The Dulwich Society Journal for Spring 2023.
Brian Green and Sharon O’Connor (Journal No 215, pp 33-36) are I think right to identify Greendale, formerly Green Lane, as marking an ancient track which enabled Dulwich Villagers to shorten their journey to the parish church of St Giles, Camberwell, until the end of the 19th century, and even, for some, after the consecration of the College Chapel in 1616.
However, I think that Brian is mistaken in confidently identifying Greendale with ‘Grenestrete’. He cites an entry in the court roll for 1486: “The highway at the east end of Grenestrete is ruined … for the want of repair by all tenants and residents of the vill of Estdilwyche…”. The entry is preceded by John Lane being admonished for erecting a fence “… in the lord’s common opposite Grenestrete without licence …”. Either side of Greendale, until the mid-19th century, were tenanted fields, not common land. Moreover, Greendale does not, nor has it ever had, an “east end”. It runs, as near as makes no difference, north to south.
The earliest map or plan of north Dulwich, showing the old and new boundaries of a substantial farm leased to Robert Bulkeley, does not even show a track where Greendale now runs. It appears for the first time on the College Estate Map of c.1808, significantly as ‘New Road’.
‘Ireland Green’ was a manor waste either side of what is now Half Moon Lane. It was named after James Ireland and his son Thomas, successive tenants of a house and land immediately south of it. The three fields between the green and Herne Hill, known since antiquity as ‘Northcrofts’ or ‘Norcrofts’, were named in a 1607 lease as “abutting north of the Common called Greenstreete Common”. A 1786 lease to Peter Thompson includes a plan showing ‘Green Street’, but by 1792 another plan of his premises refers to it as ‘Ireland Green’. So there can be no doubt that Greenstreet became, or ran through, Ireland Green, and that the modern Half Moon Lane mostly follows the same line.
What of that 1486 reference to “the vill of Estdilwyche”? The earliest maps of Dulwich show a cluster of buildings, probably mainly cottages, around the junction of what are now Red Post Hill, Dulwich Village, East Dulwich Grove, and Half Moon Lane. There is nothing shown to the east of them except fields, and the 1486 scribe could not have meant what we now think of as East Dulwich, as the court would have had no jurisdiction over its inhabitants. So, it seems likely that “the vill of Estdilwyche” refers to that cluster of cottages, at the east end of Greenstreet.
by Patrick Darby
Dr Eva Crane was a brilliant scientist who simultaneously studied for three undergraduate degrees before earning a PhD in nuclear physics. She later became an international authority on bees. She grew up in East Dulwich with her sister Dr Elsie Widdowson, a dietician who helped design the British wartime diet and who was the subject of an article in our Summer 2021 issue.
Born in June 1912, Ethel Eva Widdowson was the younger daughter of Thomas Henry, known as Harry, from Grantham, and Rose, nee Elphick, a dressmaker from Dorking. Harry moved to London, became a grocer’s assistant, then co-owned a grocery business before starting his own stationery business. After WW1 the family lived in Melford Road with Rose’s mother and Eva attended Goodrich Primary School. By 1924 they had moved to a bigger house in Underhill Road as Harry’s business was prospering. Harry’s mother joined them and the Widdowson girls helped care for their grandmothers, fetching coal and reading to them. Both daughters were ferociously intelligent and cycled from Underhill Rd to attend Sydenham County Grammar School for Girls (now Sydenham School). Eva was often kept home due to illness, but despite her absences she excelled in the classroom and won many school prizes.
The family were strict Plymouth Brethren, attending meetings up to seven times a week, undertaking ‘scripture searching’ at home and writing up religious speeches. Their religious beliefs meant the girls did not go to the cinema, concerts or the theatre and in her mid-teens Eva even stopped going to tea parties because she thought they were ‘frivolous’. Though their social life outside the home was limited, the girls kept busy and would knit, sew, frame pictures, do raffia work, visit the Horniman Museum and set each other maths puzzles. They also helped pack supplies for their father’s stationery business and Eva would accompany Harry on customer visits, when she would also take the opportunity to visit the Kensington museums. Harry bought a car in 1922 after which the family holidayed around England and Ireland, hiking and attending local Brethren meetings along the way. Harry taught both his daughters to drive and later Eva and Elsie holidayed together in Elsie’s car, walking and mountain climbing around Europe, right up until WW2 broke out.
Though encouraged to enter teaching, Eva was reluctant and wanted to do something ‘really original’. She could have studied any number of subjects but chose maths because ‘it was the hardest but also the most beautiful’. In 1930 she won a scholarship to King’s College, London, becoming one of only two female maths students; she simultaneously did a teaching degree at the Institute of Education. Like her elder sister she lived at home in East Dulwich during her studies. She took a BSc in Maths in two years, a year later she was awarded a BSc in Physics and she passed her teaching degree with distinction at the same time. One of her physics lecturers, Sir Edward Appleton, who later won the Nobel Prize for Physics, said ‘Miss Widdowson is the most brilliant woman student in Physics…since I came to King’s’. Another lecturer said she was one of the best students the university had ever had. Eva went on to study for an MSc in quantum mechanics before being awarded a PhD in nuclear physics, aged 26.
In 1936 Eva began lecturing at Hull University, lodging with a Plymouth Brethren family and joining the Hull Fellowship. There she met a young marine insurance underwriter called James Crane and their friendship developed on walks where Jim would teach Eva to identify birds. In 1939 when war broke out, Jim joined the navy and Eva told her parents about the friendship. Jim was charmed to receive a letter from Eva’s mother which said ‘This is a few lines of welcome to express our great interest in the link formed between you and Eva. We shall be so pleased to hear from you’. The couple became engaged after two years, which Eva’s parents thought was too soon. Both Eva and Jim had doubts about their faith around this time and ended up leaving the Plymouth Brethren, which caused distress to both sets of parents, each of whom blamed their child’s partner for the split. Both families did eventually reconcile with their children.
Eva began lecturing in physics at Sheffield University in 1940 and married Jim in 1942; they had a short honeymoon before Jim returned to sea for the remainder of the war. There is a story that Elsie gave the couple a beehive as a wedding present, sparking Eva’s lifelong interest, but while a hive would have been very welcome at a time of sugar rationing, in fact Eva had owned hives since 1940 and in 1941 had written to Jim about her bees. Elsie gave them a sewing machine and an atlas as wedding gifts.
In 1945 Eva joined the Medical Research Council, studying biological physics with Professor Krebs, a future Nobel Laureate and discoverer of the eponymously named Krebs Cycle, a metabolic reaction that provides energy to cells.
Her bees were now consuming more and more of her time. She said, ‘It wasn’t the bees I was attracted to at all, I am a scientist and I wanted to know how they worked’. She became secretary of the British Beekeepers Association and wrote scholarly articles. In 1949 she founded the Bee Research Association (BRA), at a time when beekeeping was even more male dominated than her previous milieu of physics, and she helped it become a world-class repository of beekeeping expertise.
Eva travelled to over 60 countries, often alone, to learn and share bee knowledge. When she first flew to Washington it took 11 hours via Reykjavik and she made her own sandwiches as she didn’t know if planes carried food. She visited the USSR in the 1960s and studied the varroa mite, writing a paper on how eastern bees had adapted to the parasite. When the mite later arrived in the US her research helped American beekeepers to tackle it. In a remote corner of Pakistan, she discovered horizontal hives of a kind only seen before in excavations of Ancient Greece and then found evidence that they had been introduce by a soldier of Alexander the Great. She travelled by canoe or dog sled to record the history of humans and bees from prehistoric times to the present, during which she found that the Babylonians used honey to preserve corpses and that bees were used as military weapons by the Viet Cong. Her name became synonymous with beekeeping across the world and her research on apiculture raised the standard of journals such as Bee World. Her own academic standards were high and her meticulous research is demonstrated in 300-plus papers and several of her books became standard works.
Her crowning achievement was to be ‘the bridge between bee science and beekeeping’. She collated and disseminated bee information from all over the world (in all languages) and made it available to anyone who was interested, in a world before the internet. She also collated some 63,000 copies of academic papers and copied and distributed the information worldwide on request
In 1955 Eva and Jim moved to Chalfont St Peter where they lived for the rest of their lives; they had no children. In 1986 Eva was made an OBE and she continued to run what was now the International Bee Research Association until 1987, when she was 72, and when she was 87 she published her 700-page World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting. She founded The Eva Crane Trust to advance the understanding of bees and beekeeping worldwide and left it a large legacy. She died in 2007 aged 95.
There have been bees in Dulwich for a long time as many big houses had apiaries. Doubtless Dr Crane would be delighted to know that Dulwich is still a haven for bees with hives in a wide variety of gardens, allotments and buildings. As an added bonus their honey is often sold in local shops such as Romeo Jones and the Proud Sow. Bees thrive in cities due to higher air temperatures, less use of pesticide and a wider variety of plants compared with monocultural rural fields. However, we need to encourage all pollinators, not just honeybees, and we can do this by planting pollinator friendly flowers and trees, lists of which can easily be found online. Dr Crane, who was an expert in pollen, would have said ‘Plant for pollinators!’
by Sharon O’Connor
The Dulwich parliamentary constituency was created in 1885, one of three constituencies in the borough of Camberwell. Dulwich, as a predominantly rural area, had previously been included in the county constituency of Surrey East. In 1997, the constituency boundaries were changed with most of the Dulwich constituency being incorporated into the current Dulwich and West Norwood constituency. In the intervening 112 years, the constituency was represented by eight Conservatives and three Labour members, with Conservative MPs serving for a total of 79 years and Labour MPs for 33 years. The Liberal Party never succeeded in winning the seat, though that party came fairly close to the Conservatives in the 1906 general election. Of the eight Dulwich Conservative representatives, only one could be considered to be a prominent politician - Andrew Bonar Law, who sat for Dulwich between 1906 and 1910, having moved from the more marginal seat of Glasgow Blackfriars and Shettleston, which was won by Labour’s George Barnes. Bonar Law became Conservative party leader in 1911, now representing Bootle (having failed to win a seat in Manchester) and briefly Prime Minister in 1922, by which point he was representing a Glasgow seat. As this somewhat peripatetic politician was the subject of an article in the Winter 2020 edition of the journal, this article will focus on the other seven. less prominent Dulwich Conservative members.
The first member for the new Dulwich seat, elected in 1885, was JOHN MORGAN HOWARD, who defeated the Liberal candidate, George Collins. Howard was then returned unopposed in the general election the following year. Born in Swansea in 1836, son of a solicitor, Howard became a barrister in 1858, a Queen’s Counsel in 1874 and a judge and recorder for Guildford in 1875, when he was also appointed to a committee to investigate corrupt practices in the election in Norwich. In 1881, he sat on a commission to investigate alleged election corruption in Wigan. In 1883, he sat on a committee to draft a new constitution for the Bar Association. Howard appears to have had little connection with Dulwich. In 1857, he was married in Dalston, while in 1868 he was recorded as having been active in the Chelsea Conservative association, where he spoke in defence of the status of Church of England as the established church. In the same year he was due to chair a Protestant demonstration in Peckham but withdrew as he was ‘indisposed’.
Howard made thee unsuccessful attempts to be returned for the Lambeth seat in 1868, 1874 and 1880 before being adopted as the Conservative candidate for Stamford in Yorkshire and then for the safer seat of Dulwich. He, however, stood down, as was required, on being appointed a county court judge in Cornwall. He died in Torquay in April 1891. Howard does not appear to have been a very active parliamentarian. Hansard records him as having promoted a bill to amend the 1858 Medical Act, having sat on a committee on three Water bills - for Lambeth, Southwark and East London, and having served on the pensions committee.
In the by-election caused by Howard’s resignation, the Conservative candidate, JOHN BLUNDELL MAPLE, was elected, defeating the Dulwich-based Liberal and owner of the South London Press, James Henderson. Maple is the only one of the seven subjects of this article to have an entry in the National Dictionary of Biography. This is not primarily because of his political role, but because he was the son of the founder of the Maple’s furniture shop in Tottenham Court Road. The younger Maple was actually born in Tottenham Court Road in 1845, joining his father in the business in 1862, becoming the effective head of the family business in 1880, and chairman of the company when it went public in 1891. Maple stood unsuccessfully as Conservative candidate for St Pancras South in 1885 before being adopted by the Dulwich Conservatives. He represented Dulwich until his death in 1903, being returned in three successive elections in 1892, 1895, and 1900, being unopposed in his last election.
Maple was knighted in 1892, and made a baronet in 1897. He had a country residence at Childwick Bury, near St Albans. Maple devoted much of his time to the ‘turf’, establishing a breeding stud at Childwick Bury, owning 20-30 horses and winning 544 races, the most successful winning owner of the time. Maple was also the developer of the Grand Central Hotel at Marylebone station, which opened in 1899. His main parliamentary activity appears to have been the sponsoring of successive Bills in 1891 and 1893 to provide cheaper transport for London commuters, which would no doubt help his own employees as well as clerks travelling in to central London from Dulwich. The first Cheap Trains Act was actually enacted in 1883. Maple also gave £50,000 for the rebuilding of University College Hospital. He left a fortune of £2,153,000 at his death in 1903
The Conservative candidate in the by-election which followed Maple’s death was FREDERICK RUTHERFOORD HARRIS. Harris was born in Madras in India, the son of a supreme court judge. Studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh, he moved in 1882 to South Africa to practice as a doctor in the diamond mining town of Kimberley, where he got to know Cecil Rhodes, who appointed him secretary of the British South Africa Company. Harris was elected representative for Kimberley in the Cape Province House of Assembly. In 1891, he provided newspapers with the false information that the Jameson raid on the independent republic of Transvaal - a raid by 500 British South African Company police, led by colonial official Leander Starr Jameson, was a response to a request for help from the ‘uitlanders’ - the British residents in the Transvaal.
Returning to London, Harris was elected as Conservative MP for Monmouth boroughs in the 1900 general election, only to be unseated as a result of a lawsuit alleging electoral irregularities. Though disbarred from standing again in Monmouth, he was allowed to be a candidate elsewhere. In the by-election in Dulwich, he narrowly defeated the young radical Liberal candidate, Charles Masterman, author and proponent of ‘New Liberalism’ who was later to serve in Asquith’s cabinet. The Liberal campaign largely focused on Harris’ controversial record in South Africa. Harris only sat in parliament for three years, deciding in 1906 to return to South Africa. His resignation created a vacancy which enabled the leading Conservative, Andrew Bonar Law, to return to parliament
In December 1910, Bonar Law stood down from the Dulwich seat to contest a seat in Manchester. The Conservatives adopted a personal friend of Law, FREDERICK HALL. Hall won the seat defeating the Liberal candidate, Evan Spicer, the resident of Belair and former LCC vice-chair, who represented Newington. Hall had represented Dulwich on the London County Council since 1907 and was a governor of the Dulwich Estate. His father had been a magistrate for Surrey. Educated privately, he became a member of Lloyds of London in 1896 (later serving as a committee member from 1921 to 1923) and the Baltic Exchange in 1902. He was director of a number of companies, notably in the electricity supply industry. Hall was returned in six successive elections, serving until his death in 1932. In his early years in parliament, before receiving a knighthood, Hall was referred to as Fred Hall, rather than Frederick. He appears to have rarely spoken in the House.
Between 1906 and 1908, Hall lived at Eastlands, a property later demolished to make way for Eastlands Crescent. He then moved to central London and died at his home in Hyde Park Gardens.
On his death, The Times commented on Hall’s parliamentary career:“he was known for his zeal in questioning ministers, and for his ingenuity in devising ‘supplementaries’. He was a strong party man, and was accustomed to express his opinions with a vigour which sometimes aroused the anger of his opponents, though his genial personality made him genuinely popular.”
Hall was perhaps best known for his role in the First World War when he recruited several brigades totalling 4,300 men from Dulwich and Camberwell, which he led himself as a temporary lieutenant colonel. The units embarked for France in December 1915 and served on the Western Front, with Hall returning to London to take up his parliamentary duties. He received a DSO and was then knighted.in 1918. In 1923, Hall was appointed honorary colonel for a Territorial Army unit recruited from Lloyds of London. In the same year, Hall was created a baronet. He died in 1932 and was buried in West Norwood cemetery.
Following Hall’s death, the Conservative candidate elected in the by-election was SIR BRACEWELL SMITH. Smith was born in Keighley in Yorkshire, where he was educated before becoming a pupil teacher and attending Leeds University. He then became a property developer, investing mainly in hotels. At one time he owned the Ritz and his family had stakes in the Carlton hotel and the Hotel Ritz in Paris. He was chairman of Arsenal Football Club between 1949 and 1962 and was at one time chairman of Wembley Stadium. From 1922, Smith was a member of Holborn borough council, serving as Mayor in 1931-2. He served on the London County Council from 1925-1929, representing Holborn. Smith was knighted in 1945, served as Lord Mayor of London in 1946, and was made a baronet, as Baron Smith of Keighley, in 1947. Smith represented Dulwich in the House of Commons from 1932 to 1945, when he lost the seat to Labour’s Wilfred Vernon. In parliament, Smith served as chairman of the House of Commons Kitchen committee and had to answer questions from MPs on the price of parliamentary meals and on matters such as whether the strawberries served were British grown. His first major parliamentary initiative in 1933 was to propose a bill on the licensing of hotels and restaurants. His only other recorded intervention was a written question in July 1943 on the proposed bridge over the Severn estuary.
In 1957, Smith was made a freeman of Keighley, and donated Cliffe Castle in the town to the local council as a museum. He died in 1966.
In the 1951 general election, Labour’s Wilfred Vernon was defeated by the Conservative candidate, ROBERT JENKINS. Born in 1900 and educated at Latymer Upper School, Jenkins served in the King’s Royal Rifle corps during the First World War. In 1927, he was elected to Kensington borough council, staying a member until its incorporation into the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1964, including during his years as MP for Dulwich. He was Mayor of Kensington between 1939 and 1945 and leader of the Conservative group on the council from 1945-53. Between 1934 and 1949, he represented Kensington South on the London County Council. Jenkins had lost by 1300 to Vernon, the sitting MP, in the 1950 election contest for Dulwich before being successful in the following year. He held the seat for thirteen years before being defeated by Labour’s Sam Silkin in the 1964 general election. Jenkins died in 1978, at which time he lived in Wimbledon.
Jenkins’ main activity in parliament related to housing legislation. As president of the Tenants’ Protection League, he opposed the Conservative Government’s Rent Acts, which reduced tenant security and led to evictions. Rebelling against the Conservative whip on several occasions, he accused the Housing Minister, Henry Brooke, of causing fear. Jenkins spoke rarely on other issues. At one point, he objected to MPs having a salary increase. He supported Sir Roy Welensky’s Central Africa Federation, opposing the government proposal to allow Nyasaland to secede from the Federation, which it did to become the independent state of Malawi. He refused to support the Government over its handling of the Profumo affair, in which Defence Minister John Profumo was forced to resign over a sex and espionage scandal. In a debate in 1959 on the Obscene Publications Bill, he objected to artistic merit being a consideration, arguing that a dirty postcard painted by Picasso would still be abhorrent to most citizens.
Jenkins was also a practitioner and advocate of the pseudo-science of phrenology and gave talks on his hobby. He considered that measuring the bumps and shape of a person’s head apparently was enough to look deep into their psyche, to read their personality, and “allows one to assess the capacity of individuals”. Jenkins had been studying phrenology for over 40 years and had more recently broadcast on the subject on television. Before him, he claimed, British First World War leader, David Lloyd George was also a brilliant phrenological amateur.
“I, at least, have no shadow of doubt as to [phrenology’s] truth and the enormous benefit which I believe could result in a Statesman knowing in advance for certain, the mental qualities of both opponents and friends with whom he has to negotiate, particularly in the realm of international affairs.”
In a private meeting with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, Jenkins offered his phrenological skills in order to provide the Prime Minister with assessments of world figures including U.S. President John F Kennedy and French President Charles de Gaulle. Jenkins said the assessments would be secret and that he would not require any “acknowledgement” for his services. Macmillan was amused by the idea and requested Jenkins to furnish manuscripts on Kennedy and de Gaulle.
The most recent Conservative MP for Dulwich was GERALD (GERRY) BOWDEN, who defeated Labour’s Kate Hoey and the Social Democrat Party’s Dick Taverne in the 1983 election and held it until losing to Labour’s Tessa Jowell in 1992. Born in 1935, educated at Battersea Grammar School and studying law at Magdalen College, Oxford, Bowden became a chartered surveyor. He undertook national service and then joined the Territorial Army, becoming a lieutenant-colonel. Between 1971 and 1984, he was a principal lecturer in property law at South Bank Polytechnic, which later became South Bank University, and after losing his parliamentary seat, took up an academic position at Kingston University as well as returning to practice at the property bar. He also chaired the London Rent Assessment Panel and the London Leasehold Tribunal and was President of the Appeal Tribunal on Building Regulations. Bowden represented Dulwich on the Greater London Council between 1977 and 1981, and was then co-opted on to the Inner London Education Authority, where he opposed what he saw as left-wing teaching of politics in schools. Healso opposed a Labour plan to teach immigrant children in their own languages. An Anglo-Catholic, he was an opponent of Sunday trading. He argued that the Channel Tunnel rail link, originally proposed to run through South London, should all be underground.
He had an interest in the arts, being a trustee of the Royal Albert Hall and promoting local tourism. He wanted stricter regulation of trade unions. Bowden was at one time chairman of the Dulwich Estate, chaired the Walcot Trust, a Lambeth based charitable educational foundation which had a property portfolio, chaired the Lambeth and Southwark Housing Society as well as being a member of the Oxford and Cambridge Club, chairing the committee in the year it disputed over the issue of admission of women members. He died at the age of 84 in 2020.
by Duncan Bowie
The Dulwich Players present THE 39 STEPS
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
From the novel by John Buchan and the film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Wednesday 19th April - Friday 21st April at 7.30pm
Saturday 22nd April at 3:30pm and 7:30pm
At The Great Hall, Alleyn’s School, Townley Road SE22 8SU
Tickets: £14 Adults or £10 for 18 years and under
available from www.dulwichplayers.org. (small fee payable)
Britain on the brink of war! Foreign agents on our shores! Can Richard Hannay, innocent man on the run, evade the police, get the girl and save the country from a ring of murderous spies?
Six plucky actors, who between them will be taking on more than 50 roles, will bring Alfred Hitchcock’s epic cinematic masterpiece to the stage in a visual and emotional feast of drama, villainy, adventure and pure silliness. The production includes the famous chase on the Flying Scotsman train, a scene on the Forth Bridge and the world’s first ever on-stage plane crash. This is a must-see for all ages.