The Dulwich Society Journal for Summer 2017.
The official opening of the new Exodus Travels Pavilion at the end of March marked the final step in securing the future of the Herne Hill Velodrome. It’s over 125 years since the site first opened as the London County Cycling and Athletic Ground and there were concerns in the early 2000s that it might be redeveloped for a commercial sports club. Luckily a group of like-minded supporters came together and fought hard to keep it for cycling. The Velodrome Trust, set up to run it, now has a 99-year lease from the Dulwich Estate.
The completion of the new pavilion completes the third stage of the Save the Velodrome campaign following three previous initiatives, the first, to resurface of the track, which was in such a bad state that the insurance company would not cover the risks; the second was to install trackside lighting, with special consideration to avoid visual intrusion for local residents; lastly, the construction of a junior track and multi-use games area in the central space within the main track. The new pavilion cost about £1.8 million. This was funded by Sport England (through the National Lottery), The London Marathon Trust, The Mayor of London and Southwark Council. A recent crowdfunding campaign organized by the Friends of the Velodrome to fit out the new pavilion raised £89,000 in just two weeks.
Dulwich and Herne Hill’s current and former MPs, Helen Hayes and Baroness Tessa Jowell, were joined at the event by London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross, representatives of the major funding organisations, local supporters, residents and cycling celebrities. Hillary Peachey, Chairman of the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust and the driving force behind the project, expressed her gratitude to all those who had helped make it happen. “It has been a long journey, but I am immensely proud of how the community came together, matched by the generosity of our funders, the project team, and the local residents.”
Oversight of the whole refurbishment programme was done voluntarily by a charitable trust, with trustees drawn from cycling activists and from the locality. The Dulwich Society helped kickstart the process by contributing £5,000 to meet the legal costs of setting up the trust and other preliminary expenses.
The Velodrome now caters for about a thousand users each week. It is a great example of local voluntary action, beginning with small meetings of a few volunteers and then a large meeting in the main hall of Dulwich College.
The new building, designed by Hopkins Architects, the architects of the 2012 Olympic Velodrome, is similar in scale to its predecessor. The new building has a load bearing timber structure but retains a sense of historical continuity by utilising six of the original 1890’s grandstand’s decorated cast iron columns to support its roof. At ground-floor level accommodation includes changing rooms, first aid room, toilets and a coaches’ office. The first floor is accessed from the top of the grandstand and provides panoramic views around the track. There is a generously sized club room and a meeting room which can be hired out by the local community. Tensile fabric canopies between the bike storage units located behind the pavilion create a flexible year-round covered space for outdoor activities.
Owners Angus and Fabienne Hanton talk about their plans
It is clear from the start that the Hantons have long admired Bell House, the large Georgian house built by a former Lord Mayor of London in College Road. Fabienne knew it well from a course she took there in garden history under the tutelage of Dulwich College housemaster Ian Senior when it was still a College boarding house. They missed out when the house was put up for sale by the College in 1992 when boarding numbers dwindled. This time they got it almost by chance. While casually enquiring at a local estate agent about a flat, they noticed details of Bell House, placed on sale that same day. Naturally, the agent was somewhat surprised when a £400,000 enquiry suddenly changed to the new property priced at a significantly higher sum, but a viewing was arranged for the following day. The Hantons were both quite certain in their minds that Bell House was the only house in Dulwich which could meet their demands and they agreed the asking price on their first visit . And their demands were something quite unusual.
Some years ago they discovered that the eldest of their four sons, then in Year 3, was perhaps dyslexic after his form teacher suggested that something might be wrong. To get a psychological assessment meant travelling to Hertfordshire, to then receive teaching support required arriving at Clapham at 7am or travelling even further to Greenwich for classes. A tiring and trying burden, in addition to a normal week’s school for a 7 year old. As with Richard Branson and Albert Einstein, both dyslexics, things sometimes work out and their eldest son went on to Durham University (being allowed to sit a modified entrance exam) and is now a lawyer.
The Hantons then had to go through the process for a second time with another of their sons. They found that while the boys could not write legibly, and certainly could not read what they had written, they could successfully use a computer. Angus believes that as a consequence, actual handwriting improved.
It was these experiences which led to them set up an educational charity three years ago to help young people with dyslexia and which has now received registration from the Charity Commissioners. What then hampered progress was finding suitable accommodation for the project. Thus, when Bell House suddenly presented itself, both Angus and Fabienne were convinced that this was the ideal place - plenty of space and well detached from surrounding houses.
They have a vision of running Bell House as a specialist centre for dyslexic educational needs, including specialist teacher training. They propose to have services for the assessment of dyslexia and providing a wide range of tools including information technology, art and film-making to provide support. In addition they would like Bell House to be a hub for courses appealing to a wider public. These courses would finance the dyslexia work although places on the courses could be subsidised if there was need. By means of social media they intend to post films of the courses on the internet to reach a much bigger audience. Film-making is not new to Angus who has made countless films in connection with his woodlands enterprise. During this year’s Dulwich Festival, Bell House was the gallery space for a number of artists showing in the Open House exhibition.
Still less than a year after their purchase, and despite a deluge of bills from roofing to fences, their love affair with Bell has continued to blossom - the ha- ha in front of the drive has been exposed reminding the passer-by that the house once enjoyed wide-ranging views to the west where sheep and cattle could safely graze without them endangering the flower beds. There are 25 rooms and 12,000 square feet of space. Considerable internal conversion will be required for the lecture theatre accommodating 100 persons, a lift and two disabled toilets which are part of their plans. Even a café is being considered.
They live in seemingly blissful confidence that it will all work out . And who are we to doubt? Angus’s business ventures, an esoteric mix of off-the-wall enterprises ranging from manufacturing outsize chess sets for garden play, organising the sale of woodlands for individuals to enjoy, providing storage facilities in apparently unusable railway arches have all been huge success stories. He has a track record of social responsibility, demonstrated recently when he spoke out nationally in support of more affordable homes being built in the countryside to halt the generational fossilising of villages - Angus is co-founder of Intergenerational Foundation, a charity that campaigns for fairness across age groups. For Fabienne, her work as a molecular biologist has led to her starting a PhD at Imperial College in how bacteria affect premature births, a step she took on almost the same day as their offer on Bell House was accepted. Their motto might well be ‘Carpe Diem’ - seize the day.
They have found much support, from neighbours, and also from John Major and Madeleine Adams of the Dulwich Estate as well as from a range of people with specialist skills. Some of these have joined the strong management committee which includes a garden designer, a lawyer, graphic designers and artists. Angus describes them as ‘can-do’ people. A dyslexia steering group has been formed. Angus says, “People can see what we are trying to do and they particularly like the social mission, to offer free or subsidised places on all the courses, to make sure Bell House is available as much to state schools as the private ones. Some of the support has been practical with volunteers helping to clear and maintain the garden and others offering their specialist skills and enthusiasm.” They are keen to hear from others who might be interested in helping with the project.
If that is the objective, one has to ask, how will it be achieved? They hope for capital cost funds to come from running self-financing viable courses, lettings and from donations. They also intend to apply for a National Lottery grant. The maintenance of the house will be financed by letting out the flat in the Lutyens designed stable block.
This is such a worthy and commendable enterprise that it deserves every support.
More information on Bell House and how to volunteer may be found on its website - bellhouse.co.uk
Sharon O’Connor, a member of the Dulwich Society’s local history group has done intensive research into the people who have lived at this fascinating house. Her research can also be found on the website.
There are no lovelier experiences around our village than to sit under the trees at the College or Alleyn’s and watch young cricketers, ideally on a sunny day. When the Editor asked me to write about this I blanched at the prospect of pouring over countless volumes of Wisden to check on the statistics. And then I reflected that the schools have books that tell of the shot that cleared the Clump, of the wily bowling of P G Wodehouse, of the defiant resistance of Trevor Bailey and the dazzling centuries of Mickey Stewart, of James Thornton’s record total in the Cricketer Cup, and a thousand other triumphs or disasters. So instead I’ll ponder a few memories over sixty years or so.
I was always proud that the honours boards in the pavilion of the College list more cricket Blues than any other school, including eight future captains: Arthur Gilligan for instance became president of the MCC and selected a team of Old Alleynians to play against Billy Griffith’s international team, when he, also an O.A., was secretary of the MCC, The tradition continues, for soon Eoin Morgan will lead England to the Champions Trophy. An Irishman, he only came to the College for a month or two, so I asked the Master, Dr Joseph Spence, if that really made him an Old Alleynian. In perfect headmasterspeak, a language I know well, he replied solemnly, “If England win, then he is one, or if we lose he isn’t.”.
After eight years in the nets, or under the chestnut trees, or playing on the glorious pitches, I spent my last day at school in Bell House, and walked home with the housemaster’s son, an exceptional athlete, and wished him well in his cricketing career. He was Roger Knight, the current president of the MCC.
But men like Roger can never know the joy of approaching double figures in a House Match for the first time in many innings. Similarly, John Pretlove, the Alleyn Old Boy who captained Cambridge at football and was British Rugby Fives champion, cannot have shared the pride of the first-former who at last hangs onto a catch, to his and everyone’s amazed delight. I went back with John to Cauis College, Cambridge, where the Master showed us a vast collection of trophies in his study. “But”, he said, putting down the Head of the River Cup, “nothing compares with the fact that one of our students topped the national batting averages, something no other undergraduate has achieved”. I pointed to John as the Master gasped, ”Are you John Pretlove?”. “ I was”, replied John with a grin.
At Alleyn’s too, hordes of boys - and now girls as well, rush around cheerfully, and often elegantly, piling up runs at cricket in another heavenly setting. Again one can only admire with gratitude the intense commitment of adults who devote so many hours to encourage a love of cricket. They may be Bill Athey, who opened for England, or more likely a mere mortal who hopes the ball will miss his stumps when he tries to demonstrate an off drive in the nets, but all of them, and their pupils, are glad to be part of something that makes Dulwich a lifelong enchantment.
It is Cricket!
Two major cricketing events take place in Dulwich this year. 2017 is the Dulwich Cricket Club’s 150th anniversary. The club started playing in the cricket field at the rear of the Greyhound Inn in the Village in 1867.
Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club have been chosen as the national showcase club to launch the 2017 NatWest event CricketForce, the biggest annual volunteer initiative in UK sport with the aim of rejuvenating the game. The club has teams catering for women players and young cricketers in addition to the seven sides it fields at weekends. The club’s pavilion no longer meets current needs and help with building a new one is coming from the English Cricket Board who have identified the club as a national priority for capital assistance. Funding is also anticipated from the Marathon Trust and Sport England.
Anyone for Croquet?
The Old College Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Gallery Road is looking for new members and invites anyone interested in playing croquet to drop in and give it a go - even the equipment is provided! More information can also be found on the club’s website : www.oldcollege.co.uk or telephone 0208 670 5477
The club can trace its history prior to WW1 Although interest faded between the wars it revived in the 1960’s. Today the club plays every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and Bank Holidays during the season. One weekday a month is specified as ‘Croquet Day’ when play begins at 11am and goes on into the afternoon and members bring a picnic lunch. On two evenings in summer cheese and wine accompanies the matches. The club has a number of fixtures against other clubs, both at home and away.
The first major UK exhibition of watercolours by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), for a hundred years 21st June - 8th October 2017
A key selection of works from over 30 lenders, including The lady with the umbrella, 1911, on display in the UK for the first time, will offer an alternative perspective on Sargent, demonstrating a technical brilliance and striking individuality.
‘Sargent: The Watercolours’ will bring together 80 works from arguably Sargent’s greatest period of watercolour production between 1900 and 1918. Renowned as the leading portraitist of his generation, Sargent mastered the medium of watercolour during his painting expeditions to Southern Europe and the Middle East, where he developed a distinctive way of seeing and composing. Whilst these watercolours have often been dismissed as simple travel souvenirs, they were an integral part of Sargent’s artistic production.
Arranged thematically, the exhibition will showcase Sargent’s landscapes, architectural structures and figurative scenes. It will draw attention to the most radical aspects of his oeuvre, in particular his use of the close-up to focus attention on a specific motif, his unusual use of perspective and the arresting and dynamic poses of his figures. The show will also serve as a startling reminder of Sargent’s mastery of the visual complexities of light, the effects of which are present in almost every one of his works.
Richard Ormond, co-curator of the exhibition, said:
“In Sargent’s watercolours we see his zest for life and his pleasure in the act of painting. The fluency and sensuality of his paint surfaces, and his wonderful command of light, never cease to astonish us. With this exhibition we hope to demonstrate Sargent’s mastery of the medium and the scale of his achievement”.
Sargent practised the art of watercolour from a young age and continued to use it throughout his career, his style developing in tandem with his work in oils. By 1900, aged 44 and at the height of his career, he had grown restless, seeking escape from the confines of his studio and the pressures of portrait commissions. Working en plein air, he explored subjects of his own choosing, travelling to remote spots where he could work undisturbed. For this purpose, he regularly turned to watercolour, a medium that allowed him to paint, rapidly and without much preparation, a scene that caught his eye.
The show will open with some of the best examples of Sargent’s fragments and close-ups. Sargent rarely painted buildings as complete and coherent entities; his sliced angles and perspectives and the unorthodox viewpoints require the spectator to imagine their complete form. In Rome: An Architectural Study, c. 1906-7, Sargent records a corner of a building, concentrating on the effect of daylight on the stone using contrasting warm and cool tones. In The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, c. 1904-9, the domes of the great church are obscured by the rigging of ships in the canal so that they become part of a pictorial pattern.
After the turn of the twentieth-century, Sargent painted more landscapes than any other subject. His scenes are often unconventional, opting for closely cropped details rather than full, panoramic views. Sargent focused on form and surface pattern, particularly in his mountain landscapes such as Bed of a Torrent, c. 1904. He transforms mossy rocks and flowing brooks into a complex arrangement, rejecting distance and scale. Similar to photographic snapshots, his landscapes, with their informal compositions and abrupt cropping, capture a moment in time.
The exhibition will culminate with a selection of Sargent’s figurative paintings, including depictions of his travel companions, fellow artists and working people as in Group of Spanish Convalescent Soldiers, c. 1903. In many of these works Sargent rejects the primacy of the figure. In The lady with the umbrella, 1911, for example, his subject is foreshortened and contorted, an avoidance of the obviously pretty and picturesque.
The show will be curated by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, widely accepted as the UK reigning experts in this field. Richard Ormond is Sargent’s grand-nephew. He was previously director of the National Maritime Museum, London. Elaine Kilmurray is an art historian, author and curator. She has worked with Richard on numerous publications and co-curated exhibitions of Sargent’s work in London, Washington, D.C., Boston, Ferrara and Los Angeles.
As the recent Dulwich Festival Artists Open House has demonstrated, art flourishes in SE21/2/3/4/6 when two hundred and fifty, mostly local artists exhibited their work. In literature too, there is a steady flow of new books by local authors in the windows of Dulwich bookshops. So whatever happened to poetry? It is not as if there is not a local tradition, after all Byron lived his early years here, Browning walked to Dulwich from Camberwell and Thomas Campbell from Sydenham.
However, the real, solid birth of Dulwich’s poetry tradition started just after World War Two. It almost certainly began because of a row at the Poetry Society precipitated by the presence of the young and attractive new general secretary and editor of its magazine Poetry Review. Twenty-nine year old Muriel Spark had been an active presence in the society for two years when the joint vacancy occurred. Her application was not unopposed, but she was appointed with a clear majority.
The Poetry Society was criticised by a new breed of younger poets, and even by established ones, for mediocrity, or as Martin Stannard says in his biography (2009) of Muriel Spark, ‘a comfortable mutual admiration society with educational aspirations’. Spark’s rejection of HW Harding, the chairman & treasurer, of his sexual and literary overtures, led to his resignation and a subsequent enquiry by the society’s president, Field Marshall Lord Wavell. Other resignations, including Wavell’s followed. Protests within the society, with one camp supporting Muriel Spark and the other trying to force her out persisted. In November 1948 the opposition, led by Marie Stopes, succeeded and Muriel resigned.
Another bout of resignations then followed, including Howard Sergeant, a pillar of the Poetry Society and lover of Muriel Spark. Howard Sergeant was born in Hull in 1918 and had trained as an accountant. During the war he served in the Air Ministry and later the Ministry of Supply. In 1944, with the assistance of his friend and fellow Dulwich resident, Lionel Monteith, he founded, edited and published in Dulwich, his poetry magazine Outposts which would become the longest running independent poetry magazine until its demise in 2010. Sergeant had been writing poetry since childhood and his first poem to be published was Thistledown Magic in 1943.
In June 1949 Sergeant, then living in Croxted Road, and Monteith founded the Dulwich Branch of the British Poetry Society. Whether there were other branches seems unlikely and certainly there is no trace of them. It was almost certainly in response to the continuing turmoil at the Poetry Society where the emphasis remained on an earlier Britain unmarked by war or unsullied by social unrest. As press reports of the opening meeting record, the younger wave of poets were focusing on contemporary issues such as the atomic bomb and the threat of nuclear war. Quite a number of the poets at these early meetings, held on Friday evenings at the Crown & Greyhound, had Jewish roots and their poems reflected the then current theme of the return of Jews to Israel.
For the suggested donation of one shilling, the audience was invited to an hour and three-quarters of readings by poets who would turn out to be the nation’s most distinguished - Dannie Abse, Paul Dehn, (who later became an Oscar winning screenwriter responsible for Goldfinger, Moulin Rouge and The Spy who came in from the Cold) and Emanuel Litvinoff who read from their works at the opening meeting. The next meeting kept up this high standard with readings by Sydney Tremayne and Margaret Crosland. The third meeting, in August 1949 was advertised as a Brains Trust, with Howard Sergeant as question master and the panel being made up of Clifford Dyment, Dannie Abse, Derek Sandford, Robert Greacen and Muriel Spark - two of whose lovers were at the same table - Howard Sergeant and Derek Sandford.
The monthly meetings at the Crown & Greyhound continued with Danny Abse a regular reader and even Muriel Spark’s bête-noire, Marie Stopes, made a couple of appearances. Nor did the high standard fall, with Stephen Spender and Laurie Lee appearing in the 1950 programme. Michael Croft, then a teacher at Alleyn’s and future founder of the National Youth Theatre was also a regular reader. Like all such societies, the momentum was hard to sustain and it closed. Lionel Monteith founded a new magazine Poetry Commonwealth in 1951, and later become a priest and later still a psycho-therapist. Howard Sergeant assisted another Alleyn’s teacher, and poet, Alastair Aston to resurrect the Dulwich Poetry Group in 1960.
Sergeant once commented : “When I was compiling my anthology of poems 'for the youngest', Happy Landings, I found scores of poems about going to bed by candlelight or encounters with nannies, etc. but hardly any about, say, space travel, so I sat down and wrote the following poem”.
blasting off the ground
with a wake of flame behind you,
swifter than passing sound.
shooting through the air,
twice around the moon and back
simply because it's there.
cruising through the skies
to plant your flags on landscapes
unknown to human eyes.
Space-man - race, man,
scorching back to earth -
to home and friends and everything
that gives your mission worth.
“I have no illusions about the quality of this poem, and I would hardly place it amongst the best I have written, yet it has proved to be my most popular poem and has been anthologised over and over again for children, largely because it seems to meet a need. It will be observed that I have adopted a rhyming pattern for the poem. Although there is a tendency amongst contemporary poets to discard rhyme, it is my experience that younger children at least enjoy a definite rhythm and feel more at home with some kind of rhyme (this is not to suggest that they should be taught to write in this way only).”
Howard Sergeant later changed careers, moved from his house in East Dulwich Grove and entered full-time teaching. He continued to edit Outposts until his death in 1987. His publications include three volumes of poetry, three volumes of criticism and he edited or co-edited over fifty anthologies of poetry, specialising in Commonwealth poetry and children’s poetry. He was awarded an MBE for services to poetry in 1978.
The Dulwich Poetry Group continued on and off over the years but no longer exists. Other poetry enthusiasts staged a Dulwich Poetry Festival several years ago and a brave attempt, lasting a couple of years, was made using another pub, this time on Gipsy Hill as a venue. Perhaps it is time for a relaunch.
We are always pleased to receive photographs from readers of local wildlife that has attracted or puzzled them and give such help as we can with identification. The little animal in the accompanying picture crossed the path of Anthony Mooney in Green Dale in early March and was a surprising encounter. It was in fact a female Common or Smooth Newt probably heading for a pond to get down to the serious business of breeding. It was indeed unusual to see a newt on land so exposed as they spend their terrestrial lives concealed in undergrowth to avoid predators. Once in a pond it would have been much more recognizable and will have been pursued by a male which like the nationally protected Great Crested Newt is darker brown with a crest along its back. Newts are a fascination of our former mayor Ken Livingstone, perhaps his least controversial activity but nonetheless surprising.
Besides newts Dulwich has thriving numbers of frogs and also a population of toads, less easy to find but may be seen from time to time under the shelter of a rockery stone. Maintaining wildlife garden ponds is invaluable in preserving our amphibians. In my garden I get an invasion of upwards of thirty frogs in early March who after much writhing and croaking depart after a week leaving a pile of frogspawn and a few residents. Less than one percent of the tadpoles reach adulthood but many are alas consumed by our newts.
This year the winter produced some late cold weather and briefly a flock of Redwing and Fieldfare appeared on the sports fields and a flock of Siskin and Redpolls on the birches in Dulwich Park. During cold weather these birds tend to migrate south west toward the Iberian peninsula and this may have been the destination. Nationally this year was a so called Waxwing Winter. We had a single record of three birds in Dulwich village but did not see the flocks here that we had in 2013. Amazingly at Dave Clark’s biennial Dulwich Park bird count there were twenty Shoveler , a record and almost outnumbering the Mallard. As a regular winter visitor they now seem well established but of course have now departed to breeding grounds. He did also count four Little Grebe who may stay to breed if they are not too disturbed.
The most unusual record has come from Angela Wilkes who spotted a large bird of prey overflying Dulwich being mobbed by two noticeably smaller Gulls. Raptors are notoriously difficult to identify in flight but she was clear that this was not a Buzzard or a Kite with both of which she is familiar. In fact this bird was uniformly brown with relatively long wings and we were able to conclude that it was likely to be a female Marsh Harrier. Fifty years ago Marsh Harriers were very rare and confined to a few pairs in Norfolk. But their population has grown and they now breed in the coastal grazing marshes of north Kent and Essex as well as northern Europe. Although this is probably the first time we have spotted it here it may be a record that will crop up again soon.
At the time of writing the breeding season is well established thanks to some unusually warm early spring weather . Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have arrived, Song Thrushes are singing loudly and some of the Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Chaffinches that disappeared in the winter have returned. The Wrens have clearly survived the cold winter but Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrests may have suffered. At least one colony of House Sparrows has disappeared which is a shame but part of the trend, although the colony around Acacia Road still thrives.
The fine early Spring weather has brought out the hibernating butterflies and there have been more yellow Brimstones than usual this year but also Commas and Peacocks and now Orange Tips, Holly Blues and Speckled Woods. We like to hear of unusual insect sightings . My neighbour phoned me of a small black bee that she thought might be am alien species as it was being seen off by a bigger bee. I then saw one in my garden and looked it up to identify it as a Bee Fly going under the Latin name Bombyllius , ( as opposed to Bombus for a true bee). It is related to the Hover flies and its larvae parasitise true bees’ nests. We all continue to learn.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)
In the nineteenth century, until it was diverted underground, the Upper Norwood tributary of the river Effra flowed down Gipsy Hill on its way from Crystal Palace to South Croxted Road, forming the Camberwell parish boundary with Lambeth and also the limit of the Dulwich Estate. The meadow on the Camberwell side of this stream has been known by various names in the past and an 1890’s photograph reproduced on the facing page shows cows grazing on what were then called ‘French's Fields.’ Now known as Long Meadow and leased by the Estate to Southwark Council, the line of black poplars on its boundary with Gipsy Hill are a reminder of where the stream formerly flowed.
Black poplar is a species which was frequently planted alongside rivers and streams and in wet meadows. Also known as water poplar, it thrives in soil subject to flooding. Until about 1850, native black poplars would have been planted, but they went out of popularity around that time, due to the introduction of faster-growing and more upright hybrids of black poplar with an imported American poplar species, populus deltoides. Old native black poplars are
therefore uncommon and those which are still in existence are likely to have been planted before 1850. Old native female examples are particularly rare, as their fluffy seed has caused them to be considered a nuisance.
Black poplars are not planted often now, especially in cities, as they are only suitable for open spaces. There are a couple of huge old specimens, one male and one female, almost certainly hybrids, on Peckham Rye, but even these are uncommon. According to Will Walpole, the Parks Manager, Southwark is unusual in still having any old female black poplars, as most boroughs have got rid of them.
Most of the black poplars on Long Meadow appear to be various male forms of the species, but there is one female tree, which is conspicuous by shedding copious amounts of fluffy seed around the bus stop. I referred to this tree in my article on black poplars in Autumn 2010's Journal, when I speculated on whether it could be an old native tree, as it appeared to have all the characteristics of a native specimen. It has been heavily pollarded, but its features can still be appreciated, especially its distinctive burred trunk.
The Forestry Commission scientist, Stuart A'Hara, was interested when I subsequently sent him leaves for DNA testing, as he is always hopeful that a new genetic strain may be discovered. His DNA test confirmed that “ the tree is indeed a native Populus nigra subspecies betulifolia and not a hybrid". However, he went on to say that it was a genetic strain which was already known, so “it is not a particularly interesting clone in terms of conservation value, but I'm sure that does not take away from its local significance as a native black poplar."
The native black poplar, populus nigra subspecies betulifolia, has a common ancestry with other south-eastern European black poplars which survived the Ice Age, but, following that time, it developed independently in Britain. It is therefore genetically distinct from other European black poplars, such as the Italian Lombardy poplar. It's a massive tree, some 20-30m in height, with arching branches, a burred trunk and a tendency to lean. Historically, it was planted on farms, especially on field boundaries. It was a valuable timber tree, with multiple uses, from making carts and furniture, to matchsticks, being strong and light, with shock-proof and fire-resistant qualities. It can live for 250 years or more. It is a valuable tree for supporting wildlife and has its own specific gall-forming aphid species which is only found on true black poplars and its cultivars, not on hybrids of the species. Even these aphids are interesting, having “soldiers” in their colonies, which attack predators.
Its natural habitat is floodplain forests - an environment which no longer exists in Britain. For natural reproduction from seed, male and female trees need to be in close proximity for pollination and the soil needs to be muddy, with regular flooding. Due to these very specific requirements, it no longer reproduces naturally from seed in the wild - it is propagated from cuttings. As a result, throughout the country, there is very little genetic variation, as a tree grown from a cutting has the same DNA as its parent. Around 1990, it was realised that the native species was not adapting to changing conditions as it was not regenerating naturally, also that there were very few surviving examples nationally, as they were no longer being planted. The Forestry Commission, in co-operation with other agencies, has since taken steps to identify and conserve the few genetic strains which have been found of the wild British species.
The other tree I mentioned in my 2010 article as a possible native specimen, a male tree on the corner of Piermont Green and St Aidan's Rd in East Dulwich, has also been confirmed as a native of the species by DNA testing. The Forestry Commission have identified it as a male cultivar commonly known as the Manchester Poplar, which was much planted in the 19th century.
So these two trees are interesting remnants, marking the boundaries of former meadow and farmland. Southwark Council were very interested when we informed them of our two discoveries, as, apart from some young trees the council have planted in Russia Dock woodland, they know of no other native black poplars in the borough. These two trees are elderly, so the council’s Tree Department is intending to take cuttings in the autumn, not only for use within the borough, but also to cultivate native specimens to sell.
Meanwhile, on the boundary of Long Meadow, the Dulwich Society has funded the planting of three young black poplars, cultivated from old native trees in Thurrock. These new trees were planted by the council’s contractors in March and the cost includes three years’ maintenance by the contractors. The sexes of these new trees are not yet known, but they will be able to be identified by their catkins - male catkins are red and appear late March/early April. Female catkins appear soon after and are yellow-green.
Until now, Long Meadow has simply been designated by the Council as open space, but in the latest draft version of the Southwark Development Plan, it is proposed to upgrade the status of Long Meadow to a site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation. The Ecology Officer made the recommendation, citing the boundaries as the feature of most ecological interest - "The edges have been managed as a native hedge with standard trees. The diversity of native trees make a positive contribution to the site's ecological value."
The Parks Manager is in the process of drawing up a management plan for Long Meadow and the Dulwich Society has registered its interest in being fully consulted.
Dulwich has seen an unprecedented number of residential burglaries over the last few months, so here are a few garden-related tips that could help ensure that you are not the next victim.
Fences and access
Perimeter walls and fences are the first line of defence against burglars. To have maximum effect:
- Ensure that all perimeter fences are in good condition.
- Rear and side fences (most burglars enter through the back garden) should be 1.8m (6 ft) high with 30-45cm (12-18in) of trellis, which make the fence more difficult and noisy to get over; they also generally make fences look more attractive
- Grow thorny climbing or rambling roses on fences or through their trellises
- Rubber spikes (such as Prikka-Strip) on top can make walls and fences more difficult to climb over
- Don’t leave things next to fences that make it easy to climb over, such as chairs, benches or bins (chain these together).
Front walls/fences/hedges should be 1 metre or less high, so that a burglar can be seen from the street. You should also try to eliminate areas where an intruder could hide or set to work without fear of disturbance. Thorny shrubs at the base of fences and walls, and below windows and drainpipes, make them more difficult to access.
Prickly plants and shrubs, and thick growth, can also help deter criminals. Here are a few suggestions for plants that can make a medium-large hedge 0.8-1.8m (3-6 ft):
- Pyracantha (firethorn) - fast-growing evergreen bush with vicious thorns on its branches, can form an impenetrable barrier; white flowers in May-June followed by red, orange or yellow berries in the autumn; can be fence or wall-trained; grows 2-4m high; looks attractive
- Blackthorn (prunus spinosa) - forms an impenetrable thorny hedge; fast growing; white flowers in the Spring and sloes in the autumn; good for wildlife and makers of sloe gin
- Hawthorn (crataegus monogyna) - like blackthorn; fragrant cream-coloured flowers in the Spring and red haws in the autumn
- Berberis - prickly evergreen shrub, yellow flowers in the Spring. Berberis stenophylla is a good variety
- Holly (ilex aquifolium) - slow-growing green or variegated evergreen with thorns on its leaves; creamy white flowers in the spring and red berries in the autumn; good for wildlife
- Rosa ugosa rubra - prickly-stemmed with strongly-veined leaves and fragrant single flowers in the summer, followed by large scarlet hips and yellow leaves in the autumn; prefers full sun
- Rosa spinosisssima - prickly-stemmed with neat foliage and single creamy-white flowers in early summer, followed by black hips.
Gates and sheds
- Fit sturdy locks to all garden gates and doors, at top and bottom; secure with clutch head or coach screws (to stop them being unscrewed)
- Have heavy duty locks on shed doors, one-third of the way from top and bottom (sheds are a great source of tools for the intruder); use clutch head or coach screws on hinges and bolts
- Mark your property with your house number and postcode (paint, scratch, engrave or use SmartWater)
- Secure windows with appropriate locks and expanded/security mesh
- Chain and padlock machinery together, or bolt them to concrete shed floors
- Consider fitting an alarm system or an alarmed padlock.
Plants, garden furniture, ornaments and containers
- Get big, heavy planters that are difficult to move
- Chain or bolt these to a land anchor - for containers, a chain can be run through the drainage holes to the fixing point
- Mark your property with your house number and postcode (paint, scratch, engrave or use SmartWater)
- Secure hanging baskets with lockable brackets
- Keep valuable ornaments, barbecues and furniture out of sight, with garden items preferably inside your property when not being used.
Burglar alarms, CCTV and lighting
- Make sure that alarms are obvious, front and back
- Place stickers on your windows stating that the house is alarmed, SmartWatered etc
- Install automatically-triggered outside security lighting
- Low energy lighting can also deter intruders.
- Consider a CCTV system that you can watch from your mobile.
Drives and pathways
- Gravel drives and paths create noise when an intruder approaches.
Marking and recording property
- Garden machinery and tools with unique serial numbers can be registered free at www.immobilise.com
- SmartWater can be used to mark property with a unique traceable “fingerprint”. Kits are still available free of charge for many Dulwich residents - email
Managing your property
- If you plan to be away, long grass, weeds, junk mail, papers and no car in the driveway are obvious giveaways - arrange for these to be dealt with
- Asking neighbours to open and close blinds or curtains, and having lights/radios on timers, can also help.
- Emergency/burglary in progress - call 999
- For less urgent matters - 101
- Crime Stoppers (for giving anonymous information) - 0800 555 111
Many readers will know me Peter Roseveare as a regular contributor as a wildlife pundit to this magazine and some with longer memories as a local GP. However as a string to my retired bow I Chair this non profit making charity which is devoted to the provision of a private home care service of fully trained care support workers to those who are looking after a relative or friend with a health need due to illness disease or simply old age.
Our home care is for anyone who needs a break from caring be that a morning, afternoon or even a whole night and its all about helping carers maintain their quality of life. All our care staff are fully trained to deal with a number of conditions including dementia, palliative care and mental health and are trained in first aid, food hygiene and health and safety. We offer highly skilled friendly carers who can give personal care, companionship, give medication and do bits of light housework. We believe that we offer a service with a difference that carers may not be able to find elsewhere.
Each customer’s first contact is usually through the care team, who have all been carers themselves, so customers can know the person they talk to will be able to understand their needs. A care plan is then tailored to each person’s care needs and then matched with a care worker they can be happy with. They can then have regular breaks while the person they care for gets looked after at the same time.
Our current hourly rate is £19.90 which is guaranteed up to 31 July 2017 but this year we are offering ten hours of free home care for new customers to enable them to assess if what we offer is right for them. We are not just an in/out service and each home care visit must be of at least two hours duration. So far customer satisfaction is where we really stand out with 96% telling us that they are very happy with what we provide. We have been told that we were the “Best Kept Secret” in south London.
Anyone interested should be able to find us on www.helpforcarers.org.uk or by phoning our care team (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) on 0208 648 9677
The large sites of the substantial old houses that stood at the south end of College Road were replaced by the Hitherwood Drive development in the late 1950s. Most probably the original houses were designed by Robert Richardson Banks, partner of Estate Architect & Surveyor Charles Barry Junior - whose own house was on Crystal Palace Parade nearby. They were built in the early 1870s by local builder, Joseph Bowyer & Sons. One of his yards was located on what is now the landscaped triangle site on the corner of Pond Cottages and College Road (it closed in the early 1920s).
The original owners tended to be very wealthy. Among them at no 132 was the Australian (originally Scottish) David Fowler, a partner in one of the largest Adelaide based wholesale grocer and import/export merchants. He called the house ‘Pandura’ after the huge sheep station his family owned near Port Augusta. He had moved back to London to take advantage of the new under-sea telegraph wire connecting England with Australia which revolutionised his firm’s ordering systems (the internet of the day!). He was also an advocate of women’s education, his daughter, Laura Margaret, being the first female medical student to graduate from the University of South Australia.
A later owner of the house (by then named Trefusis) was old Alleynian Captain Tolmie John Tresidder, C.M.G., director of Sheffield steelmaker John Brown and Co. A former naval officer, he was an authority on ship’s armour and projectiles. He invented a special device for ‘de-capping’ enemy shells - basically protective steel mats fixed a few feet off to the sides of battleship and cruiser hulls, and also developed a slide rule for calculating the striking velocity of naval gun shells against enemy armour. He received the Institution of Naval Architects’ gold medal in 1908.
In the 1930s at Northlands, no 124, Raymond Raikes, a BBC announcer and radio drama director, converted his basement into a small professional theatre - the family used to put on Shakespeare plays for friends and local residents (see article in Journal 113, Summer 1997). The house had originally been called Baldorran, the first owner being solicitor George Crafter, and later owners included retired Indian Army General Sir George Stewart CB, a participant in the Indian Mutiny. Crowhurst, no 134, further east, was owned by Arthur Bristow, a wealthy stockbroker, and brother of Thomas Lynn Bristowe, MP for Norwood from 1885, and active in the campaign to raise funds to restore Brockwell Hall part of which is now the café in Brockwell Park.
The houses were originally sold on 84 year leases and, by the late 1930s, were becoming difficult to sell. They were not well looked after and some were converted into flats. There were exceptions - Nos 138 and 140 College Road, were demolished in 1938 and a new house, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, built on the site. The owner, Basil Aldous, was a director of Higgs Builders (based in Loughborough Junction) and was Chairman of the Estates Governors in 1952-54. The house, Athol House, now the Leonard Cheshire home, was, until the 1950s, the most expensive house ever built in Dulwich, it cost £8500.
All the leases but one ran out in 1954 - only Ringwood, no 128, had been allowed to have a lease extension when it was converted in the 1920s; it was not knocked down until the mid-1960s - as the original site plan in the brochure shows. The houses’ future was discussed at the February 1955 Estate Board Meeting where it was agreed that they should be demolished and the whole site redeveloped with smaller houses along a new road. The meeting opted to use one builder for the whole site, under a building agreement, rather than selling individual plots. Recent experience at Frank Dixon Way where single plots had been sold to individuals had proved to be expensive in management time, and not particularly profitable.
It is not clear why the Manager was instructed to go to one of the other architects on the Estates’ list rather than Austin Vernon, perhaps they thought he had enough work as it was - and he had been less than helpful on the development of Frank Dixon Way. Francis J D Daly ARIBA of architects Daly & Burn was appointed to prepare a preliminary scheme. He produced three options, none of which the Governors particularly liked, but a revised scheme which contained 42 houses and two blocks of flats and maisonettes was finally agreed in October. The houses fronting College Road were to be detached while those in the new road behind were to be semi-detached.
When the site was advertised in the property press Mr L G Day, of Messrs Day & Co, builders and contractors, made the only offer - on the basis of the previously approved Daly and Burns scheme. In the mid-1950s Wates were not yet the Estate’s preferred development partner and it was only when it had problems with other developers like Mr Day that it fully appreciated Wates’ level of expertise.
Austin Vernon was, not surprisingly, very unhappy and, in March 1956, tried to take over the scheme by submitting a plan for a larger site, but he was ignored, The final scheme confirmed the intention to build much larger houses on the College Road frontage and preserve more of the trees as the LCC’s required. At the July Board meeting, a revised lay-out with minor changes to the access road, showed a total of 33 detached houses, with a block of five flats and nine maisonettes at the end of the new road on the Kingswood Drive frontage. There were to be four house types with four different elevational treatments. The houses either side of Hitherwood Drive are detached, with four bedrooms and integral garages They were built relatively close together and were faced in either brickwork or painted render. The original photograph of the completed development show that the rendered houses painted several different pastel colours, including light blue and cream. They cost just under £6000 to buy in 1958 and residents also had access to a small section of woodland to the west, between Hitherwood Drive and the later Wates development at Giles Coppice. The three later houses built on the site of Ringwood, No 128, were designed by Malcolm Pringle, one of the younger partners at Austin Vernon and Partners - he and his family lived in No 12.
The selection of the names of new roads was something that the Estate’s Board liked to be involved in and Hitherwood Drive was typical. In March the builder told the Estate that it had written to Camberwell Borough Council asking for the new access road to be named ‘College Crescent’. The Governors were unhappy and proposed ‘Fountain Crescent’ as an alternative. In fact, the final choice was made by the London County Council who rejected both for being too similar to College Road and Fountain Drive. They suggested Hitherwood Drive, based on the derelict Hitherwood House on Sydenham Hill above the site.
One of the estate’s most notable residents was the former Labour Minister for the Disabled between 1974-79, Alf Morris MP (later Lord Morris of Manchester). In 1970 he successfully introduced the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, the first in the world to give rights to people with disabilities.