The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2023.
Sixty years of service to the community is a record that the Dulwich Society can be proud of as it reaches its diamond anniversary. The evidence of its work is all around - street benches, the Edward Alleyn statue, the Red Post on Red Post Hill, WW2 memorial plaques, information signage at numerous sites, the annual Gardens Open for Charity booklet and many other publications, major donations to the work in Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods, help for the creation of Dulwich Upper Wood, tree planting, generous donations to a number of local schools to facilitate the provision of ‘green screens’ to reduce the effects of traffic pollution and numerous other projects. The Society was also instrumental in saving the Herne Hill veleodrome. Morem recently the society has installed a ‘listening post’ in the grounds of the Chapel and Old College and converted the listed GPO telephone box in Dulwich Village to house a defibrillator.
When the Society was established in 1963 one of its aims was to involve as many people as possible in its work. It did this through the formation of sub-committees. This plan has worked very well over the years and all of the sub-committees have been pro-active in achieving the Society’s object: To foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich.
The sub-committees welcome new members, especially those with some expertise in their areas of activity. The Journal, also, has welcomed contributions, both articles and photographs, on a wide range of topics. It is through these that this publication can provide such a wide variety of content.
For those who would like to offer less specialized help, the distribution of the Journal not only provides the volunteer with a spell of exercise but saves the Society a great deal of money in postage.
Of course, despite its many successes, the Society has also had its share of disappointments. High on the list must be the continuing appalling state of the Grove Tavern site. The Estate has recently stated that it expects to have full control of the property in the near future, no doubt because Stonegate PLC, which holds the lease, is faced with a £3.05 billion pound debt pile. This valuable and potentially attractive area has been blighted for far too long. It is to be hoped that Southwark Council will not require a new pub to feature in its consideration of a planning application, a restriction it had earlier imposed, and which is now appearing totally inappropriate.
Importantly for the Society, membership has been maintained when other local amenity societies have seen a fall in numbers. The Dulwich Society can therefore look forward to the future with much confidence.
To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Society will be holding a Diamond Anniversary party at Dulwich College on Thursday 13th July. Full details of this event and how to apply for tickets will appear in the next ebulletin and the summer issue of the Journal. PLEASE SAVE THE DATE!.
I feel some explanation is necessary to account for the prolonged length of time I have occupied the editor’s chair of this Journal. The principal reason is that I have enjoyed it so much! I had not intended to serve in this capacity for so long, certainly not twenty years. Initially, I envisaged that I would fulfil the role for a couple of years as I had earlier also served another term of twenty years as editor of the Dulwich Villager magazine, then the parish magazine of St Barnabas church. The Villager had been the brainchild of a friend of mine, George Brown, who in 1946 felt that a magazine which would contain information and articles about local affairs would help generate a community spirit in the aftermath of the Second World War. When his sudden death in 1963 raised a question over that magazine’s future, I agreed to continue it for a limited period. Among the local features I first commented upon was the work and progress of the newly formed Dulwich Society. I had previously written an article criticising the lurid colour (bright yellow) of a newly-painted local restaurant which occupied a heritage building in the centre of the Village. The Dulwich Society’s founder, a local resident named Alan Mason, concluded that he and I shared many of the same views regarding conservation and the preservation of Dulwich as we knew it and this led to me writing a steady stream of articles charting the new society’s progress.
And so twenty years passed by.
Twenty years seemed a big enough milestone that I felt I might relinquish editorship of what was still a modest but apparently welcomed monthly publication. So, in 1983, after 240 issues I laid down my pen (actually an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter) and settled down to new interests.
Fast forward to 2003 and a hiatus caused the Dulwich Society to wish to appoint a new editor of its then newsletter and I was approached. I was offered a free hand in the format, design and content of the quarterly publication. Like The Villager, the existing newsletter was also modest in appearance and length but its contents, from the start, had always been informed, well-argued and highly respected.
So once again I offered to fill a vacancy. I was conscious that several eminent journalists had been editors before me - David Nicholson-Lord was the environment columnist for The Independent, and was followed by Brian McConnell QPM who was a legendary figure in Fleet Street, and has been immortalized in the West End play ‘Ink!’, which told the story of the launching of The Sun newspaper. Brian was later left financially high and dry when Robert Maxwell raided the Daily Mirror’s pension fund.
I felt that there should be a new start and a new look to the Dulwich Society newsletter, so I got a friend of mine who was an illustrator to come up with a design for a new cover; I increased the size from A5 to its present format, and also increased the number of pages as well as inviting new advertisers to take space.
My first issue in the Spring of 2003 was a challenge as I did not own and had seldom used a computer. Thus began a very steep learning curve. Also, twenty years ago, although digital cameras were not uncommon, the actual process of transferring digital photographs to the printed page was as far as I was aware, limited to professional publications. For the first ten or so issues therefore, I had to take photographs on a single-lens reflex camera and get the negatives developed. All this of course took time, and it was not until 2005 when I acquired my first digital camera, that the huge savings in costs and effort in providing illustrations in the then newsletter became possible. A few years later, in recognition of its new glossy appearance and the quality of its content, it was renamed The Dulwich Society Journal.
From the beginning, I was committed that what appeared in print should concern the wider Dulwich area and not just the loveable and picturesque village itself. This area has increased in recent years since the Dulwich Society assumed some responsibility for East Dulwich following the demise of the original East Dulwich Society. In terms of coverage of the activities of East Dulwich, there is still a long way to go.
I am deeply indebted to the large number of contributors who have made my job as editor so much easier, and the support and encouragement I have received from both the membership and the Society’s executive committee. I am delighted that Claire Richards, Alison Venn, and Ian McInnes, all long-term residents and members, will be taking over the editorial role of this important avenue of local engagement. I hope to continue to contribute articles on this special part of London.
You will have seen in the winter 2022 issue of the Journal that our editor, Brian Green, has decided to put away his editor’s pen and that this spring issue will be his last as editor.
Brian has been editor for 20 years, overseeing the publication of eighty editions. These statistics alone convey the importance of his role as editor for a generation. During his tenure, colour has been introduced and the Journal has become a “must read” magazine for many families in the area. Brian has also been a prolific writer for the Journal, has taken many of the current-day photographs and has a large and invaluable collection of images of old Dulwich. For many years, he has also managed the advertising which forms the foundation of the financial viability of the publication. He has towered over all aspects of the Journal, not just as editor.
Brian was brought up in Dulwich, attending Dulwich Hamlet and Alleyn’s schools, and joined the family business in 1957, a stationery shop in Dulwich Village, adding a toy shop. He still works part time in the business that is now run by his daughter. In his spare time, he has given so much to community groups such as the Boys’ Brigade, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the local Ramblers Club and the church. His community work has been recognised and recently he was awarded the Freedom of the Liberty of the Old Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell (the most prestigious civic award that Southwark Council can make), which ‘recognises excellence in active citizenship and exceptional achievement’. It would take the whole Journal to laud his many qualities and achievements, but I did just want to give you a snapshot of the man’s dedication and character to give you some context as to what he does in addition to his work as editor and why he is held in such high esteem by us all at the Society.
His passion and hobby has been local history. As well as his BA, he has an MA in London Studies and an M.Phil. on the history of Southwark & Bermondsey. He is steeped in knowledge of the history of Dulwich, is the undisputed “go-to” guru on anything to do with local history and is a mainstay of the Local History Group. He has put his knowledge to work not only as editor but also as a regular speaker for the Society’s talks in association with Bell House and the Dulwich Festival. Not to mention that he is also an accomplished writer, having published eight books. It is this love of local history, his involvement in Dulwich community life, his business and his home here in our beloved corner of London that have helped to serve him well as such a long-standing and effective editor of our flagship publication.
Many will be asking what will happen now both for Brian and for the future of the Journal. For Brian, I wish him a happy and relaxing retirement but I have no doubt that he will continue to be active in many aspects of Dulwich life for a long time to come, accompanied by his adored Rita. As for the Journal, Brian has a left a big pair of shoes to fill. You will be pleased to know that we have recruited a number of excellent volunteers, ready to take on the challenge of continuing his work and developing the Journal for it to maintain its role at the heart of life in Dulwich.
THE DULWICH SOCIETY AGM 2023
The 60th Annual General Meeting of the Dulwich Society will be held at 8pm on Monday 24 April 2023 in the Function Room at The Crown and Greyhound, 73 Dulwich Village, London, SE21 7BJ
- Introduction and apologies for absence
- Approve Minutes of the 59th Annual General Meeting held on 9 May 2022 and Minutes of the Special General Meeting held on 27 June 2022
- Matters arising from AGM and SGM Minutes
- Chairman’s Report and Review of the Year
- Approve accounts for the year ended 31 December 2022
- Appoint Independent Examiner. Nominee: Sally-Anne Jeffries, Chartered Accountant
- Appoint the President. Nominee: Dr Kenneth Wolfe
- Elections for 2023-2024 - Officers and Members of the Executive Committee
- Any other business/questions - please raise with the Chairman (
Refreshments will be served after the meeting.
Meeting papers will be made available on www.dulwichsociety.com in due course.
Nomination forms for election as an Officer or Member of the Executive Committee can be obtained from the Secretary. Nominations must be submitted in writing to the Secretary by two Society members not later than fourteen days before the AGM (i.e. by 10 April 2023) and must be endorsed by the candidate in writing (Rule 9). Candidates must be members of the Society.
Following the SGM of 27 June 2022, the review of the Society’s rules continues and revised new rules will be presented for consultation with members prior to approval, which is anticipated for the 2024 AGM.
The Dulwich Society
If you have not renewed your 2023 subscription, due on January 1st, then this journal will be the last you will receive and your name will be removed from the membership list on March 31st. Reminders have already been sent.
It is now possible to pay your subscription by direct debit via the website. Go to www.dulwichsociety.com and scroll to the bottom of the page. On the left side, under The Dulwich Society heading is a link “Membership Renewal” which will take you to the direct debit section. The online form is easily completed so that all future payments are taken automatically by direct debit. If you have not yet renewed this year the £10.00 subscription will be taken now for the current year.
If you have any queries then please contact the membership secretary either by phone 0208 6936313 or
New and Revised Dulwich Society Policies and Procedures
At its meeting on 14th November 2022, the Executive Committee agreed/reviewed a number of policies and procedures as follows:
Code of Conduct
The new Code of Conduct sets out the standards of behaviour expected of all members, Executive Committee and sub-Committee members, Officers and Trustees. It is designed to ensure that we engage with each other in a supportive, inclusive and respectful manner at meetings and events, in written communications and on social media. Complaints regarding breaches of the Code of Conduct will be dealt with under the Complaints Policy and Procedure and in serious cases may trigger the Termination of Membership Procedure. The Code of Conduct replaces the Statement on Unacceptable Behaviour. It is introduced under the Society’s Rule 12: Regulations and By-Laws.
Complaints Policy and Procedure
The Complaints Policy and Procedure was originally adopted in February 2016 and was due for review. Some minor changes have been made to the Complaints Procedure to ensure a fair process and to enable it to be used to address breaches of the Code of Conduct and to link it to the Termination of Membership Procedure.
Termination of Membership Procedure
This new procedure sets out the circumstances under which termination of membership may be considered and the steps to be taken to ensure a fair process. It is closely aligned with the wording recommended by the Charity Commission for such procedures. The Termination of Membership Procedure is introduced under the Society’s Rule 12: Regulations and By-Laws.
Risk Management Policy
The Executive Committee is currently developing a Risk Management Policy.
The new and revised policies can be found on the Society’s website at: https://www.dulwichsociety.com/policies
Any queries can be addressed to Heather Stubbs, Secretary at
Martin Duncan on “Arundel Castle Gardens & Landscape”
7.30pm Wednesday 29th March 2023
at Bell House, 27 College Road, London SE21 7BG
Our Spring garden talk this year will be given by Martin Duncan, Head Gardener and Landscape Designer at Arundel Castle for the Duke & Duchess of Norfolk. Martin’s career as a celebrated professional gardener has taken him across the world, including Africa, Jordan, Bermuda and France. He was awarded the Kew Guild Medal in 2018.
The gardens at Arundel Castle are some of the finest in Britain. Martin’s talk will describe their recent development, with advice and tips along the way. After the talk there will be an opportunity to meet Martin over a glass of wine.
The talk is being given in association with Bell House Dulwich, with any surplus going towards its garden activities. Tickets, including a glass of wine, are £10 each - book through www.bellhouse.co.uk/events. Please note that spaces are limited.
Early last year the Council agreed to use some of its Cleaner Greener Safer (CGS) funding to support the Society’s proposal for an information sign about the Dulwich Volunteer Battalion. It will be located next to its war memorial in the grounds of St Peter’s Church on the corner of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane. The memorial, with its original flagpole, has been in place since June 1920 when the battalion was disbanded, though few passers-by will currently appreciate what it stands for.
The Dulwich Volunteer Battalion, the first of its kind, was formed almost immediately after the outbreak of war in 1914. Its two objects were to encourage recruiting for the Regular Army, and to train its own members to take part, if necessary, in the defence and protection of their country. It appears to have been started by members of the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club who formed a Training Corps affiliated to the National Defence League. It eventually had a roll of over 1000 local men, a number of whom died on active service.
The memorial was listed Grade II on 7 November 2017 by Historic England as part of their war memorial listing programme to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
It’s Brian Green’s last Journal as Editor, so I could only agree to his request to explain why Dulwich Park’s rhododendrons are so splendid (more so, he says, than some in local gardens).
Rhododendrons are a relatively old group of flowering plants, and members of the acid-loving ericaceous family. Most of the rhododendron species (there are over a thousand) occur on the slopes of deep-sided valleys bordering the Himalayas and southern Tibet, where they flourish, with small pockets elsewhere around the world. They are woodland plants which prefer damp, high rainfall climates with cool, mild temperatures, shelter, dappled shade and the well-drained, acidic conditions found in the forest floors on those slopes.
The American Garden was laid out by Lt Col Sexby in 1887 and planted in 1890/91, with the plant listing for the Park including 950 rhododendron, 1300 azaleas and 440 erica (heathers). American Gardens were so called because, in contrast to traditional English Gardens (think green and Capability Brown), they used colourful pIants such as rhododendron and other acid-loving plants originally brought back by explorers of the New World. In London there are examples at Kew, Richmond (the Isabella Plantation) and at Kenwood House in Hampstead, with Dulwich Park the only one still using the name.
In many ways the growing conditions in the beds of our American Garden are ideal for rhododendrons, and many of the original plants survive. The soil is damp from the rainwater run-off from Dawson Heights, rain itself is acidic and the trees at the edge of the Park provide some shelter. When planted, and until recently, large quantities of (acidic) peat were used - 1,500 cubic yards in the initial planting. General air pollution and nitrous oxide from vehicles will only have added to the acidity of local rain. Brian recalls that In the 1950s or early 1960s, Harry Carter, the Park Superintendent of the day, planted silver birches in the beds - despite opposition - to give them height, and these birches now partly provide the additional ingredient of dappled shade and shelter from the sun that the plants prefer.
Our rhododendrons have suffered from the warmer and changing climate in recent years, particularly our drier springs and the drought last summer, as well as competing with rampant brambles. Keeping these under control is no longer feasible as part of the routine park management contract, so, in recent years, groups from large corporates have helped to do so from time to time, as part of corporate social responsibility initiatives, to date with limited impact.
Probably as a result of the extraordinary weather that is being experienced all over Europe and in particular last summer’s drought, the Scandinavian Rowan berry crop failed. As a result, we had massively increased numbers of Redwings arriving in October and November and there were Redwings in every garden that could provide berries. I had reports from people that had never knowingly seen a Redwing before and a record number of over twenty-five in my garden alone. They have now stripped all our berries and most of them have now moved on, leaving a few smaller flocks in the Park and the woods. At the same time we started to see Blackbirds once more in our gardens but these, as predicted, were likely migrants rather than our home bred birds. Traditionally, Blackbirds start to sing on St. Valentine’s day and by the time this issue goes to print we will know if any of these birds have set up territories. At the time of writing it is a hope, as their absence from our autumn bird count was a big concern.
However, the autumn Thrush migration did bring us a surprise. The Rutherford family have installed a trail cam in their garden and to their surprise, when they checked it on the 25th November there was a series of pictures of a male Ring Ousel distinguished by its striking white crescent across its breast. Undoubtedly this was for us the record of the year and merited its role in the E-newsletter. The Ring Ousel is sometimes described as the Blackbird of the north and is a summer migrant that nests in rocky uplands such as may be found in the Lake District. They migrate south and most of the passage migrants may be seen in the autumn on our west coasts, so this was an unusual visitor to south London.
Following my request for records other than birds, Lindsay Rosser has sent me a photo of a large spider on her bathroom wall. This proves to be of interest as it was identified by her expert son Neil as a species from southern Europe that is becoming widespread in London and goes by its Latin name Zoropsis spinimara (not yet having an English name). As spiders don’t fly, they have perhaps been hitching lifts from holidaymakers and are an example of yet another alien southern native creature that can now carve a niche here. This is hopefully not at the expense of our native species, although it must be a concern.
The first half of this winter has been unusually mild, if rather windy, and perhaps the availability of natural food has prompted the observation that there have been fewer visitors to our feeders. This may mean smaller counts at the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on the weekend of 27 to 29 January. However, in the short, very cold spell of weather before Christmas there was clearly some bird movement and David Stacey recorded a flock of five Meadow Pipits in his garden. He cleverly identified them by observation of their plumage markings, otherwise they would probably be written off as “little brown jobs”. Of other more regularly reported winter visitors, noteworthy is a Woodcock in the Sydenham Hill woods and Shoveler ducks on the park lake. A pair of these provide entertainment when they go head to tail and rotate as they “shovel” the water surface with their large beaks.
The numerous elms which have repopulated Gallery Road after their predecessors were killed by Dutch Elm Disease have resulted in the hosting of a colony of the rare White-letter Hairstreak butterfly. The hyphenated name is correct and not a misprint. Its name derives from a feature on its outer wing marking which has the appearance of a capital W. It’s not a particularly easy butterfly to see as it is quite small and tends to fly in the leafy canopy, but it is on the wing in June and July. Thanks to the award to the Society of two disease-resistant elms by Elms4London, it is hoped that this colony will remain.
The second half of the winter is now giving us some more cold weather and there will be more dependence on garden feeders, which will boost our records for the RSPB count. We would like those of my readers who do the RSPB count to send me a duplicate of their findings so that we can see how our patch records relate to the national census. The fear is that some of our urban songbirds are proving to be particularly vulnerable to the climate changes and more so than in the country at large. Our gardens are the best nature reserves we have in south London and in conjunction with the Garden and Trees groups we can hopefully seek how “Gardening for Wildlife” can improve our natural habitats.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (020 7274 4567