discuss how the organ project might work; naturally, everyone had different ideas, but we managed to pull together the materiality: the church woodwork is made of waxed oak, the organ of oiled American oak — the finish is quite similar, despite the differences in the timber. The furniture maker included polished steel uprights in the choirstalls and altar; the organ has tin pipework — again, different materials, similar effect; the terra cotta floor and brickwork was reflected in the flamed copper pipework of the largest pipes. The organ’s pipe shades follow the rhythm of Caroline’s windows — and she introduced gold into the windows at about the same point as the organ builder uses gold leaf for the case pipes. Having worked on several large-scale projects since then, I realise now that getting the church fittings 'through designed’ was something of a triumph. It was a very exciting project — even though it raised hackles for some. It taught me a lot and has set me on a path for my career.”
“Since then we have recorded more CD’s and these have financed the choir, paying for the robes and replacement music. We have had several choir tours — two to Italy and one to Germany. A highlight was singing at a service at Bach’s church: the Thomaskirche in Leipzig; we asked if we should sing Bach; they said ‘please don’t; everyone else does’; so we sang some of our wn music and Eric Whitacre’s ‘Sleep' round Bach’s grave. It was genuinely moving”.
Under William’s baton the choir has reached almost a hundred members, today there are nearer seventy, still making it the largest choir in the Diocese of Southwark and one of the largest in the UK. Interestingly, there are no auditions for admission - loyalty is the key. He says -. I love the choir. They work hard and can sing wonderfully.
William, of course has a number of ‘day jobs’. His famous performance of Widor’s Toccata in F was recorded at St Barnabas, soon after the organ was built “… I was told that unless I played Widor’s Toccata in 5 minutes flat, it would not be broadcast (as it wold be too long for Classic FM); so we divided out the number of bars by 5 minutes and set the metronome accordingly. That’s why it is so fast … I’m slightly ashamed of this, but I’m grateful for the royalties and am not complaining. I tell the students at the Royal Academy of Music not to play so fast....”
William is also Organ Curator at three concert halls: the Royal Festival Hall, Reading Town Hall and De Montfort Hall, Leicester. He also oversaw the restoration of the historic organ in Christ’s Chapel:
“The RFH organ was in a poor shape and was unreliable. Southbank Centre had left the role of Organ Curator lapse— but I opened the organ one day to play a concerto, only to discover that someone had poured two pints of beer into the instrument during a pop festival. That prompted my appointment.
The Chapel organ is a very important instrument; it dates from 1760 and is by George England. In the late 1960s it had been treated very badly during a rebuild and modernised almost beyond recognition to conform with the burgeoning fashion of neo-classicism. When the chapel heating system suffered a major problem in December 1999 through to January 2000, the excessive, unregulated heating, almost destroyed the organ, warping the soundboards and wooden pipework — which split. We had a conference with the directors of music at the Foundation schools and agreed a way forward to restore its historic credentials whilst enabling it to play a wide range of music. It is one of the finest instruments anywhere.
We collated all the existing pipework and studied its provenance and what had happened to it between 1760 and 1969. Fortunately, it was clear what had happened. We also studied St George’s Gravesend, also built by George England (the organ is alas, a ruin) and Danson Mansion. These surviving examples showed us how the organ could and should be restored. We were also working on the organ at Christ Church, Spitalfields at a similar time — or planning the restoration at least. That dates from 1735 and is by Richard Bridge. England was his foreman and used many of his techniques to build his own organs in his relatively short-lived career”.
Asked what he does in his spare time he replies that he also composes. “….I have had a work recorded and performed. Its called 'Six Variationen uber uni tema di Vincent Youmans’. Someone cruelly pointed out that my command of languages was poor. I think they missed the fact that it is supposed to be a joke — it is a series of variations on 'Tea for Two’. I’m grateful that Dame Gillian Weir recorded it at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.”
“I’m also writing a book on the history of the British organ, its sound and its music. I think the Royal Academy of Music is to make me a Research Fellow to help me complete the work. When I've finished it, I’ll take up some hobbies again...”
Asked where he felt he had performed his most memorable concerts he says:
“That’s a difficult one but I would mention appearances at the Royal Festival Hall and at the Royal Albert Hall; and to be in the organ loft of King’s College Cambridge is like being half way to heaven - it’s the closest you can get to that divine fan vaulting. I have greatly enjoyed my visits to play in Australia and New Zealand and I can quite see why people emigrate there! “
And William’s Desert Island Discs choice?
“Bach’s Art of Fugue, St Matthew Passion, the complete organ works, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Bruckner 6, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphonie, and the works of ABBA for Saturday night entertainment!”
Court Lane Gardens is considered to be one of the prime areas to live in in Dulwich but it’s unique aspect, the houses set back behind a tree lined open space, was not the original plan, and came about more by accident than design. The builder, Arthur Bendall, was one of the more successful Edwardian developers in Dulwich (he built his own large house at ‘Roxburgh’, No 124 Court Lane). His first development was in Turney Road and he moved to Court Lane in 1903 to build the 44 house Desenfans Road development (Field 603) next to the Estate’s own ‘working-class’ housing on Dekker Road. He followed on with the nine pairs of semi-detached houses on the south-west side of Court Lane (Nos 2-36) - built along the backs of the gardens of the large houses in Dulwich Village. He was probably too busy to bother bidding for the Druce Road site (Field 604) which went to a rival builder, Gale Branson, but he was in a prime position for the next site to be developed. In October 1907 he made an offer to take approximately 500 foot of frontage further along Court Lane on both sides, plus part of the site of the old Eastlands House that had been taken back by the Estate to form the southern section of Dovercourt Road.
The details of the development were agreed quickly and a building agreement covering both the Court lane and Dovercourt Road developments was signed in December, the houses on the south-west side of Court Lane were to be valued at £750, on the north-east they were to be £650, and in Dovercourt Road, £600. Shortly afterwards it appears that a member of the Estate’s Board was driving up Court Lane and noticed that the south-west part of the site had three rather good rows of trees on it. He suggested to the Estate Manager that Mr Bendall be asked to push the frontage of his planed houses back a bit in order to retain them, and access the house off a separate ‘carriage drive’ - similar to College Gardens next to the Picture Gallery. Mr Bendall, about to start work, was extremely unhappy and wrote to the Estate saying that although ‘he himself is a lover of tree, he finds that the majority of persons who offer to take houses of the class he is building have a strong objection to trees in front of them and frequently ask for their removal. Many owners complain of the constant expense of clearing leaves from gutters and also damage to the properties from the overflowing of gutters.’
Since the building agreement had already been signed, the Estate were not in no position to force Mr Bendall to do what they wanted so, in the end, they had to agree a compromise where he would push the frontage back to save the trees, and they would build the new access road at its cost and maintain it ‘in perpetuity’. Mr Bendall was still not particularly keen but, after several meetings, he finally accepted that it was the only way forward. At the same time, he persuaded the Estate to increase the value of the houses on the south-west side to £850. The final plans were agreed in April 1908 and work on the road started soon afterwards. The LCC approved the name ‘Court Lane Gardens’ for the new access road in May 1909 and the first houses, Nos 3, 4, 5 and 6 were reported as being ready for occupation on the 10th June. Nos 1 and 2 followed on two weeks later. Most of the leases were taken up by the builder for him to rent out rather than sold to individual purchasers.
The original building agreement included a requirement that the grassed area with the trees should have an unclimbable iron fence on the Court Lane frontage with the traditional posts and bars behind it along the access road. In April 1922 the Surveyor reported that it had been found impossible to keep the ‘plantation’ in front of these houses in good order and he had extended the unclimbable fence all the way round and placed a gate in the centre, to allow the occupiers of the 22 houses access. But this was Dulwich, and the next meeting saw the Chairman saying that he had received letters from several residents objecting to the railings. A year earlier the residents had been up in arms to object to plans to run buses, and possibly trams, along Court Lane. It took until the early 1970s before the P4 started running along the road.
The houses managed to avoid any damage in WW1, though a raid in the early hours of 6th December 1917 saw bombs dropped nearby in the park - by Rosbery Lodge and near the cafe - luckily the latter failed to explode. In WW2, Nos 8 and 9 were destroyed by bombing in the autumn of 1941 but the most serious impact on the road took place at 5.06pm on the afternoon of 6th January 1945 when a V2 rocket landed opposite, on the corner of Dovercourt Road and Court Lane. Unlike the V1 doodlebugs, there was no warning as the engine cut out, just the whip cracking sound of the V2 rocket’s blast wave followed instantaneously by an enormous explosion and a deafening roar. The crater was nearly 70 feet wide and circa 25 feet deep, and 13 of the houses in Court Lane were largely demolished, along with three in Dovercourt Road. All the houses in Court Lane Gardens suffered serious blast damage as did many others nearby. Under the heading of ‘War Damage’, the Estate Minutes noted the Surveyor’s rather low-key report saying ‘I have to report further damage caused by rocket bomb as follows - damage to Court Lane, Court Lane Gardens, Dovercourt Road, Druce Road, Eastlands Crescent, Desenfans Road, Dekker Road, Dulwich Village and the neighbourhood generally’.
The damaged houses were repaired under the War Damage Commission, and only Nos 8 and 9, had to be completely rebuilt. The architect for their reconstruction was Selwyn B Porteous ARIBA, a local architect who practised from his home in Underhill Road. He also rebuilt bomb damaged houses in Burbage Road and the Dulwich Estate Minutes have copies of two letters which give an interesting insight into Austin Vernon, the Estate Architect’s views on how it should be done. Porteous wrote to him saying “I should be obliged if you would give some advice on the general question of design in regard to houses demolished by enemy action……. it would appear to me a pity to slavishly repeat, brick for brick and stone for stone, the somewhat old fashioned and ‘Edwardian’ features of Court Lane Gardens yet uniformity may be considered a more important consideration”. Vernon, a traditionalist, responded pleasantly but firmly “I am proposing to advise the Governors to take each case on its merits and not make a general decision which might allow incongruous buildings to arise and destroy the general harmony.... In the case of Court Lane Gardens, where houses are all similar, the elevations of the new houses should be generally in keeping with the remainder and of similar design but not necessarily brick by brick. I do not want to see a pair of ‘unfriendly’ houses placed in the middle of a uniform crescent’
The Ministry of Supply had taken the ‘plantation’ railings away to help the war effort in 1941 so, in December 1946, the Estate greed to install a chestnut spike fence pending the availability of a replacement metal fence. The Estate had also put up a seat on the pavement on Court Lane - and received a letter of complaint, dated July 1953, from the Camberwell Borough Council saying that the seat had ‘proved a source of obstruction to blind persons using the footway’ The Council suggested the creation of a small inset into the garden on which the seat could be placed. The Estate agreed but made the Council do the work and pay a nominal rent of 1s. It remains today, along with another at the other end, also the location of the Dulwich Society’s 50th Anniversary Memorial Plaque for the V2 explosion across the road.
One of the features of the houses which has now completely disappeared is the 1950s and 60s penchant for converting one of the front rooms into garages. When Nos 8 & 9 were rebuilt with integral garages, the Surveyor noted that this was a positive development and, shortly afterwards, in June 1954, the first conversion of an existing house, No 18, took place. Over the next ten years, nearly half the houses were converted. Work on No 15 was agreed in April 1955, No 12 in July 59, No 10 in February 61, No 16 in March and No 13 in April the same year. No 5 followed in July 63 and No 20 in December 63.
Thanks to detective work by Dulwich local Trevor Moore, the centenary edition of a hitherto anonymous work, Words in Pain, will be published on 7th March. The 1919 edition of the work bore no author’s name because the family wanted to keep private her identity following her tragic death (now explained in an afterword). Trevor not only worked out the author’s identity from clues in the book, but also traced her living descendants, one of whom - Jocelyn Catty - has co-edited the new edition.
Words in Pain represents the collected letters of Olga Jacoby, a writer, thinker and rationalist who wrote them ‘under sentence of death’ due to a terminal heart condition. Born in Hamburg in 1874, she lived in West Hampstead, London, and adopted four children, to the consternation of her social circle.
As well as painting a picture of family life and love, interspersed with clear-headed musings on the nature of illness, loss and death, the letters offer inspiration to those trying to come to terms with dying without religion as a solace.
Jacoby’s adopted children appear in vivid colour:
“I was greatly amused by my boy explaining to me…that even should I die they would not lose me, as they would take my skeleton to keep in a corner of their nursery.”
Her letters reveal a progressive attitude to child-rearing and adoption, as well as a passionate commitment to moral logic and social justice. They show her to be as strong of mind as she was increasingly weak in body, and a woman both of and ahead of her time.
Trevor - who says bringing this powerful, previously anonymous writer out into the light is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the project - has compiled a series of supplementary notes that illuminate for the reader the many literary and socio-historical references peppered throughout the letters. By pure chance he has also located a vibrant portrait of Olga Jacoby that appears on the book’s cover.
Words in Pain is published in hardback by Skyscraper Publications on 7th March 2019