The minutes of the Camberwell Housing Committee held on 15th March 1965 confirm that the ‘Dutch’ Estate’s road names were a direct response to Camberwell’s twinning arrangement with the city of Deventer in Holland. “We have considered as to the naming of the ten access roads forming part of the East Dulwich Grove development and have approved for submission to the London County Council names intended to mark the link with Deventer The names are either associated with Deventer or are the names of other Dutch towns or artists as follows: Deventer and Hilversum for the two ‘crescents’ and Teborch, Kempis, Isel, Steen, Velde, Vermeer, Arnhem, Delft and Nimegan as the names for the eight ‘ways’”. There were several visits between civic dignitaries and school children during the 1960s and 70s but the relationship appears to have died out in the early 1980s.
The Council acquired the site from the Dulwich Estate in March 1960. The existing old houses on the site were relatively large and, by the late 1950s, were in very poor condition; as their leases were due to expire in 1964. A report at the Dulwich Estate’s Finance and General Purposes Committee on 27th February 1960 confirmed that this land (the sites of Nos. 131-173 (odd) and 90-140 (even) East Dulwich Grove and ‘Lyncote’ and ‘Ferrodene’ Green Dale) was to be leased to Camberwell Council for 200 years from 25th March 1960 together with the benefit of the leases expiring on 25th March 1964. The ground rent was to be £750 up to that date and £1600 per annum thereafter.
In December 1961 the Manager reported that the Council had issued a compulsory purchase order on the remaining leasehold interests that they could not purchase by agreement. He noted “I have been informed verbally by the Deputy Town Clerk that, if the Order is confirmed, all the families will be re-housed by the Council.”
The order was confirmed in March 1962 and early in 1963 the Council started looking for other properties in the area - they were initially very keen on the seven semi-detached houses in Hillsborough Road and Thorncomb Road. The Estate rejected their offer and decided to develop it themselves. In July 1963 the Architect reported on this site noting that “The site is on the north side of Hillsborough Road and directly south of the future Camberwell development in East Dulwich Grove, and it was intended that this should form a private development between the Council’s scheme and the new buildings of Alleyns School. The site is also suitably divided by a mature line of trees at the back (at the bottom of the existing gardens)” – these trees are still there though severely reduced in height.
The original proposal was for two blocks of flats and maisonettes, three storeys high and sited at right angles to the road, “each with three flats at ground level and 6 maisonettes over, all with garages, and for a single block of 4 flats 2 storeys high, and for 1 single dwelling house. The site lends itself suitably to this form of development, and the proposals I have made will blend with the Council’s development. I do regard it as important that the Governors should retain this site.” The Governors concurred but suggested that the architect consult the Borough Architect “with a view to achieving a harmonious development of the respective areas.”
In May 1964 the Architect reported that he had had discussions with Camberwell’s Borough Architect, and had prepared a revised scheme of two storey houses, which should “prove more complimentary to the Camberwell Council’s scheme than the previous three storey units.” He proposed 24 two storey houses with garages in blocks at either end and a limited amount of open space “so that there will be the minimum of amenity area for the Estate to maintain.”
In the same month F O Hayes ARIBA, the Camberwell Borough Architect, submitted the drawings for the Dutch Estate to the Estate office for approval. The scheme had 136 units divided up into 36 two person houses, 61 four person units and 39 five person units. The Estate Architect noted that “On the west side it is developed by means of a series of terraced houses at right angles to the road, with footpath access and with a new road from green Dale, parallel with the railway cutting to serve the garage blocks. On the east side, this is similarly developed with two short access roads from Hillsborough Road and Thorncombe Road serving the garages along the estate boundary in Hillsborough Road.”
He was quite positive about the scheme and thought “that the problem of complying with a density of 70 persons to the acre has been well solved by erecting houses rather than flats.” He added that “The general elevational treatment of all the units is of brick, faced with darkish brown bricks and roof with aluminium sheeting. Woodwork of the windows will be painted white.”
His only real concern was over the type 2A/2’s (the single storey courtyard houses) which he said “would not give the old people, for whom this type is presumably designed, much view of life, I approached the Borough Architect and he reacted as follows ‘This two person single story type will be mainly occupied by old people. Care has therefore been taken to avoid the feeling of being cut off by placing their entrances off the same pedestrian ways as larger family houses. The possibility of disturbance by children has been reduced by placing the living room at the back of the dwellings with south facing windows onto a small private courtyard where tenants could sit undisturbed.”
The scheme was approved and demolition started in October 1964. Camberwell made some further changes in May 1965 and the scheme finally started in October. The contractor was to be the Council’s own Direct Works Department who negotiated a figure of just over £600,000 to complete the job.
By the middle of 1966 there were reports of delays and costs were rising. At a meeting on 12th June another Quantity Surveyor, Messrs Miller & Townsend, were appointed to work ‘in conjunction with the Council’s staff’. At the same time approval was given for the hire of ‘tentage’ from John Edgington & Co for a period of 3-4 months in order that building work could continue without interruption on the scheme during the winter – cost £9,263.
Meanwhile the adjacent Dulwich Estate’s site received planning permission in November 1964. The Manager reported that “town planning approval has now been granted for 20 houses and garages on this site. The scheme varies from that originally approved by the Governors in that the garages have been moved to the rear of the site, resulting in the loss of 3 houses”
Working drawings were completed by March 1965 and a price agreed with local builder W J Mitchell & Son Ltd – the total cost was £113,950 or £5695 per house and garage. The price had been negotiated on the basis that work would be carried out at the same time as the adjacent Christ Church site (on the other side of Townley Road) and gain the financial benefits of combining the contracts. The sum was approved “subject to such savings as the architect can effect”.
By November 1965 the Manager was becoming concerned about the selling prices of the houses in a poor housing market and the architect substituted cheaper ‘Marley’ type garages in lieu of the brick garages approved previously. That same month a meeting was held between the Council and the Manager to discuss further compulsory purchases of land on the Estate. Camberwell were seeking to acquire eight further sites at 85-109 (odd) Sydenham Hill, the land at the rear of Nos. 111 and 121 Sydenham Hill, ‘Lapsewood Cottage’ and No 21 Crescent Wood Road, Nos 6-20 Dulwich Wood Park, Nos. 6 and 8 Kingswood Drive, Nos 1, 2 & 3 Crystal Palace Parade and Nos 1-5 Fountain Drive plus ‘Alleyns’ Nursery on Lordship Lane
From the Estate’s point of view this was not what they had in mind and a compromise deal was thrashed out by June 1966 when the Estate agreed to grant the Council long leases on 5 acres of land at Sydenham Hill (previously agreed to be developed by Wates), the site of 524 Lordship Lane and the 20 houses now nearing completion in Hillsboro Road. They also agreed to grant to the Council a lease, for a period expiring in 2001, on 115 properties in Winterbrook Road, Stradella Road and Croxted Road with permission for the Council to convert each of these properties into two or more units of accommodation.
The Dutch Estate was completed in 1969 and The Architects’ Journal of 16th December 1970 favourably reviewed the scheme as part of a report on the RIBA Housing Awards – the project winning the award for ‘higher density public sector development’. The assessors’ report praised the “excellent judgement in the size of spaces, heights of walls and choice of materials which produces an outstandingly pleasant scheme with the simplest of means.”