The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2020.
The change to this year’s public holidays in order to commemorate VE Day gives us the opportunity to look back to 8th May 1945 and remind ourselves of what life in Dulwich was like at the end of six years of bitter war in Europe. No doubt the diminishing number of survivors of the Far East campaign will feel aggrieved that once again they have been forgotten by the government’s failure to mark the close of that front and thus the end of World War 2. However, here at home, civilians themselves felt part of the war in Europe with its visits of death, dislocation and destruction.
The last bomb to explode in Dulwich was on March 4th 1945, just 65 days before VE Day. In January 1945 a V2 rocket had exploded in Court Lane killing seven people and injuring a further thirty-six.
So what was life here like? The Journal asked a number of people who were living here at the time to recall their experiences. Some admit to having no memories of it at all. Others, including myself have graphic recollections. The late Anita Brookner, then a sixth former at JAGS recalled in the school magazine that “Peace was celebrated at JAGS, not with fireworks but a crate of oranges. Not with a Victory Parade, but with what amounted to a Christmas revue, and although belated, a Peace Party was a great success.“
In the spring of1945 life was slowly returning to a form of pre-war normality following the gradual lessening of the V1 and V2 attacks as German launch sites were overrun. A glance through the local newspaper files of the period tells us that on the afternoon of Good Friday, over 5000 spectators gathered at Herne Hill Cycling Stadium, now the velodrome, to watch the traditional racing events. Local parks, which had been used as sites for allotments and for both surface and underground air raid shelters were being returned to former use. Evacuated schools and children were being returned to their homes. Former air raid wardens’ posts’ personnel were forming clubs to maintain their wartime camaraderie - Post 60 in Burbage Road and Post 56 at Townley Road successfully continued social activities for many years. The disbanded local Home Guard battalion met at Highwood Barracks in Lordship Lane for dances, whist drives and social evenings and ran football and cricket teams. It was just a matter of waiting until it was all over.
The actual date of VE Day itself was not certain, although by mid- April it was clear it would be soon. On April 6th the British Army’s Sixth Airborne Division had advanced across Germany towards Berlin at a rate of 25 miles in 24 hours. In Germany, destruction was total following Allied carpet bombing and German forces adopting a scorched earth policy in their retreat. In anticipation of victory, a two- day holiday was announced for when VE Day was eventually to be declared. Employers volunteered to pay their staff’s wages for those days and to pay double time for key workers who would work on one of the days only.
Problems began to surface over the owners of properties requisitioned by Camberwell Borough Council wanting to return to their homes which they had abandoned. The Council said that in view of the housing shortage it meant that 8000 people who had their own homes destroyed by bombs were being accommodated in requisitioned houses and they would be re-housed on a priority basis. The Council also noted that of the 40,000 houses in the borough, only 483 were undamaged and that a workforce of 4000 men were carrying out repairs.
As the last days of April 1945 were reached and the remaining V2 launch sites were finally overrun by the Allies, firmer plans were announced for the VE Day celebrations to come, by local councils. All cinemas and dance halls were requested to be open in London and locally there would be a Victory evening held at Peckham Rye when the date of VE Day was finally confirmed. The programme announced that ‘Following a short religious service at 7.30pm there would be community singing led by various Salvation Army bands followed by speeches’.
Happily, when 8th May was declared as VE Day, the rather dismal weather of the preceding couple of weeks cleared and a minor heat wave ensued. Almost every road in Dulwich seems to have lit a bonfire in their street; many children made Adolf Hitler ‘guys’ which were placed in the fire. Thunder flashes were set off and anything combustible was brought from houses and the marks in the roads would show up for years. A bonfire in Goodrich Road got out of control and set fire to a neighbouring tree. The fire was put out by the Fire Brigade ‘who remained to enjoy the street party and joined in the singing and dancing’. Pianos were dragged out into the streets to provide the music, or, in the absence of a piano, radios were turned up to full volume and dance music ‘blared out, long after midnight’. Soon after the celebrations the King and Queen drove through the streets of South London on a 25 miles circular trip. In Dulwich the Australian Imperial Forces cricket team, captained by Australian Test match vice-captain, Lindsay Hassett played the Public Schools Wanderers team on Dulwich Common in one of their Victory Test matches
On a more mundane note, the South London Press continued to publish cookery tips using dried egg as a main ingredient in recipes. In April 1945 the Ministry of Food announced that the preserves ration would be a two pound jar of marmalade per person per month or 1lb of other preserves or a pound of sugar in lieu.
Brian Green remembers
I remember VEDay particularly well. I was 8½ in May 1945 and had been obliged to carry my gas mask in its cardboard box, around for years. Now it would no longer be required. On the bright morning of 8th May I therefore sought to discover what the nose-cone of the gasmask was made from. Armed with a wood chopper I attempted to chop through it and inspect it. I made little impression and soon tired of the exercise. In the afternoon I accompanied my parents to join the crowds gathering in Whitehall. Walking towards Trafalgar Square my eyes caught site of a hawker’s cart on which shone a silver tin miniature trombone. My parents succumbed to my pleas and I marched down Whitehall behind some American GI’s playing my trombone. Later that day I examined it closer and found the words etched on the tin -‘Made in Germany’. The hawker must have kept this pre-war item in stock for many years before he dared put it on sale!
A few days later, I saw in the window of a small jeweller’s shop at Grove Vale, a bronze lapel badge of Winton Churchill superimposed on a V for Victory sign. The price was sixpence, and I bought it. That summer, on holiday at Weymouth I was shocked (even at the age of 8¾) to hear that Winston had lost the 1945 General Election.
Near my home in Glengarry Road, opposite Dulwich Hospital, were a number of bombed houses. The nearest, only two doors away had been damaged by the falling nose cone of a V2 which had exploded in mid-air, crashing through the roof, bringing the top floor down and pinning the two occupants to their bed and injuring them with splinters. Around the corner where Glengarry Road makes a sharp turn, the row of houses on the south side had been badly damaged in 1943 when parachute mines were dropped on Lytcott Grove behind it. This was my ‘playground’ for games of soldiers or spies, amid the burnt beams and rafters.
In one of the street shelters in Glengarry Road, every Sunday morning, a large lady conducted a fresh fish business. I was often despatched there to buy smoked haddock, which by its size I would today better recognise as smoked cod. Nearby, at the corner of Hillsborough Road and Thorncombe Road was a large bomb site caused during the Blitz. For the remainder of the war it served as a temporary brick-walled reservoir for use of the fire brigade.
Another area of play were the grounds of Bessemer Grange on one side of Green Dale and the ruins of Cleeve Hall on the other. In the former was a large lake with a small island with a man-made cave which later, when the lake froze over, I was able to explore. In the overgrown and abandoned Cleeve Hill garden, which covered several acres, I discovered a mysterious great stone fountain. It was on an earlier expedition to Green Dale, albeit this time in the company of my father, that I witnessed a V1 doodle-bug’s engine cut out above Dulwich Hospital and it exploded in one of the fields beside Green Dale.
Like most other London roads, Glengarry Road had its Victory street party after VJDay was announced. A frequent feature was a fancy-dress parade. I was dressed as a wartime ‘Bevin boy’.
Robert Worley remembers
Having been born in Dulwich in 1934, I spent most of the wartime years on the south coast near Bognor Regis, courtesy of some well-heeled relatives. Although King George Vth is reputed to have said, ‘Bugger Bognor’, I was very content to have a grandstand view of D-Day before returning to London in 1945 to take up a place at Alleyn’s School, having attended a C of E primary school and passed the 11plus examination. And I was a choir boy at the local Anglo Catholic church, St Wilfred’s. And a keen member of the Wolf Cubs. What a good little boy, I hear you say!
The state of Dulwich in 1945 came as quite a shock. Clearly the Luftwaffe had its eye on this area of south London. Our family home in Dovercourt Road had been hit by incendiary bombs and it was only though prompt action by the LCC Fire Brigade that our house survived..
As a temporary measure, I was sent to Dulwich Hamlet school before taking up my place at Alleyn’s in September 1945. Before gaining entrance, I was interviewed by the then Headmaster, Mr Allison and kitted out in my school uniform and sports kit at the school shop, managed by the appropriately named, Mr Belt. All I can recall of those days was, ‘He will grow into it’. When I looked in the mirror on my return home, my dark blue raincoat reached down to my ankles. I looked like a junior member of the German SS!
The War may have ended but everything was rationed and scarce. During the school holidays, I was sent on errands. Sometimes it was to the Village Dairy where Mr Tomsett presided or Bartley’s for greengrocery or United Dairies for milk and groceries. At other times, I was despatched to Dulwich Library to the Alleyn Farm Dairy in the hope of obtaining one or two Lyons individual pies - or even some iced buns. Occasionally, I would creep into the the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society to collect my ‘Divi’ in the form of metal discs. My pocket money at Alleyn’s was four shillings a week. By Friday, I usually had two pence left which I invested in a Lyon’s ‘Polar-maid’ ice cream in the school buttery.
A visit to Rumsey’s the chemist in the Village was a treat. I can still recall the wonderful aroma of Yardley soaps and the distinctive packaging of posh chemist items such as Kent combs and Mason Pearson hair brushes - with Mr Rumsey sporting an Alleyn Old Boy tie and ‘half-moon’ specs. But the village shop that attracted me most was Salkeld’s second hand book shop. It was owned by an individual who resembled Wilfrid Bramble, aka TV’s ‘Steptoe’. Here I spent hours searching out those thick ‘William’ books and of course Rupert annuals. Throughout the wartime years, a Rupert Annual was my one Christmas present. And Mr Salkeld managed to obtain some rare specimens when Rupert was initially a brown bear and wore a blue jersey. I still treasure my collection of Rupert books and I am proud to be a member of ‘The Followers of Rupert’ This year, Rupert will celebrate his 100th birthday in the Daily Express. I shall be wearing my distinctive yellow check scarf and drink a toast to Rupert, Bill Badger, Algy Pug and their pals in Nutwood
Now 85 years of age, I look back to those far-off days immediately following the War as some of the happiest. I count myself fortunate in being brought up by loving parents - kept safe during five years of total war and spending my youth in a unique London suburb in a more innocent and less aggressive age. But I still haven’t decided what to do when I grow up!
Jim Hammer remembers
I was 16 and living in Allison Grove and surprisingly have absolutely no recollection of VE Day - except perhaps a wireless relay of Mall crowds shouting, ‘We want the King’. Perhaps my parents just felt relieved that it was over rather than celebratory. My father had lost his business which had traded with Europe and his parents had been killed by a direct hit during a daylight raid in 1941 My own parents also had had a narrow escape. For my aunts, it meant one of them no longer had to drive ambulances through the blitz and the blackout, or another, a consular official, no longer being cut off from home in Europe or for the third as someone bombed out, no longer needing to volunteer to help at canteens in London or even my mother providing evening refreshments to the troops manning the AA guns at the gunsite at the top of Grange Lane or the rocket battery in the fields between the golf course and Cox’s Walk. For my father there was no more Home Guard.
At times the intervals between the wail of the air raid warning and the steady ‘all clear’, and then back again, had been so frequent that I had made a sliding panel (which I recently found) which showed either “thick” (red) or “clear”(green) - possibly useful if anyone had remembered to change it.
By 1945 we had got used to no longer fearing the doodlebug’s engine cutting out and the terrifying silence until the explosion. Was this one for us ? The V1 that destroyed the two houses that stood where Frank Dixon Way joins College Road was the nearest to us and the pervasive smell of fragmented ceiling plaster, the unexpected crunch of broken glass and doors in odd places remain unforgettable. By then too we had got used to no longer hosting barrage balloons in the parks and fields of Dulwich as they had been moved to the coast in the hope of intercepting V1’s, leaving Kent, Sussex and Surrey free for the fighters’ dangerous job of trying to shoot down a ton of flying high explosives. It was also a relief no longer being aware of the very remote chance of being killed, or worse, seriously injured by a V2. And gradually bombed houses such as those across the road or The Grange which had provided our adventure playgrounds would be demolished or rebuilt.
Whilst I remember exactly where I was when I learned of Hiroshima, VJ Day is a complete blank. My parents, whose lives had been turned upside down for the second time in 25 years just wanted to get on with their normal lives. But I think that we were all conscious that so many others had in every sense lost so much more and that we had been fortunate to have survived.
There have been many books on the Armenian genocide, some prompted by the centenary in 2015. Susan Pattie, a Dulwich resident, who is Director of the Armenian Institute in London but has also been Director of the Armenian Museum of America in Massachusetts, has now published a study of the Armenian survivors of the genocide who together with others from the Armenian diaspora, joined French and British soldiers to fight the Ottomans in the Middle East. Susan recently gave a talk on her book at St Barnabas Church. The book is based primarily on a collection of memoirs of legionnaires, most of which were written in Armenian and many never previously published. The legionnaires fought partly seeking revenge for the death of their relatives and friends and destruction of their towns and villages, but also with the objective of re-establishing an Armenian community and ideally an independent or at least autonomous state in the formerly Armenian provinces of eastern Turkey, specifically in coastal Cilicia, where the genocide had been most complete.
The Armenian legion was established as a component of the French Foreign Legion, with French senior officers and was assembled and trained in Cyprus, which had been captured by the British from the Ottomans in 1878 and incorporated into the British empire in 1914. The Armenian brigades then fought with General Allenby’s British army in Palestine, participating in the victory over Ottoman and German forces at the battle of Arara, near Nablus in September 1918. They then moved to Cilicia, where they were part of the French led occupying force. At the Paris Peace Conference, the Armenian National Delegation, led by Boghos Nubar, argued that the six eastern provinces of Turkey should become part of an independent Armenian state (an independent Armenian state had already been established in the Caucasus under the leadership of the Armenian nationalist Dashnak party, though this was to be incorporated in Soviet Russia after a Soviet occupation in 1920)
The American president, Woodrow Wilson, had proposed an autonomous Armenian state in Cicilia and in fact this provision was included in the treaty of Sevres of 1920. The French then demobilised the Armenian legion. However, the government of the new Turkish republic refused to endorse the Treaty and with the withdrawal of first British and then French forces, Cilicia together with the other ‘Armenian’ provinces of eastern Turkey were incorporated into the Turkish republic. Neither the US, the French or the British were interested in taking on a League of Nations mandate for Cilicia, the French taking the mandates for Syria and Lebanon, the British taking the mandates for Palestine and Transjordan. The US, who rejected Wilson’s League of Nations, returned to their pre-war isolationism. This explains why the Armenian legionnaires felt betrayed. From the Turkish nationalist perspective, the Armenians had supported their enemies, and consequently it is perhaps not surprising that many were obliged to flee their homeland, in some cases for the second time. The Armenian diaspora, whether in America, Cyprus, Syria or the Lebanon, has however maintained a healthy diasporic culture and memory, and Pattie, who has done much to contribute to the diaspora, has in this book, compiled not just a chronicle of the Armenian legion, but has produced a fascinating compendium of images - some 158 in total.The book is in effect a portable exhibition - most welcomed no doubt by the diaspora but also of great value to anyone interested in Armenian history or of the aftermath of the First World War.
The Armenian Legionnaires by Susan Pattie I B Tauris £25
Most exceptional records in winter tend to be weather related so a mild wet winter produces very few. A Buzzard has taken up residence in Sydenham Hill woods which is perhaps not exceptional as they have become widespread throughout southern England. It is however thought to be a female and should a mate appear it is not impossible that they should breed here. Firecrests have once more been recorded and our gardens that have had berries have been visited by Redwings. Euro wintering Blackcaps are once more unexpected visitors to our garden feeders with their brown capped females which are less easy to identify. Stephen Hepburn has had a very friendly hen Pheasant in his garden which he hopes did not fall prey to a fox.
Jill Alexander has kindly passed me a copy of an article written by Mathew Frith who is Director of Conservation for the London Wildlife Trust and with whom I have made contact. He had received details from the Branscombe family of records made by the late Professor Peter Branscombe while he was a pupil at Dulwich College during the terrible winter of 1947. I am old enough to remember this winter vividly though not to birdwatch. Apart from the massive falls of snow and floods my memory was of frozen cold feet and chilblains from toasting them in front of a coal fire as there was no central heating. My older birdwatching friends told me of picking up huge numbers of dead Redwings at the time.
Although I cannot reproduce Mathew’s paper here it is interesting to compare what appeared in this exceptional winter with what we experience in these warmer times when I doubt if local doctors ever see a chilblain. Branscombe recorded fifty bird species over that winter with flocks of finches the most numerous of which being up to three hundred Linnets but also many Chaffinches, Bullfinches and possibly Redpolls. He also records Rooks which roosted at the college but whose numbers dropped in the winter. The main bird of prey was the Kestrel and exceptionally he recorded between ten and twenty on one day. Kestrels have now almost disappeared, perhaps in the wake of the House Sparrows which according to local pellet analysis was a big element of their prey, but they have been replaced by Sparrow Hawks which Branscombe has not mentioned.
It is difficult to imagine that we could ever see this number of Finches even if the winter were to turn suddenly very cold (the 1947 winter did not start till 20th January). Linnets are never seen here now, Bullfinches are occasional and Chaffinch numbers are small with the national populations of these birds all having fallen markedly. Most surprisingly he records Hawfinches and Marsh Tits which previously existed here in significant numbers and appear to have been driven out by the hard weather of that year, never to return. One assumes however that many of the common species to us such as Robins and Blackbirds were all seen although it was known that numbers everywhere were impacted by the excessive cold.
In his records he did have the occasional exception the most notable being a Woodlark on the border of the golf course that gave him a very good view. This is a very uncommon bird with a song of exceptional musicality whose nearest breeding sites are the Surrey heaths beyond Guildford. I don’t know of any other record of a Woodlark being seen in Dulwich.
The origin of our rather intrusive Parakeets appears to be settled and the myth that they were escapes from a film set of the Indian Queen in Elstree has been dispelled. The general view is that the population is the result of multiple releases and escapes from captivity possibly exacerbated by a Psittacosis health scare some years ago. I noted that they were abundant in Lisbon last year and I have heard their unmissable calls in television outside broadcasts from other European cities, so we are not unique. Most cage bird escapes such as Budgerigars perish but these south Asian birds have found a European niche. The problem of non-native birds that settle is that they are potentially competitors to our indigenous species, Parakeets can empty a full garden feeder in a day to the detriment of our tits and finches and also compete for nest holes much needed by Nuthatches and Starlings. Time will tell if we can safely accommodate these birds.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567 email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Kentucky Coffee Tree, Gymnocladus dioicus, is a rare tree, remarkable for the size of its leaves and the stoutness of its twigs. There are two examples in Dulwich, one in the Picture Gallery garden (adjoining College Gardens), the other in Dulwich Park (set back from the north-eastern section of College Drive). There is also a good example in Brockwell Park, towards the old Hall at the top of the hill, now a café.
The huge size of the leaves - up to a yard long - makes them one of the largest of all broad-leaved trees. Their size is not immediately obvious, however, because they are doubly compound i.e. each leaf is divided into primary segments which are themselves divided into secondary segments. In the case of the Kentucky Coffee Tree there can be 140 leaflets in a single leaf. Leaves appear late with the leaflets flushing bright pink at first. Their autumn colour is a clear bright yellow. Leaf fall is early and it is this short leafy season, coupled with the fact that the foliage even when present is mainly towards the end of the branches, that gives rise to the first part of its scientific name: Gymnocladus means ‘bare branch’.
The stout twigs are best observed during the long leafless period, when the whole tree takes on a rather gaunt appearance. They are among the stoutest of all broad- leaved trees, particularly when account is taken of their solid pith - most trees with thick twigs, the walnut for example, have chambered pith. After leaf fall, and before the winter winds do their work, many of the yard- long needle-like leaf stalks still remain attached to the twig, which can give the tree a rather a rather crazed and spiky appearance.
The tree is native to rich woodlands in central North America, especially Kentucky. It rarely flowers in our relatively cold climate. The fruit is a pod, quite modest in size for a leguminous tree. The seeds were used by early European settlers as a coffee substitute, hence the common name. A scan of websites reveals that the opinions of those who have tried it in recent times range from “like coffee with a touch of chocolate” to “like espresso bitter” and “akin to mud”.
Several new trees have been planted in Dulwich Park recently. They include -
College Gate entrance
- Quercus imbricaria (shingle oak)
- Ulmus lutece (disease resistant Elm clone of Ulmus glabra /minor)
- Tilia henryana (Henry’s Lime)
- Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)
- Paulownia tomentosa (Foxglove Tree)
- Malus domestica ‘Discovery’
- Pyrus communis ‘Concorde’
- Prunus domestica ‘Victoria’
- Prunus armeniaca ‘Alfred’
- Prunus avium ‘Stella’
- Prunus domestica 'Hauszwitche' x 3
- Cercis canadensis (Eastern red bud)
- Acer bugerianum (Trident maple)
- Albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree)
- Aralia elata (Japanese angelica tree)
- Clerodendrum trichotomum (Harlequin glorybower)
Dulwich Grove is the now little-known name given to a once delightful corner on the edge of Dulwich. Alas, today the site it once occupied is an assortment of the weed infested concrete of a former pub car park where shady deals were once hatched by criminals. In different times, although not altogether happier ones, the 1920’s pub, the ghost of which still stands at the corner of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane, did, during World War 2, play host to ex-pat young Dutch intelligence operatives and gave them some relief from their preparations for parachuting into Nazi occupied Holland. The Grove Tavern’s blind pianist who once played for them, has gone down in Dutch wartime mythology.
In the late eighteenth century Dulwich Grove was the home of Dr William Glennie’s academy, made famous for its part in the education of the poet Lord Byron. It was earlier an inn named The Green Man and the Academy would occupy the same buildings. The Green Man was opened by London vintner John Cox in 1690. The enterprising Mr Cox obtained permission from Alleyn’s College in 1704 to create a ‘walk’ though the woods opposite, to the top of Sydenham Hill, perhaps to provide a direct access to the famous Sydenham Wells (once located at the foot of present day Sydenham Wells Park) or to allow his customers to gain the hill-top’s still spectacular viewpoint. Cox’s Walk survives today, a lovely oak-lined avenue.
The inn passed down to John’s son, William, who also possessed an entrepreneurial streak. In 1740, a well he had sunk the previous year to provide a better water supply to the inn in the absence of any nearby spring, was examined by a visiting Cambridge University professor of botany. The scientist analyzed the water which by then had filled the well and declared that the water had beneficial purgative properties, similar to the well-known wells over the hill at Sydenham. Naturally William Cox saw the opportunity now presented to him and seized it with both hands, placing an extensive notice announcing the numerous benefits the body might obtain by taking the waters from the well in The Daily Advertiser in 1744.Although the newly marketed Dulwich Wells would not rise to enjoy the fame of those at Sydenham, nevertheless, The Green Man became fashionable. In 1748 it was noted in the gossip columns of the day as a good venue for breakfasts and balls and that the proprietor had ‘lately built a handsome room on one end of the bowling green for breakfasts, dancing and entertainments.’
Richard Randall, the eligible bachelor organist, appointed to the College in 1762, several times repaired there, usually in the company of the chaplain, the Revd. William Swanne. The last visit by Randall was in May 1772 by which time the newly built Denmark Hall, an assembly room, was the fashionable place to be. Clearly the popularity of The Green Man was fading and reason might well have been the death of William Cox, obliging his widow Elizabeth to assign the lease of the inn. The new lessee, a wine merchant soon sold on the remainder of the lease to Charles Maxwell who gave it the name of Dulwich Grove or the Grove House.
Richard Randall, In his diary for the year 1782, wrote that on April 2nd that the cost of his wedding dinner at the Grove House was £17. Had the old inn become a wedding venue? Charles Maxwell’s tenure ended in the early 1790’s and the former inn was apparently temporarily rented by Lord Thurlow while his new house was being built nearby, close to Knight ‘s Hill and now the site of Elmcourt School. The entire establishment comprising eight acres of land, the inn and its stables and outbuildings was then acquired by Dr William Glennie (1761-1828) for a private academy. Aberdeen- born William Glennie would continue to run his school until his retirement in 1825 when he went to Sandgate to live with the eldest of his twelve sons.
Dr Glennie’s Academy
William Glennie was the son of John Glennie, who held a high post at the university of Aberdeen,and married Mary Gardiner of Edinburgh in 1794 at St Mary Magdalene, Richmond, Surrey. Glennie seems not only to have been a highly respected teacher but also well-connected in London society and literary circles, attracting a privileged-pupil base including Lord Holland’s son as well as Byron. The Glennie home at Dulwich Grove was also a magnet for writers and poets like Leigh Hunt, Thomas Moore and Thomas Campbell and artists like David Wilkie, who attended his weekend musical and literary gatherings.
All of the Glennies’ twelve sons were born at Dulwich Grove and attended their father’s school, several showing talent in art. This was no doubt due to having the respected artist Samuel Prout teaching the subject. Prout was remembered by his pupils for taking them for outdoor sketching classes on one day a week when the weather was fine. One of the sons, Arthur, took up painting professionally. The ethos of the school seems to have been directed towards fostering its pupils’ future self-reliance. The dare-devil boldness of Byron appears to have been shared by most of Glennie’s sons in their quest for adventure, added to which were the qualities of determination and fortitude. Was Dulwich Grove something of an early example of Gordonstoun?
The eldest son was the Revd John David Glennie MA (1795-1874). His first preferment was as first perpetual curate of St Paul’s Church, Sandgate near Folkstone Kent which was a chapel of ease built in 1822. The Revd John David Glennie had a house at Sandgate and it was to this house that his father retired to in 1825 and where he died in 1828. John remained there until 1836, going on to become Secretary of the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge), the world’s oldest Anglican mission organisation. He was then minister at Park Street Chapel, Mayfair. According to the 1861 census the Revd John David Glennie and his family were living at 51 Green Street, Mayfair.
George Ross Glennie (1798-1816)
From the Naval Chronicle of 1816 - Deaths. On 29th August off Algiers of wounds received on 27th. Mr George Ross Glennie, Midshipman of HMS Granicus, son of Dr William Glennie of Dulwich aged 18 years. The Allied bombardment of Algiers was in response to attacks on British shipping by Barbary Coast pirates. Casualties in the British naval squadron were 128 killed and 690 wounded.
The Mexican Adventurers
William Glennie (1797-1856) was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and was also an engineer. In 1824, and when on half-pay, he undertook on behalf of the British United Mining Company to head an expedition to Mexico to rework the Real del Monte silver mine. The expedition was made up of a large contingent of Cornish miners, some who brought their families, and whose descendants remain in Mexico to this day. Loaded with 1500 tons of mining equipment the expedition, accommodated in two ships, had a difficult passage. One account says the ship carrying William Glennie and two of his younger brothers, Frederick then aged 15 and Robert, aged 19 was wrecked off Cuba, however the expedition finally landed men and equipment in Mexico safely. There followed a difficult journey from the coast to the mountains and a number of the expedition succumbed to yellow fever.
William Glennie may have been employed by the British Foreign Office as a spy to report on the emergent Mexico’s attitude to Britain (Mexico had gained independence from Spain in 1821) or he decided to act in an unofficial capacity to protect British mining interests. He made a number of expeditions around the country during his years in Mexico and some of these may have formed the basis of his later report delivered personally to Lord Palmerston. One such trip took place in 1827 when William and Frederick Glennie climbed the volcano Popocatepetl and kept a journal of their journey.
William passed his responsibilities as agent for the mining company on to his brother Robert when he left Mexico in 1834. That December, at the request of the directors of the British United Mining Association he delivered by hand a report of his spying activities to the Foreign Office in London for the personal attention of Lord Palmerston. What Glennie claimed Palmerston wanted was information on the best way to respond in the event of the new Mexican government being unfavorable to Britain. As a naval officer, Glennie’s report was full of practical options for the British government to consider, from the blockading of ports to seizing assets as well as advice on an outright military assault. Glennie even included a sketch of the strategic fort of St Juan de Ulua, which commanded the entrance to Veracruz. He recommended seizing Yucatan with its valuable products of dyes and wax, noting that the geography of Yucatan meant it could easily be seized from the sea.
Glennie said “In the event of the obstinacy or folly of the Mexican Government rendering the above measures (military action) unavoidable and keeping in mind the general unhealthy climate of the coast of Mexico, the Directors feel it their duty to submit to Lord Palmerston’s consideration, whether the black troops in the West Indies might not be employed to advantage….if such a measure should be found necessary.”
The British government may well have rewarded the Glennie brothers in Mexico - by retaining William on naval half-pay for years and rewarding Frederick with the role of the office of British Consul in Mexico City.
By 1841 William Glennie was listed in the census as a civil engineer living in Gloucestershire with his wife Elizabeth and their four children. In 1845 he became the resident engineer of the South Devon Railway. He worked briefly with Brunel in the construction on the line from Exeter to Plymouth where he was a specialist on bridge-building. In 1851 he and his family were living in Plymouth and he was still listed as a RN lieutenant on half pay. He died in Stoke Damerell in 1856.
Frederick Glennie (1808-1872) ultimately became HM Consul in Mexico.
According to his granddaughter, Frederick Glennie and his brother Robert continued managing the Real Del Monte Company for some time after the departure of William Glennie, “ but their sporting proclivities led them to absent themselves for a twelve month from the work during which time they wandered, shooting in the mountains and forest with an Indian servant. Their posts having been filled up on their return they obtained employment under wealthy Mexicans near Guanajuato managing mines and landed property. They did so successfully for their employers and for themselves, as both brothers made considerable fortunes.”
The mining towns in Mexico were notoriously rough and dangerous but the brothers were clearly made of sterner stuff and continued in the mining business. While living in Mexico City in 1847 Frederick, now married, found himself in the middle of the Mexico -American war following America’s annexation of Texas. According to Frederick Glennie’s daughter’s account, both Captain Robert E Lee and Lieutenant Pierre Beauregard, who would be future generals in the American Civil War, were billeted at Frederick Glennie’s house and they remained family friends all their lives.
In 1850 Frederick returned to England for a short visit. He sailed back on the maiden voyage of the steamship RMS Amazon. Due to the ship’s engine over-heating, the wooden ship caught fire and only 58 out of 160 passengers and crew survived, Frederick Glennie among them. He was able to give a graphic account to the press of his ordeal. Soon after his return to Mexico, at the wish of British residents of Mexico City who had petitioned the Foreign Office, he was appointed British Consul to Mexico. His troubles were not over however, his enthusiasm for art (which he shared with some of his brothers) led him to invest in land near Florence where he hoped to retire and study art but the deal turned sour, as did a further purchase of land in Mexico in partnership with his brother Robert and another investor.
Robert Gavin Glennie (1805-1872) Succeeded his brother William as agent for the United Mining Company until he took the leave of absence noted. He died in Guanajuato where he had settled and raised a family, marrying Fernanda del Val. He continued managing mines in the rich silver mining area.
Arthur Glennie (1803-1893)
It took Arthur Glennie some time to settle down into the career for which he was best suited. Although trained in art by Samuel Prout (1753-1852) at his father’s school, Arthur initially took up a business career and this might have continued if a bout of ill-health had not interrupted it and he took up art again, more as a therapy towards his recovery. Prout, however, seems to have continued to keep an eye on young Arthur and encouraged him to take up art as a profession rather than for amusement. Arthur was also motivated by the artist William Harvell who had taken a tour of Italy in 1827, painting in Florence, Rome and Naples. Like Harvell, Arthur Glennie painted in water colours and also found the subject matter of Italy inspirational, indeed he would spend much of his life there and most of the 400 pictures he exhibited at the Old Water Colour Society’s summer and winter exhibitions were Italian subjects. Glennie painted mainly landscapes in which he employed atmospheric effects. It seems likely that meteorology was also included in Dr Glennie’s Academy curriculum as two other brothers devoted much time to keeping weather records.
Arthur Glennie was an associate member of the Old Water Colour Society at the age of 34 and went on to teach painting at Sidmouth and at Penzance but started living in Rome from 1846, making it his permanent home in 1855. In 1858 Glennie received full membership of The Old Water Colour Society. In 1865 he married Anne Sophie Parker who was some twenty-eight years his junior and they spent much time thereafter in the Bay of Naples but retaining their Rome home.
The Australian Adventurers
James Glennie 1800-1876)
In 1823, James Glennie, at the invitation of Francis Forbes a distinguished lawyer who had been appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, accompanied Forbes and his family to Australia on the convict transport ship Guildford with 159 prisoners and their guard, a detachment of the 40th Regiment. It was an eventful passage, requiring pumps to be working day and night as far as Tenerife. The Guildford proceeded to Rio de Janeiro where it remained two months for repairs to be made. The party finally arrived in Sydney in March 1824.
James Glennie received a land grant of 2080 acres of land at Falbrook, on a crossing point of the Hunter River near the town of Singleton 122 miles north of Sydney. To clear and work the grant he was assigned convict labour and was supplied from Government Stores for six months to ensure the enterprise’s success. Glennie lost no time in naming his new home Dulwich. Nearby can be found the village of Camberwell. There was even an inn called The Greyhound on land north of Glennie’s property, surely too much of a coincidence for Glennie not to have a hand in their naming. Initially the farm he built consisted of a rough slab hut next to the creek that would later bear his name.
In 1824 the famous expedition led by explorer and botanist Alan Cunningham to survey the unknown hinterland of the mountain pass leading to Liverpool Plains set out from Glennie’s Dulwich farm. Four years later the census reveals that twenty-one convicts remained assigned to him and the station had four horses and 604 head of cattle and 673 sheep.
Life in those early days of Australia was very similar to that of the Wild West. While some settlers attempted friendship with the indigenous population of aborigines whose land was being thus invaded, others warned against this practice claiming it only emboldened the aborigines to steal cattle. Fourteen years after his arrival, the now married James Glennie, in a letter to another settler complained of the actions of a local stockman who used the friendly approach which Glennie claimed led to several workers being killed in confrontations on nearby stations. Glennie himself advised and pursued a policy of forcefully preventing any aborigines entering his land holding and urged for a detachment of mounted police to be stationed in the area. He offered to provision such a force at contract prices and indeed did become a government contractor supplying rations and forage for the mounted police and surveyors..
Glennie sold his station in 1845 for £2500. By then it covered an area of 3000 acres, all fenced with a considerable portion cleared. He moved to the Richmond River where he set up a new farm. Twenty years later he moved to Queensland where he died near Gladstone in 1876.
Alfred Glennie (1811-1870)
Alfred, then aged 17, arrived in Australia as a free settler aboard the convict ship Marquis of Huntley in January 1828 and joined his brother, James, at his farm Dulwich. That June, the teenager was appointed clerk o the local bench of magistrates. Two years later when another brother, Henry arrived at Singleton, Alfred promptly courted his brother’s future wife’s sister, Anne Ferris. Thus the two brothers married the two sisters, Henry in 1833 and Alfred in 1836. and a couple of years later Alfred and Anne purchased 324 acres on the Allyn River, East Gresford. He grew crops and raised sheep and cattle and had a vineyard, something of a surprise considering his attitude toward temperance in later life! He named his farm ‘Glenthorne’. It was there that he decided to take Holy Orders in the Anglican church and was appointed to the Brisbane Water (Gosford) parish from 1850-1865. He is remembered for both the detailed weather records he kept while he was farming in the Hunter valley and which might now play a part in studying climate change in Australia, and for his Journal which records his life as a priest in a large, scattered parish forty five miles from Sydney. Interestingly, another brother Alexander, who was also a priest, kept detailed weather records during his years as a minister in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Dr Henry Glennie (1807-1880) studied medicine and qualified as a surgeon at Edinburgh University. He arrived in Australia aboard the convict ship Royal Admiral in May 1832. Among the passengers were three sisters, Eizabeth, Anne and Miss H Ferris. Following what was clearly a ship’s romance, he married Elizabeth the following year. Initially he lived with his brother John but following his marriage he settled in nearby Singleton, remaining there all his life.
In 1836 a Quaker pioneer wrote “ We proceeded along the south side of the Hunter to Patrick Plains, which is an extensive tract, partially cleared, and having several scattered houses upon it. At the western extremity there is a ford across the river and the rudiments of a town called Darlington consisting of a store, two public-houses, some smaller houses and a few huts. Here we were kindly received by a young surgeon named Henry Glennie and by his wife and their brother Alfred Glennie: they undertook to invite the people of the neighbourhood to a meeting in the government schoolhouse”. The Quakers stayed a week and then Henry conveyed them across the Hunter river in his gig and they continued to James Glennie’s farm at Dulwich.
Henry Glennie was an active member of the community, a JP, a crack shot in the Singleton Volunteers, a keen cricketer and sporting enthusiast. In one cricket match played between the single and married men of Singleton, he received a severe wound to his cheek bone but continued to play in the second innings with a black eye! He was medical practitioner and coroner in Singleton, remaining in practice into his seventies and his death was caused when his buggy overturned after visiting a patient in 1880.
Benjamin Glennie (1812-1900)
In true Biblical fashion, the youngest of Dr William Glennie’s twelve sons was named Benjamin and like his brothers, educated at his father’s school before going on to King’s College School. He then appears to have acted as a private tutor on the Continent until 1842, when, at the age of 30 he entered Christ’s College, Cambridge taking a BA in 1847. The following year Benjamin accompanied Dr William Tyrrell, the first bishop of Newcastle (NSW),who arrived in Sydney that January with two priests and seven ordinands, one of whom was Glennie. Apparently, Tyrrell was reluctant to accept the Australian diocese but in fact it became his family and he never visited England again.
Appointed deacon a couple of months after his arrival in Australia, Benjamin’s prospects of being an effective clergyman were bleak. In addition to having a nervous condition himself, matters were made worse in that the parish he inherited at Moreton Bay had a previous priest who had been ineffective and a congregation which was indifferent. Nevertheless, Glennie persevered, opening a day and a Sunday school and increasing his congregation in the temporary church he built. He was ordained priest in 1849 in the Darling Downs district, where he remained for ten years. He then became priest at Warwick and subsequently at Drayton, a total of a further sixteen years of ministry. He undertook long and arduous pastoral tours on foot and on horseback, averaging 3000 miles a year though his vast parishes. In 1863 he was appointed the first archdeacon of Brisbane becoming full-time archdeacon and responsible for clergy training in 1877. In 1868 he married Mary Brougham the daughter of a master mariner. By the time of his death in 1900 he was credited with being the pioneer of the Anglican ministry of Queensland and of laying the foundations of its parochial structure by building four churches. In 1908 the Anglican church in Queensland opened a school in his honour which today functions as an Anglican day and boarding school for girls in Newtown, Toowoomba.
Alexander Glennie (1804-1880)
Alexander Glennie went to the United States in 1828 to be a tutor to Plowden the son of Francis Marion Weston, a wealthy rice grower and slave owner in Georgetown, South Carolina. After serving as a lay-reader in All Saints parish he became a deacon in 1832 and a priest the following year. Shortly after he became rector of the Episcopal Church of All Saints. His former pupil, Plowden, gave him support and encouragement to establish mission churches among the slaves on the rice plantations and used his influence among other slave owners to allow their slaves to finish work early on the days each week when Alexander Glennie would orally teach the slaves in the afternoon and hold services for them at night. Glennie did this work among the slave plantations three or four days a week. Altogether, Alexander Glennie established thirteen slave chapels in the plantations up and down the Waccamaw Neck, one of which survives and is a national monument.
He began his All Saints Sunday School Society in 1832 with 10 black communicants, thirty years later this had grown to 529.
A hobby of Glennie was to keep meticulous records of the weather, taking readings three times a day which he copied into bound ledgers. He was married first to Harriet Bell Stack and then to Sophia Parker.
The Civil War naturally interrupted Glennie’s work and Georgetown was occupied by Union troops and the slaves freed. This led to the ending of most of the rice milling of the area and an economic decline began. After the war Alexander Glennie was appointed rector of Prince George Church, Georgetown. Today, the plantation where he tutored Plowden Weston, called Laurel Hill, is a huge and magnificent sculpture garden created by Archer and Anna Huntingdon in 1932 named and Brookgreen Gardens.
On his death in 1880 Alexander Glennie was buried in the cemetery of All Saints where he had started his mission.
Of the remaining two Glennie children, Charles born in 1810 died aged 6 months in 1810 and the only daughter, Isobella (1801-1881) married twice, to John Thompson a cousin and Walter Crafton Smith.
George Brown, Minister for Economic Affairs and foreign secretary under Harold Wilson lived for much of his political career at 77 Court Lane. He bought the house in 1945 on becoming an MP and lived there till November 1963, moving to a flat in Bayswater- on the day that President t58uKennedy was assassinated. Brown was deputy leader of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1970, as well as briefly acting as leader in the interregnum between Hugh Gaitskell’s death in 1963 and Wilson’s election to the party leadership, a contest in which Brown was the losing candidate. Between 1966 and 1968, Brown, as first secretary of state, was in effect deputy Prime Minister. In contrast with many other significant political figures of his generation, his former residence still lacks a blue plaque. The reason for this is perhaps reflected in the sole biography of Brown, which is subtitled ‘tired and emotional’ - Brown had a reputation as an alcoholic, which certainly blighted the later years of his political career. An alternative reason could be that he moved out just before he took up his position into Government. There is however a strong case for reassessing Brown’s political legacy as well as for a blue plaque.
Member of parliament for Belper in Derbyshire from 1945 to 1970, Brown was a South Londoner. Born in Peabody buildings in Duke Street (now Duchy Street) near Waterloo station, he grew up on the Peabody estate on Blackfriars Road. He attended the Gray Street elementary school and then the West Square Central school, leaving at the age of 15. Brown was one of the last working-class Labour politicians, coming into Labour politics through the trade union movement, to achieve a prominent position. With an Irish and Jewish background, Brown’s father was a van driver for Lyons and the Evening Standard, later a fur salesman, but an active trade unionist who became a full-time employee of the Transport and General Workers Union. On leaving school, George Brown followed his father - first into the fur trade and then after taking classes through the Workers Education Association and the London County Council evening classes, to became first a clerk in the TGWU office in Finsbury Park and then TGWU district organiser in Watford. Politically active from a young age, he joined the Labour League of Youth and campaigned for George Isaacs, the Labour candidate in Southwark North in the 1929 general election. Moving out of London, he was secretary of the St Albans Labour Party, coming to national prominence at the 1939 Labour Party Conference by making a vigorous speech supporting the expulsion of left-wingers Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and George Strauss (the latter being MP for Lambeth North) who were arguing for an alliance with Communists and ’other progressive forces’ in a Popular Front. When George Dallas, former Scottish coalminer, MP and Labour Party chairman, decided to stand down as prospective parliamentary candidate for Belper, he proposed Brown as his successor and Brown having continued as a union official throughout the war, which exempted him from military service, became an MP in 1945 at the age of 30.
Brown soon became a leading member of the Labour Party’s trade unionist right wing and a close ally of Arthur Deakin, who had succeeded Ernest Bevin as TGWU general secretary in 1940 when Bevin was appointed Minister of Labour in the wartime coalition, and of Herbert Morrison, fellow South Londoner ( born in Stockwell and died in Peckham) the former London County Council leader who became Home Secretary and then succeeded Bevin as Foreign Secretary. By 1955, Brown was in the shadow cabinet as shadow minister of Supply as well as chairing the trade union group within the Parliamentary Labour Party. In 1952, the future party leader, Hugh Gaitskell, commented in his diary that Brown had ‘unlimited courage and plenty of sense’. In 1956, Brown narrowly failed to succeed Gaitskell as party treasurer, being defeated by Gaitskell’s great rival, Aneurin Bevan. Brown gained further notoriety as well giving an indication of his ‘unlimited courage’ when at a dinner with Soviet leaders Khrushchev and Bulganin on a fraternal visit to London in 1956, at which Khrushchev was critical of the British wartime record, Brown had the audacity to point out that it was the Russians who in 1939 signed a pact with Hitler, not the British. Brown was a strong anti-communist. By 1960, as Labour spokesman on defence, he was opposing the growing unilateralist movement led by CND within the Labour Party and supporting NATO. On Bevan’s death, Brown became deputy leader, defeating Jim Callaghan and Fred Lee. However, when Gaitskell died in 1963, the right- wing vote was split between Brown and Callaghan, leading to the succession of Harold Wilson, at that time the champion of the party’s left wing, and to Wilson’s leadership of the Labour government elected the following year.
Brown was appointed to the new post of Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, in effect a new economic planning ministry, which took over significant functions from the Treasury, and immediately brought him into conflict with Jim Callaghan, who Wilson had appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps Wilson’s greatest skill was in dividing his main rivals. The National Plan produced by Brown and his ministry is perhaps the most significant attempt by a British government at long term economic planning. Drawing on French and Belgian as well as Russian experience (though criticised by Conservatives at the time, and subsequently, as being Soviet inspired), the plan set national growth targets and a regionally based framework for implementation. It however depended on trade union collaboration at a time when individual trade union leaders sought to protect free collective bargaining and were reluctant to agree any framework for controlling incomes as well as prices. However, in July 1966, sterling was under attack on the currency markets and could only be stabilised by a deflationary package of reductions in public expenditure. Brown supported the alternative of reducing the value of sterling, but this was not supported by Callaghan and Wilson. With the deflationary package, the ambitious growth plans of the National Plan were in effect shelved and Brown publicly humiliated. In his memoirs, Brown saw this as a betrayal by his colleagues. Brown was moved to the Foreign Office, which however he saw as revenge on Callaghan, who had also sought that role.
Brown was a fervent pro-European and argued the case for joining the Common Market. Gaitskell had opposed the Common Market, preferring the transatlantic partnership with the US. Brown was supported by other right-wingers such as Roy Jenkins and Denis Healey, though not by Douglas Jay, who was President of the Board of Trade. Wilson was ambivalent, just as Jeremy Corbyn is today. On the Vietnam war, Brown was pro-American, in contrast with Wilson who succeeded in avoiding any British involvement in the war despite American pressure to provide troops to support the US. Brown also argued with Wilson on the issue of ending the embargo on arms sales to the apartheid South African regime. Brown and Denis Healey wanted to sell arms to South Africa. Michael Stewart who had succeeded Brown at the Economic Affairs ministry. was opposed. Wilson sided with Stewart. Wilson considered that Brown was using the issue to challenge his leadership. In March 1968,
Brown who had by now lost the confidence of Wilson, having been excluded from an important meeting on the latest economic crisis (whether intentionally or by accident is uncertain), organised a meeting of half the cabinet to share their complaints about Wilson’s leadership. This led to a direct confrontation with Wilson and Brown accusing each other of unacceptable behaviour. The meeting ended with Brown storming out saying he was resigning. Brown had a habit of threatening resignation when aggrieved - one commentator counted some 17 resignation threats. This time Wilson did not ask him back and his colleagues did not argue for his reinstatement. That was basically the end of Brown’s political career, although Brown stayed as deputy leader of the Labour Party for two more years. He also stayed on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee long enough to block Wilson’s attempt to appoint Anthony Greenwood as Labour’s general secretary.
In the 1970 election, the Belper seat was lost to the Conservatives, as Edward Heath moved into government. Brown went into the Lords as Lord George--Brown of Jevington in Sussex, a village to which he had retired. In 1983 he publicly supported the social democratic breakaway from the Labour Party by the group of four - Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers. In his final years, Brown moved to Cornwall, having left his wife of forty years, to share a house with his secretary. He died in 1985, perhaps not surprisingly, of cirrhosis of the liver. He had much in common with that earlier trade unionist Labour leader and Dulwich resident. Jimmy Thomas, who had been a senior minister in the Ramsay Macdonald Labour and National governments of the 1920’s and early 1930’s.
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‘Grove House’ was a popular house name at the turn of the nineteenth century. There were two on opposite sides of the northern part of College Road, and as we have read, Dulwich Grove was also sometimes known as The Grove House. The subject of this article, was also on Dulwich Common almost opposite the now derelict Grove Tavern. The ‘grove’, was the tree-lined walk opposite Dr Glennie’s Academy, Dulwich Grove. Dr William Glennie had several brothers and it was one of these, Alexander, who, in 1801, became the leaseholder of the fields on the south side of Dulwich Common opposite the school, agreeing with Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift (now the Dulwich Estate) to take 5 acres at £18 18s per annum.
After a few years Glennie assigned the lease to John Jephson, a City lawyer, who built the house in 1810-11. He lived there until September 1823 and, during the latter part of his time at the house, he became very friendly with Mary, the daughter of the Dulwich windmill keeper, Thomas Kemp. His letter written to her dated 1827 says "I can no longer struggle with a secret that has given me so much torture to keep... What I have to urge, is to ask you if you are disengaged, if not, permit me to offer myself as a candidate, and should I succeed, it would be the happiest moment I ever experienced in my life, as in you I consider all my happiness is centred..." Unfortunately, his proposal was unsuccessful and, later in the year, Mary Kemp eloped with someone else.
On Jephson’s departure, a new 50-year lease on the property was granted to a Mr E W Smith and he assigned it to a Mr H Howard in June 1829. By 1837, when the Camberwell tithe map was published, the lessee was Samuel Waring, the wealthy son of the landlord of the historic ‘Gipsy House’ pub in Gipsy Hill. He owned other properties nearby, including ‘The Oaks’, a large house located roughly opposite the Paxton Hotel (Oaks Avenue off Gipsy Hill is named after it). At this point there is some confusion as the tithe map refers to the property as Grove Cottage - and two newspaper reports record Waring’s wife’s death at Grove Cottage in January 1837 and, exactly five months later, the birth of a grandson. Grove Cottage was a small house actually fronting Dulwich Common and it appears that Waring had let off Grove House itself to be run as a boarding house. This is confirmed by a number of 1839 and 1840 newspaper bankruptcy reports where one Henry Manning is called a ‘boarding house keeper, Grove House, Dulwich, Surrey’. John Young, a ‘Produce manufacturer and Foreign & Colonial agent’, took over the property in 1846 and in the 1851 Census he was living at the house with his wife, three children and three servants; the family were still in residence ten years later.
In October 1868 a wealthy merchant, Milbourne Clark, acquired the five years remaining on the 1823 lease. As well as the house, the property was described as having a coach-house, stable, outhouse, yard and garden, and adjacent fields (presumably sublet for grazing). Milbourne Clark (1811-91) had spent his early adult life as a wine merchant in Jersey (his wife Louisa Hyne came from a prominent island family). By 1851 the family were at 2 John Street, Clerkenwell, but a year later he was bankrupt. There is no mention of him in the 1861 Census, though his wife and family are living in Plymouth - she describing herself as a ‘merchant’s wife’. It is not until the following year that we have a hint as to what he might have been doing when a local Jersey newspaper report on his daughter’s wedding described him as ‘Milbourne Clark Esq, of Iquique, South Peru’ and it appears that Milbourne Clark’s interests there were in the mining of saltpetre (for use in the manufacture of gunpowder) and the construction of the railway to carry the ore to the docks at Antofagasta.
Louisa died in 1864 and we do not know if he was still in Peru at the time - he had certainly returned by 1868 when he took over Grove House. He remarried in 1870, to Emily Susan Herbert, 23 years younger than him, and the 1871 Census described him as a retired merchant, aged 60, living there with his new wife, son William, daughters Mary and Florence, plus two granddaughters, Emily and Edith, a grandson, John, a clerk and four servants. A year earlier he had begun negotiations on a new lease, the Estate Surveyor noting at the time that ‘the buildings are in good order, but there is a large part is old, low, and inconvenient’. The garden and paddock covered 7¾ acres and Milbourne Clark finally agreed a rent of £208 per annum for 21 years.
The new Mrs Clark soon found things to do in the local area. In January 1882 Grove House’s garden provided ‘a choice array of plants and evergreens’ to decorate the stage at the Dulwich Tradesmen’s Ball at St Peter’s Hall, Underhill Road, and in the summer of 1885 two major events were held in Grove House’s extensive gardens. The first was a ‘Fancy fair’ in aid of the completion fund for nearby St Peter’s Church where the South London Press said ‘the congenial signs of a gala day were everywhere present. The railway station seemed aware of it, the church spire itself was not destitute of its display of bunting, and the banners which ‘hung upon the outer walls’ were floating in greater variety upon the inner. Grove House did its loyal best to give the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress a right good welcome.’ The second event took place a month or so later, in aid of St Peter’s Walworth Sunday School. A large number of children, with their teachers, were reported as enjoying themselves on the swings, playing cricket, and riding the donkeys ‘in the meadow of the beautiful grounds of Grove House, Dulwich, by the kind permission of Mr and Mrs Milbourne Clark, both of whom showed not only a personal but a practical interest in the proceedings.’
In the same year the Clarks were active participants in the group of wealthy local residents who set up the new East Dulwich Provident Dispensary which, as the South London Press put it, ‘enable the working classes of East Dulwich to ensure for themselves and their family’s efficient medical attendance and medicine by small weekly subscriptions, aided by voluntary contributions’. Its first president was the local MP, Morgan Howard Esq QC, with Milbourne Clark as the treasurer and his wife as ‘collector’; the secretary was Henry Powell (of Whitefriars Glass fame). After eighteen months they secured an office and clinic at 184 Crystal Palace Road - before then the doctors had seen the patients in their own homes. When Morgan Howard resigned in 1888, Milbourne Clark was elected president in his place. In proposing him, local resident Mr Rand said that ‘Mr & Mrs Milbourne Clark were practically the originators of the institution and that Mr Clark well merited the highest honour that society could bestow’. The dispensary later moved to larger premises in Landells Road.
In July 1888 the Clarks decided to move to Sydenham Hill. For a brief period, a retired Swiss clergyman, Louis Jaques Bourquin and his family, were installed as temporary caretakers but the house was empty when. in September 1892, Mr William Grant Ross, ‘of 261 Oxford Street, Tailor’. Grant Ross had a shop on Oxford Street, and later Regent Street, but he clearly also enjoyed a good time. The Kentish Mercury 4/10/1895 reported on a case of ‘Furious driving’ heard at Greenwich Magistrates Court when Ross and his coachman were summoned for being ‘drunk and furiously driving a horse and trap in the High Road, Lee’. It was late at night and the police witness said that their vehicle collided with a cart and threw them out on to the road. They were both fined.
In 1906 Ross moved to 506 Lordship Lane and, after some fraught negotiations over dilapidations, the lease was assigned to another tailor, called Skinner, on a yearly basis - implying that the house was not in good structural condition. The Skinners were still there early in WW1, as a newspaper report on their daughter Queenie’s marriage confirms, but in 1916 they exercised their right to end the lease early. Skinner’s business had suffered badly in the War and he complained that he was in no condition to pay any dilapidations. After considerable correspondence with the Estate he finally agreed to pay £80. The Estate Surveyor then produced another report which confirmed that the house was in very poor condition. saying ‘it is very old and structurally in a very bad condition on account of severe settlements in numerous places.’
The old house should have been pulled down at that point, but it was to last another 40 years - its saviour, if that’s the right word, being the Camber Lawn Tennis Club. The club had moved to an adjacent site in the early 1920s (where they still are) and agreed to take the old house on as its club house. The club continued in occupation until 1956 when a further Surveyor’s report said that the old house really did have to come down as it was clearly unsafe, with cracks everywhere and bulging walls (it also had a steel prop holding up the front wall). There was a long negotiation with the Tennis Club but agreement was finally reached when the Estate threatened that unless they agreed to let the house go, they would also lose their tennis courts next door. The old house finally came down in the autumn of 1958 just two years short of its 150th anniversary. A replacement was soon built and it remains today.
There comes a time in life when we begin to realise that a loved one is growing older and isn’t coping so well. It becomes clear that we need some help to keep our loved ones safe, and to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Finding home care services can be time consuming and bewildering though. First, check the company is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) www.cqc.org.uk that regularly inspect care companies, rating them as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate.
Whilst home carers can carry out various types of activities to support your loved one, it’s important that they do not take over activities they can do on their own. The key aim of home care is to promote independence not to create dependence.
Care staff can help people to get in and out of bed, carry out their personal care and getting dressed/undressed. They also ensure that the person’s prescribed medication is taken at the correct times and correct dosages. They can also prepare meals, snacks, and drinks. Elderly people sometimes skip meals and do not drink enough, so making sure they have proper nutrition and hydration is crucial to their independence. Care staff can also take people to appointments and other places as necessary provided the person has the necessary mobility.
Elderly people at home can sometimes be quite lonely and so their care assistants, when they visit, need to bring companionship, positivity and friendship into the home which can do wonders for their spirits.
St Christopher’s Personal Care provides support in these areas and other services. Our kind and friendly staff are trained at the Hospice and any profits we make are returned to the Hospice to use for its charitable aims.
If you feel you have a loved one who needs a bit of help then please give us a call on 0208 768 4648 and we can give you more information, alternatively visit us at www.stcpersonalcare.org.uk