The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2014.
Instead of moving house, Dulwich residents are increasingly altering, and often enlarging their existing houses. With the VAT liability removed from new-build houses, there is also an advantage to be gained from demolishing an existing property and rebuilding on the footprint of the old. However, there are consents to be obtained before work can commence. Because of the existence of Dulwich Scheme of Management, applications to alter properties on the Dulwich Estate must, in the first instance, be considered by the managers of the Scheme. Through its status as the local amenity society representing 1100 member households, the Dulwich Society is a consultative member of the Scheme.
The Dulwich Society, through its Planning and Architecture Group appraises these applications. Like other Dulwich Society sub-committees, the group is made up of experts in the subject as well as interested laymen. Time is given up on a considerable scale by these members and in the past twelve months 200 separate licence applications have been examined and commented upon. Usually the group sends a team of up to four members to the Dulwich Estate Office each month to examine the applications. The guidelines for external alterations are on the Estate’s website and the consultant architect can be contacted for advice.
In the past year, twenty-nine applications were the subject of objections by The Dulwich Society. Sometimes the objections were accompanied by a suggestion as to what alteration or addition would be better received. Applications are then referred back to the applicant and may result in a modification, consultation with the Dulwich Estate’s consultant architect and/or referral to the Manager’s committee of the Scheme of Management for a decision.
Some applications, such as new builds, are welcomed by the group. Some are not. A contentious application for a house in Frank Dixon Way which involved considerable excavation for basement rooms was objected to by the group, neighbours and the planning department at Southwark Council. A more eco-friendly design for a new house in the same road has been better received all round; from the neighbours’ point of view, no doubt because the construction time for the brick-slip and timber clad house’s basic structure is estimated to take only 3-4 weeks!
In the autumn, the Dulwich Society’s Planning and Architecture Group stepped out of its comfort zone of the Dulwich Estate to intervene in East Dulwich’s Hindman’s Road where an application for a backland development was particularly contentious.
The Dulwich Society’s Trees Group is also consulted through the Scheme of Management on the issue of tree disputes; in cases where a tree might be removed at the request of the householder, or the householder’s insurers. The Scheme is receiving an increasing number of applications for tree work (all freeholders on the Dulwich Estate are required to obtain a licence before carrying out tree work), with 283 applications three years ago, rising to 320 in 2013. The Dulwich Society’s Trees Group has carried out four site visits this year.
In the last issue of the Journal, the Traffic & Transport Group asked members for their views on Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ’s) in Dulwich. Surprisingly, this resulted in only 50 responses, less than 5% of the membership. In most members’ minds this subject is clearly not a priority. However, elsewhere, evidence shows that when the moment is reached when decisions on the matter are imminent the issue can become highly emotive. Elsewhere in this copy of the Journal members are again invited to respond over the matter.
If you, as a member feel that you might be willing to participate further in the work of the Society then the chairmen of the various sub-committees should be approached or the chairman of the Dulwich Society, Ian McInnes.
Most residents will know that the East Dulwich Police Station has closed and that the site has been sold to the Education Funding Authority to become the new Harris Primary Academy East Dulwich. The consequence is that all three local Safer Neighborhood teams, East Dulwich, Village and College are now based in Camberwell - though there are nominal ‘contact points’ both at the East Dulwich Library and on the Kingswood Estate. But they are manned for a very limited time during the week and offer no privacy for reporting incidents.
Despite the strenuous efforts of the Village Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel and Village Ward councillors to persuade the police to have a touchdown base in either East Dulwich or Village (to avoid the long travel times from Camberwell), there has been little progress. The Dulwich Hospital Gatehouse was identified as a viable location, and there were council funds available to convert it, but the Met were adamant that the new local policing model, introduced in June 2013, would easily be able to cope with crime in Dulwich without a local presence.
A year later not all local residents are convinced. Many consider that there is now a "black hole" in police provision. The police report that crime is reducing but there is a feeling that less crime is being reported because the police are no longer so visible on the ground - low visibility being perhaps the most common complaint.
Whatever the truth however, it must be a good idea to have local police based in or near the area they serve, and there is now an alternative location on the table - the former public toilets at the side of the Dulwich Library facing Eynella Road. The building is currently used for overflow storage for the library but is in relatively good condition and is the right size to provide two rooms (including a private meeting/reporting area) and toilet and kitchen facilities. It would be possible to put it in good order relatively cheaply perhaps using Council CGS funding.
This provision would not only serve to make police more visible by allowing officers to remain in Dulwich all day, but it would also make them more available and accessible - one of the main advantages of the Safer Neighbourhood Team concept, and the beat officers before that.
It would be really good if the Met could be a bit more flexible and take up the offer.
Dulwich Village Post Cart
The restored Dulwich Vilage post cart has been placed at Rosebery Lodge where it can be easily viewed and secured in a covered space. Rosebery Lodge, which is now leased by The Dulwich Society has a photographic display showing the history of a number of local farms which existed into the 20th century and which in time become playing fields as demand for milk and the grazing of horses changed.
Rosebery Lodge Administrator:
The Society is looking for a volunteer administrator who would be prepared to manage the running of Rosebery Lodge in Dulwich Park. It would take about an hour a week and mainly involve maintaining the diary (Dulwich & District U3A are the main users at present). If you are interested please contact the membership secretary
One Fountain Drive
This house is one of the few original houses on College Road - dating from the 1860s it is in poor condition and has been squatted for some time. Over the last 20 years various purchasers have come up with redevelopment schemes in the grounds but all have failed because of the unacceptable impact on the trees and wildlife in the garden.
Recently a new purchaser proposed a different scenario - that is to demolish the old house and build a row of three storey town houses on the footprint by the road - thus reducing the need to build in the garden. With active support from neighbours and a request to call in the application by local councillors one would have thought it would have been a dead cert for approval but not so apparently. Planning officers turned it down under delegated powers and it now appears that they have their own ideas for the site -to build a block of tall flats. Quite where this has come from we don’t know, they don’t own the site, and a tall building does not seem particularly appropriate given all the adjoining properties are two to three stories - or are they looking to increase the Council’s income through additional CIL payments (Community Infrastructure Levy) - a tax on new developments based on floor area.
It seems that while a large number of objections to a development mean that it goes to planning committee, a large number of letters in support has no such effect. The Society continues to campaign for planning decisions to be bought back to the local community and this case confirms that it needs to happen.
Car parking in Dulwich
The Society is grateful to those of its members who expressed views in response to the article in the last issue of the Journal.
We have had about 50 replies, and would like more. The number of responses and opinions clearly reflected the perceived needs in the different areas of Dulwich. Those most affected by the recent CPZs in Lambeth and North Dulwich, and by proximity to schools and rail stations, were the most positive of the benefits of controlled parking zones - they constituted just under two thirds of the total respondents.
If you have views on whether CPZs would be a help or a hindrance to parking in your road please let the traffic and transport committee know at
Bartley’s Florists, Dulwich Village
The proprietors of Bartley’s Florists and The Dulwich Estate have issued a joint statement stating that an agreement has been reached between them whereby the shop area will be enlarged by opening up that part of the interior of the premises and that the flat above will be made self-contained. The work is expected to be done between July-September 2015, during which the shop will close. The Estate is hoping to offer Bartley’s alternative accommodation for the sale of flowers during this closure.
Croquet enjoys revival
The popularity of croquet is increasing and the Dulwich Croquet Club which has two greens at its ground in Burbage Road reports that its membership has grown to over 70 members. It has retained its title as national club champions. New members are invited and social croquet sessions are held during the winter on Thursday mornings (10.30am) and Sunday mornings (10am).
Croquet is enjoying a new lease of life at Dulwich College and sixth formers have the privilege of playing on the lawn in front of the north block.
What’s in a Name?
Is it a requirement that to work for the London Wildlife Trust you require an appropriate name? It must be; the warden of LWT’s managed Sydenham Hill Wood is named Daniel Greenwood, the manager of LWT’s Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Marsden Road, East Dulwich is named Lorna Fox and the LWT’s officer for the River Effra Project is named Helen Spring.
Early start at Dulwich College
Anticipation of the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift by the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn in 1619, has got off to an early start at Dulwich College. A lecture programme covering the next four years has been put in place and opened last month. The series, named the G E Moore Lectures, after the Old Alleynian philosopher, will reflect aspects of the College’s life and history.
Those Dulwich residents who live in Southwark are very lucky that the Council is still supportive of local libraries. The Dulwich Library has been recently refurbished, the library at Kingswood House remains open, and there will be a new facility in Grove Vale in the development under construction next to East Dulwich station.
Spare a thought then for residents in Croydon and Lambeth. The Carnegie Library in Herne Hill is in the process of becoming a ‘community hub’ facility to be run by a ‘Friends’ group - not a problem in itself if sufficient local residents are prepared to participate, but it is a large building and there is no guarantee that initial Council funding will be maintained - and can the Friends raise sufficient additional funds from leasing floor space or running a café to make up the shortfall?
Many Society members also use the library in Crystal Palace (historically run as a combined library by both boroughs), which the former administration in Croydon tried to close down despite objections from the local community. Luckily Lambeth remained in support and the Upper Norwood Library Trust has been set up to run the library in the future. Both Lambeth and Croydon (now with a Labour administration) have now agreed to provide some funding but, like the Carnegie Library, the trust will have to look for innovative ways of raising additional income. A well-attended public meeting on 13 October showed the level of local support for the trust and councillors from both Lambeth and Croydon confirmed their support - but pointed out that further cut backs in local authority funding were going to occur and there could be no certainty about future funding levels.
New Honour for Gillian
Gillian Wolfe CBE, Director of Learning and Public Affairs at Dulwich Picture Gallery, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Canterbury Christ Church University in recognition of her outstanding achievements in arts education.
Gillian has been at Dulwich Picture Gallery since 1984 where she set-up the education programme that has become a national model of excellence with in-house and community programmes reaching out to diverse social and ethnic communities across London.
Professor Paul Camic, Research Director for the University’s Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, introduced Gillian to the congregation in Canterbury Cathedral. He said: “Today I am honoured to be introducing a prize fighter for the arts. She has shown the importance of what arts can bring to people from different social backgrounds, ethnic groups, educational levels, ages and with different mental and physical capacities.
“Gillian has led the life of someone who believes the potential of the arts to impact positively on people’s lives. For over 30 years she has been relentless in her efforts to make the arts available to the widest cross section of society and has developed many nationally recognised radical programmes. We are delighted to award her today with an Honorary Doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University.”
David Nicholson-Lord (1947-2014)
David grew up in Denton, near Manchester and attended William Hume Grammar School. As a schoolboy he had already shown great interest in wildlife and was an enthusiastic bird watcher. After graduating from Christ’s College Cambridge in 1970, he embarked on a career in journalism which would span four decades. His first job as a reporter was at the Exeter Express and Echo. This led to his becoming deputy night news editor at The Times in less than nine years. As a mainstream news journalist, David covered many high profile cases, including the national steel strike of 1978, the Brixton riots of 1981, the trial of serial killer Denis Nilson and Thatcher’s controversial visit to Northern Ireland.
During the next decade with the Times, the environment and sustainability issues became his focus, passion and specialism at the paper. David took a short sabbatical to Wolfson College, Cambridge, where he was selected as the first press fellow. At the same time, he was the Director of ‘Think Green’ - the national campaign for livable towns and cities. It was during this time that David’s first major book, The Greening of the Cities (1987), was first published.
In 1990 David moved to the new Independent on Sunday as its environment editor. In 1995 he went freelance. This stage of his career saw him feature heavily in many broadcast newspapers, BBC Wildlife, Resurgence and the New Statesman, He also worked extensively for not for profit organisations and campaigns. In this capacity he held positions as the deputy chair for the New Economics Foundation, chair of the Urban Wildlife Network and policy director of Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust. By 2006, David was voted in the top ten most influential promoters of Urban Biodiversity and Human Nature, according to English Nature. He was also a course director and lecturer at City University, London, and taught journalism courses globally. His reputation as an author grew further after the publication of his book Planet Earth - The Making Of An Epic Series in 2006 for the BBC following the worldwide popularity of the programme. David’s last book, Downrising - The Coming Apocalypse, written over a period of seven years, was his first and only work of fiction.
From 1986-9 David was the editor of the Dulwich Society Newsletter, the forerunner to the current Journal. He introduced a new professionalism and featured items of general local interest as well as significant articles on our relationship with the environment. He continued, until his progressive illness precluded it, to be very active in the Dulwich Society, organising a debate about the problem of subsidence and getting insurance cover for buildings where trees featured near properties, as well as persuading those responsible for the running of parks and open spaces to be aware of the urgent need to maintain a balance with nature. He successfully campaigned for more trees to enhance air quality, to leave margins around sports fields unmown to encourage wildlife.
He had great influence on the final plan for the restoration of Dulwich Park after its grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in that he persuaded the designers to include a woodland perimeter walk (extensively used by dog-walkers!). When further funds became available from the demise of the Dulwich Village Preservation Society David planned the planting of the Village Copse. He was also successful in obtaining a grant under CGS funding to plant the now established wildlife hedge in Belair Park.
As the article on Champion Hill in the last issue of the Journal made clear; Champion Hill has had a long and interesting history but by reason of its separation from the rest of Dulwich by acres of open land and indirect road access, it developed as a separate entity. Some of the area we call Champion Hill was within the manor of Dulwich (now The Dulwich Estate), some was not. Old boundary markers are to be found on Champion Hill and in the playing fields to the east of Greendale.
Greendale is one of Dulwich’s old ‘green roads’, indeed it preserves a rural appearance even today. It still provides an easy access for pedestrians and cyclists to Camberwell but in earlier days, before it was a tarmac surface it could become a muddy rutted lane where coach wheels could sink deeply. It is little wonder that in the early seventeenth century Edward Alleyn was able to claim that in winter, the 2 mile journey to the parish church of St Giles’ was too hazardous for himself and his household and he was thereby permitted to build a chapel in Dulwich. Part of the campaign against development of the Greendale playing fields is the wish to preserve the rural character of this area.
The triangular field in front of the pub which serves as a garden has always been an open space. It is on the extremity of the manor of Dulwich and is reputed to be one of the three sites in Dulwich for the burial of plague victims. As those who died in the Great Plague of London in 1665 are accounted for in the burial register of Christ’s Chapel, it is possible, if the tradition is true, that the victims died in the earlier manifestation jn the mid 14th century, called the Black Death. In that plague between a half and a third of the population are thought to have died.
Beside the Triangle, on Denmark Hill, there was once a small shelter for members of the Dulwich Patrol, an unofficial security force established in 1788 by the wealthy local residents of the area to combat the frequent hold-ups by footpads and highwaymen on the poorly-lit route into Dulwich. In 1812, with crime in the area rising still further, the residents subscribed even more, to provide the members of the patrol with horses and cutlasses and pistols for use in the dangerous, dark, winter months. A similar police ‘box’ existed against the wall of the College in what was then the hamlet of Dulwich.
A further example of the residents’ co-operation and wish to maintain the exclusivity of Champion Hill was the presence of gates at its entry points which were manned by gatekeepers paid by the powerful residents’ association to keep out hoi polloi. The association remained in existence until World War 2.
One entrepreneur who attempted to cash in on this affluent area in the second half of the eighteenth century was named Luke Lightfoot. Luke Lightfoot (1720-1789) grew up in the family business in the sculpture trades in Old Town, Mile End. The Lightfoots had been active in the decorative trades as painters, stainers and carvers since the seventeenth century. His father, Theophilus Lightfoot, who was a noted carver, kept up with trends in architecture by subscribing to a copy of John James’ translation of Charles Perrault’s ‘A Treatise on the the five orders of columns in Architecture’ . So influential to him was his father, who died in 1741, that Luke named his own son Theophilus after him and a tradition began, which continues today, of naming alternate generations Theophilus. The present day Theo lives in Tasmania.
Luke Lightfoot became the most skilled carver of his day. His business prospered and he moved to Blackman Street, Southwark (now named Borough High Street) around 1765. He was a master carver certainly at the age of 29. He was also a net-worker, making friends and acquaintances of other skilled men who would become the craftsmen who built and decorated England’s stately homes. The 1760’s were his busy years and he introduced half a dozen craftsmen into apprenticeships in the Drapers’ Company, one of the great livery companies, membership of which would provide the opportunities for connections between client and craftsman.
He was a great friend of William Marlow (1740-1813), an artist noted for his paintings of England’s great houses and scenes of London. A fellow craftsman in Blackman Street, Moses Waite a stonemason became Luke’s business partner in some of his ventures. In 1759, they built several Dulwich houses together, including Woodlawn (105 Dulwich Village).
Waite had also, through his cousin Ezra, connections with the New England building trade, principally Charleston, South Carolina, where Ezra Waite provided the carving for the Brewton and Somers’ houses. In England, Luke Lightfoot, who also presented himself as an architect, was engaged by the 2nd Earl Verney who had succeeded to his title in 1752 and began an ambitious scheme to rebuild the family seat at Claydon, Buckinghamshire. Lord Verney engaged Luke Lightfoot in 1757 as master builder, surveyor, mason and carver. During the next ten years Lightfoot continued to work on Claydon, including carrying out the remarkable carving in the Chinese Room. Chinoiserie, of which Lightfoot was perhaps England’s greatest exponent in carving, was very fashionable from the middle of the eighteenth century, its popularity confirmed by the large number of books published on the subject at the time.
It all ended in tears however, when, in 1768 Lord Verney brought in the architect Thomas Robinson to design the central rotunda and north wing of the rising building. Relations between Robinson and Luke Lightfoot became poisonous and Robinson accused Lightfoot of gross neglect and failing to supply materials for which he had been paid. Lord Verney, anxious to avoid publicity asked Robinson to call on Lightfoot at his premises in Southwark in order to reach an agreement instead of resorting to the courts. Robinson’s opinion of Lightfoot was “an Ignorant Knave, with no small spice of madness in his composition”. The affair did reach the courts however, and in 1771, Verney, not demanding the entire sum owed him by Lightfoot, instead settled for damages of £10,000, about a third of the amount Robinson claimed Lightfoot had misappropriated. Lightfoot raised this sum by assigning several leases to his lordship and £2500 from a bequest from a planter in Jamaica. An earlier Lightfoot, Philip Lightfoot was the vested government agent in Virginia and appears to have owned a plantation in Jamaica from which Luke enjoyed some benefit.
In Dulwich, Luke Lightfoot made another disastrous move. In the same year that the contract at Claydon ended in 1768, he built Denmark Hall on the site of what is now The Fox on the Hill. He advertised it as “A place of entertainment”. It was said to have one of the largest rooms in England, measuring allegedly 100’ x 30’ . What Lightfoot had set out to create was an Assembly Room, a feature of Georgian life which was enjoying widespread popularity and where it catered for dancing, music, cards and socialising. Unfortunately he misjudged the market; the Dulwich Assembly which met at the Greyhound and catered for local society was too well established and the new venture never caught the imagination of the smart set who preferred more fashionable venues such as Mrs Cornelly’s Assembly Room in Soho.
Eventually it was Luke’s son Theophilus, whose trade was described as a carpenter, but more likely to have been a builder, who converted Denmark Hall with its famous long room into a more pedestrian tea garden and housing. Luke had continued his career after his twin disasters, in the more modest capacity of a ‘licensed victualler’. His son was a partner in this business which also had premises in Lambeth. His housekeeper, Mary Mowman lived with him as he entered old age. His son Theophilus William Lightfoot was still living at the former Denmark Hall in 1795 and named his own son Luke after his father in turn. A later Theophilus Lightfoot sailed for Tasmania in 1838, where his descendants remain.
Fox on the Hill
The large Dutch gabled pub, the Fox on the Hill, dates from the 1950s. It replaced the old Fox under the Hill which had stood towards the corner of Denmark Hill and Champion Park since the eighteenth century. During World War 2 the old pub was bombed and the adjacent, single storey building converted into a temporary pub, its interior decorated with an amazing display of Zulu shields and weapons. Charringtons Brewery, the licensees, approached the Dulwich Estate for a new site in late 1945, and a report in the July 1946 Board Minutes confirmed that negotiations had taken place on a site taking in the ‘Denmark Hill triangle’ and nos. 149, 151 and 153 Denmark Hill. The Estate Manager noted that the ‘Triangle’ had been let to the Ashford Steam laundry until 1944 and was now empty; adding that No 149 had suffered major bomb damage, and was probably unrepairable, while Nos 151 and 153 had been let short term to a Mr A Yeates who was running a wholesale pottery and glass business from there. No 153 had formerly been a hostel for Crippled and Invalid Women Workers -who had left in 1940. Although they were keen to return he was not interested in giving them a new lease if a new pub was in prospect.
Negotiations continued over the next two years and a building agreement was signed in 1948. Charringtons were required to complete “a detached licensed Public House, with full catering facilities etc, the site of the ‘Triangle’ Denmark Hill to be used as a Tea garden and Car Park.” The cost was to be not less than £20,000. The London County Council granted planning consent in 1949 but insisted that Redholme, the old house next door, be included. Built in 1885 by the well-known Victorian architect John Belcher RA (1841-1913), it was let at the time to a Mrs Manlove who used it as a boarding house for female students at Kings College Hospital.
Building license legislation was still in force and by 1952 it was clear that Charringtons were unlikely to obtain permission to build the pub any time soon. They were still using the temporary Fox under the Hill but they decided that Redholme might make a better pub in the short term and applied for the Governors’ consent to adapt it. In their letter to the Governors the brewery emphasised the importance of establishing trade on the site and the Governors agreed.
Redholme continued to act as the temporary pub through the 1950s. Even though building license legislation was repealed in November 1954, it was only in July 1958 that Charringtons decided to proceed with construction. In that month Mr Sidney C Clarke FRIBA, Charringtons’ Chief Architect submitted the final drawings for approval. The agreed accommodation included a public bar, saloon bar, saloon lounge and a restaurant suitable for use as a ball room on the ground floor, along with kitchen and staff accommodation on the upper floors. The Architect and Surveyor reported that “the premises are brick built with a red tiled roof . . . . Ample parking is provided for parking cars approached from the private road. A small garden is arranged at the side.”
Why the Dutch gable at the front? There is no obvious Dutch connection with the area and the answer lies with Austin Vernon, the Estate Architect and Surveyor at the time. He used to holiday in Holland and liked to incorporate Dutch gables in his houses where the client would let him - see Nos 9 and 14 Frank Dixon Way. Presumably Sidney Clarke thought incorporating one would ensure agreement to his plans more quickly. The completed pub opened in 1959 and is now a JD Wetherspoons.
Redholme was severely damaged in the storm of 1987, when the three tall chimney stacks were blown down and large areas of the roof tiles were dislodged. Two of the stacks were rebuilt to a reduced height. The house was listed Grade II in 1988, and was converted into flats c1999 for use by the pub’s staff.
Kings College Hall & the ‘Platanes’
Kings College Hall on Denmark Hill was formerly the grounds of the ‘Platanes’, a large house built in 1882 for George Egmont Bieber, a City merchant and prominent member of the Champion Hill area’s German community - the name derives from the German name for plane tree. The house was purchased in 1890 by the banker Herman Kleinwort, but the family moved to Belgravia in 1908 as the social status of the area declined. After failing to find a buyer for the house, and having been refused permission by the Dulwich Estate to change its use into a hotel or nursing home, Kleinwort donated the property to King's College Hospital in 1910.
In 1915 The Platanes, was requisitioned by the War Office for use as an extension of the Maudsley Military Hospital, the neurological section of the Fourth London General Hospital established at Kings College Hospital. The Maudsley Military Hospital provided accommodation for 400 servicemen and N.C.O.s suffering from war neuroses and shell-shock, while The Platanes was used to house officers. It had 44 beds. The building remained in use after the war until 1920.
It became a student hall of residence for the hospital's medical school in 1913 and, from 1923, for King's College, when wings were added on the north and south sides. After World War II the grounds were amalgamated with those of another large house to the south, ‘Danehurst’, which also became a hall of residence. The latter was demolished in the 1970s.
Kings built a series of student residence blocks in the grounds during the 1960s designed by architects Troup & Steel who also were also responsible for the ‘brutalist’ additions to the main campus by Somerset House (and the former Sir James Black Laboratories in Half Moon Lane, now the Judith Kerr free School). These have now been replaced by new buildings reflecting the higher standards of accommodation required by today’s students - all en-suite study bedrooms, designed in a cluster flat format, with students sharing common kitchen, dining and living spaces.
Planned around three distinct courtyard spaces, each with their own character and identity, the new development provides space for 714 students (an increase of just over 200), in 4 blocks, ranging from four to five stories. The ‘Platanes’ itself was listed Grade II in October 2009 just as work started - although the intention always was to retain it and use it for student communal areas and social spaces.
The first students arrived in October 2014 but the development has not been popular with local residents concerned over the potential increase in parking problems and noise.
Winner of a Civic Trust commendation in 1970, this interesting town house development was designed in 1964 by architect Peter Moiret. The 2 acre site was a disused garden partially screened from the road by trees. The layout was designed to be inward-looking, turning its back on the surrounding property so as to create its own atmosphere and character.
House frontages are a standard width but the basic structure and the placing of services gave the first owners a range of options including a choice of location for the kitchen either on the ground or first floors. External finishes consist of dark facing bricks and white painted horizontal boarding. Communal planted areas were to be taken over and maintained by the future residents association.
Gaumont Comes Home to Champion Hill
By Jasia and William Warren
Setting up a “Friends of…” group for a new park involves a long to-do list: there are constitutions to write, councillors to meet, members to entice in and umpteen conservation projects to initiate. What we hadn’t envisaged as we set up the Friends of Dog Kennel Hill Wood back in 2010 was that we would need to become silent film buffs. And yet this last year has been spent doing just that.
As we were researching the history of the wood and its immediate area we found an article on the Dulwich Society website that mentioned a piece of local history that had been seemingly forgotten, as we could find no mention of it elsewhere. The article was titled “A Franco-British Film Studio at Champion Hill” and was written by film historian Tony Fletcher. It described how Alfred Bromhead had set up a British arm of the French Gaumont film company on the site of Freeman’s Cricket Ground near Champion Hill. In the eight years that the studio was located here, from 1904 - 1912, they made hundreds of short fiction films. The Gaumont stage manager during this period was a local man called Alfred Collins. We came to realise he was an important character in early film as he directed, scripted and starred in many of these short comedies and dramas. He’s credited with being one of the pioneers of the chase scene and for many cinematic breakthroughs such as the close-up.
As we read Tony’s article we realised the location for this early film studio was the current-day Green Dale fields which included Dog Kennel Hill Wood. Tony mentioned that some of these films survived and an idea was born: wouldn’t it be great to track down these films and screen them on the spot where they were made 110 years ago?
Tony is affiliated with the Cinema Museum in Kennington and spends a lot of his time in the basement of the BFI researching early silent films. On hearing of our plan to screen the early Gaumont films on the site of the old studio, he was very keen to help us and invited us to see them.
We descended the stairs of the hallowed Stephen Street building, squeezed into a tiny viewing room and watched as the first 35mm viewing copy rolled. To our amazement we recognised the streets and buildings in the films straight away. The Edwardian actors flickered like ghosts as we saw the area around Champion Hill with Edwardian eyes; the Green Dale fields with sheep grazing on them and groundsman’s lodges; the Constance Road workhouse; St. Augustine’s Church at One Tree Hill and an old horse-drawn 35 bus in Camberwell Green. In total we watched 26 early Gaumont films from the BFI archive with Tony, who also showed us a collection of films from the Library of Congress in Washington that contained six further confirmed Gaumont titles. We had more than enough content for an evening programme, we just needed to work out how to get them out of the BFI basement and into Dog Kennel Hill Open Space.
One option was to rent the 35mm viewing copies from the BFI. This would have meant hiring a 35mm projectionist and projector which can be temperamental at the best of times, let alone when run outdoors in the unpredictable weather conditions of the British summer. The second option was to transfer some of the films onto digibeta. The advantage of this was that the project would leave a legacy of having paid for the digitisation of these rare films, thereby making them more accessible in the future. After a few meetings with the BFI we agreed a budget and on a warm summer’s day we sat in a Soho post-production house and watched as the reels turned and captured the films onto DVD.
Next on the list was finding someone to accompany the films. When films were screened in music halls in Edwardian times, they would have had an improvised musical accompaniment to act as a score. As luck would have it the UK’s most celebrated silent movie pianist, Neil Brand, lives nearby. He was due to accompany a Buster Keaton film for the Peckham Free Film Festival so we approached him after the screening. He had never heard of the Gaumont studio being on the Green Dale fields and, intrigued, agreed to play for us.
Now all we had to do was raise some money! In November the Camberwell Community Council Fund opened its coffers and our application for a grant was successful. We also contacted local businesses and civic societies to ask for donations. Both the Camberwell Society and Dulwich Society offered us some financial support and slowly but surely we reached our target.
All the while we were furiously researching the locations in the films and the history of the area at that time. We made several trips to the Southwark local history library where we pored over maps, photos and Kelly’s Directories with the aim of piecing together a vision of the past. Champion Hill in 1904 was an area in flux: the large houses of the rich Victorians were being knocked down or turned into hotels and schools. In 1906 the trams made their way up the hill from Camberwell and towards Goose Green. These films captured the end of this wealthy era, in the years before the approaching wars and the devastation that they brought.
One of our first film location discoveries came when we found an old photo of the Dulwich Hamlet football team standing in front of one of their pavilions, which we recognised as having featured in the films. It became apparent that Alf Collins hadn’t travelled too far from his outdoor stage with his heavy camera equipment. Little by little we were able to piece together more locations by looking at idiosyncratic brickwork, windows and backgrounds. A building site in one film turned out to be the Arts and Crafts houses on Champion Hill being built. We spotted the long since closed Camberwell Station in the background of another film along with waste-ground which is now the car park of Kings College Hospital.
The real breakthrough moment came when, after the hundredth viewing, we realised that in ‘How Percy Won the Beauty Competition’ (the only film viewable on Youtube) Alf leads the chase past the front of his own stage. In the distance of a long Green Dale shot, a blurred structure can be seen. Early film cameras were not able to shoot inside due to poor lighting and interior scenes needed to be filmed outside to make use of the strong daylight. No other photographic record of the studio has been found but in these few frames we got a glimpse of the simple truth of the Camberwell studios: an open south-facing wooden platform with decorated walls held up by diagonal struts. Other in shot landmarks meant we could pinpoint the location of the stage to the wild ground immediately behind East Dulwich Sainsbury’s today.
After more than a year of planning, researching and organising the screening took place on 30th August 2014. We showed fourteen of the surviving films, interspersed with local history presentations, to an audience of about 400 people. Neil Brand played magnificently, the Free Film Festival team provided the outdoor screen and audio visual know-how and Tony came along to join the audience.
Although the Gaumont studio on Green Dale was no more than a wooden outdoor stage, its importance in UK film history is undeniable. The company ceased production in Champion Hill and moved to its purpose-built studios in Lime Grove in 1915 where they worked with well-known film-makers such as Alfred Hitchcock up until the 1940s.
Our film night’s celebration of the Green Dale area added to another current local discussion: a few weeks earlier the new owners of the DHFC stadium, Hadley Property Group, had announced their intention of putting in a planning application to build (flats?) on the existing football stadium and a new stadium on the Green Dale fields. The freeholders, Southwark Council, have responded with a counter-plan to sanitise the wild space and turn it into a park with an outdoor gym and zip wire. Whatever the future holds for the Green Dale fields, it’s pretty certain that we will never return to the sheep-grazed green playing fields of Edwardian times. At least now we have a record of what the area looked like in 1904.
This Autumn has been quiet and in contrast to my last report there have been few outstanding or unusual records. So, perhaps it is the moment to reflect on some issues concerning the present state of our wildlife However one notable report was of a flock of “thrushes” in late September. Were they early Redwings? In fact the description eventually drew us to the conclusion that they were Blackbirds, probably juveniles more usually seen singly or in pairs on our lawns. What of course is not often recognized is that there is considerable migration movement of Blackbirds in Autumn as occurs with the Scandinavian Thrushes that visit us in the winter. Many of our so called residents are in fact partial migrants and those that we see in winter are not necessarily the same individuals as on our summer lawns.
Staying with Thrushes, several of my column readers have commented that they never see a Song Thrush these days. In fact there are still Song Thrushes about but there are perhaps half the number that we remember in the 1980s.
Their primary food source is snails which they characteristically smash out of their shells on favourite stones or “anvils”. It may be that slug pellets that the gardeners use are the problem but other factors have come into play. Our gardens are generally good feeding stations but well kept gardens may not be ideal nesting sites. Nest predation from Cats, Magpies, Crows, Jays and even Foxes is an increasing problem and open cup nests in a well kept bush are easy pickings. Even nest boxes are not entirely safe as Great Spotted Woodpeckers will enlarge the entry hole to get at the young Tits. We are probably therefore having to rely on untended areas such as our railway tracks to provide the cover for nest protection, which may not provide us with the numbers in our gardens that we have been used to.
I did observe a nest drama with the arrival of a Crow to raid the next door Magpie nest. The agitated pair summoned up the local Magpie mob which proceeded en masse to assault the Crow. However he proved to be too strong for the lot and there were no baby Magpies this year. It is a jungle out there.
Our House Sparrows are in continuing difficulties. In spite of the documented white Sparrow in Acacia Grove in the last magazine there is continuing loss of colonies. The problem appears to be poor fledging success. Whereas House Sparrows for most of the year are seed eating scavengers, when fledging their young they are dependent on a supply of soft invertebrates as food source. By clearing our aphids and small caterpillars of our roses we may be depriving them of their most valuable resource. Similar issues arise with some of our Butterflies. Given the great recovery of Tortoiseshells outside London I would have liked to see more of them here with gardens full of nectar and Buddleia shrubs everywhere. However we need the appropriate food plants for the caterpillars, namely Stinging Nettles, not everybody’s favourite garden plant.
So in conclusion if we are to sustain our biodiversity we are going to need more of a wildlife gardening movement to go with the horticultural successes that we see all around us.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel:0207 274 4567)
A memorably warm and dry June and July contributed to a successful breeding season for birds in Upper Dulwich Woods, and in the neighbouring gardens. August was wetter, but by then, according to the RSPB, many species had fledged their second or third broods. The August rains may well have encouraged even more insect life upon which many birds depend during the warmer months. But too late for the half-dozen or so Swifts that had nested in the eves of the Victorian houses at the top of Jasper Road: they departed on their migration south at the end of July. Swifts are a bird of conservation concern; their numbers have declined dramatically in the past 10 years, so it is a real privilege to see them in South Dulwich.
Unfortunately, no Hirundines were seen in the vicinity of Upper Dulwich Woods, though over the Crystal Palace Parade and into the park there were both Swallows and House Martins. The abundance of natural resources all the way up the food chain attracted the common Corvids to the Woods: Carrion Crows and Magpies are bold and easily observed. Jays are more elusive; their screech is more often heard than the bird seen. However, I watched, fascinated, as one very agile Jay chased a recently fledged Great Tit through the understory pursued by a flock of anxious adults. Jays are opportunist feeders and with hungry mouths to feed, small birds are welcome protein sources. And speaking of predators, I spotted both Kestrel (another once common bird now on the Amber List) and Sparrowhawk - the latter superbly adapted to woodland hunting.
As summer turns to autumn, and many species migrate south to warmer climes, the native birds are left to enjoy Upper Dulwich Wood alone, for a few weeks at least. Amongst them are Goldfinches, three species of titmouse, Nuthatches, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Thrushes, Wrens, Pigeons and non-migratory Chiff Chaffs. Winter visitors from Scandinavia and Continental Europe will later join them. In recent weeks the climbing ivy has come into flower, and as winter approaches this is a vital late source of nectar for the struggling honeybee, Apis mellifera, as they prepare for hibernation; it was good to see bees at work in October. This year must have delivered a bumper honey harvest for Village beekeepers.
On a gloriously warm and sunny early September evening Brian Green hosted a “Bats, Buildings and Bubbly” event at the Golf Club, and beyond into Dulwich Woods (the larger and better-known local woodland that stretches from Sydenham Hill Station, via the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club, almost all the way to the Horniman Museum). Brian talked knowledgeably about the history of the Woods and the surrounding countryside, from its time as a possible Roman fort through more recent employment as farmland to the present day leisure and conservation usage.
According to the London Wildlife Trust wardens who guided the forty of so nature enthusiasts in search of early evening bats, Dulwich Wood is designated an ancient woodland; it formed part of the Great North Wood (“Norwood”) and at some point, centuries earlier, would have been part of the same forest as Upper Dulwich Wood. We were able to locate only one of the five species of bat regularly seen in the Wood by sound - via the very expensive ultrasonic bat detectors that the Wardens carried. Nevertheless, we had good views of woodpeckers and a Sparrowhawk was seen overhead, its characteristic flight pattern - flap-flap-glide - making it easy to detect, even without binoculars.
Notable Dulwich Trees
HOLLY - Ilex Aquifoliaceae
Approximately between 500 and 600 species of Holly are found growing worldwide, the exception being in the Arctic and Antarctic. Ilex aquifolium, Common or English Holly, is the native tree of Britain. It is to be found growing as an under-storey in Oak and Beech woodlands, where it is provided with both shade and protection from severe frost. Holly is a small conical evergreen, providing year-round interest. The tree’s bark is smooth, silvery grey, becoming knarled with age. The timber produced is smooth and white, which makes it useful for decorative veneers in cabinet and musical instrument making. Leaves are wavy, glossy green on the upper surface, paler green on the lower and famously spikey. They are waxy to the touch, thick and leathery, about 3-10 cms long and arranged alternately on green twigs. Lower leaves on the tree are spikier than those above, which tend to be ovate and smoother, an adaptation that protects the tree from grazing animals. Sheep find holly highly palatable, and shepherds often cut holly as a feed for their livestock. Plants are male or female; both carry creamy white flowers, but only the female berries, usually red, but sometimes yellow. Strictly speaking, this fruiting body is a ‘drupe’, not a berry. A berry encloses its seeds in soft flesh, e.g. a gooseberry. The holly drupe contains three or more small stones surrounded by flesh, like a plum. Decorative and excellent for hedging, Holly provides cover for insects and birds, who gorge themselves on berries in the winter and spread the seeds. The ‘Holly Blue’ butterfly can be seen hovering over the trees in Spring, laying their eggs on the leaves in April.
The Holly tree features in folklore and ancient wisdom, pagan rituals and Roman celebrations. It has been used to encourage fertility and ward off evil and witchcraft, ancient practices eventually being adapted into Christian tradition. This we embrace especially at Christmas time in decorating our homes with wreaths and green swags. Used symbolically in art, Holly leaves represent the ‘Crown of Thorns’ and the berries, Christ’s drops of blood.
Holly can be seen growing in virtually every street in Dulwich, there being numerous cultivars in the Park and several in Christ’s Chapel gardens including Ferox ‘Hedgehog Holly’, the oldest identifiable cultivar known since the 17th Century: puckered curly leaves with double rows of spikes makes it distinctive and easy to recognise. It grows alongside the garden wall in Gallery Road There are so many Holly varieties to choose from, each displaying leaves with different colour variations: spots, edging in gold, silver or white, or variegation and cross-gender names to confuse us, vis. ‘Silver Queen’ (male) and ‘Golden King’ (female). Further afield, Kew Gardens has a Holly Walk, two-thirds of a mile long and showing the most comprehensive collection of Hollies in the world. To end on a jolly note, there was a belief in the Middle Ages that one could over-indulge in ale beneath the protective branches of a Holly tree and suffer no ill effects of drunkenness or a hangover!