The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2015.
Twenty or more years ago I wrote an article for this magazine which sought to explain a major shift in shopping habits. At the time, in Dulwich Village, as elsewhere, the traditional anchor shops such as a butcher’s, fishmongers, baker’s and greengrocer’s had disappeared and their places were being filled with cafes and estate agencies.
The explanation I gave for this was the steady growth of car ownership over the preceding decades coupled with a huge increase in female employment, partly caused by a notional parity in wages with their male counterparts. I suggested that, in Dulwich at least, some of the increase in female employment was as a result of the rapid increase in independent school fees which families were willing to pay because of the, then, almost total absence of satisfactory state secondary schools.
These factors, I suggested, had led to the growth of large supermarkets where car parking was provided and the weekly shop could be done in one visit, a necessity for working families where spare time was short. In the article I also predicted that in time household food and essentials would one day be delivered to customers’ doors from distant warehouses.
That situation has now arrived, home grocery deliveries are becoming the norm, the ‘traditional’ supermarkets are under threat with reduced customer flow and the situation is is leading to a new dynamic. People are preferring specialist local shops where they can augment the basic list of shopping now delivered to their door. At the same time, the rapid growth of internet shopping is changing other markets and putting some bricks and mortar businesses, such as bookshops under threat.
This recent and rapid growth of home deliveries is not without its own problems however. People have to be at home to receive the deliveries. Roads are becoming increasing snarled up with delivery vans of all types. The convenience shop concept being rolled out by supermarkets to augment home deliveries requires delivery lorries for its own stores to be of a huge size to reduce transport costs. Delivery drivers of internet ordered goods are required to make at least 120 separate deliveries per day, on average the number is around 140 drops but on occasions drivers are required to deliver to as many as 170 different addresses in one day. So far drivers’ hours are only loosely regulated as most are subcontractors. It is exhausting work and with such long hours, possibly dangerous.
Shops and shopping habits come and go. And often come around again. While some residents are surprised, even shocked to learn that a Sainsbury’s Local will replace Shepherds, in Dulwich Village, older Dulwich people will recall that a branch of United Dairies once stood nearby. The bicycle shop which formerly traded at West Dulwich and closed through a decline in enthusiasm for cycling would be amazed to find that, twenty years later, the sport has taken off again and no less than four cycle shops have opened locally.
What’s next? Do not be surprised if Dulwich’s local banks are the next businesses to disappear as people are increasingly obliged to use internet banking to manage their affairs. At Herne Hill this has already happened.
Eating out is still a popular social pastime and pubs have been replaced by restaurants and coffee shops where women often feel more comfortable. Dulwich has lost four public houses in recent years, not counting those currently under repair. Those that remain can be more called restaurants than the traditional pub. There must be a saturation point in the number of eateries. Perhaps it has already been reached.
Everyone in Dulwich welcomes the new Charter School East Dulwich which will occupy a large part of the Dulwich Community Hospital site and, when complete, will have 1680 pupils. It is to be a co-educational, non-selective, non-faith, inclusive 11-18 secondary school which will deliver a high quality education for young people in its immediate locality.
The school will share the site with a new health centre. Those residents who have lived in Dulwich for a while will have noted that it has taken the NHS 23 years to reach the stage of actually building something (half the old hospital was demolished in 2006 when the plan was to build a polyclinic - loved by Labour but rejected by the incoming Conservative/Liberal coalition). As yet it is not clear when the new facility will open, it was going to be 2017 but the last Dulwich Community Council it was reported that it would be 2019.
On the positive side the plans for the school are moving forward very quickly and it aims to open for the first pupils in September 2016. Perhaps this will encourage the Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group who is now in charge of medical services in the area to accelerate its own programme. The good news is that the two organisations are meeting regularly and we are told that the master plan is now fully resolved. It also appears that negotiations between the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Prop Co, the property branch of the NHS, are complete and a recent announcement confirmed that school site has been secured.
Two series of public consultation meetings on the school’s proposals were held during June and October. These confirmed that the school will open in temporary accommodation on the site, subject to funding and planning approval. The aim is to take 120 pupils and house them in a series of temporary buildings on the south east corner of the site near the railway accessed via Jarvis Road off Melbourne Grove. At the same time the school will acquire a section of the site on the south west corner and begin construction of the first permanent facilities with the aim of completing them in 2018. Construction of the rest of the school will await the completion of the health centre, when the CCG will be able decant services from the old buildings. And here lies the problem; any delay on completion of the health facility will impact on the school’s progress.
There has also been much discussion on the school’s catchment area and it has been decided that the distances will be measured from the temporary school gate in Jarvis Road.
The school will be funded by the Government through its current school’s building programme. It has been made very clear that budgets for new schools are now of very different order from the earlier ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was largely funded via the previous Labour Government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Current target costs are in the order of 50% less than previously.
The preliminary layout shows the main access pretty much in the same position as now, off East Dulwich Grove, and the much loved ‘Chateau’ building is currently being kept but only as staff offices, possibly with an assembly hall behind. Unfortunately it seems that the EFA will not provide additional funding to reflect the cost of its refurbishment and this may impact on the quality of the other new buildings.
The main class room buildings will be built at the rear of the site roughly parallel with the railway. Playgrounds and sports pitches will replace the old wards to the left of the gates while the site of the old doctor’s accommodation will be a lecture hall and drama complex which will also be available for community use.
Given that the catchment area is very limited most children should cycle or walk to school and the school seems very keen to set up a positive green travel plan and reduce teacher car travel as much as possible - after all there is a train station not far away. There is also a bus route passing the front door, the oft lamented No 37, but it is clear that additional public transport provision will be needed. The long discussed extension of the No. 42 from red Post hill to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s must move ahead.
Overall this is a success story and the Charter School must be congratulated for putting forward such a positive scheme.
The civil engineering work on the junction was completed at the end of September but TfL still has some operational inconsistencies to resolve over the current signal phasing. These impact on the foundation school coaches and has led to some of the problems picked up in the recent safety audit - see below.
The installation of the cycle facilities - the ‘gates’ and the low level cycle signals (currently the latter are operating at the same time as the main signals) is delayed pending the completion of a TfL trial in north London. This trial should have been completed in mid-October and, if successful, the go ahead should have followed at the beginning of November. It is unlikely that any installation in Dulwich will be complete much before the end of the year. In addition, a UTC (Urban Traffic Control) IT system needs to be installed and this will be linked to other nearby junctions eg Dulwich Village and Red Post Hill
An interim safety audit was carried out at the end of September - there was some concern amongst residents that it was not truly independent as it was carried out by another section of the firm that designed the junction. The comments include:
- Left turn traffic into East Dulwich Grove is overrunning and impacting on the cycle lanes.
- Right turn vehicles are not clearing the junction in time.
- There are raised manhole and gas covers in the cycle lane which need to be adjusted.
- The road surface on the raised table needs to be re-laid.
- There are some road markings and the yellow box layout needs to be amended slightly.
- There are design queries over the signal phasing - which TfL admit they have yet to deal with.
On the plus side, however, everyone has agreed that, from a pedestrian point of view, the new junction layout is a considerable improvement.
Innumerable visitors to the park this summer have commented on the visual spectacular provided by the wildflower meadow in front of the village copse. Various failed attempts at planting have happened over the years, including seeding and plug planting by Dulwich Park Friends and others, but the stumbling block always proved to be the prolific growth of grass and weeds, even if stripped back initially.
This season the park manager, Paul Highman, decided on a more drastic approach to give any meadow a chance of succeeding, by controlled treatment of the grass with glyphosate, applied in still conditions by specialists. Once the grass had died back, the area was seeded with mix supplied by Pictorial Meadows - seed mixes and plant listings can be found on their website: www.pictorialmeadows.co.uk.
Although watering is not usually recommended for wildflowers, a dry spell made this unavoidable if the seeds were to take off. This paid dividends, with the plants springing into life in July and still thriving at the end of October. The constant humming and buzzing from the meadow paid testament to the bio-diversity it encouraged in the park.
Once the plants have gone to seed, they will be cut and shaken to provide a seed bank in the ground to be topped up next season. The approximate cost of creating the meadow, excluding the one-off cost of the wooden knee-rail, was £2,300.
Paul Highman considers a mini meadow feasible in the domestic garden. To suppress grass and weeds he recommends covering the proposed meadow area in a piece of old carpet or other non light-permeable sheeting over the winter and into spring, before sowing seed in accordance with the supplier’s recommendations.
Further landscaped areas created as part of the flood works have already been seeded to bloom with perennials next year - in front of the Francis Peek Centre and alongside the bowling green, so more visual treats are in store.
Whilst mentioning the flood works, to add to earlier awards, Southwark Council and Thames Water Utilities received the British Construction Industry Sustainability Award in October, for the overall Herne Hill scheme. Some fencing will remain around the new meadow sites until established next season, but otherwise the floodworks fencing will be removed by the year end.
Two hundred kilograms of soil from Dulwich Park, along with that from many others, are currently in a triangular box in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, within Abraham Cruzvillegas’ installation Empty Lot. Part of the curiosity surrounding the piece is quite what will grow in each box during its stay until 3rd April 2016.
While on the subject of art, the Friends supplied several of the images of Two Forms (Divided Circle) that appear in the Tate Britain video Animating the Archives: Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Records. This film, aimed at a younger audience, can be viewed online at www.tate.org.uk/...
Herne Hill Velodrome
The new pavilion was granted planning consent in June but work appears to be on hold pending the final resolution of the lease extension and funding. The design featured in the architecture section of this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and was illustrated with a collage of small prints showing the history of the Velodrome from the 1890s though to the present day. The architect is the international practice Hopkins Architects (formerly Michael Hopkins and Partners). Established by Michael and Pattie Hopkins in 1976 the practice designed the impressive velodrome for the 2012 London Olympics. The scheme consists of two main sections, the pavilion and the cycle store. The pavilion is slightly smaller than the existing grandstand. It has two floors, with changing rooms, offices and toilets etc at ground level while the club room, a meeting room and a kitchen are on the first. The wall between the club room and the back of the small raked seating area is fully glazed with sliding doors. The building has a brick clad base with timber cladding to the upper level. The roof will be metal and is supported on timber ‘glulam beams’. A nice touch is that the old cast iron columns from the current grand stand will be reused on the front. The adjacent cycle store retains the existing containers but they are laid out in a more formal manner around a central open space which is roofed with a tensile fabric cover supported on steel masts. The new buildings occupy less space than the existing ones, an essential feature for development on Metropolitan Open Land, and have been set out to improve the general appearance of the site. The single access off Burbage Road, between Nos 102 and 104, remains. The current proposal is less an architectural statement than the original larger scheme but, needs must, and the simple plan and section, more economical construction techniques, and the use of timber and brick, mean the current proposal is more affordable. It will be a positive enhancement both to the velodrome and to Dulwich and Herne Hill. Those of us who remember the dark days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when it seems that cycling would no longer carry on should be very happy.
Southwark Local History Library
There is total confusion within the Southwark Council regarding the future of its well-regarded local history and archives centre located at the John Harvard Library in Borough High Street. Although the public’s thirst for studying archive material has never been greater, thanks to programmes such as ‘Who do you think you are?’, much of the research is carried out at home through various websites.
However, Southwark has such a rich and high profile history and a vast body of material for study that it is essential the service is maintained. Part of the problem is as a result of the fire at the Cuming Museum where a good deal of material was stored. There is currently no date when this material will be available again. Historians are therefore frustrated by this impasse. Meanwhile, the staff of the library has been drastically reduced and the Dulwich Society, together with neighbouring societies have protested about the situation. Added to this confusion is the news from the South London Gallery that it is to have a local history section. What is not clear is how large an area it will cover or how comprehensive the collection will be.
St Peter’s Dulwich Common
It has taken around ten years but we are pleased to report that the wall, railings and gateposts of St Peter’s Church, Dulwich Common have been restored to their original 19th century glory. That is two achievements for the Dulwich Society, and in particular its architecture planning group under its chairman, David Roberts. The other success, the restored Concrete House is directly opposite. The next goal will be the restoration of the listed church hall which is in a structurally unsound state and has been barbarously altered in past years. The memorial to The Great War’s, Dulwich Volunteer Battalion has also been restored. Let us hope that the projected redevelopment of the nearby Grove Tavern site will also be ascetically treated.
Sydenham & Dulwich Theatre Club
The club invites new members to join them for visits to West End theatres. Transport is arranged by coach for evening performances, usually leaving Kirkdale at 6.15 and Dulwich Picture Gallery at 6.25. The coach collects members from the theatre after the performance and returns to these locations. The group rate for tickets is well below the standard price but of course the cost of the coach has to be added. A wide variety of shows is offered, usually about 10 per year, ranging from serious drama to musicals. Members chose the ones they wish to see. If you are interested please contact one of the following - Roy Savage 0208 291 0264 or Roger Pawley 0208 693 5660
Dulwich Helpline Re-named
At the October AGM of Dulwich Helpline and Southwark Churches Care the title of the former two separate charities was changed to Link Age Southwark. Founded 20 years ago the charity has over 300 dedicated volunteers serving 500 older members. It receives 41% of its running costs from Southwark Council/NHS Southwark, 33% from grant income and the remainder from donations and community fundraising events. It asks for help from the community in befriending an older person, helping at groups by providing refreshments or running activities, driving, gardening, odd jobs and fundraising. More information at
Carols for St Christopher’s
A multi-faith Carol Service with readings by celebrity readers, the Dulwich Chamber Choir and the JAGS Madrigal Choir will; take place on 14 December 2015 at 7.00pm at St Barnabas Church.. Wine and mince pies will be served after the service. There will be a Retiring Collection in aid of St Christopher’s Hospice
The Elms Climb
In our last issue we published an account of the Elms Care Home in Barry Road. In September volunteers raised £2500 towards the proposed new Dementia Garden by competing in a sponsored climb of the O2 Arena ( Millennium Dome).
Although some consideration was given to the safeguarding the Nation’s works of art from the danger of air raids during World War 1, a much more detailed scheme was proposed in 1933 by W A Orsmby- Gore (Later Lord Harlech) in his role as commissioner of works in Stanley Baldwin’s government. He called together the directors of the major cultural institutions to consider a scheme for the safe storage of the most valuable collections in the event of a war in Europe. The outcome was a recommendation to disperse the various collections around the country.
As the war clouds began to gather over Europe later in the decade a meeting was organised by the Museums Association to consider implementing this and other proposals in the event of war. In February 1938 the Dulwich College Picture Gallery Committee, instructed its clerk, Mr W Connop, to attend this meeting to discuss the question of air raid precautions in public museums and art galleries. He reported back that there was no useful discussion with regard to the protection of pictures as opinion varied widely as to what methods to adopt. Some advocated closing picture galleries and the distribution of the most important pictures, scheduled beforehand, among the large houses in the district thereby spreading the risk. Others advocated covering the pictures with asbestos sheeting and putting them in bomb- proof iron boxes in cellars. Still others advocated carrying on as usual.
The Dulwich committee decided that one of its members, the Royal Academician, Melton Fisher, should make a selection of the gallery’s most important pictures and the clerk should seek the advice of the National Gallery as to the precautions they intended to adopt against air raids. Meanwhile, things went on as normal and Melton Fisher, assisted by several other academicians made plans for the hanging of pictures in the gallery’s (newly completed) extension.
In July 1938 Mr Connop was able to report that he had visited the National Gallery and seen the arrangements being made for air raid precautions and Mr Melton Fisher produced his list of pictures he had selected for special care. The committee decided next to investigate suitable places where the pictures could be distributed.
As the threat of an outbreak of war receded in the following months, the question of what to do with the Dulwich collection did not arise. Life went on as usual and because of the new hanging, visitor numbers to the gallery rose from 11,672 in 1937 to 13,585 in 1938.
It was in April 1939 that the question of evacuating the collection arose again. Clearly, in the meantime, Mr Connop had been given authority to act in the best interests of the Gallery. He announced that the National Library of Wales had agreed to give selected pictures asylum in the event of a war and in order to to ensure transport for the pictures he had taken the precaution of arranging with a local firm, Evan Cook Depositories, for the reservation of one of their removal vans and had also obtained the approval of the Ministry of Transport, a pre-requisite in time of war.
With the international situation worsening, the Government issued a warning to art galleries and museums on 24th August 1939 to put into operation any plans they had for the evacuation of works of art. Accordingly, on 25th August, 79 of the most important pictures in the Dulwich collection, accompanied by the Gallery’s head porter, were transported to the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth where they arrived the following day. Happily, apart from minor damage to their frames, they suffered very little harm.
Back in Dulwich, although the Gallery had been closed since the selected pictures were evacuated, it had been possible to engage two new porters to take care of the remaining pictures, the head porter being instructed to remain in Aberystwyth. In accordance with the architect’s advice wire netting had been fixed to the undersides of all the skylights to catch broken glass in the event of bombing. Straps of of canvas were also stuck over windows and tarred felt over the outside of the skylights. Along with cinemas and other places which might maintain public morale, Dulwich College Picture Gallery re-opened on 25th September, three weeks after the war started.
All proceeded normally during the months of the ‘phoney war’ when none of the expected air raids took place. However when the Blitz did start in the September of the following year, life in Dulwich changed dramatically. On 25 October 1940, the clerk reported to the Picture Gallery Committee that the windows and roof of the gallery had been damaged by blast from bombs falling in the neighbourhood and it had been forced to close. Fortunately none of the pictures had been damaged. To add to the difficulties, the head porter, who had been recalled from Aberystwyth to replace one of the porters at Dulwich had been called up for war service had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the bombing and had returned to Wales.
It was decided to close the Gallery for the duration of the War and to try to evacuate as many of the remaining pictures as possible to a place of safety. One possibility was that might be stored at Haigh Hall in Lancashire, the home of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres. However, the clerk had also been in communication with the National Library of Wales and had asked if they would be prepared to accept more pictures from the Dulwich collection. Happily they were and on 18 November 1940 a further 292 pictures were sent to Aberystwyth.
As far as the archives show, the governors expressed no particular concern about the storage in the National Library of Wales. It was too far west and the area contained little of strategic importance which might invite enemy bombing. Nevertheless, with such national treasures as a copy of Magna Carta, Chaucer manuscripts and one hundred tons of artefacts from the British Museum in its care, as well as pictures on loan to the National Gallery, the collections of the Ashmolean, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Dulwich College, there were concerns at Aberystwyth about stray bombs. The architect Charles Holden was instructed to design a tunnel or cave in the rock of Grogythan, underneath the Library’s building to house some of this material. It was in use from July 1940 until May 1945. Its size however, precluded storing anything other than some of the British Museum’s material inside.
At Bangor, North Wales, however, the situation was even more critical. The National Gallery had also evacuated its entire collection of 1600 pictures, together with the Royal Collections from Windsor, Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace and most of these collections had been stored in the Great Hall of the University of Wales at Bangor and some at Penrhyn Castle. To their alarm, the National Gallery trustees found that German bombers were raiding Merseyside and enemy airplanes were flying over Bangor to reach their targets.
A letter from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill sent to Sir Kenneth Clarke, Director of the National Gallery, at the beginning of the war survives. In it the Prime Minister had forbidden the move of Britain’s art treasures to Canada for safety and instead spoke of hiding them in cellars and caves. This suggestion now seems to have been acted upon and a frantic search was undertaken to find a quarry or mine with sufficient access and space to store the works of art. Eventually a slate mine named Manod Quarry, near Ffestiniog was located, made safe and water-tight and the collections were transported there in August 1941. This tended to raise concerns about the vulnerability of Aberystwyth, where of course, the vast majority of the material stored was above ground. The director of the National Library of Wales, William Llewellyn Davies enquired of the National Gallery if Manod Quarry could accommodate any of the special cases which belonged to private owners. The reply was that space was ‘very much limited with little opportunity of storing pictures beside our own”. In the event, no Dulwich pictures ever went to Manod, they would remain at Aberystwyth throughout the war.
On the night of 20/21 July 1944 a V1 ‘Flying Bomb’ exploded in Gallery Road causing severe damage to the Gallery and the Chapel and destroying Gallery Cottage. The bomb had fallen in the middle of Gallery Road, leaving a 15’ deep crater and fracturing the large sewer. The remaining pictures and books left in the Gallery, on the whole, did not sustain serious injury, although some of the furniture was slightly damaged, a miracle really, in view of the damage to the building itself. The pictures were immediately removed and taken to Dulwich College where they were stored in the north block shelter.
On 11th May 1945 with the war now ended, Davies asked if some of the Dulwich pictures could go in an exhibition at Aberystwyth “because there are thousands of people of Wales who never get opportunity to see great works of art”. The Dulwich College Picture Gallery committee, strengthened by this time by the appointment of Sir Gerald Kelly, the Keeper of the Royal Academy, agreed to this request and Kelly went to Wales, taking with him an expert restorer, Dr Hell, to examine the pictures and undertake any restoration work thought necessary.
The exhibition was a great success and was extended until November 1945 when the pictures returned to Dulwich for storage in Bell House, College Road which was unoccupied and where Dr Hell could continue his restoration work. The cost of the restoration of the collection, including the frames was finally estimated at £10,500. However two years later Dulwich College wished to resume the occupancy of Bell House for boarders and the transfer of the collection to the Gallery, upon which repairs had been commenced was considered. In the event the collection was exhibited at the National Gallery from June 1947 The Gallery finally reopened in 1952.
Henry George Hoyland was young when his hairdresser father George, decided to ‘up sticks’ and leave his wife Rosa and their children to fend for themselves. No one knew why, where or with whom (if anyone) he left. Fortunately Rosa was a resilient and tough woman who saw to it that the family of three boys and a girl, though poor, survived to lead productive adult live.
Henry was born and brought up in Sheffield, his interest and talent for drawing and painting manifesting itself at an early age. When he was just sixteen (in 1911), he was awarded a place at the Sheffield School of Art. This was a wonderful opportunity to develop and hone his skills and he continued to study there until the outbreak of WW1. Not much is known about his subsequent movements except that he remained in Sheffield and worked as a laboratory assistant at some point.
By 1916 Henry decided to commit himself to the war effort and attempted to enlist for military service, hoping to serve with the Royal Flying Corps. He was not however called up until 1917 when he served as a private in the 5th Rifle Brigade in France and where his brief service proved eventful. He was gassed, lost in ‘No Man’s Land’ for two days and finally shot in the shoulder, causing his discharge from the army and a return to Britain. The injury was so serious that Henry spent nearly a year in a nursing home. It was only at the insistence of his formidable mother that his right arm, his drawing arm, was saved from amputation.
It is believed by close surviving members of Henry’s family, that after his time in a nursing home, he studied art in London and Paris. Unfortunately it has been impossible so far to confirm where or when. It would probably have been between 1919 and1921. Although Henry was not an official war artist, he painted while he was in service, including the portrait of an army chaplain. Many of his paintings are owned by the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum and one, The Connoisseur, has recently been hung in the main gallery collection.
Three years after the war ended. Henry returned to live in Sheffield and in 1921, he was appointed Professor of painting at the Sheffield School of Art. This was a productive and happy time for him. He was able to paint and develop his style, doing figurative and portrait paintings, flower paintings, landscapes and woodcuts. He also became accepted in the art world, becoming a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the Society of Graphic Artists and the Sheffield Society of Artists, his work being exhibited in galleries all around the country - in London, Cambridge, Liverpool, Sheffield and Scotland.
This productive time for Henry became an especially happy one when he fell in love with a beautiful young student called Margaret Mitchell-Withers. They married quite soon after meeting and formed a productive partnership. Margaret encouraged Henry’s interest in painting circuses and accompanied him on circus tours around the country. Henry in turn illustrated a book of poetry Margaret had written and helped her when she decided to become a puppeteer. In 1929, Margaret gave birth to their first daughter Rosemary. Very soon afterwards, Henry decided to give up his teaching in Sheffield to spread his wings and try his luck in London. So, on 9th October 1930, he took on the lease of Pickwick Cottage Dulwich.
While in Dulwich, Margaret and Henry met and became friends with Jim and Peggy Fitton, both painters, who had moved to Pond Cottages a couple of years earlier as a newly married couple. Peggy and Margaret became especially close, Peggy having lived in North London all her life felt isolated and Margaret as a young mother at home with a small child felt similarly cut off.
Henry found work in an advertising agency and continued to paint, using a room in Pickwick Cottage as a studio. This was not entirely satisfactory as the rooms were rather small and dark so he hired a studio in Charing Cross Road over the Zwemmer Gallery. Eventually Henry built a studio in the garden of Pickwick Cottage without the permission of the Estates Governors. He had probably sought permission and been refused as had Jim Fitton many years later when he also had a studio installed in Pond Cottages without gaining permission first.
The next few years were unsettling. In 1936, Margaret gave birth to their second daughter Karen. She had an extremely difficult confinement and was very ill indeed. Three years later WW2 was declared and Henry, unfit to fight but anxious to contribute to the war effort, decided to join the Camouflage Unit, a group of two hundred and fifty or so landscape painters, set designers, Royal Academicians, technicians and others, whose aim was to disguise vulnerable targets from Hitler’s bombs. It was based in Leamington Spa and by 1941, Henry had underlet Pickwick Cottage and moved the family to Arlington House, Leamington Spa.
Asked recently asked what life was like at Arlington House, a Georgian mansion, Karen said it was ‘horrible and haunted and there were musty bags containing crinolines and old clothes in the cellars. Leamington was however an interesting place to live because of the numerous artists employed by the Camouflage Unit and the actors from nearby Stratford-upon-Avon visiting the town.
Henry in the meantime was hard at work with the camouflage unit, working with and for such people as Hugh Casson, Robin Darwin and Christopher Ironside, designing plaster cows to place on the top of armament factories and fake swimming pools on other vulnerable targets. Henry often went on sorties in a small plane to identify potential targets. After one such trip, he arranged for lights to be installed on the Yorkshire Moors to deflect Hitler from the Sheffield Steel Works. One of Henry’s sorties proved to be unusually hazardous - his pilot had an epiphany en route and believed he was Jesus Christ. Fortunately they returned safely after hedge-hopping back to base where the pilot was arrested and taken to hospital.
Meanwhile, at Arlington House, Margaret’s health was declining and she was constantly tired in spite of the fact she had a housekeeper (provided by her parents). In 1942 she had an operation for cancer and Auntie Mabel (Henry’s older sister) moved in to look after the children. A year later Margaret’s health deteriorated drastically and she was taken to hospital to have another operation. Sadly she did not survive and died in hospital leaving Rosemary aged fourteen, Karen aged seven and a devastated Henry who could barely look at his younger daughter because she so resembled his wife.
After the war in 1945 Henry moved the family back to Dulwich. At first they lived in Alleyn Road because the lease had not run out for their tenant at Pickwick Cottage. When they did return, routine was established in the household with Auntie (Mabel) very much in charge. One evening two years later, Jim and Peggy Fitton (my parents) received a visit from Henry, having resumed their friendship with him after the war. Although I was very young at the time, I vividly remember seeing their grim faces afterwards, my mother holding back tears. Henry had come tell them that he had cancer and had three months to live. Henry was only fifty-two when he died and had many unfulfilled years ahead. I am happy that Dulwich will again be aware of him, his painting and his contribution in the two world wars.
I hope I have done him justice.
Cedars are a noble genus of trees in the pine family. They are native above 1,000 metres in the mountains of North Africa, the Near East and Cyprus. They also occur in the western Himalaya, usually above 1,500 metres. Cedars depend on winter rains in their Mediterranean habitat and on monsoon rains in their Indian one, but grow very happily on the year-round water supply available to them in our temperate climate. Cedars do not, however, self-seed in this country.
Dulwich has good examples of all three species of true cedar: Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica) and Deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara). In broad terms the species may be distinguished because Cedars of Lebanon tend to have level branches, Atlantic cedars have young branches that mostly ascend, while the leading shoots and young branches of Deodars tend to droop. All three species have separate male and female cones on the same tree. The seed-bearing female cones grow on the upper branches and can be a magnificent sight, especially when dripping with resin. The pollen-bearing male cones are more inconspicuous. Both male and female cones are held upright and this was one of the reasons why early botanists placed cedars with firs (Abies), whose cones are also held upright, rather than the pine family (Pinaceae), which often have hanging cones. Modern molecular research supports their present placing.
The first cedar species to be planted in this country was the Cedar of Lebanon, which is the cedar illustrated here. By the 18th century the Cedar of Lebanon became the “must-have” tree for nearly every mansion and estate in the country and its broad, yet graceful, form makes it easy to understand why. This favoured position lasted well into the 19th century, when Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which are even more imposing but much less graceful, tended to supplant its popularity as a status tree. The Cedar of Lebanon appears on the Lebanese flag and, although much of its original habitat has suffered from deforestation, it has been replanted there in recent years. This is the cedar that is so frequently mentioned in the Bible and indeed is the species thought to be referred to in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Atlas cedar, which, as the name suggests, originates in the Atlas Mountains, was discovered by western science in 1827. Its naturally-occurring glaucous form, Blue Atlas cedar (C.atlantica f.glauca), is the species most commonly planted as an ornamental tree, but over 40 cultivars of this Cedar have been produced in nurseries. A fine example may be found in Dulwich Park, near the wildlife enclosure.
The Deodar cedar is a Himalayan species. It marks the eastern limit of cedar distribution world-wide. It has the most flexuous shape of the three, particularly when young, and the longest needles (3-6 cm, as opposed to well under 3 cm in the other two). Traditionally, Deodar timber was used in India for ship building. A 19th century plan to grow it for this purpose in Britain failed because the timber grown so far north lacked durability in sea water.
Owing to the popularity of true cedars, and because of the spicy, resinous quality of cedar wood, the name cedar has often been used as part of the English names of different species which have resinous wood. Examples include Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), which has been increasingly commonly planted in recent years, the various forms of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and Western Red cedar (Thuja plicata). These species are however botanically distinct from true cedars and do not share their characteristic spreading habit of growth.
John Hughes Trees Committee
In my last article I featured a lame duck in Alleyn Road. Not to be outdone by their neighbours a stray Goose appeared during August in Alleyn Park, the identification of which was a puzzle as the appearance did not conform to any illustrations. In fact it was a juvenile Egyptian Goose. Rather like the ubiquitous Canada Geese Egyptian Geese originated in escapes from ornamental collections that have established breeding populations in East Anglia and the South East and can be seen in various of the London park lakes and indeed sometimes in Dulwich. Young birds are of course inexperienced and whether this one found its way to a more suitable site or survived either the traffic or the foxes we shall never know.
In the last article I lamented the loss of our House Martins. In fact a single pair did arrive very late in June, and took possession of an old nest to breed successfully. The species is clearly in some trouble and as this year’s experience shows it is important that we do not remove old nests from our eaves, especially when houses are being painted. In a dry summer, particularly when the birds arrive late they may not be able to find enough mud to build new nests. However their problem may lie more with their migration than with us and surprisingly nobody has ever been able to discover where exactly in Africa their winter quarters lie. We just need to give them as much help as we can when they get here.
I have had a report that Firecrests can once again be found in the woods and besides our small population of Nuthatches it is once again possible to find a Tree Creeper. This is a little bird,quite difficult to spot that may look like a mouse climbing the trunk of an Oak or an Ash tree. It has a short curved beak with which it probes bark crevices and unlike the Nuthatch is unable to turn downwards so that after climbing a trunk it flies down to start again. Historically they used to breed in the oak trees of Cox’s walk, but there has not been a recent record there.
Dave Clark has undertaken his regular count of the birds in Dulwich Park and reported an exceptionally early arrival of a group of Redwings along with a Grey Wagtail. But more notable was a total of fifty two Robins. Now Robins are strictly territorial birds and it is hard to imagine that Dulwich Park can support this number of territories, so there is bound to be warfare with winners and losers. The size of a Robin’s territory depends on how hard it can fight. Each Robin fights hardest at the centre of its territory and the boundary is determined by the point at which it is evenly matched with its neighbour. A strong Robin therefore has a bigger territory than a weak one and therefore probably access to the best food. They don’t seem to need politicians.
Do keep sending records, with photographs if possible. Has anyone seen any Hedgehogs?
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel 0207 274 4567)
Autumn brings spectacular migrant birds to Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods
By Daniel Greenwood
Autumn arrived at Sydenham Hill Wood with a stunning discovery. On 3rd September long-term London Wildlife Trust volunteer Ernie Thomason photographed two juvenile hobbies in Dulwich Wood, having watched adult birds flying low over the Sydenham Hill Wood glade. From as early as June staff and volunteers conducting night time moth surveys had heard the calls of falcons that sounded very similar to the African migrant hobby. Hobbies are close relatives to the better-known peregrine and kestrel. The latter raised four chicks on the St. Peters Church spire in June whilst peregrine has been seen in and around Sydenham Hill Wood over the past year. The hobby arrives in Britain each spring to hunt small birds (as well as the larger ring-necked parakeet in London) but its most iconic trait is its predilection for dragonflies. Hobbies can be seen catching and consuming dragonflies whilst gliding through the air, a key way to identify them. We are indebted to Ernie and his photographs in securing evidence that the birds have bred locally. We suspect that they bred in Sydenham Hill Wood. As a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to disturb hobbies when they are nesting or to advertise their nest site. In this case no one knows where that was.
September welcomed firecrests, Britain’s smallest bird alongside the goldcrest, to Sydenham Hill Wood for the winter. Another local birder, Gavin Horsley, managed to capture a beautiful image of this very colourful and sought after bird. This is the first such image known to the Trust of a Sydenham Hill Wood firecrest. In October, the Wood has been alive with yet more avian activity, this time from crows and parakeets mobbing a pair of buzzards that have been present for several weeks. It is common for young buzzards to explore the landscape in their first autumn and it’s likely these birds are youngsters. It still amazes us to peer through the canopy of south London oaks and see the broad wingspan of a buzzard. Two other migrants were seen in October, with a whitethroat on the 2nd October and a redstart on the 8th. Both will have been returning to Africa for the winter. The larger scale connectivity of the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods is of tantamount importance for these amazing birds. Closer to ground level we have been keeping a close eye on the fungal life of the woods. A wet spell in the early autumn led to the springing up of trooping funnel, coral fungus, sulphur tuft, hare’s ear and various species of bonnet. All three of our fungi events this year have been booked up, to the disappointment of many. We will aim to put on an extra event in 2016.
We rounded off our spring and summer events season with our annual Open Day on Sunday 13th September to celebrate the importance of Sydenham Hill Wood for the local community. Over 300 people came to enjoy tree and bird walks, pond dipping, music from the South London Folk Collective, wood carving on a pole lathe, and slices of homemade cake. Thank you to everyone who attended and made it such an enjoyable event. Though London Wildlife Trust are pleased with the progress we are making in working with visitors to ensure that wildlife is protected and respected, there have been a worrying number of incidents in neighbouring Dulwich Wood that could have long term implications for people and wildlife. It came to our attention during August that a number of fire pits and campsites were being created in areas of young oak woodland that were leading to the trees and soil being damaged. The Dulwich Estate prohibit the building of fires but this is being ignored by some visitors. Further to this, there have been numerous large-scale dens built against oak trees across Dulwich Wood which are creating tracts of eroded soil that will lead to the loss of regenerating hornbeam and oak trees and its associated habitat. London Wildlife Trust have received a number of complaints regarding issues that are related to Dulwich Wood. This sensitive ancient woodland needs to be protected to prevent the eventual long term loss of trees and species. There are simple measures which could be taken to address these problems. Though Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood are two separate sites in theory, they are of one ecosystem.
We are pleased to announce our winter events for early 2016, with more to follow in the spring, summer and autumn:
Winter tree ID, Sunday 24th January 2016, 14:00 inside the Crescent Wood Road entrance to Sydenham Hill Wood
London’s urban wildlife talk, Friday 5th February 2016, 11:00 at Peckham Library
Winter bird walk, Sunday 14th February, 09:00 inside the Crescent Wood Road entrance to Sydenham Hill Wood
The trees of Dulwich talk, Tuesday 8th March 2016, 14:00 at Dulwich Library
For more information regarding events and to join our mailing list please contact Daniel Greenwood: