Some members have expressed confusion that we have three peers who include Dulwich in their titles. We asked David Beamish, Principal Clerk of the Parliaments, and a Dulwich Society member, to explain this.

In December 2014 Alison Wolf CBE, the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London, was created Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, and in January 2015 took her seat as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords. She became the third peer to have had the description “of Dulwich” in her title.

Titles in the higher degrees of the peerage normally consist of place names (such as the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquess of Reading, and the Earl of Stockton), but life peers, who are Barons or Baronesses, more often take a title based on their surname. The addition of a place name is used where a similar title has previously been created. In the case of Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, the addition of “of Dulwich” distinguishes the title from that of Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice.

All life peers are described in the letters patent creating the title as “of somewhere”, but that is not part of the title. Thus Baroness Wolf of Dulwich is also “of Dulwich in the London Borough of Southwark”.
There are two previous examples of Dulwich being included in a life peer’s title. The first was Lord Silkin of Dulwich, the former Labour Attorney General Sam Silkin, created a life peer in 1985, who died in 1988. The title “Lord Silkin”, a hereditary barony, had previously been conferred on his father Lewis Silkin in 1950. Lewis Silkin was a solicitor and Labour MP for Peckham, who served as Minister of Town and Country Planning in the Attlee Government (1945-50). On the first Lord Silkin’s death in 1972, the title was disclaimed by Sam Silkin’s older brother Arthur. Had he survived his older brother, Lord Silkin of Dulwich would have succeeded to the title of Lord Silkin. In the event, Lord Silkin of Dulwich’s son Christopher Lewis Silkin succeeded to the title in 2002 and again disclaimed it - the only example of a title being disclaimed twice under the provisions of the Peerage Act 1963.

The second example is the surgeon Ian McColl, created Lord McColl of Dulwich in 1989, who remains a Dulwich resident. He served as John Major’s Parliamentary Private Secretary from 1994 to 1997, and was appointed CBE in John Major’s resignation honours list in 1997. Presumably the “of Dulwich” was to distinguish the title from that of Lord Macaulay, the title conferred on Thomas Babington Macaulay, though the likelihood of confusion does not seem great, and that title was created in 1857 and became extinct in 1859!

In addition to Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, there are three more examples of peers described in their letters patent as “of Dulwich”, the first being Lord Silkin in 1950. He was “of Dulwich in the County of London”. (His son Lord Silkin of Dulwich, by contrast was “of North Leigh in the County of Oxfordshire”.) The second, also “of Dulwich in the County of London”, was Lord Hinton of Bankside, the nuclear engineer Christopher Hinton, who was appointed a life peer in 1965 and died in 1983. The third is Lord Balfe, who as Richard Balfe was a Labour member of the Greater London Council and later Member of the European Parliament for London South Inner, and who was appointed a Conservative life peer in 2013.

These and all other peerages created since 1801 are listed on the author’s web site

David Beamish