The Dulwich Society Journal for Summer 2021.
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) are by far the commonest maples in Dulwich, as elsewhere in the country, but they can be difficult to tell apart. This article suggests a way of doing so, using the “rule of three” (that an ID can only confidently be given if a species can be distinguished from others in at least three different ways). In this case the three features I suggest are: differences in bark, in flower and fruit, and in leaves.
Both trees have smooth grey bark when young, but they develop very differently. The bark of Norway maple remains grey throughout its life, developing closely corrugated ridges in mid- and later age. A mature sycamore develops a much browner trunk, with the bark flaking into small square plates, revealing a pinkish or orange under-bark. This can give the trunk a beautiful polychrome appearance after rain, somewhat similar to the trunk of a plane tree.
Flower and fruit
Norway maple flowers relatively early, usually a full month before sycamore. Its flowers are held above the leaf and have a characteristic acid-yellow colour. Sycamore flowers are yellow-green and held on hanging 6-12 cm tails below the leaf. Similarly, the fruits of sycamore hang below the leaves whereas those of Norway maple are usually held above. Another difference between them can most clearly be seen when their winged seed-cases fall: the two wings of a Norway maple seed-case are held much further apart than those of a sycamore.
Sycamore leaves are darker green, have shallower lobes and are more coarsely toothed than those of a Norway maple, which have a much spikier outline. The autumn colour of a Norway maple is yellow-green to bright yellow, whereas that of a sycamore is brown-green to brown. In winter, the buds of sycamore are green whereas those of Norway maple are dark red-purple, occasionally blackish. Tree books usually mention that the leafstalk of a Norway maple exudes a milky latex when broken, unlike a sycamore’s. That is true, but the latex is sparse when compared with other latex-producing plants, such as spurge, so that is not always an easy distinction to make in practice.
Norway maple and sycamore both naturalize abundantly, some would say far too abundantly in the case of the latter. The nursery trade has produced many varieties of both species but they all display the characteristic differences set out above. As sycamore is an unpopular tree, there are few fully mature examples planted in public places in Dulwich. Perhaps the best local example is in Brockwell Park, to the south-east of the tennis courts. A good place to see Norway maple, a common tree in Dulwich, is the island between the junction of Alleyn Park and Hunts Slip Road. There are also plenty of naturalized saplings in the cuttings by the nearby railway track, which regenerate successfully after each “leaves on the line” clearance.
This is Edward Bailey remembering. Having lived in Dulwich since 1910, I love no place more than our Dulwich Village. I attended the Hamlet Boys’ School from 1913-1915. It was however in 1910, at the Infants’ School on the corner that I had my first ever lessons. I remember exactly where I sat and that I learnt to trace the alphabet in a tray of sand.
I remember the Coronation of King George V in 1911. The railings in front were removed so that we infants could cheer the King on his passage through the Village. We all got a medal. I wish now I had kept mine. When young we throw things away or lose so much we later regret.
Before me now lies a photo of the top class of 1913. There are 26 of us, each holding an open book on his desk, most of us wearing dark grey jerseys, one in a sailor tunic, three in tunics with very wide whited soft collars, and three in white starched collars.
On the back wall, through one of whose windows you see the misty shape of one of those glorious elms that once lined both sides of the Village, hang two pictures featuring a tall slim tree and an ancient city of small white houses on the side of a hill. And there in front sits my seven year old self.
I remember the Infants’ headmistress, actually she was called the Governess. One of her hands was mysteriously encased in a pink carapace. She taught the tonic solfa music scale. With her good hand making a different sign for each note, she conducted us like a choir in singing simple tunes.
The cane had not arrived among the infants but its Infant brother had. It was a long, thin, coloured, tapering cardboard tube called a pointer. It served both to teach and to administer a smart rap on the hand. Sometimes, to our secret joy, it broke. When at last we were promoted to the Big-Boys’ School, we were marched around into one of the classrooms close by Turney Road, where the headmaster, Mr Kenny, plied us with questions to find out what kind of lot Fate had lumbered him with this time. I discretely remained dumb. It was the most unnerving introduction to our new school.
There is an old photo of the school hall taken with the camera pointing towards the oriel window of the teachers’ room. Just visible, underneath, is a glass case. Remembering what was in it , I fancied I could just make out a stuffed bay crocodile - or was it an alligator? I wonder where it is now and whether it leaked itself empty. Underneath that was an open fireplace . We used to place potatoes under the glowing coals and at playtime we found them baked to a turn.
I remember only too vividly how strict the discipline was. After morning assembly, any boys that came late had to remain behind. The headmaster, cane in hand, walked down the trembling line, asking each boy his excuse. If it was unsatisfactory then the boy had to obey the dread command; “Hold out your hand”. That cane, whatever else it did, worked wonders.
The classrooms had hard wooden, iron framed desks that rose tier on tier to the back of the room so nothing naughty escaped the ever-vigilant eye at the teacher’s table. The walls of glazed brick were boy-proof.
We had no school uniform but we did have a glittering metal badge- the letters DHS intertwined, with a pin at the back to fix it on our caps. Most of us wore boots with metal ‘blakeys’ on the soles. At night we ran scraping them on the granite kerbstones to see who could make the biggest shower of sparks.
I vividly remember the village smithy at the corner opposite the infants school. At midday when school was out we ran to the smithy yard to watch the blacksmith at work and dared each other to catch the sparks from his hammer and glowing shoe. The shoeing of a horse held us spellbound. Why was it that the horse never neighed or reared up in agony as the shoe burnt the bone? We boys had iron hoops, the girls had wooden ones. We guided ours with a hooked iron skimmer. When the hoop broke, we took it to the blacksmith who hammered the red-hot ends together again; all for a farthing.
I remember the outbreak of war in 1914. We were on holiday but we had to go back to school, not for lessons but for games in the park. My older brother aged 18 joined up at once, went to Gallipoli never to return.
I remember the intense patriotism, our boys were heroes, the Germans were swine. One boy was the envy of the school when he brought in a German helmet with a spike on the top that his brother had brought back from the Front in France. I remember we entertained Belgium refugees to socials in the hall.
As a dictation exercise our teacher read a report from The Times of a German submarine that had surfaced for a few minutes in the Irish Sea. Coal became scarce and I remember our teacher getting a fire going in the classroom by breaking up some old cricket stumps for fuel. We celebrated Empire Day - 24th May. We came to school in costumes. My other brother represented a gallant knight; his accoutrements a wooden sword and a dustbin lid for a shield. We had to march past and salute the Union Jack and sing patriotic songs. A teacher got up on a chair and recited Kipling’s poem Recessional with its refrain “Lest we forget”- a prophetic warning for we little Imperialists, of the way of all empires.
Dr Elsie Widdowson, who grew up in Dulwich, was a pioneer in the field of nutrition. Together with Robert McCance, her scientific partner of over 60 years, she steered the government's wartime food rationing diet, since acknowledged as the healthiest Britons have ever had. She was involved in scientific research until her death aged 93 and the British Nutrition Foundation has said ‘there is no branch of nutrition science, past or present, that has not been influenced in some way by the results of her pioneering work’.
Elsie May Widdowson was born in 1906 in Wallington, Surrey. Her father, Thomas Henry (known as Harry), was from Grantham in Lincolnshire and the son of an engine fitter who became paralysed (possibly in a factory accident) when Harry was just five years old, which must have led to a precarious life for the family in those pre-Welfare State days. As an adult, Harry moved to Battersea, became a grocer's assistant, then co-owned a grocery business before owning his own stationery business. Elsie’s mother Rose Elphick, a dressmaker, was the daughter of a carpenter from Dorking who died when Rose was just 12, again leading to a precarious start in life. Elsie had one sister Eva, who was five years younger.
The family were staunch Plymouth Brethren and went to two or three meetings on Sundays, where Harry often spoke. They attended further meetings on Mondays, Wednesdays and often Fridays and Saturdays too. The girls wrote up notes from the meetings and they also did scripture study: both girls often quoted bible verses in later life. Elsie and Eva liked to be busy. Once homework was done, they would knit, sew, frame pictures, do raffia work, and set each other maths puzzles. They did not go to the theatre or cinema but were keen visitors to the Horniman Museum. They also helped with their father’s business, boxing up rubber bands and paper clips.
After WW1 the family lived in Melford Road in East Dulwich, with Rose’s mother. As Harry’s business prospered, he bought his first car, later teaching his daughters to drive. In 1924 they all moved to a bigger house in Overhill Road, where Harry’s mother joined them. Harry and Rose valued education and both girls were ferociously intelligent. They attended Sydenham County Grammar School for Girls (now Sydenham School) and won prizes and scholarships. Eva later gained a PhD in nuclear physics and then became a world-renowned authority on bees. Elsie studied chemistry at Imperial College, becoming one of only three women in 100 students in her year; ‘it was a man’s world’ she said. She took her BSc within two years but had to wait until 1928 before being awarded it, becoming one of Imperial’s first women graduates. She started work in the university’s department of plant physiology and once a fortnight took the train to Kent where she picked apples and measured their carbohydrate levels, research that earned her a PhD in 1931 and had far-reaching effects.
Widdowson then studied the biochemistry of animals and humans at Middlesex Hospital but could not secure a full-time post so did a postgraduate diploma in dietetics at King's College Hospital, studying how cooking affected food compositions. It was here that she met Robert McCance, a junior doctor researching the chemical effects of cooking for his work on diabetes. McCance was working in a new department set up by Robin Lawrence (see DS Journal Autumn 2016). Widdowson realised, from her research into apples, that his figures for carbohydrates in fruit were inaccurate and told him so. McCance obtained a grant for her to analyse his data and they worked together for the next 60 years, until McCance’s death. In 1936 the 29-year-old Widdowson sailed to the USA to tell them that they too were calculating nutritional values incorrectly. She was right and thus began a lifelong reciprocal affection between the food scientist and the American scientific community.
In 1938, McCance and Widdowson joined the Department of Experimental Medicine at Cambridge University. They often conducted experiments on themselves and investigated strontium, a trace element, by injecting themselves and measuring how much strontium they excreted. They started on a Monday and injected daily. All went well until the weekend when, excited by the results they were getting, they went into the lab on Saturday to continue. They were almost alone in the building when they began to suffer intense headaches and fever. Fortunately, someone passed the lab and raised the alarm. Despite their illness, which had been caused by crude purification techniques, Widdowson and McCance still collected the samples they needed and produced a ground-breaking paper.
This adventurous spirit showed itself in other ways too. In 1937 Elsie bought a car and had it shipped to Calais so the sisters could drive around Europe, a challenging undertaking when cars were more unreliable than they are now. In 1939, less than two months before war was declared, Elsie went on a walking holiday in the French Alps.
Widdowson and McCance analysed different foodstuffs and their effect on the human body and in 1940 published The Chemical Composition of Food, tables with over 15,000 separate values, comparing nutritional content before and after cooking (often using recipes from Elsie’s mother). Known as ‘McCance and Widdowson’ and ‘the dietician's bible’, this standard work forms the basis for modern nutritional thinking. Their work would become of national importance during World War Two when food imports were limited due to Uboat attacks on convoys. Widdowson and McCance, concerned for the effect on health, wanted to see how far food produced in Britain could meet the population’s needs. Again they became their own experimental subjects. In September 1939, with colleagues and relatives, they started a near-starvation diet of bread, cabbage and potatoes combined with rigorous exercise. Much of the food came from Dr Widdowson’s garden, including potatoes and fruit, often harvested while air raid sirens were going off.
After three months they went on a cycling trip to the Lake District in December to test their fitness and their research showed that good health could be supported by this restricted diet but they also realised that some foods would need to be fortified with vitamins and minerals. In particular they recommended calcium be added to bread, given that dairy foods would be so severely rationed and phytate in wholemeal flour interfered with calcium uptake. The addition of calcium was vociferously opposed but Widdowson and McCance’s research prevailed and their work became the basis of the wartime austerity diet. Later in the war Widdowson and McCance undertook a potentially hazardous trip to Ireland to speak to doctors and politicians, including the Taoiseach Eamonn de Valera. Ireland had seen an increase in rickets among children because, owing to a wheat shortage, wholemeal flour was being used for bread. Widdowson and McCance recommended a change in flour production and fortification with calcium, leading to a sharp decrease in cases.
In 1946 Widdowson and McCance had gone to Germany to consult on the rehabilitation of severely starved concentration camp victims. The Germans thought their hospital was going to be confiscated by these English visitors so they mocked up a ward in a museum to show them. Elsie was suspicious and went to go upstairs when Dorothy Rosenbaum, an Anglo-German doctor, called out ‘Here you can’t go up there!’. Elsie recognised her South London accent and the two got talking, with Elsie reassuring Rosenbaum that the research was legitimate. They became lifelong friends and worked together when Widdowson returned to study the effects of undernutrition in children in orphanages, a six month research project that ended up taking three years and where Elsie’s natural kindness and courtesy did much to mollify German reservations in what was a difficult post-war period.
.In 1968 Widdowson became head of the Infant Nutrition Research Division in Cambridge where her work led to revised standards for formula milk. Much of Widdowson and McCance’s work was ground-breaking and led to discoveries that changed our thinking about nutrition. In 1973 Widdowson ‘retired’ aged 66 but in fact continued researching until her second ‘retirement’ in 1988, aged 82. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society, president of the Nutrition Society, president of the Neonatal Society and president of the British Nutrition Foundation. Aged 79, she undertook a large research study for Washington Zoo.
In 1979 Elsie was awarded a CBE and was made a Companion of Honour in 1993. She was notoriously uninterested in clothes, nor would she ‘waste money’ on them so a friend took her to an upmarket second-hand clothes shop to get an outfit for her trip to Buckingham Palace; the speed of the shopping trip and the savings she made pleased Elsie. In 1998 the Elsie Widdowson Laboratory opened in Cambridge, much to her delight. Despite publishing over 600 papers and co-writing a standard of dietetics, she was said to be a very down-to-earth person, ‘without airs’. Once, after a long but perfectly accurate introduction at an American conference she said, ‘Well you can take all that with a pinch of salt’.
After the war, Elsie spent the rest of her life in Cambridge. She lived in Barrington and Orchard House, her thatched cottage beside the River Cam, was said to be ‘a haven of tranquillity’. There she enjoyed listening to Letter from America - Alastair Cooke was her ideal communicator. Her garden had a large apple orchard, a stream with fishing nets ready for any visiting children, cats, chickens and a vegetable garden. Colleague say their children saw her as a grandmotherly, Beatrix Potter-style figure. .
Dr Elsie Widdowson had a ‘remarkable capacity to think through the implications of results and ideas and to present them in unusually lucid prose’. Her partnership with McCance, so productive in so many innovative areas, was a symbiotic match of equals, though she was aware of the value of his support at a time when women in science were rare. It was said that he provided the breadth and she the depth; Elsie put it more scientifically: ‘he was the acid and I was the base’. She never married but treated her colleagues like family and was always supportive of their lives outside the lab. She left money to Imperial College for the Elsie Widdowson Fellowship which allows academic staff to concentrate on research after having children and to Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities to support students with disabilities. She lived her life by the following principles:
If your results don’t make physiological sense, think and think again! You may have made a mistake (in which case own up to it) or you may have made a discovery. Above all, treasure your exceptions. You will learn more from them than all the rest of your data.
She died in June 2000.
A blue plaque for Elsie Widdowson will be unveiled in Barrington on 27 June 2021.
It was in early 1980 that Southwark Council turned its attention to the sites of twelve derelict houses and gardens on the south side of Farquhar Road, close to the former Crystal Palace High Level railway station which after WW2 had reverted to woodland. As Ian McInnes’s article shows, action had already been taken on development of the former railway station and its extensive trackbed. However it seems clear that, although Southwark Council wished to preserve the area as woodland it was not at all sure how it would go about it. It had however brought in professional ecologist advisers to examine the triangular 2½ hectare (4½acre) site. Initially they thought it might be used as a training ground for environmental workers.
The Dulwich Society was keen that the same approach be made on another area in Dulwich. Sydenham Hill woods adjacent to Sydenham Hill had been zoned for future housing by the cash strapped council which had previously purchased the land from the Dulwich Estate. It was the site of several Victorian mansions, including Fernbank, a large house with extensive grounds running down to the former trackbed of the railway line through the woods which the council was considering selling off to a developer. The Dulwich Society hoped to preserve at least some the area as woodland for the enjoyment of the public within a contemplated larger area of woodland. Further along the ridge of Sydenham Hill, stood another old house with large grounds named Lapsewood. This was still the property of the Dulwich Estate which had its own plans for redevelopment . The Society was growing extremely anxious and applying pressure on both the Estate and the Council to abort their plans for housing redevelopment.
The Dulwich Society asked one of its members, John Westwood ARCA to carry out a survey of the trees of the Farquhar Road site in order to establish the facts regarding their location quality, variety and distribution. Westwood had previously been given an award for his survey of Sydenham Hill wood. The new survey persuaded the Society that there were some magnificent trees there which few people had ever seen , “they lie hidden in what is virtually a tract of unexplored forest”.
In January 1981 Southwark Council announced that the site would become a city nature park under the control of the Ecological Parks Trust. Draft proposals in an outline action programme included the provision for a warden’s hut and associated workshop area. Interpretive displays, a children’s’ play area and camp fire site, a tree nursery and a network of paths and trails. There would be a management programme to include various types of woodland. A key factor would be the establishment of of a local advisory group and it was hoped that the Dulwich Society would be able to contribute significantly to that. The Council and the Ecological Parks Trust also had written to thank the Dulwich Society for mapping the site and they looked forward to close co-operation with it, and others, on the development of the project.
John Westwood’s survey revealed that there were some 160 forest trees including 27 oaks and several fine acacias, limes and chestnuts as well as hundreds of smaller trees with a total of over twenty varieties in all.
In 2021, forty years on, Dulwich Upper Wood continues to thrive, with its own warden and band of dedicated volunteers. The lockdowns have brought many new visitors to the Upper Wood, easily double the previous year and a number are joining the corps of volunteers. Michael Williams, the warden reports that a new outdoor classroom has been created and that work to restore the pond is underway.
There have recently been problems with a stretch of a former garden wall fronting Farquhar Road being unsafe because of the root activity of several mature oaks. Rather than take them down a Council- led local survey has recommended changing a section of pavement adjacent to a shared pedestrian and cycle route.
Michael Williams has been Warden of the Upper Wood since 2018 and overseas the work of volunteers who maintain the wood. He is usually on duty on Tuesdays and on two other days per week and would welcome meeting anyone interested in joining this worthwhile and long-established amemnity.
Farquhar Road links Dulwich Wood Park and Crystal Palace Parade adjacent to what was the site of the Crystal Palace High Level railway station. Even before the Crystal Palace opened in 1854, it was clear that its arrival would provide a huge commercial stimulus to the area, and in 1853 the area of woodland on the slope to the west of Crystal Palace Parade (as far as what is now Dulwich Wood Avenue) was acquired by a housing developer from Reigate, George Wythes, a friend of Joseph Paxton. Wythes had also bought land on the north and east side of Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham and, in order to concentrate on that development, he sold the upper part of the land he had acquired on the west side to the Crystal Palace Company and the lower part, fronting Dulwich Wood Avenue, to a local Gipsy Hill based builder, Richard H Marshall.
It took until 1863 for the Crystal Palace Company to agree housing layouts along Dulwich Wood Park and Farquhar Road with the Dulwich Estate. Any start on the Farquhar Road houses was then delayed until the completion of the new Crystal Palace High Level Station and the railway line to it - understandably it was felt that it would be not ideal to build a number of high specification house with gardens actually backed on to the railway limes while the railway and tunnels were still under construction. The station was up and running from August 1865 and it took another three years before the Crystal Place Company started building - the first houses to be completed were Nos. 4-20.
The first record of any resident in the road was at ‘Dudley Lodge’, later No 12. In February 1869, the lessee was Richard P Nicholls, Secretary of the London and County Bank in Lombard Street (then the largest British retail bank with over 150 branch offices). He was 65, and he lived at the house until October 1874 when, on his marriage to his second wife (his first wife had died earlier in the year), he retired to the seaside at Hove. The next tenant, Amelia Cornish, had come from Bristol, where her late husband had been a successful solicitor, and she changed the house’s name to ‘Clifton Lodge’. She moved there with her recently widowed daughter-in-law Bertha and her young grandson. Her son (Bertha’s husband) had died in an accident while on holiday in Calais when he fell (or was pushed) off the pier and drowned - they had been married just 11 months. Amelia Cornish died in April 1881 and her will left to her daughter-in-law ‘her residence, with the furniture, plate, and effects during widowhood, and the residue of her property, real and personal upon trust for her grandson.’ In 1884 Bertha assigned the lease to Col Shadwell H Clerke, the Grand Secretary of the Masonic Lodge of England. Before becoming a Freemason, he had served with distinction in the Crimea, the Mediterranean and the West Indies. As a Lieutenant, he had carried the regimental colours of his regiment up the heights of Alma, and subsequently commanded a raiding party at the storming of the Redan at Sebastopol. He had served in the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers and was also a member of Queen Victoria’s Royal Bodyguard. He died at the house on Christmas day 1891 aged 55.
His neighbour at ‘Glanywern’, No 10, was Miss Sidney Madocks. She was one of five daughters and two sons of John Edward Madocks, (1786-1837), a Welsh landowner and politician, who served as the Liberal Welsh MP for the Municipalities of Denbigh between 1832-35. She was 52 when she moved to Farquhar Road and she named the house after her childhood home in Wales. Literally translated into Welsh it means ‘a house next to a bank opposite a stream’, not perhaps the most appropriate name given the location. Miss Madocks stayed just under 30 years, living on her own with two servants - her tenure was definitely helped by the £8000 she received in 1883 from the will of her cousin, George Tierney, a Fellow at Merton College, Oxford.
In 1901 there was a new tenant, George Sargant Oldfield, a company director moving to the area so that his two sons could go to Dulwich College. The younger son, Claude Houghton Oldfield was a well-known novelist in the 1920s and 30s, his best-known book being ‘I am Jonathan Scrivener’. The next family to lease the house, from 1919, were the Cawson’s, previously living in Annerley. George Cawson worked as an administrator in an engineering firm and he and his wife had 12 children including ten sons. Only the youngest, George Adrian Cawson, born in 1899, went to Dulwich College. He was initially too young for active service in WW1 but finally joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1917 with a commission. Shortly afterwards he transferred to the 56th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, with whom he went across to France flying the new Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 fighter, often described as the ‘Spitfire of WW1.’ He was killed in a dogfight on November 30th above Cambrai.
On the other side of Mr Nicholls was ‘Darleydale’, No 14. The first resident here was 67-year-old William Robinson whose trade card in the British Museum collection advertised him as a ‘Linen Draper & Silk Mercer, Manufacturer to the Royal Family’ with a shop at 12 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden. He died in the early 1880s and the house was occupied by his niece for a few years before a new tenant arrived, Mrs Louisa Fenner. She was the widow of a manufacturing City stationer who, in the 1881 Census, said that he employed 93 Men and Boys and 272 Females. She was still living at the house when she died in November 1912, aged 82.
Hurst Lodge, No. 16 was first occupied by Jane E Streatfield, the widow of Rev William Streatfield (1790-1860), Vicar of St Mary Magdalene, East Ham from 1827-60. She was followed briefly in 1880-81 by Kathleen Maclean, wife of a Madras Civil Servant, and then by Henry P Howard and his family - he was a director of Messrs. Howard & Jones, Printers & Lithographers, 16 Cullum Street EC. He died in 1899 but his wife Sarah continued to live in the house until 1920. From then until WW2 the tenant was Lewis Egerton Hopkins DSO OBE, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers, who had worked extensively in India and Persia on railway construction. He was the author of ‘Notes on the Field Work of the Nushki extension (Railway) Reconstruction, June 1918 to January 1919’ and later, in 1925, perhaps the more readable ‘How to judge the prospects of new railways.
No 18, ‘Ortigal’ was the last house on the road to be demolished, it was still occupied as late as in 1960. The first tenant was George Rudall whose brother, Henry, lived next door at ‘Salamanca’, No. 20. The Rudall’s were in the bond investment business but also had connections with the wine trade in Spain and, particularly, Tenerife, - hence the house names ‘Ortigal’ (a wine growing area on Tenerife) and ‘Salamanca’, the city in Spain. In July 1875, the Times reported that their firm, J.H. Rudall & Sons, of King William Street, had filed for bankruptcy, with liabilities estimated at £60,000. Although he retained the lease on the ‘Ortigal’ for a while, George moved to Tenerife, while Henry became a well-known journalist and music critic - later in life he published a significant biography of Beethoven. He was a member of the Philharmonic Society and composed a number of songs and even wrote the music for an opera, opera based on novelist Ouida’s ‘Signa.’ From the late 1870s the lessee at Salamanca was Bernard Farey, a notable mechanical engineer who was a director at Messrs. Bryan Donkin and Co in Bermondsey. Amongst his many inventions there were various machines for the Gas-Light and Coke Company, as well as a more efficient ‘double-cylinder rag-boiler’ for papermakers. He died in 1888 and his wife remined in the house until it became a doctor’s surgery for the local practice, Sharman D’Esterre & Maitland, physicians & surgeons.
Many of the houses were converted into flats after 1910 as their values fell - their 84-year leases were due to end in 1937. Many received bomb damage during WW2 and most had been demolished by the mid-1950s. The last one remaining was No. 18 which was still lived in as late as 1960.
Closure of the High Level Line
The final official train service to the Crystal Palace High Level Station ran on 18th September 1954 although a privately hired steam train, the ‘Palace Centenarian’ ran to and from the station the following day to commemorate 100 years of the Crystal Palace (1854-1954). The removal of the tracks started in the Autumn of 1956 despite a last-ditch effort by some local LCC councillors to reinstate the line to serve the projected new National Sports Centre. The station building stood until 1961 but from 1962 the site was empty. In the late 60s, the LCC put a number of prefabricated housing units on the site while discussions were held about a possible redevelopment - Dulwich MP Sam Silkin was keen that the LCC should build a scheme, but nothing came of it.
Award Winning re-development
The short-term housing had gone by 1979 and the site was redeveloped in three phases. The southern end was used for a large residential nursing home for Kings Community Health Council (now the Bowley Close Rehabilitation Centre) while the centre section was sold to a housing developer. The northern section, largely hidden behind the woods was sold to the Abbey National Building Society. At that time the organisation was keen to undertake its own housing developments, to bring 'building' back into the Building Society movement, and it sponsored an open architectural competition for an affordable housing scheme based on sustainability and energy conservation. The winning scheme, now called Spinney Gardens, by architects PCKO, introduced the first mainstream use of passive solar building for housing in the UK, with two storey triangular conservatories transferring radiation to a high mass wall acting as a heat store; and careful internal planning to derive maximum benefit from the building's orientation. The project won a 1985 Energy Award and a 1987 Housing Award.
During Covid-19 lockdown the park proved to be an invaluable community asset when so much else has been out of bounds. Visitor levels increased substantially which, although heartening to see, has also led to far greater wear and tear than usual. In particular, because of the penetration by members of the public into landscaped and planted areas, the bird expert Dave Clark reports significantly reduced numbers of springtime songbirds. This is not surprising when their nesting areas have been disturbed.
As a consequence, Dulwich Park Friends will be working with Southwark Council on restoration measures that may include fencing off areas and creating ‘dry’ hedges for protection. The increased usage of the park has led to increased litter too. The Friends are organising regular litter picks on Monday mornings from 8-9.30am. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping.
In 2019 the Dulwich Society and Dulwich Park Friends co-funded a report on the state of the lake. One feature identified in the report was the recirculation system that lifts water from the outlet channel back into the lake, as well as aeration further down the channel into the so-called rivulet. The aeration equipment is meant to increase oxygen levels in the water but is now defunct. This is perhaps not surprising, given its installation as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded works over ten years ago.
Fortunately, Southwark Council has allocated up to £20,000 from the community infrastructure levy fund towards replacing this equipment, along with £4,250 from the Cleaner, Greener, Safer fund. Under the stewardship of Will Walpole, the senior Parks and Leisure officer whose responsibilities extend to the park, a contract will be placed for examination of the recirculating system and replacement of the pump and related pipe-work, including the pipes that feed back to the lake and the waterfall pond. The penstock (sluice gate) will also be replaced to ensure it works effectively.
For your pleasure…
On Sunday 4th July a concert in the park will feature Lewisham Concert Band, South London Symphonic Winds and the Fabulous Honeys. This is co-funded by another Neighbourhoods Grant from Southwark of £625 with Dulwich Park Friends paying travel expenses and conductors’ fees (the band members are volunteers).
After an eighteen month delay, the aim is for the Dulwich Park Fair to take place on Sunday 5th September. A Southwark Neighbourhoods Grant of £2,250 has been awarded to bolster the finances of that event.
Lord Thurlow was Lord Chancellor between 1778 and 1792. He first lived in Dulwich in a property on the site of the Grove Tavern on Lordship Lane, also the site of Dr Glennie’s academy attended by Lord Byron amongst others and previously the Green Man tavern. Before moving to Dulwich, Thurlow had lived in Great Ormond Street. Thurlow in 1771 bought Knights Hill farm, with an estate of a thousand acres stretching from Herne Hill to Streatham, building a mansion on what is now Elmcourt Road, on the corner of the road which is now named after him as Thurlow Park Road. The building of the house was a slow process, which drew attention of the press, and apparently even that of the Queen. Thurlow apparently had disagreements with his architect, Henry Holland. The work on the house had started in 1787, but the house was not finished until 1792, by which time Thurlow, ill with gout, had retired from his official position. There were comments that the house was ‘a plain brick building, without any addition of stucco or other ornament’. Thurlow preferred to live in his cottage on the west side of Dulwich Common at Knight’s Hill, only using the grand mansion for entertainment. When Thurlow died in 1806, the ownership of the estate passed to his mistress, Polly, but no buyer could be found for the property and the house was demolished in 1810. It was estimated that building the house had cost between £18,000 and £30,000, compared with the original estimate of £6,000. Salvaging the materials from the devolution apparently raised £7,250.
Edward Thurlow was born in Norwich in 1731, managing to be sent down for insolent and insubordinate behaviour from both King’s School, Canterbury and Caius College, Cambridge. Thurlow claimed descent from Oliver Cromwell’s secretary, John Thurloe, but this was unproven. Thurlow’s father was a clergyman. One of his brothers became bishop of Lincoln and then Durham; another brother became an alderman in Norwich.
Thurlow was called to the bar in 1754 and took silk in 1762, that is becoming a ‘King’s Counsel’. Thurlow’s legal activity won him the attention of Lord Weymouth, a follower of the Duke of Bedford, the former being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the latter being Lord President of the Council. Bedford was an opponent of the city radical, John Wilkes. Weymouth arranged for Thurlow, to be returned for the constituency of Tamworth in Staffordshire. Thurlow joined the Bedford group, opposing Wilkes and his associate, Dulwich resident and Lord Mayor of London, Brass Crosby, and advocating British authority over the American colonies.
Thurlow was not married, though he had a relationship with Kitty Lynch, daughter of the Dean of Canterbury, which produced a son. He then had a relationship with Polly Humphries, daughter of the keeper of Nando’s coffee house in Fleet Street, whom he installed in a house at Knight’s Hill in 1771. The relationship produced three children, with the couple remaining together until Thurlow’s death. The three daughters were baptised at Christ’s chapel in Dulwich and were described as being ‘distinguished in personal accomplishments and outstanding and elegant horsewomen’. Polly attended the chapel every Sunday - ‘her devotion here was as fervent as that of the most pious part of the congregation, indeed her whole conduct has been remarkably decent and consistent with the most extreme decorum’.
In parliament, Thurlow supported the Bedford group in opposing the repeal of the Stamp Act - Rockingham’s relatively reformist administration sought to reduce the duty on newspapers introduced by the Grenville administration. The Bedford group, including Thurlow supported the administration of the Tory, Lord North, which succeeded the Whig, Lord Rockingham 1770. Thurlow became solicitor- general and then attorney-general in January 1771. Thurlow was a close friend of King George III. It was the King who pushed for Thurlow to be appointed Lord Chancellor in 1778, Thurlow being awarded a baronetcy, becoming Baron Thurlow of Ashfield. Thurlow took his seat in the Lords on 14 July 1778.
Thurlow was assiduous in performing his functions and attending the Lords. In fact, he dominated the Lords debates. He was known as ‘lion’ or ‘tiger’. His friendship with the King meant that his power basis was no longer dependent on the Bedford group. When the Bedford group, including Weymouth, pulled out of Lord North’s ministry in 1779, Thurlow stayed on as Lord Chancellor. Thurlow however considered himself strong enough to criticise Lord North and his government colleagues. For example, he attacked Lord Sandwich’s management of the naval war. He also attacked Lord Shelburne, who was criticising the administration’s policy on Ireland and on public expenditure. He also opposed the protestant Gordon rioters of 1780, who were seeking to introduce penalties on Roman Catholics, which had been removed two years earlier in 1778.
With the defeat of the British army by the American colonists at Yorktown, North lost his Commons majority. Rockingham took over as Prime Minister for the second time, this time with the support of Shelburne, but was obliged to keep Thurlow on as Lord Chancellor. Thurlow however opposed the new administration’s economic policies, specifically the Contractors Bill. Rockingham died in July 1782, and Shelburne succeeded him as Prime Minister. Thurlow supported Shelburne, but Shelburne then resigned. The King sought Thurlow’s advice on the succession, and Lord North returned to power, but this time as Home Secretary, in alliance with his radical critic, Charles James Fox, who became foreign secretary, with the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister. Edmund Burke was paymaster of the forces. The role of Lord Chancellor was taken from Thurlow and handed to a group of commissioners. The coalition however only lasted nine months. Thurlow took a leading role in opposing the India Bill, which proposed to transfer the power of the East India Company to commissioners appointed by the government. Thurlow had been a friend and supporter of Warren Hastings of the East India Company, who was governor of Bengal and then governor-general of India. Thurlow advised the King to overthrow the Fox-North coalition. His reward, with the young William Pitt becoming prime minister, was reinstatement as Lord Chancellor. This ensured that the new administration controlled the Hose of Lords as well as the Commons.
Thurlow was loyal to Pitt. He was considered to be ‘robust and steady’. He supported Pitt’s Irish trade proposals in 1785. He opposed even the most moderate proposals for parliamentary reform. He was critical of British military intervention in the Netherlands. While some members of Pitt’s administration supported abolition of the slave trade, Thurlow was vehement in his defence of slavery.
The impeachment of Thurlow’s friend, Warren Hastings, weakened Thurlow’s position. With the controversy over the need for a regency because of King George’s increasing mental instability, Thurlow changed horses to support the regency and became an advisor to the Prince of Wales, who later became king as George IV. Pitt however increasingly considered Thurlow to be unreliable, and Pitt and Lord Grenville (who later became Prime Minister himself), insisted to the king that Thurlow was dismissed, which happened in July 1792. Thurlow was then made Baron Thurlow of Thurlow in Suffolk. After his dismissal, Thurlow, now living in Dulwich, continued to be active in the Lords, for example supporting the acquittal of Hastings. He spent much of his time at seaside resorts. He also acted as a mentor for young lawyers, including John Scott, later Lord Chancellor as Lord Eldon. Thurlow survived until September 1806, dying in Brighton.
Thurlow was clearly a very unpleasant individual. He swore a lot. Charles James Fox considered him to be dishonest. Seen by many as an inveterate reactionary, his friendships included political opponents, for example the radical John Horne Tooke. Sometimes his public position was different from his private view - he could support military intervention publicly while being critical privately. His position on divorce legislation favoured the protection of married women from their husbands. His views could therefore be sometimes unpredictable. He was in many ways a political survivor, certainly lacking political consistency or any moral or principled position. He was no intellectual but waged considerable influence in a succession of governments
DNB entry by G M Ditchfield
Gore-Browne, Robert Chancellor Thurlow (Hamish Hamilton 1953)
Green, Brian Dulwich: A History (2002)
A growing team of over fifty volunteers is working to create a beautiful space which demonstrates a range of ways to garden while supporting wildlife and encouraging bio-diversity.
Ways to garden
Any compost used is organic, chemical and peat free. It’s a ‘low dig’ approach, good for the soil and good for gardeners’ backs! As much green waste as possible is re-cycled in the compost bins and three leaf bins are filled on rotation in the Autumn and left to decompose. By adding a top layer of compost, the texture of the soil is improved, organisms in the soil take material from the surface where bacteria and fungi break it down. No power tools, such as leaf blowers, are used to avoid disturbing wildlife and gardeners. The lawn is chemical free, and areas are being left unmown to encourage wildflowers to support a range of pollinators.
The volunteers grow what they can from seeds, cuttings, plug plants and root cuttings. An impressive amount of fruit and vegetables were grown for the volunteers and wider community last year. The Medlar tree fruit has been used to produce medlar jelly and the Quince arch, quince jam. Around 20 vines were donated and planted, and these are doing well on a South Facing wall so there may be a Bell House wine in future years!
A native hedge has been planted to provide a thorny habitat for wildlife, including birds and insects. Work has started on a ‘dead hedge’ about half a metre high from small branches woven through chestnut uprights, which flows around the garden and is already 47m long. The dead hedges become a habitat for insects, small mammals and birds, full of decaying material and provide protection from predators.
Log piles and leaf-fall are left undisturbed through the garden to support a multitude of different insects, provide a refuge and hunting ground for small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and shelter for over-wintering and hibernating wildlife. A bug hotel is being built to help demonstrate habitats to visiting school groups.
There are a number of bird feeders, to provide supplementary food for birds and allow visitors to see bird activity in the garden and about a dozen bird boxes donated and built by volunteers. Grasses and sunflowers are being planted to provide seed for birds. Seed-heads are left on plants through winter and shrubs with berries are left unpruned. During renovation work seven swift bricks were added to the north west wall of the house and a swift caller sounds in early morning and evenings to encourage young swifts to nest when they arrive in Dulwich in late Spring.
The beehives in the walled garden now produce delicious Bell House honey and bee friendly plants will continue to be planted. One volunteer built a Mason bee house which sits in a large willow tree. (The Mason bee is a common bee that takes its name from nesting in cavities between brickwork.) In the front garden a new meadow area has been created and cowslip and Snakes-head fritillary are appearing in a meadow planted by the previous owners.
Volunteers built and installed a hedgehog house to encourage hedgehogs to settle and holes have been cut at the bottom of the fences to allow them to roam. In the long term, it is hoped a natural green corridor between Dulwich Park and neighbouring gardens can be developed to support hedgehogs who need a large area to forage and whose numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years.
Under construction are two ponds, funded by public donations with support from the Big Give which raised around £6,000. One will be used for children who visit as part of Bell House’s Schools’ enrichment programme. The other pond will include a bog garden with reeds and rushes to increase biodiversity.
Ground Source Heat Pump
Over the winter a ground source heat pump system has been installed in the walled garden to provide heating for the house and reduce CO2 emissions. Pipes 1.75m deep were installed and linked together to capture heat below the ground surface which warms the house through a heat transfer pump in the renovated boiler house. After a major project and a very wet winter vegetable beds, grass and meadow areas are re-emerging and volunteers are sowing for the growing season ahead.
An opportunity to see the garden
On Sunday 25th July from 6.30-8.30pm, Bell House and Link Age Southwark will be hosting a ‘sunset soirée’ in the garden - a chance to support both charities and enjoy the sounds of a live band, canapés and a glass of fizz.
Please go to https://www.bellhouse.co.uk/allevents for more details.
The Dulwich & District u3a was established as recently as 2015 but has grown rapidly and now has some 700 members. It has over 90 interest groups, as well as holding monthly open meetings with a guest speaker. COVID-19 restrictions have prevented some groups (e.g. walks) from operating but many others have continued, mainly meeting remotely via Zoom. Open meetings have also been held remotely, often more than one per month.
The Dulwich & District u3a interest groups cover a broad range. Many are educational - art appreciation, music and languages are all catered for by several groups. Others offer games and sports (such as golf, tennis, table tennis, and boules) or other physical activities including cycling, walking and Zumba gold. Others might be considered purely recreational, such as contract bridge, cryptic crosswords, Mah Jong, crafts and wine appreciation. A full list is on the Dulwich & District u3a website at https://u3asites.org.uk/dulwich/groups. It is fair to say that there is something for everyone - and members are encouraged to set up new groups to cover interests not already catered for.
When social distancing is not in force, many interest groups meet in members’ homes, and others in Rosebery Lodge in Dulwich Park or other suitable venues (such as St Barnabas Church for table tennis).
The annual membership subscription is £15, which includes a monthly eNewsletter and a quarterly magazine Third Age Matters produced by the Third Age Trust. For members not on email, a printed version of the Newsletter is offered - as is advice and help in getting online and using IT. Details of how to join are at https://u3asites.org.uk/dulwich/page/53995, or call 020 8670 5975.