The Good Life and High Times of Richard Randall
by Brian Green
Richard Randall had arrived in Dulwich to take up his appointment as organist at the College in 1763. It had also been a very busy year for him professionally as we read in the last issue. His social life was restricted by having to get to grips with his duties at Dulwich, which as well as playing the organ for chapel services also required him to teach the poor scholars to sing. What leisure he did have was limited to occasional visits with one of his colleagues to the Green Man, a fashionable hostelry which is now the site of The Grove Tavern on Dulwich Common.
In 1764, despite a packed opera season in which, amongst others, he performed in Handel’s Nabal, Samson, Judas Maccabeus and Deborah, by the summer he found time to relax and go to the races. Horse racing to Richard Randall was a long standing passion. Whenever he had to give an organ recital at cathedrals such as Canterbury, Salisbury or Winchester, he would find time to see the racing there as well. Epsom was another favourite, his frequent visits made possible by virtue of the fact that he had an aunt living there where he could stay. Horse racing was a popular sport locally, and in Dulwich a Mr Green had some acres of meadow which he turned over to horse racing in summer. In late July 1764 Richard Randall went with a Captain Carey to see the Norwood Races and in the following September went first to the Sydenham Races and then to the Dulwich Races.
Richard Randall went to Epsom races on 17th May 1765. Five years later the Derby and The Oaks were raced there.
It was also in September that he took on a pupil in Dulwich. It would be his entry to local society because the pupil was Sally Wright, the wife of Thomas Wright a wealthy stationer and publisher who would become Lord Mayor in 1785. He was next invited to the home of Mr Durnford who lived in one of the houses on Dulwich Common between Gallery and College Roads. He both dined and had supper there, which in 1764 suggests that he had dinner around 3pm and was invited to stay for an evening meal as well.
His visit to the Wright household was made before they had moved into their splendid home, Bell House, in College Road. This visit must have opened other doors for Richard Randall because in November he accompanied the City Marshall to the Lord Mayor’s Ball and two months later was invited to Mr and Mrs Brass Crosby’s house for tea and supper. It would be the first of many such visits and he and the Yorkshire born lawyer, who gave his name to the expression “as bold as brass”, became regular companions.
Brass Crosby, who got his unusual Christian name from the maiden name of his mother, came to London from Stockton-on-Tees to practise law and in 1758 was elected a member of the City’s common council. Two years he later purchased the office of City Remembrancer. In 1770, at the age of 45 he would be elected Lord Mayor and during his year of office became a national hero both in refusing to allow navy press gangs to operate in the City and for his defence of the free press. At the time it was illegal for newspapers to publish verbatim reports of the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament. Instead, accounts were published with titles such as “debates of Lilliput” and MPs were given fictitious names.
Two newspapers (the Gazetteer and the Middlesex Journal) had published literal accounts of the proceedings and the MPs were properly identified. They were furious. The printers were commanded to attend the House but refused and the sergeant-at-arms was ordered to arrest them but they went into hiding.. By this time other newspapers were also reporting the debates in Parliament and Mr Miller, printer of the London Evening Post was taken into custody by the messenger of the House for not obeying the order for his attendance at the bar and brought before the Lord Mayor for sentencing. Brass Crosby refused to do any such thing, saying that the citizens had the right to know what those who represented them and made their laws were saying and doing. Not only did Crosby release the printer but he supported the action of his aldermen who had committed the messenger from Parliament with assault and wrongful arrest. Crosby and Alderman Oliver were ordered to attend the House where Oliver was committed to the Tower, Crosby was allowed to withdraw because of a severe attack of gout. A week later he again attended the House attended by an enormous crowd and upon his refusal to be treated leniently on the score of his health he was also committed to the Tower.
One account says that he was transported to the Tower by boat by order of the King to prevent his being rescued. There was a national outcry against parliament’s actions and effigies of leading members, including his major protagonists, Colonel Onslow and the Speaker, were burned on Tower Hill. Crosby was released after six weeks imprisonment to scenes of great celebration. Bonfires were lit, there was a twenty-one gun salute and fifty three carriages accompanied his coach, which, towards the end of its journey had its horses replaced by people to pull it. A column in his honour was erected at St George’s Circus where it still remains.
Richard Randall was a regular visitor to the Crosby household, recording in his diary that Mrs Crosby died on the night of 19th November 1767. Brass Crosby would remarry three years later. Richard was also a regular visitor to the home of Mr Noble Spring who had recently moved into a house in the middle of the hamlet of Dulwich. Indeed it might have been Mr Spring’s daughter about whom Richard Randall had composed a poem which he sent for publication to the London Advertiser:
To Miss E – S, on looking out of her Chamber window at Dulwich
and which he signed himself Fidelio.
Mr Spring was employed by the Custom House and bought his house from Luke Lightfoot, one of Dulwich’s very intriguing residents. Some time after the sale of his house, Lightfoot had launched an ambitious enterprise on Denmark Hill; the building of a new assembly room.
For an assembly room to be a success it had to attract fashionable society. To do this assembly rooms had to have a certain attraction; the patronage of royalty or the aristocracy or the appeal of their programmes of entertainments and the grandeur of the premises. Lightfoot’s gambit was to build Denmark Hall, now the site of the Fox on the Hill pub, with a great room 100’ x 30’ which at the time was claimed to be one of the largest rooms in England. He appears to have financed this project through his work as a master-carver, completing the extraordinary chinoiserie at Lord Verney’s seat at Claydon, now a National Trust property. In the course of this commission Lightfoot was sued by his lordship for overcharging him £23,000 for his work.
Assembly rooms were at their height of popularity at this time and Richard Randall was a regular patron of the local assembly room at the Green Man which met on Monday evenings for dances or cards and for which the admission fee was one guinea. It is possible that the impending closure of the Green Man (Randall went to a sale there in 1770) inspired Luke Lightfoot to undertake, what would prove to be his short-lived enterprise on Denmark Hill.
Richard Randall also, on occasions, went to the prestigious assembly room at St James’s run by the famous Mr Almack. While the emphasis on assemblies in the fashionable parts of London was on gambling or dancing, nevertheless, shrewd proprietors also put on lavish entertainments to compliment the grandeur of the décor to attract large attendances. Singers and musicians were engaged to provide concerts. Richard Randall once performed at the most famous of all assembly rooms – Mrs Cornelys in Soho Square.
Mrs Cornelys had a colourful career; an opera singer, actress and courtesan and a conquest of Casanova. It was her friendship with the even more notorious Elizabeth Chudleigh which persuaded her to lease Carlisle House in Soho Square as assembly rooms in 1760. With Mrs Chudleigh’s connections in high society the establishment became a great success and was famous for its masked balls and supper rooms. When Almack’s opened in competition, Mrs Cornelys in response gave her rooms a lavish make-over, spending over £2000 in decorating one of the great rooms with blue satin and another in yellow. Fanny Burney noted “The magnificence of the rooms, splendour of the illuminations and embellishments and brilliance of the appearance of the company exceeded anything I saw before. The rooms were so hot, nobody attempted to dance”.
Fashion is fickle and both Mrs Cornelys and Luke Lightfoot’s stars dimmed. The former because of mounting debts and competition from the likes of Almack’s and the newly opened Pantheon in Leicester Square where Richard Randall also performed, and the latter because of its remoteness from the society it aimed to attract. Lightfoot’s enterprise, where Randall was a regular visitor, would later be converted into the less ambitious ‘Denmark Hill Tea Gardens’.
It was tales of the society which patronised such gatherings which made Randall such a fascinating guest in Dulwich’s more pedestrian homes. Moreover Randall also performed for one of society’s most curious characters – the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who had already served one term as the First Lord of the Admiralty and who would go on to serve twice more and send Captain Cook on his voyages of discovery. One account says that Lord Sandwich gambled for twenty four hours without a break and, reluctant to leave the tables ordered a servant to bring him some salt beef between two slices of bread, which, as a consequence was the invention of the snack which was named after him. More charitable sources say that his lordship invented the humble sandwich because of the long hours spent at his office desk.
Randall sang for his lordship on three consecutive Saturdays in February 1766. Lord Sandwich who was then a cabinet minister, was three years into his affair with Martha Ray a fellow singer of Randall’s at the opera house in Covent Garden. It was in the foyer of the opera house in 1779 that Martha Ray was shot dead by her jealous admirer, James Hackman, Rector of Wiveton. Apparently the grief stricken peer never recovered from her loss.
Randall’s engagement to sing at Lord Sandwich’s soirées probably occurred because of his performances at a club dedicated to the appreciation of the works of George Frederick Handel and named the academy of ancient music which met at the Crown & Anchor tavern in Fleet Street where the Earl was a member. Randall sang occasional oratorios there and may even have been a member himself.
All in all, 1766 was a good year for Richard Randall , there can be no doubt about it because he writes inside the cover of his 1767 diary – “Resolved to Live as Happy this year as I did the Last if possible, and Go to Bath”. Well, Richard did not manage it that year, nor even in the next two, but in 1769 he finally achieved his ambition. The start of the year was another busy one; he sang at a Turk’s Head concert where Samuel Johnson’s literary circle met (The Club), there were two King’s Command performances of a now forgotten opera titled Gideon and there were regular revivals of Handel operas : Acis and Galatea, Samson, Messiah, Judas Maccabeus and Israel in Egypt. He also sang for the composer John Stanley in aid of the St Andrews Society, one of the many charities which gave fund-raising concerts in London. On Tuesday May 16th, a week after singing at St Paul’s cathedral, Richard Randall boarded a stagecoach for the journey to Bath. He stayed the first night near Reading, took his breakfast at Theale, dined at Newbury and had his supper and spent the night at Hungerford, probably at The Bear inn. He had his breakfast next morning at Marlborough, dined in Devizes and arrived in Bath that Thursday evening where he stayed in lodgings provided by his host.
Richard Randall’s host in Bath was Dr Thorpe. Thorp was a most agreeable companion, willing to show the 37 year old bachelor the sights of the city. Together they took a walk to “the cures”, went to the Pump Room and on the Saturday evening went to the theatre to see a play where Thorp had secured the very best seats in a stage box. On the Sunday Richard went twice to the Abbey Church, indeed he might even have played the organ there. The following days were spent on an excursion to Bristol to visit its famous wells. In February 2011, the company that now owns the well they visited applied to the Environment Agency to extract and bottle up to 15 million litres (3.3 million imperial gallons) of water a year. Richard Randall and his host then went to the theatre to see Thomas Arne’s popular ballad opera Love in a village where this time he had a seat in the pit. Richard must have felt in familiar surroundings because Bristol’s theatre which was built only five years earlier, in 1764, was based on Drury Lane theatre where Richard was a regular performer.
On the Tuesday, back in Bath, after another visit to the Pump Room he rode with Dr Thorp to Claverton Hill, now the campus of the university of Bath, and in the evening went to the Assembly Rooms newly built by John Wood. Another ride the following day to Lansdowne Hill was followed by another visit to the Pump Room and Spring Gardens where he writes…”walk Mr Thorp para de rooms..”
On Thursday, a final breakfast with Thorp’s daughter and it was time to leave by the London coach. A night at Marlborough, the next at Oakingham (now Wokingham) and by the evening he was back in Dulwich and having supper with his friend Mr Swanne, the College’s preacher, and no doubt regaling him with his adventures. The following day, being Sunday, Richard took up his Dulwich duties by playing the organ in the College Chapel.
In the next issue we learn that Richard Randall was Dulwich’s most eligible bachelor, that he took a summer vacation to the newly discovered ‘smart’ destinations of Margate and Brigthelmstone and hear of his adventures there.
Dulwich Trees - The Foxglove Tree - Paulownia tomentosa
by Stella Benwell
There is one of these unusual trees at the corner of Bowen Drive and Dulwich Wood Park, another in Clive Road and a new one has recently been planted in the Gallery garden. As its name implies it has flowers similar to the foxglove. The wide spreading branches only grow to about 15 metres. The flower buds appear in the autumn but do not flower until the following late spring and before the leaves. They are like candelabras of purplish blue bell- shaped flowers, highly scented. The leaves are very large and heart shaped, similar to the Catalpa, although they are not related. The fruits are two inch long sticky bean pods. The wood is the fastest growing hard wood in the world and the most versatile; it is light, warp resistant, with a beautiful grain and much prized. The tree was found in China in the 1830’s where it was used for timber, fuel and food. It is now planted extensively in America for its timber.
There are many legends about the Paulownia, and several delightful names. In China it is called the Empress tree because only an empress was entitled to have one planted on their grave. In Japan it is called the Princess tree and was planted to celebrate the birth of a daughter and because of its rapid growth could be cut down on her marriage to make a wedding chest, clogs or a musical instrument. It is also called the Phoenix tree because of its ability to re-grow from old root stock and therefore was planted near houses to bring good luck.
It seems rather sad therefore that here Paulownia are just pretty flowering trees in the streets or the parks and have no history.
The winter of 2011 will be remembered by wildlife enthusiasts as the Waxwing winter and indeed there were unprecedented numbers of these beautiful birds everywhere. In Turney Road at the sports ground entrance there were at least a hundred and an impression of the numbers can be seen from Robert Park’s accompanying photograph. Sandy Alexander described his car as being covered in Waxwing droppings, the saving grace being his enthusiasm for the culprits. Whether these numbers will appear again remains to be seen.
But this has been followed by an April heat wave, a problem for the drought burdened gardeners but a bonus for much of the wildlife. The summer migrants have been arriving early with Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs establishing territories. Willow Warblers on passage from southern Africa were singing in Dulwich Park in the first week of April, an amazing feat for a bird little bigger than a Blue Tit. And perhaps more intriguing has been a Reed Warbler singing in the recently planted reed bed on the bank of the Dulwich Park lake. We shall have to see if there is sufficient reed habitat to enable breeding.
Resident birds have also started to breed early and it may enable the Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes to get two or even three broods fledged which could swell the population, particularly important for our Song Thrushes. Little Grebes, a recent addition to our breeding list are already well advanced in their breeding cycle in Dulwich Park, and like many of our wild birds such as Herons and duck varieties they are adapting to urban life by discarding their fear of humans.
There have been three or more pairs of the beautiful Mandarin Ducks on Belair lake. I am not sure where they are breeding but they are tree nesting ducks with young that drop out of their nesting site after hatching, and in previous years there have been no sign of them during the actual breeding period.
Another bonus of the fine Spring has been the early appearance of our colourful hibernating butterflies such as Peacocks and Commas, species that require Stinging Nettles, not the most welcome of our weeds , on which to lay eggs and breed. But there have also been a profusion of Holly Blues and even a few of the pretty lemon yellow Brimstones which could use Pyrocantha shrubs as a food plant for their caterpillars. Orange Tip butterflies appeared early this year, and the females, that look superficially like Cabbage Whites as they lack the orange of their males, could be seen laying eggs around the blossoms of Honesty plants, and also Hedge Mustard that can be a rather prevalent weed.
The first House Martins have just been seen, again quite early, and we shall have to wait for the later summer and the next report to see how these and the Swifts fare this year after what have been for them increasingly lean years.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel: 020 7274 4567)
Who Was Who in Dulwich - Roy McKay (1900–1993)
A personal reflection by Kenneth Wolfe
He was the outstanding innovator appointed Head of Religious Broadcasting just when independent television began in 1955. It was a crucial appointment for the BBC and the Churches: RM came of radical stock: he was a member of the Modern Churchman’s
Union whose secretary had been almost tried for heresy in the twenties. Archbishop Fisher wanted Mervyn Stockwood but the BBC certainly did not: 'too much charisma' said DG Jacob - formerly in Churchill's War Cabinet. His predecessors tried hard to present Christian belief to a nominally Christian audience; but RM was determined to get them to understand it.
His time as Chaplain of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich had made it clear that society no longer accepted Christian belief without question; it had to make sense and be at all costs intelligible. He had been the incumbent in a variety of urban parishes before Dulwich and lastly Chaplain at Canford School in Dorset. He had thus been face to face with parishes showing signs of decline and later, the changing attitudes of the young. Whilst at Dulwich he was instrumental in supporting a refugee hostel for Jewish children brought from Germany on the Kindertransport. All in all, and notwithstanding the resistance to some of his radical ideas, his reputation went before him and he was invited by the BBC to become Head of Religious Broadcasting in 1955 not long after Director General William Haley in a public lecture said that the BBC was committed to maintaining Christian values. Roy MacKay wanted to make sure that these values were above all intelligent, well-informed and widely discussed.
This meant bringing to the microphone and the television screen those in the churches willing to question and share their doubts before a wide audience, as well as being able to show how Christianity was the product of culture emerging from its Jewish setting. The Bishop of Woolwich was one among many. This was dynamite to the churches' middle management and indeed, the bench of bishops! RM was in fighting mood: "we shall not gain in the end by fighting to protect church services against television." * RM wanted to reach the vast masses in society: the 'churched' certainly but better the 'unchurched' and the 'half-churched' that formed the majority. By the time of his appointment in 1955, it was already clear that the churches were in serious decline as the post-war figures showed. McKay had once said that those who stand outside the church were more open to Christian truth than those inside it. One might imagine the wrath of the conventional faithful! McKay wanted to exploit television and that meant two things: putting a face to the new Christian authors; and secondly laying a foundation for documentary programmes: that meant money and by the seventies, a successful documentary maker, Peter Armstrong along with Don Cupitt gave shape to McKay's legacy.
In the fifties, the so-called 'closed period' early on Sunday was when the screens went blank; imagine that today! Eventually, the BBC and the ITV companies agreed to exploit this slot. McKay said that at least, the BBC should use that time to do the three things stipulated in the BBC Royal Charter: ‘ inform, educate and entertain’. In January 1955, alas, the churches were taken by surprise; ITV's 'About Religion' began in the closed-period and pipped the BBC to the post! McKay was incensed that the BBC had been held back by church opinion and soon had the Corporation's support for his own series: 'Meeting point' - it would bring together all manner of leading clerics and others. The ITV companies were more ready to do the churches' bidding. For McKay's 'Meeting Point' it meant that - alongside such favourites as 'Songs of Praise' - an idea of Hugh Greene - the BBC should be airing some of the modern questions now being asked about sexuality, wealth, religious conflict, fundamentalism and the thorny question about the Christian Gospels: were they reports of what actually happened? or were they insights into the beliefs about the figure of Jesus held by those who came a long time later? Roy McKay attacked this question by screening Dennis Potter's 'Son of Man' a radical contrast with Dorothy L. Sayers 'Man Born to be King' almost a generation before. The balloon went up! This was blasphemy said some and the BBC came in for a great deal of stick. He had Adam Faith face-to-face with Archbishop Donald Coggan and Ludovic Kennedy and an audience of about eight million! Roy McKay wanted to get behind the stories and the traditions to make it clear that not all Christian belief was set in stone; it had evolved and was the product of ancient cultures. Eventually the churches wanted him out and thus at the height of the row about 'Honest to God', Roy left.
Happily throughout his time, Roy McKay was always supported by the BBC hierarchy. The BBC was there he said, to do for religion what 'Panorama' did for current affairs and - eventually - 'Horizon' for science: examining origins and answering contemporary questions even if that meant going against mainstream opinion. The broadcasters were there to serve society by innovation; but the mainstream opposed him: the broadcaster, they said, should reflect the life of the churches and keep away from critical issues. Roy McKay published his basic ideas in 1964 'Take Care of the Senses' and for this, no wonder the church leadership thought it was time he went: he was given a canonry in a City church where he infused new life into it and there in his Barbican flat, I spent many hours before the 'horse's mouth' - sipping his favourite tea: lapsang!
Roy McKay was born at Sevenoaks, Kent 4 November 1900. He was ordained deacon 1926, priest 1927. After several parish posts he was appointed Chaplain, Alleyn's College of God’s Gift , Dulwich in 1937. In 1943 his pacifist views alienated some of the College governors and he was asked to resign. There was an overwhelming expression of public support for Roy McKay and the governors were obliged to ask him to remain. Not surprisingly, he declined. He became vicar of Goring-by-Sea, Sussex 1943-48; Chaplain, Canford School, Dorset 1948-55; Head of Religious Broadcasting, BBC 1955-63; Honorary Canon, Chichester Cathedral 1957-93; Rector, St James, Garlickhythe 1965-70. Roy McKay died at Stamford, Lincolnshire 5 November 1993 aged 93. BG
* K.M.Wolfe 'The Churches & the BBC, the Politics of Broadcast Religion 1922-1955. SCM Press 1984. p527
On the street where you live - Acacia Grove
By Ian McInnes
By the end of the eighteenth century Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, widely called Dulwich College, was short of the funds needed to carry out repairs to its buildings, especially the west wing. To try and improve the situation it sponsored the Dulwich College Building Act of 1808. This permitted it to amend some of Edward Alleyn’s original restrictive statutes and allow both further building on the Estate and the potential to extend the length of leases from the original 21 to 84 years. However, until the 1850s, and despite its continuing serious financial position, it took no real opportunity to capitalise on these changes and continued to restrict development to just a few large houses on Dulwich Common.
The reforming of the College by Act of Parliament in 1857 brought in appointed governors to replace the existing management of its affairs. Three events exercised the minds of the new Governors, who had a brief to build new schools but were short of the funds with which to do it to. The first was the construction from 1853 of the Crystal Palace at the top of Sydenham Hill. This unleashed considerable development pressure in the south of the Estate which was further exacerbated by the second event, the arrival of the railways from 1858 onwards - there was now an easy way for potential new residents to reach their jobs in central London. The third was the construction of the New College from 1866-1870 (paid for by the money the Estate received from the railway companies to build the new tracks across its land) - the New College was far larger than before and needed a considerable number of pupils to make it pay.
By the mid 1860s the College had sanctioned the building of a number of large houses in College Road and Dulwich Wood Avenue, and word must have got out that they would be receptive to the development of smaller properties - in the right location. The west side of the Estate, on the Lambeth Border and beyond the new railway line, was such a location and, in September 1866, it entered into a building agreement with a Mr Thomas Jewell for “a plot of ground on the east side of Croxted Road, intended to be divided into two pieces by a new road”. It bordered Croxted Road on the west, copyhold field 395 to the south (later to be developed as Ildersly Grove) and the Alleyn’s Head in the south-east corner (where Majestic Wine now stands). The agreement obliged Mr Jewell to fence in the land and construct a new road and to build 28 smaller (but substantial) houses, 14 on each side of the new road, at a cost of £200 each. They were to be semi-detached; four pairs were to be built by Christmas 1866, and the whole project finished by September 1869. The ground rent was to be £66 1s 8d for 84 years from 1865. The road was to be called Acacia Grove.
The concept of small houses obviously caused the Governors some problems as, at the same meeting, they agreed that Mr Jewell would be required to lease the houses in pairs “since the collection of such small rents entails great trouble and consequent expense on the Governors.” Each semi-detached pair was leased to one tenant who then sublet the other house to their own subtenant.
The road and houses are shown on the 1876 Estate Map and there was no further mention of the road until April 1924 when the Surveyor reported that, following the Manger’s instructions, he had carried out a survey of the structural condition of the houses (the leases had about 25 years left). He noted that “In past days there have been settlements in most of the house fronts owing to the somewhat unsatisfactory construction of the wide French casement windows, but in every case these have been repaired. Generally the houses are in good repair; the roofs, external pointing, and external painting being in good condition. I hardly think there should be sufficient justification for serving notices to repair.”
Later that year, in September, Mr H T Holman, head lessee of Nos 5 & 6 Acacia Grove, and his under-lessee, Mr G W C Atkins, made an application to split the lease on the properties into two and to extend it for another 80 years. The Manager reported that the houses had been redecorated and were in a very fair state of repair, and that the usual scale premium would mean a cost of £133 0s 8d per house with an increased annual ground rent of £10. He then rejected the application because “only the main tenant can apply for a new lease”.
In October the Surveyor had another look at the properties – clearly a somewhat more detailed survey than his inspection in April, as his report was very different – it is clear that he had not actually entered the houses earlier. He confirmed that schedules of ‘want of repair’ should be served. His estimate of the approximate cost of repairs was £100. The Estate would not even discuss the matter of a new lease until the remedial work was completed. No 5 was signed off in September and No 6 in February 1926 and the new leases were agreed shortly afterwards
The neighbours obviously talked to one another and a similar application for splitting the lease on Nos. 19 & 20 Acacia Grove was made one month later in February 1925. The Manager reported that the leaseholder, a Miss Annie Gertrude Hastings, wanted to dispose of the properties “but is hampered because any one tenant would be liable for the rent on both houses”. The Estate agreed to change the leases and charge a ground rent of 10s 6d on each house (from £1 1s on both). Later in the year Mrs G M Erikson & Mr H C A Best at Nos. 9 & 10 and Mr H W Tozer & Mr J W Morley at Nos. 23 & 24 did the same.
Acacia Grove did not fare well in WW2 – in 1941 a large bomb badly damaged Nos 23-28 and the adjacent houses at 20 & 22 Croxted Road. They proved to be un-repairable and were all demolished in November 1943. In December 1945 Nos. 1and 5 were requisitioned by Camberwell Borough Council and in July 1946 the Camberwell Town Clerk wrote to the Governors saying that they wished to redevelop the bomb site as council housing. His letter said “the committee feel that this site would be eminently suitable for housing purposes and are proposing to submit the same to the London County Council for their observations.”
The Estate indicated their general approval to the purchase and Camberwell wrote again on 1st October 1946 requesting information on the possible terms. The Manager was asked to go and see the Town Clerk and see the proposed layout as “the form of development has a distinct bearing upon the rental value of the Building Lease.” The actual Compulsory Purchase Notice was served on 3rd July 1947 and, although the Estate objected at the subsequent public enquiry on 21st October, this was only procedural - to make sure that they obtained a fair price for the site (they received £3000). The compulsory purchase order was confirmed in February 1948 and the site developed over the next three years.
On the other side of the road, where the houses had not been so badly damaged, the Estate re-let Nos. 15 & 16 to teachers at the College for £70 per annum. The Manager noted that “These premises which are now in course of renovation by the Council’s contractors were offered to Mr W Darby, an assistant college master, on a yearly tenancy. Mr Darby asks for electric light to be installed and I have received an estimate for this work for £39 10s.” (William Darby was chairman of the Dulwich Society in 1968 and author of ‘Dulwich Discovered’ and ‘Dulwich – a place in history’)
In February 1949 the Manager noted that “I recently had occasion to write to both of these tenants drawing attention to a breach of the stipulations of their agreements in respect of the occupation of the premises.” Mr Darby had taken a student boarder and had asked for alterations to be carried out to the attic rooms in order that he could take other boarders. Mr Hillier (No 15) had sublet the top floor of his house as well. The Estate subsequently received a letter form the Clerk of the Governors of the College pointing out the serious problem they had at that time with boarding accommodation and asking the Governors to be helpful. They finally agreed to the changes.
Acacia Grove: Who Lived in a Street Like This?
By Sharon O’Connor
Walking down Acacia Grove today one gets a real sense of a Victorian street. The good sized windows and handsome frontages of the semi detached villas must have been as attractive to their original owners or tenants as they are to us today. The pairs of lions, greyhounds or sphinxes guarding the front porches still say “I’ve arrived” just as they did when they were first sited outside the new houses. I wonder how many children have stroked, patted or ridden on them since then? In Acacia Grove the numbering system works sequentially up the south side of the street and then back down the other side, as was common when street numbering was first introduced in this country and this adds an extra charm to the road.
Of course, there are differences between then and now. Some houses, perhaps lost during the Blitz, have been replaced by flats and one semi has been rebuilt as a match to its neighbour, the only giveaway being the type of brick used. The trees are more mature but nonetheless, tucked away as it is, Acacia Grove can’t have looked too different when its original residents first took possession of their villas in the leafy suburb of Dulwich. These residents were pioneers in a way because in the first 20 years after Acacia Grove was built, while they were settling in and bringing up their families, Dulwich was tripling in size and a large amount of building work would have been going on all around them.
The 1881 Census shows that all the residents of Acacia Grove were British subjects but their birthplaces cover a fairly wide geographical spread. Perhaps surprisingly, less than 40% of them were born in London, with 44% born elsewhere in England. All the home nations are represented, together with France, Italy, Switzerland, Gibraltar, India, Africa and Tasmania.
All the servants living in Acacia Grove at this time were born in England or Wales and most of them had not travelled too far in order to go into service. One third of them were born in London with two thirds born outside London. Of those from London, at least a quarter were born in the parish of Camberwell (it may well be more but some have not specified which part of London they came from). Others were born nearby, eg Brixton, Peckham and Bermondsey. Of those from outside London, over half came from the Home Counties and the rest from the southern half of England. Only one house in the road had no live-in servants. Of the other households, if they had one servant, she (yes, always a she) was described as a general servant. If a household had more than one servant there was usually a cook and a housemaid or a governess and a general servant.
The residents of Acacia Grove had an interesting range of occupations. Among the more usual clerks there was a wine merchant, an iron merchant, an accountant, a bankrupt, barrister, a watchmaker, a flowerpot manufacturer, and a Deputy Commander in Ordnance (retired).
Everybody has a story and the residents of Acacia Grove are no exception. Just a couple of lines in a Kelly’s Directory or a Census record can lead to all kinds of questions. For example, Mr Tanner & Mrs Tanner, he born in Bombay, she in Italy: what brought them to Dulwich? They were not married but brother and sister-in-law. Mrs Tanner’s children lived with them: Louisa also born in Bombay and Edmund born in Croydon. Or Mr and Mrs Hall. Mr Hall was a clerk from Leeds, his wife Susanna born in Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania. How did they meet and come to bring their family of 4 boys (3 clerks and a schoolboy) and a girl (pupil teacher) to Acacia Grove? I also wonder about Arthur Paillard, a young watchmaker born in Switzerland and living with his wife Theresa Maria in Acacia Grove. Could he have been connected to the precision watchmaker firm of E Paillard which was founded in Switzerland in 1814 and is still a going concern today?
Mr Griffin Vyse was born in Cornwall and employed by the Indian Civil Service although in 1881 he was living in Acacia Grove with his wife, Marie, and their servant, Eliza. He wrote many books on Egypt and Afghanistan, at least one of which is still in print and available today: “Egypt: Political, Financial and Strategic”. Sadly, his “An Englishman in a Harem” appears to be out of print. In it he recounts how a group of men gained access to the harem by dressing up as women. Apparently Vyse himself took part and his disguise was so effective that his male companions did not recognize him, and even flirted with him. A story to tell at West Dulwich dinner parties perhaps.
Florence Marzetti Gunnell lived here with her husband Basil. When single she and her sisters lived at Pond House in Village Way and “were such striking beauties that they were (known as) the "Toasts of Dulwich" and Pond House underwent another siege of Sebastopol by an army of young and adoring swains”.
Thomas Charles Pascoe was a sailor in the Royal Navy. He lived in Acacia Grove in 1888 and retired, at his own request in 1907 with the rank of Captain. A striking portrait miniature of him, a watercolour painted on ivory, is in the V&A collection and in it he looks very like George V or Tsar Nicholas II.
Not everyone was content to stay in Dulwich. Harry Windle was born in India but as a teenager he came to live in Acacia Grove with his Irish mother, Anna, and his brothers and sisters who were also born in India. In 1886 he moved to Canada to join a bank there before transferring to San Francisco where he married Elene Austin in 1892. He resigned from the bank to join the Klondike Gold Rush and sadly we don’t know if he was successful or not. However, he ended his days in Canada, leaving his widow and one son in Canada, a daughter living in England and another son in South Africa. One of his sisters, Mary, born in 1870, died a pauper in Ilford Lunatic Asylum in 1901. As a young widow his mother, Anna Windle, had taken in a lodger of the same age as Harry, called Arthur Dyson. Arthur also emigrated to Canada where he became a Mountie. He then moved to South Africa and served in the Constabulary. One wonders whether the two men travelled together or indulged their wanderlust separately.
Henry Dunstan was born in 1841 in Chester. In 1859 he started work at the Woolwich Arsenal as a temporary clerk. He made rapid progress, gaining promotion to Deputy Assistant Superintendent of Stores (the equivalent of the rank of Lieutenant) in 1861. In a letter to Harry’s elder brother Richard later that year, his father wrote: “Harry is wanting to go to Canada and I am using my influence to send him out when I have told him he must be quiet for he is a most impatient fellow, not 21 yet and receiving £160 per annum with periodical increase and rank of Lieutenant”. Harry’s wish was not fulfilled, perhaps due to the outbreak of the American Civil War, and he remained at Woolwich. He married Louisa Ellen Heritage in 1865 in Brighton and four days after the wedding, they sailed to Gibraltar with Harry’s regiment. Three sons were born in Gibraltar.
In 1874, Harry and his family returned to Aldershot in England, where a daughter and a fourth son were born. He retired from the army in 1880 with a pension of £20 per month and this is when he was living with his family, children’s governess and servant in Acacia Grove with at least one son at Dulwich College. Shortly afterwards, he moved to a newly built house in Gipsy Hill, where his wife died in 1883.
Harry maintained an office in the City of London, and became involved with an unsuccessful gold mining venture in South Africa. In 1893 he married Lucy Mary Hollocombe in Kensington. Lucy was born in Rio de Janeiro, and witnesses to the wedding were Lucy’s brother, John, and the French baron Eugene Oppenheim. Baron Oppenheim was also involved at this time in a dubious business venture in South Africa and was jailed by a Belgian court in 1900 for falsifying accounts.
In July 1896, Lucy petitioned for divorce on the grounds of Harry’s adultery with Florence Mary Speight, 30 years his junior. Harry and Florence had a son, Guy Mainwaring, born in 1896 and when Harry’s divorce from Lucy became absolute the following year he married Florence. Harry died in 1903 in Fulham, aged 61.
Lastly, Frederick Robert de Levante was living in Acacia Grove at the outbreak of WW1. He fought on the Western Front in France as a Lance Sergeant in the 21st London Regiment, 1st Surrey Rifles and was killed in action in 1915, winning the Star medal. He has no known grave although he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in France and as he was a clerk at the Stock Exchange before signing up he is remembered on the roll of honour there. This roll of honour says he is aged 60 but the only other record I can find for him has his year of birth as 1874 and records his christening in St Andrew’s Peckham in 1878 making him 41 years old when he died. Either way he is no young soldier.
Dulwich Architects - James William Brooker, FRIBA (1853-1904)
by Ian McInnes
James W Brooker’s best known work in the Dulwich area was the 1896 reconstruction of the Half Moon Public House at Herne Hill (now listed Grade II*). Locally he was also the architect for the adjacent shopping parades and the alternate Dutch/Tudor gabled houses at Nos. 1-7 and 13-23 Burbage Road.
He was articled to Henry Jarvis in 1867 and was promoted to assistant in 1870. He took classes at the Architectural Association and the Royal Academy during 1870 and 1871 and set up on his own in 1873 at the age of 20. He became an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA) in 1887 after passing the qualifying exam, and a year after he had been awarded his District Surveyor’s Certificate. In the C19 there was no such thing as Local Council Building Control, construction standards in inner London Boroughs were supervised by District Surveyors who were private individuals who were paid a fee.
His office was at 13 Railway Approach, London Bridge and he lived in East Dulwich. His practice was primarily known for public houses which, in addition to the ‘Half Moon’, included the ‘Yorkshire Grey’ public house at the corner of Theobalds Road and Grays Inn Road (also listed), the ‘Coach & Horse’s in Clerkenwell, the ‘Pride of Devonshire’ in Balham High-road, the ‘Spanish Arms’ in Lower Marsh, and the ‘Hop Pole’ in Hammersmith.
Other projects in his relatively short career were at 40-42 Great Eastern Street near Liverpool Street Station, a showroom and office block for the cabinet ironmongers Edward Wells & Co (now listed) and several buildings in Finsbury Pavement for the Finsbury Estates Company (1883-84). He also built business premises in Denmark Street, London Bridge and Shoreditch, and designed the Penge Tabernacle. His residential work covered houses in Grove Vale (he also built the Imperial Hall there), East Dulwich, Brockley Rise, Dock Street East, Clapham, Tolworth and as far out as Sevenoaks.
The National Inventory of Pub Interiors describes The Half Moon as “A tremendously exuberant piece of pub architecture with some marvellous fittings to match . . . . . . .the biggest reasons for making a trip here is the ‘snug bar’, tucked away at the back on the left. This has no fewer than six lovely back-painted mirrors depicting a variety of birds in watery surroundings. Two small labels helpfully inform us that they are the work of ‘W. Gibbs & Sons glass decorators’ of Blackfriars. In this room there is also a screen to the servery – but what a shame the snob screens have been removed from it. Two other screens have etched, cut and coloured glass with pretty lozenges depicting barley, hops and foliage. Four hefty iron columns with Corinthian-style capitals run down the ground floor making sure the upper floors stay where they are.”
Dulwich Picture Gallery - Cy Twombly and Nicolas Poussin : Arcadian Painters
The exhibition of the work of Cy Twombly and Nicholas Poussin will open on 29 June and run until 25 September. The exhibition organised to celebrate the Bicentenary of Dulwich Picture Gallery will draw upon one of the great strengths of the permanent collection of works by Poussin and ally this to an exhibition firmly rooted in the present.
In 1624 and 1957, two artists, aged thirty, moved to Rome. Nicolas Poussin and Cy Twombly subsequently spent the majority of their lives in the Eternal City, and went on to become the pre-eminent painters of their day. The exhibition will look at these two figures side by side for the first time, examining through common themes, subject matter and motifs, how the two painters, separated by three centuries, nonetheless engaged with shared interests and concern. The show explores some of these common themes and subjects that both artists have shared, from Arcadia and the pastoral, through to figures such as Achilles, Apollo and Parnassus, Bacchus and the Bacchanalia, Flora, Galatea, Orion, Orpheus, Mars Narcissus, Pan and Venus through to both painters’ late versions on the theme of the Four Seasons.
The exhibition will consist of around thirty paintings and drawings, structured thematically around six rooms devoted to key shared themes: Arcadia and the pastoral, Venus and Eros, Battle and Beheading, Apollo and Parnassus, Bacchus and Pan, and the Four Seasons. Pictures have been loaned by the National Gallery, Tate, Royal Collection London, Prado Madrid, the Brandhorst Museum Munich. Israel Museum, Art Institute of Chicago and from Twombly himself.
There will be a Director’s Lecture on the exhibition on Thursday 1st July 12.30pm
SOUTH LONDON ART GALLERY
GEORGE SHAW: THE SLY AND UNSEEN DAY
EXHIBITION: UNTIL FRIDAY 1 JULY 2011
This solo exhibition by British artist George Shaw brings together 25 paintings made over the past 15 years charting the urban landscape of his childhood home on the Tile Hill Estate in Coventry. The Sly and Unseen Day was presented at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from 18 February to 15 May.
Within a practice that has encompassed drawing, video-making, performance and writing, Shaw is best known for his expansive body of painting. Painted in Humbrol enamels, more usually associated with boyhood model-making, and based on photographs, Shaw’s works revisit landmarks remembered from his youth. Meticulously painted houses, pubs, underpasses and parks become autobiographical notes, frozen in time.
Shaw’s subject matter brings about associations of domesticity, folk art and a nostalgia for a lost childhood and adolescence. Yet, as The Sly and Unseen Day reveals, Shaw’s art quickly moves beyond the autobiography it first suggests. His jarring, atmospheric paintings become peculiar records of Englishness and are suggestive of a different state of mind. Even his more tranquil paintings retain a peculiar tension.
As the exhibition progresses Shaw takes an investigative journey, typically making something out of nothing, as beauty is found in the mundane. The Ash Wednesday series (2004-5) depicts the estate hour-by-hour on a single day. Other paintings, such as The Assumption, 2010 (the local school), offer a curious record of British social life and everyday experience. Conflating memory and present day reality, Shaw’s art takes on an uncanny quality, alluding to a murkier side of contemporary society and collective subconscious.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events including George Shaw in conversation with writer and critic Gilda Williams and a selection of comedy and documentary television chosen by Shaw giving an insight into some of the concerns informing his work.
ARCADIA - by Tom Stoppard
The Dulwich Players
‘A play of ideas, of consummate theatricality, of sophisticated entertainment and of heartache for time never to be regained’ Sunday Times
Arcadia opens in April 1809 at a stately home in Derbyshire where Thomasina Coverley, a gifted pupil, proposes a startling theory, beyond her comprehension. All around her, the adults, including her tutor Septimus, are preoccupied with secret desires, illicit passions and professional rivalries. Two hundred years later, a pushy academic and a popular historian are trying to uncover the house’s true history including whether a sexual liaison, apparently involving Lord Byron, ended in a fatal duel. Both a glorious comedy and a literary detective story the play explores the nature of truth and time, the classical and romantic temperament and the unpredictability of love and sex – ‘the attraction that Newton left out’.
Wednesday 13th July – Saturday 16th July 2011 8pm Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College Tickets : £8 Available from Box Office : 020 8670 0890 or from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village or on the door
Without the Dulwich Estate’s extremely well managed tree conservation policy and new tree planting, there is no doubt that all who live and travel through Dulwich would have far less of an enjoyable and beneficial experience. Generally the abundance of healthy looking trees in Dulwich are in as near to natural form as possible which is a wonderful experience, soft on the eye and calming of the mind - certainly this reduces the amount of stress in our busy lives and adds a huge amount of beauty and value, not forgetting all the environmental benefits, of course.
I think there is one short term exception to the rule, the Zelkova carpinifolia on the junction with College Road and the South circular junction. Certainly there will be few people who have not noticed the relatively sad, small (but still huge!) portion of this tree that is left standing on the corner. Most people will also know that this had to be done to make the tree safe at this very busy junction. Its stark "chopped off" state is hopefully only temporary and the look should be very different later this year with a flush of new growth, hopefully by July it will start to look a lot better! Looking a few years forward it could be a small safe version of its old self.
I think it’s essential to be clear about the reasons we should consider keeping the Zelkova:-
- Very long lived species and could go on for another 250 years.
- One of a handful of specimens of this age and girth in the country (introduced from the Caucasus 1760).
- A member of the Elm family which up to the 1970’s was abundant in Dulwich and now there are virtually none in London and few mature specimens are left in the country due to disease.
- Seems very resistant to disease and produces very little dead wood.
- Smooth grey bark with patches of rust-orange are striking, unusual and improve with age.
- Evidence from pollarding shows no signs of decay.
- Provides a key historical landmark feature for Dulwich with great amenity value (even though it has lost its amazing height).
- Has a unique buttressed base of huge proportions and provides an amazing example of how a very large tree adapts to a lean.
- Re-growth should be upright and balanced.
- The extraordinary growth habit of dense multi-stemmed upright branches is similar in many ways to a pollarded tree.
Hoping our tree may be a striking accent on the Dulwich landscape for years to come.
Coffins to Cosmology by John Salkeld reviewed by Brian Green
John Salkeld’s autobiography suggests, at times, that he has been borne through life in very much the same way as two of Evelyn Waugh’s literary heroes; Paul Pennyfeather from Decline and Fall and William Boot from Scoop, both of which books he mentions and enjoys. Like Boot and Pennyfeather, John Salkeld is plucked from obscurity, in his case from Tooting and through a series of initially mundane posts in the rather tarnished world of real estate finds himself as landlord to Douglas Fairbanks junior and being poured a cup of tea by the Duke of Windsor.
The Coffins part of the title derives from his father, who after a tough but unspoken time of military service in the First World War and its aftermath in the Middle East, returned to Civvy Street and soon became the driver of a Co-op undertaker’s hearse. It was a job he was pleased to have when the Great Depression coincided with the arrival of his only child.
The family’s move to their own terraced house in South Norwood confirms his father’s good sense in holding onto his job in hard times. However his mother was the ambitious half of the marriage and preferred to describe her husband’s job to neighbours as a chauffeur or garage foreman. John’s easy-going father would destroy this little charade “by regularly turning up outside the house for a cup of tea, bringing with him the pall-bearers with a string of hearses that they would park halfway down the road”. John inherited his father’s love of cars and probably some of his restless nature from his ambitious mother and it was the combination of these two traits which would eventually bring him his big break into his ultimate career in property development.
Before this happened, there were long periods of study at the Brixton School of Building and an opening with a firm of chartered surveyors in Westminster where, although only on the very bottom rung, the senior partner made sure that John got a decent training. An interval of National Service in the infantry made briefer through poor eyesight and a spell as a farm labourer delivered John back into the more familiar world of real estate. Not that he was any good at it as he readily admits “Salkeld”, said one employer, “you are the most useless negotiator we have ever had. I am told that you want to be a poet which I recommend you now consider very seriously indeed. However, because I am a very kind person and because we have the annual cricket outing coming up in month’s time (John had trialled for Surrey Colts), I am not going to sack you just yet but I am transferring you to the valuation department, God help them.”
Here, with his love of mathematics, John found something he could enjoy and began to climb up the management ladder. He had qualified as a surveyor, yet restless again, he applied for a job with the Crown Agents. After a shaky interview in which he tore a hole in the seat of his trousers as he was getting up to leave, he heard nothing whatsoever of its outcome. Four months later he was informed he had been appointed Revaluation Officer to the Nigerian Railway at a salary of £847, living expenses included. There began an hilarious year of travelling throughout Nigeria, in his own railway carriage with his ‘team’ of assistants, valuing stations, platforms and warehouses for forthcoming independence.
Settling for a humdrum life has never been in John Salkeld’s canon and the Nigerian experience was a hard act to follow. Carefree bachelor days and new-found independence followed leading to occupancy of smart London flats and even a houseboat and it was a few years later, when he took a job with an upmarket firm of estate agents that he had the first of his brushes with high society. The advertisement in the Estates Gazette which enticed his application read : ‘Interesting position for surveyor. Some foreign travel and involvement in property development’. The job offered was run by a pleasant and well connected aristocrat out of a small office in the West End where the staff consisted of John and his employer, a secretary and a dog. Over the first few years of the 1960’s the flight of wealthy investors to less tax-stressful climes like the Bahamas brought in a great deal of business and would lead to Douglas Fairbanks being John’s tenant and the encounter with the former Edward VIII. This occurred when, newly married he was about to take a Sabbatical and, with his wife Angela , was obliged to divert from their intended trip to the USA to the Bois de Boulogne to discuss with the Duke of Windsor the sale of the latter’s interest in a ranch in British Columbia. Evidentally the presence of Angela quite diverted the Duke from the business in hand and after a butler brought in the tea tray it was duly poured by the host who later saw them to the front door, with the commission for the sale of the ranch safely secured.
Of course it was all too good to last and like many a property boom before and certainly since it all went pear-shaped. By 1972 John had amassed a paper fortune of some £30million of today’s money, all invested in houses or blocks of flats around Regent’s Park or Knightsbridge. It was all going too well. In fact boringly so and to satisfy his restless personality he enrolled at the London School of Economics as a mature student for a BA history degree with David Starkey as his tutor. John had the distinction of probably being the only capitalist in what was then, essentially, the most left-wing university in the land.
1973 brought the miners’ strike, the three day week, a Middle-east war which drove up the price of oil and a tax hike to 93% on unearned income. John’s property investment crashed from £4.6million (against which he had loans to the amount of 40%) and by the following year the game was up. The Knightsbridge properties which were valued at £700,000 in the previous year could not be sold for £100,000. He lost around three stones in weight and was advised by his doctor to see a psychiatrist, and informed his creditors that he could not pay the interest on the properties he held. For the next seven years he lived under the threat of bankruptcy just about able to hold onto his house in Dulwich and keep his three sons at school.
The Jensen went, the house in the South of France went and for those seven years he lived in a kind of limbo. What he did have was a little income from his management of a Crown Estate property, Whitehall Court, a vast and prestigious Victorian block alongside the River which he had virtually saved from demolition and would have a thirty year on and off love affair with managing it. David Starkey turned up trumps, allowing John to fit in his tutorials as best he could and he graduated in 1975 “practically catatonic with worry and tiredness”. It was then, when things were at rock bottom that he came up with the idea of developing the ground floor of Whitehall Court, the remainder of which, apart from a hotel and the National Liberal Club, was largely composed of luxury flats, with offices. Luck began to turn again and an ‘old fashioned’ bank manager from Barclays was prepared to take the risk and lend the money for the conversion. The offices were let, and by 1980 his situation had eased sufficiently for him to think he was back where he was in 1960.
For the next sixteen years he gradually clawed his way back cautiously undertaking property development. A MA in medieval archaeology at UCL as a guinea pig for the concept of a part-time degree then being launched allowed him to return to academia which he found he loved and when this finished he discovered a passion for art, began drawing and was accepted for art school.
Which is where the second part of the book’s title comes from. John Salkeld likes painting his versions of the cosmos. For now that is…….
Coffins to Cosmology: a personal journey through the twentieth century by John Salkeld, published by Ondine Publishing £17.95 hardback 230 pps is available from Village Books, Dulwich Village.