The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2013.
Nestling behind the trees at 104 Burbage Road, Herne Hill Velodrome (HHV), with its 450m banked cycle track, has been a feature on maps of Dulwich, since it was built on open farmland beside the railway in 1891. But by 2010, an enthusiastic band of volunteers, led by Velo Club Londres (VCL), was facing the end of cycling there, with the track surface breaking up, the 1891 grandstand condemned, and no prospect of funding for renovation or a long-term lease. Then, fortune smiled, and happily there was a coming together of the cyclists with local residents, politicians, and societies, The Dulwich Estate, British Cycling, Southwark Council and the 2012 London Olympics.
In 2011, Herne Hill Velodrome Trust (HHVT) was set up as a charity (charity no. 1140185) by the Save the Velodrome campaign, to work for HHV's restoration, and the track was resurfaced by British Cycling (Phase1). In August 2013 it was chosen for the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award. In the same month, thanks to a grant from Southwark's Olympic Legacy Project (SOLP), new facilities were added to the track and its centre (Phase 2). And now, thanks to the Dulwich Society's Cleaner Greener Safer grant from Southwark Council, new trees are to be planted to fill gaps in the arboreal curtain around the Velodrome's perimeter.
HHV, run by VCL, continues to host high quality, and increasingly popular, track training and racing. It caters for cyclists from age 9 upwards, at all levels from beginner to advanced, with many open and club sessions, race meetings like the Good Friday Meeting, and this season's most successful Track League racing yet.
But, in addition, HHV has been transformed into a cycling resource for the whole community. It now has 2 flat tracks and a multi-use games area (MUGA) within the main track, and main track lighting, thanks to SOLP, and improved mountain biking and cyclo- cross trails. It caters for all ages and abilities, from toddlers on strider bikes to sessions for schools, women only, older people, and children's holiday clubs. At Wheels for Wellbeing sessions, many types of specialist cycle are bringing mobility on wheels to the less able. And bicycle polo is coming back to HHV, with the new MUGA polo court being officially opened, by the London Hard Court Bike Polo Association, on 26 October, after the annual volunteers' end-of-season tidy up Working Party.
It is currently developing plans to provide much needed shelter, changing/showering facilities, etc., at HHV, by replacing the derelict grandstand building on its present site, and rearranging the storage in the same area as now (Phase 3).
HHVT hopes it will again have your support, as it seeks to raise the necessary funding for this last phase of the Velodrome's renovation.
See www.hernehillvelodrome.com and click on the Save the Velodrome icon, or go to www.hhvt.org for further information about HHV and HHVT.
C Hornsby HHVT Trustee,
Herne Hill Velodrome Trust chosen for a Prime Minister's Big Society Award
Local residents and volunteers were recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron with a Big Society Award on 12th August 2013 for their dedicated work to save the 1948 Olympic cycle track in Herne Hill. The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010 to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK who demonstrate the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Although the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games remain fresh in all our minds, it is great that there is still a legacy from the 1948 Games in south London. Thanks to the hard work of local people and a bit of help from inspirational cycling heroes, cyclists of all ages and abilities can now enjoy using Herne Hill Velodrome and maybe one day follow in the footsteps of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Froome. Herne Hill Velodrome is a fantastic London landmark and an excellent example of the Big Society.
Hollington Club for Young People
120 years ago the then Master of Dulwich College, Arthur Herman Gilkes, established a club for 200 boys in Camberwell, as part of the Dulwich College Mission. There boys could box, do gymnastics, play cricket and football and swim. Later the Mission took over the Hollington Club so named because its original premises were in a donkey shed in Hollington Street, Camberwell. Annual camps were held at Birling Gap in Sussex over a period of more than 50 years and holidays spent on a houseboat in Rye harbour, which was strung with hammocks. For many of the Camberwell lads, this was their first sight of the sea. The Scout movement was also involved and a mission troop was set up in 1909. Tragically, 8 mission scouts, including David Beckham’s great uncle, died in a tragic boating accident in 1912 and David’s grandfather was saved.
Many residents will remember the Hollington Club sports ground with its entrance in Burbage Road where, until a few years ago, the Old Hollingtonians football team were based and achieved some success before their amalgamation with another team and the ground handed back to the Dulwich Estate.
The Club is now located in Comber Grove, Camberwell, in premises which are still owned by the Dulwich College Mission Trust and close ties with the school have been re established. The Club continues to serve young people, both girls and boys, in this deprived area of South London. They have a thriving youth club which meets five nights a week, with a teen choir being the current popular activity. During the holidays they go on outings to adventure parks and the seaside; yes, there are still children in South London who have never seen the sea.
To celebrate the milestone of 120 years, the Club has launched an appeal for £250,000 to refurbish the very run down buildings and equipment, with projects such as a computer/music room, a kitchen for teaching cookery and healthy eating and refurbishment of the boxing gym and sports hall. Volunteers are also needed to help with the administration of the club to allow the excellent staff to focus on serving the young people.
See the web site www.hollingtonyouthcentre.org.uk
Chris Vernon, Chairman Hollington Club for Young People
The Village Burial Ground, densely shadowed as it is, does hold one tree which in the dark days of early February catches the eye of the passer by. At the back, a small leafless tree shines bright yellow, covered with its little umbels of flowers born on short twiggy sideshoots.
The Cornus mas, one of the large Dogwood family, is also known as the Cornelian Cherry .and its flowers appear before the leaves. The tree grows to between 12’ to 15’ and is best placed against a SW facing wall – not in the deep shade of the Burial Ground. It produces small cherry like fruits in the Summer in its home range of Southern Europe and Asia and the fruit are widely used as a drink, and for medicinal purposes in its native warmer climates. Here even in despite of the excellent summer, it does not seem to fruit often in the UK
Brought here sometime in the 16th century, its early striking colour is very welcome, and the small dark leaves arriving later make the small tree a useful background plant in the border. It is very hardy ,even in our northern climate, and the dark wood is unusually dense, and even sinks in water. Where the trees grow freely, ancient records have shown that the wood was used for tool handles, and even shaped into weaponery such as spears and javelins.
The late summer and autumn has not produced many extra records of wildlife sightings in Dulwich. This is not entirely surprising as fine weather enables successful nesting and an easy passage for migrating birds. The migrants will indeed be passing over, mostly at night and radar records indicate that the numbers are often very large. During the Second World War, the interference on radar screens were known as displays of angels until it was recognized that they were looking at bird migration. A weather disturbance will bring the birds down and it is then that we see them in our parks and gardens which are a feeding refuge. And when the numbers are large as with the Willow warblers this year in Dulwich park that I noted in the Spring edition, we describe it as a “fall”. Some of us were lucky also to see a Pied Flycatcher and there was also a Ring Ouzel, both birds that were heading north, hopefully with success. These are birds that can be seen in any year, so it is well worthwhile to keep our eyes open, both in Spring and Autumn.
The Ring Ouzel, known as the Blackbird of the north is a strikingly handsome bird with a prominent white crescent across his breast, and both our species of Flycatcher can be identified by their feeding habit of darting from a favourite perch to take flying insects.
Our gardens are the country’s best nature reserve and offer the chance of survival of our migrating native birds. But also they are the feeding stations for our native bees and butterflies. The Small Tortoiseshell, once one of the most abundant of our butterflies had suffered a catastrophic decline in recent years largely due to inclement summers, and the Peacock butterfly was similarly but less affected. The fine weather this year has produced a remarkable recovery and these butterflies were abundant out of town. They started to appear in our gardens in smaller numbers and hopefully will be with us next year. However the late summer hatching of both these species hibernate often under eaves, in attics or garden sheds so some means of access is useful. They will then appear on fine days in early spring and lay eggs upon the young stinging nettles that we may not have got round to weeding out. Red Admirals and Painted Ladies migrate in variable numbers from Europe and are therefore less of a conservation problem for us, but all will benefit from nectar rich plants, most notably Buddleias, mercifully common as escapee shrubs on our railway sides.
We do have more unusual butterflies in Dulwich, both small and not easily seen. The White Letter Hairstreak, so named after its wing pattern, is nationally threatened partly because the caterpillar’s food plant is the Elm and the Purple Hairstreak that lives in the high canopy of the Oak trees of the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill woods, is more common but very difficult to spot.. It will be interesting to hear if readers have been seeing some of our more obscure wildlife such as these small butterflies.
(Tel: 020 7274 4567)
In the early 1970’s, among our neighbours Burbage Road were the Watkins family. Molly Watkins was a potter and kindly gave us a lovely vase as a house warming present and which is still in constant use today. During a conversation she mentioned that her husband, Stanley was responsible for giving the world ‘Talking Pictures’. This is his story.
In October 1927 Warner Brothers premiered a movie in New York starring the popular singer Al Jolson. The title of the movie was, The Jazz Singer. It was a moment that would change the course of cinema forever. The man who made it possible was Stanley Watkins, who in retirement became a Dulwich resident, living at 168 Burbage Road.
Stanley Watkins was born in St John’s Wood in 1888. He was the only child of Sylvester Watkins, a watchmaker and his wife Betsy (Doughty) who was a former concert pianist. The family moved a number of times, crossing the Thames to Thornton Heath and finally residing in Hackbridge. Sylvester Watkins was not particularly successful in business which might explain why Betsy and young Stanley were invited to try life in California, where an uncle had a lemon ranch near San Diego. Stanley was 14, the year was 1902.
California proved exciting and time was spent bare-back riding, firing a shotgun and attending a one-room schoolhouse. Socialising in rural California before the First World War came in the form of ‘hubhubs’ when all the far-flung neighbours would gather for communal entertainment. However the Watkinses decided that lemon ranching was not for them and they returned to England where Stanley finished his education before bicycling daily from Hackbridge to the Engineering College of Imperial College at South Kensington where he would gain his degree in 1908.
The next three years were spent teaching physics and electrical engineering but he had kept in touch with his American relatives and when one moved East upon marrying, Stanley was invited to New York. His relative Gwylim Miles had contacts in the world of engineering and Stanley soon landed a job in the engineering department of the Physical Laboratory at Western Electric, the ‘Western’ part of the name reflecting the firm’s Chicago origins. In 1925 it was incorporated with Bell Telephone Laboratories.
In these early years with the company he worked in a variety of projects but by the time the United States entered into the First World War he was exclusively involved in military defence work including gun-ranging, anti-aircraft and submarine detection. The increased defence funding made available for development produced technical advances which he noted in his Memoirs:
We came out of the Kaiser’s war with some much more sensitive and reliable microphones and with advances in amplifiers and loudspeakers that made it possible to push the development of sound engineering equipment in leaps and bounds.
Ancillary to this he was also involved in the development of hearing aids for deafness as well as development of electrocardiographs. Shortly after, his work on the development of improved loudspeaker systems led him to become an advisor on the installation of sound equipment in hotels, ballrooms, sports stadiums, theatres and concert halls around the country. One of the theatres was the 3000 seater Roxy in New York, owned by the impresario Samuel Rothafel. Here Stanley fitted microphones and speaker systems to “augment the sound from his singers and orchestra” with an additional set-up to help for rehearsals. He recalled that an excited Roxy would forget his microphone and still rush around shouting directions anyway. It was a problem he later encountered when trying to record artists unused to such new-fangled aids.
Development of sound in Movies
It was during this time that Watkins became intrigued with a colleague’s work on stereophonic sound and he began working on electronic recording processes, a significant step towards talking pictures. Much experimentation had already been made in this field, from Thomas Edison’s short-lived Kinetophone around 1895 and later, and still unsatisfactory other processes such as the French Chronophone. Although Edison had improved his Kinetophone in 1913 success still evaded him. It was still not possible to achieve consistent synchronisation between the picture film and the sound wax cylinders. A step forward was the adoption of the Graham Alexander Bell invention of the ‘wax’ disc for recording. However, a further problem in attempting to add sound to movies was the lack of suitable amplification. When it came, the use of microphones would make all the difference, as Watkins explained “With electrical recording , using microphones, the orchestra and bands can be as big as you like and can sit in the usual arrangement and play as though they were in a concert hall.” As a consequence of his work in this field he was assigned to assist record companies such as Victor and Columbia who had installed Western Electric equipment in their studios and he did test records where he did the singing.
In 1922 the idea arose of putting sound to a film for demonstration use during lectures which were aimed at recruiting graduate students to the Bell Laboratories. The film was an animated short, titled The Audion, which explained how electronic valves in radios worked. It was decided to produce a set of sound records to accompany the film and Watkins was delegated to write a script and make the records. As it was only a commentary to accompany the film, strict synchronization was not necessary. However, when the film had its first public performance and was shown at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at Yale, no chances were taken and Watkins, whose voice was already on the disc was primed to take over with a live commentary should the equipment fail. He later wryly commented, “From where I was perched with my microphone, up among the organ pipes in Woolsey Hall, I could not see the screen clearly and all the diagrams looked alike. It was just as well that nothing broke down.”
With this success behind them Watkins’ department led by Joseph Maxfield pressed ahead with further experiments towards synchronization of sound and picture despite objections from some within the management of Western Electric who saw the main focus of the company to be the research and development of better telephonic communications. However, the two functions were partially conjoined by the development of transmitting and recording over telephone lines. A concert performed by the New York Philharmonic was transmitted from Carnegie Hall and the company also recorded important speeches such as President Coolidge’s Inaugural Address.
In 1923, Watkins and his colleagues made their first experimental ‘talkies’ at the lab at 465 West Street, New York. The performers in these first pictures were the engineers themselves. It was the decided that some professional talent was required and a cameraman and musicians were engaged. The room used for these first shorts was not large “…but there was a convenient roof outside the window. With the camera in a little shed on this roof there was just enough room inside for lights, artists and a director, Watkins recalled.
By early 1925 Bell Laboratories had made sufficient improvements with the synchronization and efficiency of their sound-on-disc system to offer demonstrations to the major movie studios. However there was little interest as the studios were making record profits from silent pictures and the investment required for sound pictures, both in production but more significantly in wiring up cinemas for sound was off-putting. Watkins summed it up in his memoirs in 1964, “The movie tycoons said we had a very clever and amusing toy but it wasn’t of much interest…it wasn’t ‘box office’ and …the public didn’t want talking pictures.”
It was through the efforts of a Western Electric sales contact that Sam Warner of the then fledgling Warner Brothers was persuaded to attend a demonstration. Sam Warner later recalled, “The demonstration that Bell Labs put on was very simple but it showed synchronization in somebody dropping a pencil or something on a table top and you could see it hit and hear the noise and the two were in perfect sync.” The other brothers were brought to see the demonstrations and Harry Warner, the eldest brother and head of the firm was as enthusiastic as Sam and was particularly struck by with a little orchestral number from which he visualized a future for musical scores to accompany feature pictures – “We’ll record music to go with all our pictures”, Harry said, “So that even in the smallest theatres they’ll have the music of a great orchestra.” No thought was yet given to spoken dialogue.
The Vitaphone Corporation
Western Electric moved to exploit the potential of sound movies commercially and entered into a partnership with Warner Brothers forming the Vitaphone Corporation. By the summer of 1925 plans were under way for making a programme of pictures to open at the Warner Theatre on Broadway and production commenced at the Warner Brothers studios in Brooklyn to which ten Bell Lab engineers were assigned. Stanley Watkins was given a one year leave of absence from Bell Labs at Harry Warner’s request, to act as Vitaphone’s chief engineer and get them going. ‘There were minor difficulties in recording sound; shooting had to be sandwiched between the arrivals of trains at Avenue M station, and a long pole had to be kept handy to discourage pigeons that sat on the roof girders and cooed appreciatively during the emotional scenes,’ wrote Watkins. Although the Brooklyn studios worked reasonably well and some of the footage was retained, it was clear that when production plans included a 107 piece orchestra and some large sets it was inadequate.
Stan Watkins and Sam Warner toured all possible sites in central New York and finally settled on the Manhattan Opera House which they leased and production commenced on a grand scale. Although it was devoid of pigeons, other nuisances manifested themselves from time to time. When one picture required a woodland setting a resourceful member of the technical staff brought in a boxful of field crickets for sound effects and some of them escaped. Watkins joked, “Crickets are difficult to locate and sing louder when the director says ‘Quiet’.”
Technical advances continued; the improvement in playing back from the wax record, quieting the camera by putting it in a soundproof box on wheels, transferring recorded material from one record to the next in a process known as ‘dubbing’, another process termed ‘the fader’ for moving smoothly from one record to the next. The most important development which was made by Watkins was to determine the speed the 16inch disc should be played at to synchronise with the projection of the film. Each disc contained ten minutes of sound, sufficient to accompany the reel of 1000 feet of film. He discovered that projectionists cranked films at their own or their manager’s whim depending on the length of the programme. To get more material into the programme films were projected at 100 feet per minute, however if the film was cranked too slowly, say at 60 feet per minute the movements of the characters would appear jerky and there was a danger of the projector gate catching fire. Watkins decided that a film should be projected at 90 feet per minute which equated to 24 frames per second on a 35mm film and the sound recorded on the 16inch discs would last the reel length of ten minutes if they were played at 33⅓ revolutions per minute. It was a historic development and film projection at 90feet per minute still remains the norm in cinema and television projection.
The first major picture released featuring the Vitaphone sound system, but still without dialogue, was the 1926 production ‘Don Juan’ starring John Barrymore, a romantic swashbuckler which had the musical score played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It was shot originally as a silent but was held back in order that sound could be added. As the dramatic sequences unfolded it was against a synchronized musical background. As soon as each reel of the film was completed in Hollywood, it was dispatched to Brooklyn and the images were matched to the score, to be recorded in one long, uninterrupted take.
‘Don Juan’ was a success with the critics as well as with the public and it ran at the Warner Theatre on Broadway for nine months. While for the Vitaphone Corporation it was a nail-biting time, the margins of error were reduced by Watkins ensconcing himself nightly in the audience, equipped with a telephone hook-up to the projectionist and a bank of buttons to sound the alert upstairs if something went wrong. Watkins estimated that he saw ‘Don Juan’ ninety times! Warner’s cinemas around the country began to be equipped for sound by Western Electric engineers thus creating a market for Vitaphone talking pictures. Meanwhile, the remainder of Hollywood remained immune to the possibilities of sound. Only Fox Studios saw Warner Brothers new concept as a gamechanger.
The Jazz Singer
In the event the starting-gun went off almost by accident. Warner Brothers next film was scheduled to be ‘The Jazz Singer’, starring the popular entertainer, Al Jolson. It was envisaged by the studio that it would use the same device as ‘Don Juan’ by having an accompanying music score but this time with the inclusion of songs sung by Jolson. To finance the Vitaphone Corporation and the $500,000 picture it was said that Harry Warner raised the money by pawning his wife’s jewellery and moving his family into a smaller apartment. ‘The Jazz Singer’ would become a historic milestone film and cinematic landmark. The one shadow cast over the opening of the film on Broadway on 6th October 1927, was the death the day before of producer Sam Warner aged only 40.
The choice of the wildly unpredictable Jolson was a masterstroke. Jolson add-libbed during the filming, firstly with that memorable phrase, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” but also conducted a one-sided conversation with his stage mother played by Eugene Besserer. The studio did expensive retakes, but in the end Sam Warner persuaded his sceptical brothers to leave the add-libbing in the film, thinking that there was not enough talking to make any difference. When it was screened, a critic wrote, “The audience was transformed into a milling, battling mob, who stood and stamped and cheered ‘Jolson, Jolson’. Gregory Peck recalled, “I remember the Jazz Singer, when Al Jolson just burst into song and there was a little dialogue. And when he came out with Mammy, and went down on his knees to his Mammy, it was just dynamite.”
Although the film was ruled ineligible in the Oscar’s Best Picture category because it was thought unfair for a sound film to compete with silents, its production head, Darryl F Zanuck was presented with a special Oscar for the film at the very first Academy Awards ceremony in May 1929. Warner Brothers got back their investment and more. With the advantage of sound Warner Brothers had gained a headstart over their rival studios.
Stanley Watkins remained responsible for the layout of sound studios in New York and Hollywood and from 1929-1936 he was located in Europe as technical director of the newly formed Western Electric’s subsidiary, Electrical Research Projects Inc and became a director of Western Electric itself. It was during this time that he met his wife Molly. In 1937 he returned to Bell Labs where he continued research in visible speech and disc recording. During World War Two Watkins returned to the development of electrical gun directors, this time to write textbooks and organize instruction courses in their use.
Stanley Watkins retired in 1948 and returned to England first staying at his mother-in-law’s home in Birchington but then to live in Dulwich in 1954 where he remained until his death in 1975. He now had time to indulge in his hobby of collecting. He was an avid collector of Lepidoptera, pipes of all kinds, as well as English folk songs, which he sang when asked accompanying himself on his ukulele.
When my wife and I moved into the district last year we were intrigued to learn that our house was one of nine 1930s dwellings built in the grounds of a former large Victorian villa called Adon Mount. The mansion and its owner remained a mystery until we joined the Dulwich Society and bought a copy of Who Was Who in Dulwich: 100 Notable People, edited by Bernard Nurse. In this I discovered a reference to Adon Mount under the entry for James Henderson, who had not only started the Glasgow Daily News (the first penny daily newspaper in the UK), but had also founded the South London Press.
After further research I discovered that Henderson was born in Laurencekirk, near Montrose, Scotland, in 1823, the son of a saddler. At first he worked for his father but later pursued a career as a journalist. Moving to Glasgow he worked on Scotland's first daily newspaper, the North British Daily Mail, before starting up the Glasgow Daily News. Then, after a brief spell at the Leeds Express and the Manchester Guardian he set up the Weekly Budget (1861) which was so successful (by 1865 it had the largest provincial circulation of any newspaper in the UK) that he transferred his offices to London. Here he began publishing an increasing number of newspapers and children's journals as well as books and pictorial postcards. Amongst these were the South London Press (1865), the Evening Mercury (1868, the first ever halfpenny evening paper in the UK), Young Folks (1871, which first serialised Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, The Black Arrow, and Kidnapped ), and Funny Folks (1874, the world's first modern 'comic').
Such was his success that in 1865 Henderson built an imposing villa for himself and his family on Primrose Hill (now Dawson's Hill), a 250-foot-high promontory which had been the site of a Bronze Age burial mound and a Roman fort, and was positioned on a ley-line (it had earlier been called Ladlands). When it was built Adon Mount was mostly surrounded by fields. Overhill Road and Mount Adon Park did not exist. Nor did Lordship Lane railway station (1865), Dulwich Park (1890) the old Fire Station (1893) and Dulwich Library (1897) and there were still kennels (for the hounds of the Surrey Hunt) on Dog Kennel Hill itself. To the west was the old toll gate at the end of Court Lane, and to the east was Dawson's Brick & Tile Manufactory (after which Primrose Hill was later renamed).
At first Henderson's villa was called 'The Mount, Friern Manor Hill' (another name for Primrose Hill) and this was the publisher's address which appeared on copies of the South London Press until 3 March 1866 when it changed to 'Adon Mount, Dulwich'. 'Mount' was a common name for a hilltop residence (the original home of the tea magnate Fredrick Horniman nearby was Surrey Mount), and 'Adon' is Hebrew for 'Lord God' (Henderson was a strict Presbyterian).
With the coming of the railway link to Crystal Palace and the opening of Lordship Lane Station the area around Dulwich became very popular and there was a spate of house-building for City commuters. In 1871 there were only about 4000 residents in Dulwich but in the following decade 5000 houses were built. According to Brian Green's Dulwich: A History (2002) ' Almost all of East Dulwich was built in a single generation, between 1875-1900.'
Henderson himself was bitten by the property development bug and not only began acquiring neighbouring houses but also started building new ones on the surrounding land to form the Adon Mount Estate. He even seems to have considered letting Adon Mount itself, as an advertisement in The Times (27 May 1879) bears witness. (Another reason for this may have been local disturbances - according to Brian Green, in 1878 the police removed 200 horses and 45 donkeys from a large gypsy encampment nearby on the current site of Dawson's Heights.)
Amongst the properties Henderson acquired were three mansions in Overhill Road – Rock Bank, High Bank and the Red House (home of Henderson's oldest son, George). Of these, the first two were semi-detached and (after a period as the Rockbank Hotel), still stand today as blocks of flats. The Red House was later demolished and replaced in 1936 by nine dwellings (Nos 170-154) – including ours - though two surviving large brick gateposts outside Nos. 176-172 may have marked its original entrance.
Henderson also acquired Gothic Lodge (home of his brother William Cream Henderson and later of William's son) in Lordship Lane on the corner of Upland Road (now demolished). In addition, in 1882 he built two new detached, double-fronted houses - Oak Tree Bank and West View Bank - on Lordship Lane on either side of the opening to Mount Adon Park. These were also advertised for rent in The Times (25 April 1883).
In addition, Henderson built Mount Adon Park itself. Named in 1881, the road cut through the field between Gothic Lodge and Adon Mount and originally consisted of 10 houses. Of these No.1 (home of his second son, Nelson) was a detached double-fronted residence, Nos 2-7 were semi-detached, and Nos 8-10 were detached (his third son, Winfred, lived at No.8).
Though No.1 was later demolished and replaced by modern terraced houses, the original Nos. 2-7 remain on the north side of the road (now numbered 25-49) and it is assumed that Nos 8-10 were the buildings which now form 369-373 Upland Road (these were built after 1896). The house currently numbered as No.50 Mount Adon Park does not seem to have been part of the original Adon Mount Estate.
Henderson became a significant figure in the area and was President of the Dulwich Liberal & Radical Association. He even stood as a Liberal candidate for Dulwich in the parliamentary elections in 1887, supported both by former Home Secretary Rt Hon. Hugh Childers (a cousin of Erskine Childers) and the celebrated journalist and MP T.P.O'Connor (founder of the Star and other papers). However, he was defeated by the Conservative John (later Sir John) Blundell Maple (Chairman of the famous furniture company).
Four of Henderson's eight children were born at Adon Mount. His two oldest sons, George and Nelson, both attended Dulwich College (and Nelson even played rugby for Scotland). Both, together with his youngest son Winfred, worked for the family firm and in about 1900 they took over the business. James himself retired to Worthing, Sussex, in about 1905. He died there on 24 February 1906.
In 1907 the family sold the South London Press to concentrate on magazine, comics, postcard and book publishing. However, in 1920 the magazine and comics titles were taken over by Alfred Harmsworth's Amalgamated Press and the rest of the business also seems to have been wound up at this time. Adon Mount was sold to property developers in 1910 who demolished the villa and built in its place the 18 gabled houses which form the south side of Mount Adon Park today (Nos.6-40).
James Henderson was buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery close to Adon Mount. His grave, long forgotten and grassed over, has now been discovered after much research, and it is hoped that it will soon be restored to its former glory, as befits the final resting-place of one of the great pioneers of popular journalism.
In 1886 the Estates Governors – established only three years earlier to manage Alleyn’s foundation’s properties in Dulwich and elsewhere – donated to the newly created London County Council about 72 acres in central Dulwich to form a public park. They asked in return only that some memorial to Edward Alleyn be erected in it. To this request Lord Rosebery, Chairman of the L.C.C., is alleged to have replied that he "doubted if the Council would entertain such unpardonable extravagance, but that it might consider putting up some stone, some very cheap stone which would not materially affect the rates, in honour of this great occasion". There is no memorial to Alleyn in the Park, but one of the entrances to it, at the south-east corner, is called the Rosebery Gate.
This apparent generosity on the part of the Estate Governors may not have been so remarkable as at first appears. Keen to avoid the overcrowding of houses which was becoming a feature of neighbouring parts of south London, a ‘green lung’ for the local inhabitants fitted well with their plans for more leisurely and refined development of the area. Whatever their motives, the resulting ‘Dulwich Park’, the 1884 design for which by Charles Barry junior (Architect to the Governors) is reproduced here, is happily still with us today.
The land on which the Park was constructed, was, in 1896, divided by a watercourse originating in the Sydenham hills, and flowing from the south-east corner of the Park to Herne Hill and beyond, crossing College Road just south of the Old College – the Dulwich Picture Gallery has been built over part of it. The only evidence of it now visible above ground is the ornamental boating lake which incorporates it in the centre of the Park, and the short stretch of water immediately west of the lake. (The one to the east, shown on Barry’s plan, was in the event filled in.) To the south of that watercourse were fields which in medieval times were called Dickriddings and Annesfields which we will consider in the next Journal. To the north of it was the remnant of Court Farm, comprising fields formerly called Hanger
Hill, the Long Field (or The Seven Acres), Haythorne Field, and Haythorne Shott, all part of what had formerly been Dulwich Court Farm, straddling the present Court Lane.
Dulwich Court Farm
From 1127 the Priory of St Saviour, Bermondsey, later (from 1399) Bermondsey Abbey, held the manor of Dulwich, and there can be little doubt that the farmhouse known as Dulwich Court and the land attached to it, which centuries later would form much of Dulwich Park, were treated as the Abbey’s demesne land, on which all the villagers other than free tenants would be required to work for a specified number of days in the year in order to produce food for the Abbey’s refectory. Occasionally, when the Priory was more in need of funds than of food, it could and would lease out or mortgage the property, and we know of at least one such transaction in 1357, when Thomas Dolsaly, a London Citizen and Pepperer and sometime lord of the manors of Peckham and Bretynghurst, was granted a lease of the manor of Dulwich for his lifetime (which ended in August 1370).
Similarly, in May 1530 a lease of the whole manor of Dulwich was granted by Bermondsey Abbey – which perhaps, as far as the future of institutions such as itself was concerned, could already see the writing on the wall, and was keen to convert its wealth from land to money – to John Scott of Camberwell, a Baron of the Exchequer, for 50 years from Michaelmas 1531. Scott died in 1532, and the manor lease passed first to his son, also John Scott (died 1558), then to his grandson, also John Scott, who in 1561 granted a sub-lease of only “the manor house of Dulwich” and the 129 acres of “demayne” land on either side of Court Lane that went with it, Woodseare, Dulwiche Courte hill (30 acres), Heythorne feilde (26 acres), Dyckryddens (4 acres), Hanger Hill (15 acres), the Six Acres, and Horse crofte (4 acres), to Walter Dove and John Dove, for the remaining 20 years of the head-lease. A conjectural plan of where these fields (and others relevant to Dulwich Park) were is shown overleaf.
The first mention of Dulwich Court by name was in February 1602, when Francis Calton, by then lord of the manor, mortgaged “Dulwich Corte”, Hall place, and a few other houses in Dulwich. In October 1605 Calton (by then Sir Francis), joined with his mortgagees in selling those properties to Edward Alleyn. “Dulwich Courte” is described as being lately in the occupation of Phillipp Mitchell, now in that of William George, and a list of ‘Anuell Rents’ made for Alleyn at the same time estimated it at 100 acres of land and another 15 acres of woods, worth in all £53 a year. Seven months later, on 8th May 1606, Calton contracted to sell the whole manor to Alleyn, and the “capital messuage or mansion house called Dulwich Court” heads the list of properties within the manor.
It seems that the farm was shortly afterwards temporarily split between different tenants, and indeed Alleyn himself may have lived at Dulwich Court for a time, perhaps while his apartments in the newly-built College were being prepared in 1615/16 – there is an undated letter in the Dulwich archives, from whom we do not know, addressed “To my verye lovinge frende Mr Allin at his houste dullige courte".
In March 1627 the College leased to William Nicholas a messuage called Dulwich Court, with barns etc. and fifteen parcels comprising Great Woodsires, two closes, a close and lane, the Horse Close, the Orchard and Pightell [a pightle was just a small enclosure] behind the barn, Hanger hill, the Long Field, Hamonds Copice (divided), Hathorne feilds, the lane leading to the house, a parcel taken from Hathorne feilds, and Hathorne Shott, 129 acres in all, at £58 1s p.a., £20 of which was remitted in the second year for building work which Nicholas was obliged to carry out. Dulwich Court Farm, apart from the other part of Hamonds Coppice which was let at will to Richard Peare (tenant of a house on the site of the former Harvester pub at the junction of Lordship Lane and Dulwich Common), was whole again.
William Nicholas assigned his lease of Dulwich Court Farm to James Nelham in 1630. Leases of the house and farm – always for 21 years, in accordance with the College Statutes – were granted to Nicholas Hunt (1640), Henry Stonestreet (1660), Michael Webb (1661), his widow Elizabeth (1681), and Captain Edward Le Neve (1694, 1700 and 1717). By 1717 the annual rent had increased to £94, and three years later it rose again, to £100. Few if any of these tenants actually lived at the property – Hunt was described as ‘London gentleman’, Stonestreet as ‘London Clothworker’, Webb as ‘London Mercer’, and Le Neve as ‘gentleman of St Anne’s Westminster’ – and all are likely either to have employed caretaker farmers or to have sublet all or part of the premises. We know from a Terrier of June 1668 that the whole farm was then occupied by Mrs Bethiah Downer (widow of Thomas Downer, a Dulwich yeoman), paying her immediate landlord £84 a year, and she may in turn have had her own sub-tenant or -tenants, and they theirs in their turn. As suggested earlier, Dulwich Court was apparently large enough to contain two households, and both Mrs Webb and Capt. Le Neve granted sub-leases of a 'moiety' (i.e. half) of the whole property to different tenants, one of whom was himself directed to procure one or more under-tenants "fitly qualified for the serving and bearing of offices in the parish of Dulwich". In December 1681 Mrs Webb sub-let the south and south-west half of Dulwich Court, with Great Orchard, fields of 4 acres, 7 acres, 3 acres, and 11 acres, and Heythorn Feild (14 acres) to Grevil Lewis, landlord of ‘The Bell’ Inn, at £37 p.a. By the 1720’s the half of the farm had passed to the Budder family and by 1743 Robert Budder had acquired the other half as well.
In 1743 the whole farm was leased to Budder alone. When he died his widow Mary successfully applied for a new lease in 1764, after pointing out that her husband's family had been College tenants (although not only of Dulwich Court Farm) for nearly 150 years, and that she was now a widow with one child. By 1784 she had died and the College decided that it was time to take stock of what to do with the farm, by now occupied by Nathaniel Randall as Mrs Budder’s sub-tenant. The College Surveyor, John Dugleby, recommended that hundreds of elm trees be planted on the farm, and that bearing in mind its “beautiful situation for building” that it be divided in three (to include, presciently, “a pleasure ground”). Accordingly, at the College Audit Meetings in September 1784 and March 1785 it was resolved to grant new leases to Edward Browne, Thomas Coleman and Thomas Griffith of respectively five fields (later known colloquially as ‘The Five Fields’), six fields of meadow and arable, and four fields (with the farmhouse, barn, stable, etc.), all being part of Dulwich Court Farm. There were further requirements to plant elm trees.
The three leases were duly granted. Browne’s five fields lay behind his dwelling house (now 105 Dulwich Village) Griffith’s lease was of the farmhouse, barn, stable, etc., and four fields in all. Coleman’s lease has not survived, but we know from another source that the four fields comprised in it, being the remainder of the old farm, comprised 51acres in all. That gives a total acreage for Dulwich Court Farm at the time of its dissolution of some 123 acres
Southwark Local Studies Library holds a lease plan, reproduced below, showing what was left of Dulwich Court Farm, renamed simply Court Farm, when a lease of it was granted to William Johnson (Cowkeeper and Farmer, of Kent Street Southwark) in September 1814,
Court Farm was to suffer further depredations because of the growing population and consequent demand for building land. From 1842 it was occupied by Colonel Constable, who had been Johnson’s “caretaker”, having been his ploughman. Constable eventually handed the farm over to one of his sons – Joseph, according to one souce, but William according to all others – and became one of the College's first out-door pensioners (receiving 10 shillings a week), dying in 1877 reputedly aged 96 (but actually 86, if the 1841 Census is right). He is buried in Nunhead Cemetery.
November 1878 saw the last lease of Court Farm granted to William E. Constable, before it was surrendered in order to make way for the Dulwich Park. Writing in 1953, D. V. Allport reported that Court Farm was "only demolished in quite recent years. Many residents in Dulwich will remember the elm-lined hedgerows which bordered the old lane, the deep ruts and the mud of Stygian blackness which formed its surface in winter time ...".
Ian McInnes recounts the extraordinary story of Dulwich’s Post-War D.I.Y. builders
This article is based on a memoir put together by Ronald A Dalley, one of the original members of the housing society. In the spring of 1952 he saw an advertisement in the South London Press asking for individuals interested in forming a self-build housing group to come to a meeting at the Enterprise Pub in Camberwell. At that time it was difficult to obtain a new house anywhere in London due to the housing shortage caused by the war - you had to apply to the local council to be included on a waiting list, either to rent a council house or to obtain a permit to build. There were a limited number of permits and there was no chance of receiving one if your existing accommodation was considered adequate.
He reported that attendance at the meeting was very good, and the society was set up there and then - a Chairman and Secretary were elected, and the attendees agreed to call the group 'The Enterprise (Camberwell) Housing Society Ltd' - after the pub.
The first thing the group had to do was to find a vacant site within commuting distance of the majority of the members’ homes. Small search units were formed but they had little initial success and membership numbers started to fall. It seems that one of the more persistent groups finally made contact with the Dulwich College Estate and received a positive response. Following a meeting with the Estate Chairman, three sites were identified, a large area in Jasper Road and smaller areas in Dulwich Wood Avenue and Red Post Hill by North Dulwich Station. A detailed survey established that twenty houses could be built at Jasper Road, two on Dulwich Wood Avenue, and three at Red Post Hill, making a total of twenty five. The members knew that the Estate would be very concerned with the design of homes and, to facilitate approval, they decided to retain the services of Austin Vernon & Partners, the Dulwich Estate architects, to prepare some initial plans.
While waiting for planning permission, the members formed a training programme to help train those members with no building experience. A site was located in Church Street, Camberwell and the tradesmen members provided instruction at weekends in plumbing, bricklaying and carpentry, using text books. This enabled the less experienced to become familiar with the various building terms and tools. At this point the membership was three short and the remaining members agreed to choose new ones on the basis of their skills - a general foreman to lead the group, together with an additional carpenter and a plasterer.
Following a further meeting with the architects the design of the houses was agreed - Ronald Dalley emphasises that the wives were in attendance! The majority preferred a conventional house layout, though there were a few advocates for open plan, and there was a preference for a central heating system, hardwood doors, a separate toilet and bathroom upstairs, an airing closet and an attached garage. Confident that the Dulwich Estate would approve the chosen house design, the group approached the London County Council (LCC) for a mortgage loan to purchase materials - the land was acquired on a 99 year lease term so no money was needed for land purchase. The mortgage was £28,000 to cover the total estimated list of materials and the group agreed to control their withdrawals to avoid the payment of interest. Members agreed that the Society would remain solely owned by them, each member was to purchase a share valued at £100 to be redeemed only when and if the group disbanded. The group registered with the ‘National Federation of Housing Societies' and the General $ecretary, a Miss Merrylees, was apparently a great help with dealings with the local council. At that time the group were the only self-build group in the Greater London area to be registered with the Federation.
Enabling works started In February 1953 with the purchase of some used fencing and steel posts for a security fence around the Jasper Road site. Some site clearing was needed and there was an old house on the corner of Jasper Road and Farquhar Road which had to be demolished - though initially it served as a site office/tea room. The first building to be constructed was a store for bags of cement and this apparently proved a good way to practise laying bricks.
Pending confirmation of the financial arrangements for the LCC mortgage, initial tasks were restricted to those that did not require any financial outlay. Hand excavation of the main sewer pipe and the pipe excavation to connect each house was completed early in May 1953 and the ground was then levelled to make it easier for marking out the foundation excavation. At this time the group was working weekends only and Dalley reports that the bricklayers were very keen to keep up their practice sessions. They proceeded to build walls to greater heights (lifts) using scaffolding and boards (which had been purchased second hand). They also obtained a used cement mixer which proved to be a considerable advancement on mixing by hand. A bonus was a scale model of the timber roof rafters and supporting beams which the carpenters found very helpful.
In June 1953 the LCC confirmed that financing was approved and the building permit was issued to enable work to start - the first task was the foundations which were excavated by hand.
The actual construction started in September 1953, concrete foundations were poured, and bricks delivered. The group had problems initially arranging for a Saturday delivery to suit them (in those days most people still worked on Saturday mornings) but managed to find cooperative companies that were willing to do it.
There was a good working relationship on the site and the members became good friends - everyone was encouraged to bring a sandwich and a hot drink and were asked to stop at the same time for a one hour lunch break - with 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon for a cup of tea. As the weather improved, the wives came to visit their husbands on a Sunday afternoon. The children also played with each other and Dalley thought it was very special to have the family involved, more so since all the members had all agreed to forego their annual summer holiday to spend it building the houses.
In July 1954 a small group started to clear the bushes on the opposite side of the road - a big task as the bushes were very large. Site preparation and excavation of foundations was started at the end of August and bricklaying commenced in September. At the same time work on the first sixteen houses on the other side of the road was progressing well and the interiors were underway. The plasterer was retained full time to provide the right quality of finish and the carpenters were busy installing the staircase, window sills, hanging doors and trim surrounds - the doors and stair panels were all mahogany plywood. They looked so good that one of Dalley’s friends, a French polisher, suggested he polish the doors, stair panels, hand rails and window sills - almost every house was finished this way. The final job was laying the Armstrong Asphalt floor tiles to the lower level of each completed house. The lower floor had to be a cement finish over poured concrete- due to a Government regulation, houses built at that at that time, could only have one floor of timber - possibly to conserve timber imports from overseas.
When the LCC was first approached with the mortgage application the group were asked to submit a list of all members - they presented this list by family grouping, which the LCC accepted. The group also decided that all houses would be allocated on family size. The first names drawn were for the two child families, followed by the one child families, and the final (and smallest group) were for families without children. Dalley was fortunate to have his name selected for the first house in the one child group and this enabled the task of choosing interior paint colours, floor tile patterns and fireplace tile surround design much sooner - it also boosted the enthusiasm of each member when he knew that he was working on his own house.
The Bruces were the first family to move in October 1954 (into No. 10 Jasper Road), followed shortly after by the Clarke family into No. 8 and the Ott family into No. 12. Dalley moved into No. 6 in December. He wrote “I remember it very well, as our four year old son Stephen, for most of his young memory had been living in a house building atmosphere. Most days he dressed in his pretend working clothes, putting his lunch into a paper bag, and rode his tricycle around the living room of our upstairs rented rooms, on his way to his pretend building site. Mrs Green, who lived below us, was I am sure, very pleased when we moved. My wife and I can still recall how excited $tephen was to be living in the house, which was surrounded by building activity, and couldn't wait to get outside.”
The building programme moved to Dulwich Wood Avenue - the site was much easier to work as it was a level cleared area. The team were only building one pair of houses and, with the experience gained, they were able to complete the houses much sooner. At the same time some bricklayers remained at Jasper Road and built walls along the garden frontage, using the same colour bricks as the houses - all incorporated brick piers for the house and garage entrances.
During the building period the site was visited by a number of newspaper reporters. They wanted details of the project and also took photographs of the members working on the site. Dalley reports that not all of the articles were reported correctly, and that, as a result of the articles, they often had interested people visiting the site and asking how to set up a similar group.
The last house was finished at Red Post Hill in the autumn of 1956 The houses were rented from the Society, and it was Dalley’s responsibility to collect rent payments, which he then passed to the treasurer who then made the monthly mortgage payment to the LCC. In 1962 he and his family moved to Canada – his most vivid recollection of the whole period was the moving of the cement mixer (it had steel wheels) from Jasper Road to Red Post Hill - towed behind a car, with a bicycle escort, and shattering the peaceful afternoon atmosphere in Dulwich village.
In 1913, when the present King’s College Hospital was built, diabetes was largely untreatable and Type 1 (insulin dependent) a fatal disease. Within two months of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November 1920, Dr Robin Daniel Lawrence (RDL 1892-1968), then a trainee surgeon at King’s College Hospital, turned to biochemical research on diabetes at a time when he was slowly dying of it. He went to Florence expecting to die. However, the successful extraction of insulin in Toronto in 1921 by Frederick Banting and Charles Best (who became a very great friend of RDL) led to treatment of their first patient in 1922, at one stroke converting a fatal disease into a chronic disease. In Florence, RDL responded to a telegram from Dr GA Harrison, biochemist at King’s, with the brief message “we’ve got insulin-come back quick”. He was one of the earliest patients in Britain to receive an insulin injection, first given on 22nd May 1923 in King’s A & E department because there were no available hospital beds! Thereafter RDL became one of the world’s leading diabetes physicians, and the specialty of diabetes was born, with Lawrence’s department at King’s as its leading exponent.
RDL never ceased to undertake scientific and clinical research, often on himself, at a time when almost nothing was known regarding the use of insulin, and his book “The Diabetic Life” went through 17 editions between 1925 and 1965 helping countless people with wise advice from personal experience. He founded the Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK), with help from one of his patients, HG Wells. It was the first organisation of its kind to establish links between patients, carers and health professionals. RDL also became the founding president of the International Diabetes Federation (1958).
During the 1930s and 1940s there was increasing awareness that long term survival with diabetes can be accompanied by a range of serious complications, which sometimes affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves or arteries. At that time there were no methods available either to prevent or treat these complications. Now as we celebrate this centenary, it has become possible to delay their onset, slow their progression, and if they do occur, diminish their impact. This account focuses on innovations at King’s.
It is difficult now to imagine the anguish once felt when an individual was diagnosed as having diabetes. Mrs BJ, a Herne Hill resident and one of Lawrence’s patients was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 10 in 1932. Writing 60 years later she reflected then that she had “heard many tales about the trauma of diabetics who had babies, and I made up my mind I would not have any”. She was right: foetal mortality in 1942 was very high at 33%, and up to 70% in those whose pregnancies were unsupervised. Disastrous outcomes such as these led to the idea that specialist consultants should see patients together in joint clinics. Dr Wilfred Oakley (1905—1998, Lawrence’s successor) collaborated with Sir John Peel (Royal Obstetrician and obstetrician at Kings), and later by Mr Michael Brudenell, (also a Dulwich resident), and many others since, ensuring joint expertise linked to a continuity of care. Results improved dramatically, foetal mortality at King’s, after decreasing steadily over several years to approximately 1% at the present time, is now little different from the general population.
Foot problems can occur in people with diabetes sometimes causing protracted periods of disability. During the 1960s, an orthopaedic surgeon Mr Christopher Catterall used to attend clinics weekly to assist the physicians—sessions which were forerunners of the first dedicated diabetic foot clinic (1983) setting standards for others to follow, and directed by Professor Michael Edmonds (another local resident) who has obtained worldwide recognition. Within the first three years he had reduced the amputation rate by 50%.
During the same era, patients who developed kidney failure were denied support by dialysis or transplantation on account of poor outcomes and limited resources. Dr Victor Parsons, a renal physician, working with colleagues, pioneered renal dialysis and transplantation for diabetic patients at a time when few units in the UK would offer these treatments. A renal physician now attends a joint weekly clinic to enhance increasingly effective treatments aimed to delay the onset of kidney damage.
Understanding the inheritability of diabetes has a long and confusing history. Dr David Pyke CBE (1921—2001, also a Dulwich resident,) had a major international influence in the field of diabetes. During his tenure he established the world’s largest study of identical twins, one or both of whom had diabetes—comprising up to the present some 600 twin pairs, now in the care of Professor David Leslie at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Dr Pyke established that a genetic trait was much more prominent amongst those with Type 2 diabetes, while the genetic makeup in those with Type 1 diabetes opened the door to environmental influences still unknown. The observation of Professor Keith Taylor and colleagues that new cases of Type 1 diabetes were diagnosed more frequently during the winter months, led to the idea of a viral involvement, never however confirmed.
A new era began in 1995, with the establishment of the first professorship in diabetes in the UK to which Dr Stephanie Amiel (also a local resident) was appointed. She was the first in the UK to perform a successful islet (insulin producing cell) transplant into an insulin dependent diabetic patient for the treatment of severe hypoglycaemia, still a potential complication of insulin therapy. She has made substantial contributions first to understanding why some patients lose the protective warning symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and then how to alleviate this serious problem. The department at King’s continues to be innovative, and recently established two new chairs--one in the Psychiatry of Diabetes (Professor Khalida Ismail, also living locally), and the second in Diabetes Nursing (Professor Angus Forbes), the latter funded by the Federation of European Nurses in Diabetes. Both of these appointments will enhance research and education for the benefit of patients. Lawrence cared fiercely for his patients’ wellbeing. Long after his retirement, he reviewed the outcome of 90 of his patients followed over a period of 20 - 40 years, and recorded the “joy to see how quickly such patients, including myself, were rebuilt”.
In conclusion, one may reflect on the astonishing developments through the last century, many of them taking place at King’s, by listening again to the story of Mrs. BJ: “ I had started insulin only 10 years after its discovery, but I remember meeting an elderly man telling us that he had become diabetic before insulin, and how he thanked God for it every day”.
Peter Watkins MD FRCP, formerly Consultant Physician at King’s College Hospital and a member of the Dulwich Society’s Local History Group.
Readers may recall the report of the discovery of three bronze World War 1 memorial plaques which, following their removal from the old Emmanuel Church at the top of Barry Road when the building was sold, ended up at Wellingborough Prison in Northamptonshire. The plaques miraculously survived, being rescued twice from a skip and laying undiscovered for many years until the prison was announced for closure. Local enthusiasts in Wellingborough traced the names on the plaques to the congregation in Dulwich and requested that the Dulwich Society receive them.
The Dulwich Society wrote to the present congregation of Christ Church which uses the former church hall of Emmanuel Church and which had benefitted from the sale of the old church to provide its new place of worship. It took some time to elicit a response to the Society’s offer to return the plaques and rehang them. It was only after the intercession of BBC London News which broadcast the story that contact was finally made.
In July, Brian Green and Ian McInnes met with the elders of Christ Church to seek a solution. The meeting ended inconclusively and the Dulwich Society suggested that Christ Church considered the matter further and it was agreed that the church would respond by October.
Christ Church’s response:
On behalf of the elders at Christ Church East Dulwich I would like to thank the Editor for the opportunity to update readers on the memorial plaques that were featured in the Summer 2013 edition of the Dulwich Society magazine.
Regrettably that article referred to the failure of the church to respond to communication from the Dulwich Society and the Imperial War Museum. We responded to an initial e-mail from the Dulwich Society but a further communication went astray. We received no communication from the Imperial War Museum and enquiries have not shed any further light on this. We were also aware of the BBCs interest in the story but an e-mail from their newsroom asking for a comment was never received due to a miss typed e-mail address.
Following the article in your Summer magazine the Christ Church elders invited Brian Green to a meeting where we discussed these issues and the future of the war memorial plaques.
The 3 plaques were originally in the former Emmanuel Congregational Church in Barry Road and were removed when the building was sold and the congregation joined with Barry Road Methodist Church. Together the two congregations converted what was then the Emmanuel church hall and formed Christ Church.
This all happened about 30 years ago and there are not many of the original congregation left so we were very surprised when we heard of the existence of the plaques and their strange history since their removal from the old building. Having spoken with a few who do remember those days we became aware of the decision of the members not to resite memorials from either church in the new and very much smaller building. This was a new start for the people and a new single congregation who were committed to worshipping and working together for their community.
However the church did not want to forget those of their number who had died in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 wars. Their names are recorded in a Book of Remembrance which is displayed in the church on Armistice Sunday and which is available for viewing at other times by appointment. We are also planning to have the Book of Remembrance out on display for the whole of 2014 and it will be accessible during the Bread of Life café and Fair Trade Centre opening hours.
When Christ Church became aware that the plaques existed and had been returned to Dulwich into the care of the Dulwich Society we considered whether there would be anywhere suitable in the current building. After much reflection we decided that there was not but we are trying to find an alternative site for the plaques; so far with little success but we will keep trying. Failing this we aim to find storage in an archive where the plaques can be accessed for those interested in viewing them.
If readers have any suggestions to offer for a new site for the plaques or wish to view the Book of Remembrance they can contact us via the church email address at