By Sharon O’Connor

This year’s Southwark Blue Plaque scheme includes four nominations with Dulwich connections.

Pioneer nutritionist Dr Elsie Widdowson (see our article in the Summer 2021 Journal) was born in 1906 and grew up in East Dulwich, in Melford and Overhill Roads. She helped devise the government’s wartime food rationing diet, since acknowledged as the healthiest Britons have ever had. She also raised the standards of formula milk. In the early years of her career her breakthroughs often came from experimenting on herself, something that would be frowned upon now! Widdowson was involved in scientific research right up until her death aged 93. The British Nutrition Foundation said, there is no branch of nutrition science that has not been by Widdowson.

Victorian businessman and philanthropist Francis Peek (see our article in the Autumn 2020 Journal) was instrumental in establishing Dulwich Park. Born in 1836, Francis Peek’s family were tea merchants and the firm became the largest tea wholesaler in the world. Peek lived on Crescent Wood Road and believed that ‘to die wealthy is to die disgraced’ so gave away his fortune. He was involved in education provision and also personally funded the building of several churches in and around Dulwich. The Society and the Park Friends unveiled our own plaque to him on the Francis Peek Centre in 2022.

Actor and singer Michael Crawford, born in 1942, lived in Winterbrook Road for a formative decade of his life during which he attended Oakfield School, performed on Broadway and in the West End, and made his first Hollywood film with Steve McQueen. He credits a Winterbrook Road neighbour with his career as she recommended he audition for a role in Britten’s own production of ‘The Turn of the Screw’. Crawford went on to become a household name playing Frank Spencer in ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’ and originated the title role in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.

The Concrete House at 549 Lordship Lane (see our article in the Autumn 2013 Journal) is one of the earliest buildings to be constructed of mass concrete. It was built in 1873 by the concrete pioneer Charles Drake who lived there for two years with his wife Janie and their family. It became derelict but was rescued by the London Historic Buildings Trust, the Dulwich Society and the Southwark Heritage Association. In 2014 the house won an RICS award for building conservation. Today, the Concrete House consists of five modern, shared - ownership flats.

Other nominees include George Dyer, a Peckham bespoke tailor, and Albert Tedam, a Rotherhithe PCSO. Voting closed on Thursday 1 June and the results will be announced later this year.