The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2017.
Jon Taylor , the Manager of the local Food Bank writes
It seems like a long time ago since we first launched our Foodbank back in September 2011. We had no idea of the scale of the need that was on our doorstep, and certainly no idea of how much we would need to expand the service we were about to offer over the coming years.
Our Foodbank provides emergency food for those in crisis via a voucher referral system, and distributes non-perishable food via donations from the local community. We are supported by an amazing team of volunteers. We don't only distribute food, but also offer a comprehensive sign-posting service and provide additional advice on social housing, the benefit system and debt through our onsite advice team.
Over 7,965 three-day emergency food supplies have so far been provided to local people in crisis by Norwood and Brixton Foodbank during 2016-17, compared to 6,548 in 2015-16. Of this number, 3,252 food provisions went to children. The top three reasons for foodbank referrals were benefit delays (20 %), low income (20%) and no recourse to public funds (19%).
Over the last year, local people have donated 61 tonnes of food to the Norwood and Brixton Foodbank, and over 200 people have volunteered their free time. Local schools, businesses and faith groups have provided vital support to the foodbank, enabling us to give three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced food and advice to people in crisis.
We've been keeping tabs on our latest Foodbank figures over the summer, having witnessed some extraordinarily busy sessions. It didn't come as a surprise to learn that during the period of July and August we had seen an increase of 500 people using our Foodbank compared to the same period last year. We are more grateful than ever for the generous donations of food and money we continue to receive. Without the great support of the community, our Foodbank would struggle to operate and with winter just around the corner, your support is needed more than ever.
How to help:
The change in season is always a time when foodbanks see a surge in the demand for their service. At the moment we have a particular shortfall of the following food items: UHT Milk, tinned meat, non-perishable spreads such as jams or peanut butter, pasta/rice sauce and tinned vegetables, e.g. carrots or peas. Non-food items such as washing powder and shampoo are also in demand.
We are also very grateful for monetary donations. These donations help us to cover the costs of storing and distributing food, as well as developing sustainable projects that help people get out of crisis faster and that have a lasting impact. Visit our website for more information on how to give.
Food drop-off points:
Saturdays: 9-11 am at St Margaret's Church, Barcombe Ave, Streatham SW2 3BH
Anytime: Drop boxes are situated at Streatham Tesco Extra, Brixton Tesco Acre Lane and Brixton Sainsbury’s on Brixton Water Lane. Items do not need to be purchased in store
For a full list of drop-off locations, information on how to help or to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, visit our website on https://norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/
Jon Silkin is not the best-known of modern British poets although he was the anthologist of the well- regarded Penguin Book of World War One Poetry and the founder of Stand the country’s longest running poetry magazine, which, apart from one brief interval when the money ran out, he edited from 1952 for 45 years.
Essentially he was an individualist; he might even be accused of being selfish in his pursuit of individualism, certainly becoming the proverbial black sheep of one of Britain’s most prominent and successful Jewish families.
He was the only child of Joseph Silkin and his wife Doris Rubenstein. His maternal grandparents had been refugees from the pogroms of Lithuania and were bound for the United States, when their ship stopped for water in Swansea. The couple disembarked and remained in Wales where Harris Rubenstein started a wallpaper business and thereby established a connection with Wales which would become important for Jon. Like the Rubensteins, Jon’s other grandparents, Abraham Silkin and his wife Fanny also had fled Lithuania and settled in London’s East End where Abraham cleaned the toilets of the Synagogue, gave Hebrew lessons and sold fruit off a barrow. Jon’s father, Joseph, and his elder brother, Lewis, both became lawyers and established a law partnership in Peckham. Lewis later went into politics, becoming a Labour peer with the title Lord Silkin of Dulwich. His sons, John and Sam, also Labour politicians, both became Cabinet ministers.
Jon, who was named after the character from The Forstye Saga was born in Islington in 1930 but the family soon moved to Dulwich, to 70 Croxted Road, and then to 123 Half Moon Lane and Jon attended Dulwich Hamlet School. His father organised League of Nations Union meetings on foreign affairs, specialising in naturalisation proceedings for refugees, some of who stayed with the Silkins in Half Moon Lane on their arrival in England.
When World War 2 was declared Jon was evacuated He later recalled it was to Kent, although Dulwich Hamlet School was actually sent to Ashstead in Surrey. The following year he went to stay with his relations in Swansea and attended a local school. When that school, in turn, had to evacuate following air raids on Swansea , Jon was sent to Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. Here he spent his happiest year, exploring its famous former Roman goldmines and where he appears to have had little formal education. His, no doubt, anxious parents back in Dulwich then arranged for him to attend Wycliffe College, itself evacuated to Lampeter, where he joined it and stayed until the end of the war before returning to Dulwich. In 1945 he entered Dulwich College.
His time at Dulwich, where he was perhaps overshadowed by the memory of his brilliant older cousins, was not particularly satisfactory although Dulwich Society member, Michael Rich, who shared lessons in Hebrew with him found Jon good company. Jon was short and stocky and his appearance at school was untidy, a trait which would live with him. Later in life he would cut his own beard and hair when he thought it necessary and preferred to wear clothes he bought from markets at home and abroad. At the College, his critical Dulwich schoolmasters noted his passion for reading and writing poetry but described him as weak-willed and easily led. They were correct in recording his passions but very far wide of the mark upon their other assumptions.
Jon did not exactly leave Dulwich under a cloud and was certainly not expelled as he later liked to recall. It is more likely that having being separated from home and his parents for so long this separation had taken its toll however much fun he had in his ‘wild year’ in Wales. Yes, he did play occasional truant (and did write his own ‘excuse notes’) but this was not enough to warrant expulsion. The truth probably is that his parents just took him away when he was seventeen to cut their losses and perhaps end the embarrassment of his sharing a school where his cousins had shone and his uncle had been a governor.
The year and a half interval between leaving school and being called up for National Service was taken up by spells as an insurance clerk and a journalist. Living in Half Moon Lane, it is inconceivable that he would not have gone to the Dulwich Poetry groups readings discussed in the summer edition of this Journal. Years later he would collaborate in a collection of poems, with its organiser, fellow poet Howard Sergeant.
When his call-up notice arrived he was selected for training as a sergeant-instructor in the Education Corps and this experience seems to have worked well for him in the teaching posts he would take in years to come. Army service also gave him opportunity to write poetry and his first collection was privately printed in 1950 as The Portrait and Other Poems. On leaving the army Silkin found work for time as a grave-filler at Fortune Green cemetery, Hampstead until he was found reading Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan while sitting on a grave stone and was sacked. Evicted from various rented rooms, he may have slept rough for a time. Little wonder then, that a letter from his father survives imploring him to get a proper job. When he did, with the National Cash Register Company, he was dismissed soon afterwards for trying to form a union.
With £5 back pay Jon launched his quarterly poetry magazine Stand in 1952 - “I sell the magazine not only through subscribers and bookshops but also by peddling it hand to hand at cafes and pubs, coffee-houses and universities.”. He worked for a time as an English master at a boys’ prep school and also at an English language college for foreign students in London, his teaching experience in the army now coming in useful.
He was living in Hampstead with Cynthia Redpath, sister of the poet and friend, Fred Redpath A son was born but died at the age of one year and Jon Silkin wrote about it in his most memorable and most-quoted poem, Death of a Son (who Died in a Mental Hospital Aged One)
He turned over on his side with his one year
Red as a wound
He turned over as if he could be sorry for this
And out of his eyes two great tears rolled, like stones, and he died.
In 1958 Silkin was awarded the Gregory Fellowship at Leeds University to be its poet in residence for two years. At 28, he was one of the youngest Gregory Fellows. He was extremely active at Leeds, offering, although not required to, seminars in creative writing and courses on modern poetry through the University’s extra-mural department. He was the first Gregory Fellow in Poetry not to have had a university education - he had been expected to read Law after Dulwich but was let down by his Latin, then a requirement for entry. The truth probably is that he rebelled against entering his father’s profession, and perhaps at the time even of going to university and deliberately flunked his Latin. His translations of Hebrew and Japanese demonstrate that he had an excellent aptitude for languages. In his second year at Leeds he enrolled as a Special Studies student, graduating in 1962 having written a critical essay on his own poetry during his final examinations.
He remained in the city until 1965, completing two collections of poetry and beginning work on the critical study of the poets of the First World War. This was published in 1972 as Out of Battle. An offer from the Northern Arts Association in Newcastle to fund his beloved Stand magazine took Silkin further north and that was where he remained. Today Stand is published by the Leeds’ University, School of English.
Visiting lectureships and fellowships flowed in, from universities in the United States, Australia, Israel and Japan. Between 1970 and 1980 he published five further collections of poetry. In 1979 he was selected and edited The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. He married the American fiction writer Lorna Tracey and they travelled and worked together and were also co-editors of Stand. They divorced in 1994.
His poetry sometimes took up Jewish themes; an early poem, Astringencies, from his 1961 collection The Re-ordering of the Stones, compared the effect on York of the 12th century, where the entire population of 800 Jews in the city was massacred, to that of Europe after the Holocaust. Peter Lawson, who edited a book of post war British Jewish poetry, compares Silkin with fellow Jew, Dannie Abse, who he considered were the two most significant poets of the period. ‘Abse was quite avuncular and benign, whereas Silkin was more angry and campaigning. Silkin was self-consciously difficult, he wanted poetry to be complex’. It was not only in his poetry that Silkin could be confrontational. Even his attitude to Israel bears this out. When invited to Tel Aviv in 1980 to lecture at the university, he publically criticised Israel for acting like Nazis in their treatment of Arabs.
Jon Silkin never threw anything away. Scraps of paper bearing the drafts of the reworked lines of countless poems, contracts, and correspondence with his editors, box upon box are scattered over several universities in the United States where he had some form of contact although the bulk of the archive is at Leeds University. It was at Leeds, in the Brotherton Library in 2015 that the complete works of Jon Silkin was launched. The volume, a brick-sized 915 pages is edited by Jon Glover, Silkin’s biographer, friend and successor as editor of Stand, and by Katherine Jenner and published by Carcanet Press. It was fitting that it took place at Leeds which was the pivotal locus in Silkin’s career.
Jon Silkin displayed through his life a willingness to take risks and to ask difficult questions, to address difficult subjects and try new forms and modes of expression. He said that his Jewish self-awareness had forced him into humanism and cosmopolitanism, contained, as it were by English and Japanese specifics His readings, especially of his own work were said to be spell-binding. In all he published fourteen collections of poetry and translated Hebrew and Japanese works into English, He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1986 and died in 1997 at the age of 67.
By John Walters
I was born at 22 Carson Road in March 1943, and almost from the start I was in the wars - or, at least, the War. During the 1940-41 Blitz my father had rigged up some bunks in the cellar of our house, and it seems that the family was taking shelter from V1 flying bombs in the late summer of 1944, when the bunks collapsed. I escaped with nothing worse than an enormous lump on my forehead, which (particularly after a couple of glasses of wine) is still just visible. As older residents will recall, the local air raid siren was situated on the roof of the police station, which was then the building beside West Dulwich station, and I remember it being tested from time to time long after the War had ended. It was also at West Dulwich station that my parents recalled seeing trainloads of exhausted and mud-caked soldiers passing through in the early summer of 1940, having been evacuated from Dunkirk.
Like many other parts of London, Dulwich was left after the War with numerous bomb sites, which provided abundant opportunities for young boys to play, run about and explore, the most accessible and interesting being the space on which now stands the Alleyn’s Head. The chief meeting place in West Dulwich, however, was the bomb site and open land between Croxted Road and the alleyway beside the railway , now covered by low-rise Council flats. It was there that we created an oval track for bike racing, and there was also a pond, which contained not only an old pram and other rubbish, but frog spawn. This paradise was known, simply, as The Field, and “See you at the field,” was the shout as we left school on a summer’s afternoon. Another favourite meeting place in the light evenings was the railway bridge in Hunt’s Slip Road. This is where we did our train-spotting, the highlight of which was the appearance every evening of the Golden Arrow express, with its splendid set of luxury Pullman cars, racing up to Victoria, with French and Union flags flying at the front of a magnificent steam locomotive.
My mother used to take the number 3 bus once a week to shop in the Brixton open market, but she also patronised the Rosendale Road shops. These were such as would then be found in any suburban location, and they included Dale (the cobbler), on the corner of Eastmearn Road, then Dent (oil and hardware), Nex (greengrocer), Dawson (confectionery, news and tobacco), Rumsey (chemist, and incorporating a post office counter), Coldrey (baker), Wood (butcher), and Lucking (greengrocer). Other retail outlets in this parade included a fish and chip shop - after all, this wasn’t Dulwich Village - and a drapery shop called Marion’s.
The latter was run by Freda Punter, who lived a few houses away from us, at 10 Carson Road, while further along, at number 2, lived Margaret Lewis, who ran the post office counter mentioned above. Dent’s proprietor was Fred Pretlove, father of John, who attended Alleyn’s school and went on to Cambridge, where he embarked on a career in first-class cricket which lasted till 1968. During the winter I was frequently sent round to Pretlove’s (we never called it Dent’s) to buy a gallon of paraffin, and decades later John told me how hard his dad worked during snowy weather to ensure that his “old ladies” weren’t left without oil. In 1958 John Pretlove married the aforementioned Freda Punter’s daughter, Ann, and he went on to be a governor of Alleyn’s and, in 1996, President of the Edward Alleyn Club (Alleyn’s School alumni).
The main source of domestic heating, however, was, of course, coal, and my childhood job on delivery day was to stand in a prominent position counting in the sacks, which were emptied into the coal bunker via a metal hatch set into the front door step; each sack held a hundredweight of coal, and the delivery men were almost as black as miners. Where houses had a sideway, dustmen in those days came right into householders’ back gardens, and would carry the metal bins on their backs to and from the dust van (which in my very earliest days was horse-drawn). On a cold day my mother would offer them a cup of tea at the kitchen door.
Further south along from the main Rosendale Road shopping parade were Franklin’s, the garage, and Angel’s, the barber. Franklin’s provided a chauffeur service, and part of our summer holiday treat was being driven up to Waterloo for the train and boat journey to the Isle of Wight - the only time we saw the inside of a car. I didn’t use Angel’s for long because of his unpleasant habit of pushing the waiting boys on a Saturday morning ever further down the queue, as adult men arrived. “You boys don’t mind waiting, do you?” he would repeatedly incant.
Occasionally my mother shopped at Buckle’s, a “proper” grocer, complete with bacon slicing machine, which stood on the site in Croxted Road now occupied by Tesco, and I remember the large Elephant sign on the side wall, advertising Fremlin’s Elephant Ales. My mother once told me that she didn’t particularly like using the shop because of dark rumours about the manager that had circulated during the period of rationing. A few steps from Buckle’s, in Park Hall Road, was Kirkby’s, which sold and repaired bicycles, and at the appropriate time of year also sold fireworks. Mr Kirkby ran the shop with his two sons, and when he retired, he told me that it was partly because of the break-ins he had suffered.
My parents had an aspirational tendency, and so, when the time came for me to start at primary school, they walked me down to Dulwich Village Infants’ School. Having been turned away, we then walked to the far end of Turney Road, where Rosendale Road school proved less fastidious about accepting a child from Carson Road. I remember it as a happy school, with some brilliant (mainly female) teachers, and I still marvel at the fact that those teachers handled classes of up to 45, and still sent children in large numbers to Dulwich College, Alleyn’s, JAGS, Mary Datchelor, Wilson’s, Archbishop Tennyson’s, St Martin’s, Haberdashers’ Aske’s, and so on. Perhaps we partly benefited from the fact that we had a full day’s school, finishing at 4.30. The classrooms had open fires, and in the winter Mr Wright, the schoolkeeper, would spend much of his day carrying coal around the school and topping up the fires. The infant school building at Rosendale stood beside some railway sidings, which served the Rickett Cockerell coal depot opposite the school entrance (the railway bridge leading into the depot has long gone), and the clanging sound of trucks being shunted about was constantly with us.
So determined were my parents that I should go on to a good secondary school, that, although far from wealthy, they sent me for two hours of coaching every Saturday morning in the months preceding my taking the 11+ exam. This tuition took place at the home of Miss Hutt, a retired teacher from JAGS, I think, who lived very near the Court Lane end of Dovercourt Road.
A large part of my life until around age 13 seemed to be spent at All Saints Church, in Rosendale Road. I went to Sunday school from a very young age (taking along my penny for the collection), and on Monday evenings attended meetings of an organisation called King’s Messengers. I was in the choir from about age eight, which entailed Evensong on Sunday, full choir practice on Friday evening and another practice just for the boys on Wednesday. Miss Hart ran the KMs and Miss Miller the choir. The latter’s father was a minister in Scotland, and every Christmas he paid for a party for the boys at her flat in Stradella Road. One of my fellow choristers was Chris Vernon, son of Russell, the architect who was closely involved in the post-War development of the Dulwich Estate. The annual Sunday school treat consisted of a train trip to Leatherhead, where we went on a long circular ramble, and I can still picture the vicar, Mr Capron, complete with dog collar, leading his flock along Thurlow Park Road to Tulse Hill station.
As far as we children were concerned, West Dulwich boasted two “fields”, the second being the sizeable space which still lies open between Rosendale Road and Croxted Road. I don’t recall spending much time in this field, but it was accepted that on the way back from school one climbed over - or through - the fence at the Dalkeith Road end and returned to the pavement on reaching the church. We didn’t do this on the way to school - perhaps because time was more of an issue.
It would be an exaggeration to describe The Nook, beside West Dulwich station, as an institution, but over many years it certainly provided great pleasure - as well as regular work for local dentists - for thousands of mainly Dulwich College boys. With a wave of his arm, the portly Mr Hudson would indicate “the penny section”, where one could buy a variety of sweet, chewy objects, which, according to the then strict College rules, were - like any food - not to be consumed in public. Another Dulwich College rule (which continued at least into the seventies) was that the whole school must watch and cheer on the 1st rugby XV at home matches, and thus a sound to be heard around West Dulwich on a Saturday afternoon was the intermittent roaring of 1400 boys.
One could go on, but suffice to say that, like others who have spent their lives in Dulwich, I consider myself very fortunate, my only regret being that so many figures formerly on the landscape, both known and unknown to me, are no longer to be seen about the place.
Dulwich Hill House was one of several large houses with extensive grounds on Denmark Hill and Herne Hill whose wealthy neighbours in the nineteenth century would have included the inventor, Sir Henry Bessemer, to the north and the lawyer, Richard Shawe, in Casino House to the south. The property would have enjoyed fine views from the ridge between the top of Red Post Hill and the later Sunray Avenue, which cut through its grounds. Built at the expense of David Gordon and his brother Adam, it was completed by 1800 (the same year as Casino House) with a lodge, coach house and stables in 22 acres of gardens and fields. A lease for 63 plus 21 years was granted from that date by Dulwich College for a ground rent of £130 a year. It was given the name, Dulwich Hill House, towards the end of the 19th century.
The leaseholder, David Gordon (1753-1831) started his working life as a banker but left to start up his own business with Adam and his brother-in-law, John Biddulph. The firm invested in shipping and owned a large metal working operation at Deptford Green which specialised in iron founding and anchor making. It rapidly expanded during the Napoleonic wars, taking over the Bedlington Ironworks in Durham in 1809 and a few years later acquiring Dudman’s large ship-building and repairing dockyard in Grove Street, Deptford. The best known of the ships built there was the paddle steamer Enterprize, the first vessel with a steam engine to make the passage to India. Launched in 1825, the wooden vessel was hardly sea-worthy but eventually reached Calcutta after 112 days under sail and steam. More significant in the history of marine engineering was the Gordons’ trial of the first screw propeller the year before on a nearby lake - probably the one in what is now Sunray Gardens. This was invented by one of their employees, John Swan, but not developed for practical use until ten years later by another Dulwich resident, Sir Francis Pettit Smith (1808-74) of Fountain Lodge, Sydenham Hill (see DSJ Summer 2005).
David Gordon unexpectedly inherited from his brother the title of 14th Laird of Abergeldy on Deeside in 1819 and his eldest son Charles became more closely involved in managing the Deptford businesses, arranging the trial of the screw propeller in Dulwich. Dr George Birkbeck, one of the founders of the London Mechanics Institute later renamed Birkbeck College, witnessed the event and reported in the London Mechanics Register (22 January 1825) that the “experiment [took place] on a sheet of water in the grounds of Charles Gordon Esq. of Dulwich Hill”. Charles died in 1826 at the age of 36 and David’s youngest son, Adam took a more active role. Both invested heavily in speculative projects. Charles was one of the directors of the United Mexican Mining Association, a ‘bubble company’ which failed spectacularly and also the Canada Company established to sell land to settlers in Upper Canada, although this was eventually successful. Adam invested in risky railway companies as well as the Deptford Pier and Improvement Company which proved a colossal failure. John Biddulph junior who, like his father, was a partner in the firm wrote in his diary for 1831 that when he left the company in 1829, ‘Mr Gordon had at least £150,000 of property (worth about £15 million today), now he has nothing to live on...How miserably have his sons managed’. The Deptford docks suffered a major fire in 1838 which destroyed the deeds to the Dulwich house and their business records, Adam died six months later and the family withdrew from shipbuilding and ironworking shortly afterwards.
David Gordon died in 1831 and in 1834 the residue of his lease was sold to William Tetlow Hibbert (1792-1881), another director of the Canada Company whose family gave their name to Hibbert Township in Ontario. The family firm were chiefly West India merchants involved with the shipping, insurance and distribution of colonial commodities, especially sugar. They owned slaves through the plantations in Jamaica in which they invested and received compensation when slavery was abolished in the West Indies in 1833. William’s sisters erected an almshouse in Wandsworth in memory of their father, which is still administered by the Hibbert Trust founded by their cousin.
William Hibbert moved to Prince’s Gate, Hyde Park in 1850 and the 34 years left on the lease was sold for £2,000 to Matthew Attwood (1779-1851) a banker who also had a strong interest in shipping as chairman of the General Steam Navigation Company. He devoted the last thirty years of his life to politics, first elected in 1820 as Conservative MP for the rotten borough of Callington in Cornwall, where he won the seat with only 51 votes. However he died eighteen months after acquiring the property and his son Mathias Wolverley Attwood (1808-65), took it over, succeeding his father in the family bank until it was sold to Barclays in 1863 and succeeding him also as chairman of the company. He represented Greenwich as MP for a short while before retiring from public life because of ill health. His uncle, Benjamin (1794-1874) took over the lease after his death in 1865, and inherited a considerable fortune of nearly £900,000 from his nephew, much of which had come from the sale of the bank. Benjamin had been one of the founders of the General Steam Navigation Company, was connected with several other prosperous concerns and was wealthy enough on his own account, so he decided to give away much of his inherited wealth anonymously. Relations and their dependents received just under half, and charities, particularly London hospitals, were sent about £475,000 in £1000 cheques. Attwood was known as ‘the secret millionaire’ when his generosity was discovered after his death in 1875. He preferred to live in his house in Cheshunt but kept possession of the Dulwich house.
There were only a few years remaining on the lease when he died and the next leaseholder, Thomas Lynn Bristowe (1833-92), was granted a new lease by the Dulwich Estate. He was a stockbroker who moved there from a house on the opposite side of the road and lived in Dulwich Hill House between about 1875 and 1885. During this time it was numbered 169 Denmark Hill. Bristowe was the first MP for the Norwood Division of Lambeth, and is remembered locally for leading the campaign which led to the London County Council purchasing the Brockwell Estate for a public park. The opening ceremony in 1892 was overshadowed by tragedy when he suffered a heart attack on the steps of Brockwell Hall and died. Bristowe’s stone bust, which was on the drinking fountain erected in his memory, can be seen in the entrance hall; it had been saved, restored and installed there in 2012 on the anniversary of his death in 1892.
A few months before Bristowe died, he had applied for permission for Mrs Burnett, who ran a high class ladies’ school on Denmark Hill, to use no 169 for the same purpose. Although the governors recommended acceptance no further action seems to have been taken and more interest was shown in the extensive land attached. By then the future of the large houses in the area was very uncertain, as the wealthy preferred to live further out of London. In 1894, the Dulwich Estate accepted an offer from the newly formed Red Post Hill Land Company to build fifty houses on the land with an option to demolish the old property. It was taken down within the next three years, and only the gatehouse known as Hillcrest Lodge was kept, surviving until about 1961. Sunray Avenue was laid across the grounds to provide access to the new development, but in the event only a few houses were built and the rest of the site remained open until after the First World War.
It was an email from Malvern, resting place of Sir Edward Elgar, that alerted the Dulwich Society to the presence of the illustrious composer and his short sojourn in Dulwich. In essence, it was the stuff of a Victorian novel – a gifted man from a modest background marrying above his station to someone nine years his senior. And not only that – he was Roman Catholic and his future wife, Caroline Alice Roberts came from a devout Anglican family and was the daughter of a general. It was not exactly a hasty marriage, she had been his music pupil for three years before Elgar proposed. And it was not her money that Elgar might have been accused of coveting. Caroline was disinherited and only a cousin from her side of the family turned up to the wedding at Brompton Oratory in May 1889.
The cousin was William Raikes whose wife was named Veronica. They lived at the time at Oaklands, Fountain Drive, Dulwich (although later, as Ian McInnes’s article in the Autumn Journal noted, they later moved to Northlands, College Road). Thus evolved the Dulwich connexion
After a honeymoon in Ventnor, the Elgars returned to London to be closer to the centre of British musical life, especially the concerts at the Crystal Palace conducted by Augustus Manns. At the end of July 1889 they went back to her spacious house 'Saetermo' in Malvern but the lease soon ran out and in October they moved to the Raikes cousins' home in Dulwich where they spent the winter. It may have been a long-arranged visit because Elgar’s Salut d’amour was performed at the Crystal Palace that November.
Salut d’amour was the piece which Elgar had dedicated to his future wife as an engagement present. He would also set some of her poems to music. Alice, as she was known, was a poet and published author. He also dedicated his newly completed and published opus 14 (Eleven Sonatas for keyboard) to his hostess Mrs W A Raikes for her hospitality. It must have been a fruitful winter, Augustus Manns lived just around the corner at 4 Dulwich Wood Park and many conversations with him must have taken place. They might have spent longer in Dulwich, but shortage of work drove Elgar back to Worcestershire where for some years he scratched a living through teaching and conducting local musical ensembles until fame finally found him.
It was perhaps the Crystal Palace which heralded this fame because the next performance of the composer’s work there was in April 1897 when Edward Elgar’s Imperial March, composed to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was conductor by Augustus Manns.
The Dulwich Wine Society was founded in September 1991 in response to closure of the Inner London Education Authority wine tasting evening class held at Kingsdale School. At the outset, the founding members thought that if this new Society lasted for a term it would be a bonus, but if not, so be it – last year the Society celebrated its 25th Anniversary!
The fledgling society had the benefit of the experience of Master of Wine, Neil Fairlamb, who although he was previously an ILEA wine tasting tutor, was also a teacher at Dulwich College and he supported the Committee with wine expertise and networks until his departure from Dulwich to become a clergyman in Wales. The Society initially hired the first-floor function room at the Crown and Greyhound and developed an extremely positive relationship with the Manager, Barney Maguire. After Barney’s departure in 2002 meetings continued at the Crown and Greyhound until the Society became aware it was closing for refurbishment. The Society then moved to the first-floor function room at The Rosendale where it continues to meet.
Members come from all walks of life and live in Dulwich or the surrounding area. Reflecting the term-time format at the ILEA evening class, the Society meets weekly during each academic term on Wednesday at 7.30pm and generally about 8-9 wines are tasted with a break for cheese and biscuits. Evenings may take a formal tutored approach or a more informal interactive discussion, depending on the preferences of the speaker. Topics for the evening cover a range of countries, regions, wine makers and grapes from the old and new world, and established and emerging areas. Previous terms’ programmes with topics and speakers can be found on the Dulwich Wine Society website.
Members have been fortunate to receive tastings from a wide range of winemakers such as Emma Cullen from Cullen Wines, Margaret River, Australia, Ray McKee from Chateau St. Michelle Winery, Washington State, and Javier Hidalgo from Hidalgo Sherries, Jerez. Masters of wine and high profile wine educators speak at the Society’s meetings and tastings are regularly given by distinguished wineries and the Society is well supported by wine merchants such as Majestic, Oddbins, Corney and Barrow, Ellis of Richmond, A & A Wines, Enotria Wines, Uncorked and Dulwich Vintners.
Many of the Society members have developed expertise and interests informally, for example through tutored tastings, trips to the regions and networking with wine makers and merchants. Others have undertaken formal qualifications through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and are now tutoring at the Trust and undertaking judging roles at wine competitions. Society members actively participate in presenting a range of evenings during the year. These evenings are always well received and informative with dynamic interactive discussion and often some real treats from members’ own cellars generously shared with the group.
These evenings always prove enjoyable and informative and provide an ideal opportunity for newer members of the Society to make their first presentations in a more informal environment. Perhaps the most informal but none the less well prepared and presented evenings are the Society Quiz evenings when in many cases pride may well come before a fall! Favourites include ‘Call my Bluff’ - even with the original theme tune, supermarket challenge, and blind tastings.
Excellent trips have been organised by Society members to vineyards and wineries in both England and Europe. English vineyards have included Nyetimber and Ridgeview, both of which have international award winning English Sparkling wines in their collection, and Chapel Down which has a wide range of still and sparkling wines. The furthest afield the Society has ventured was to Toro in the Zamora district of Spain in Easter 2004 with a trip organised by Vina Bajoz, one of the largest cooperatives in the area. The Society had been introduced to Vina Bajoz at a tasting by their Marketing Manager, Nicola Thornton. Based in Toro the Society were treated to excellent local meals and hospitality with visits to vineyards and wineries in Toro, Ribero del Duero and Rueda. Members also saw first-hand the solemn Easter processions through the streets of Toro.
Luckily for the Society, longstanding members Greville and Tim Havenhand took on the task of organising annual trips to France including accommodation and all the vineyard and winery visits. They continue to deliver superbly organised trips to most wine growing regions of France. The Society has visited the Loire four times, Burgundy three times, Champagne, Alsace, Beaujolais, Maconnais and the Rhone twice, and Bergerac, St Emilion, Touraine and Languedoc once. The 2018 trip to Southern Rhone will the 20th year. The last night of each trip is notable for memorable meals at local Michelin star restaurants.
Further information on the Dulwich Wine Society
The Society web site www.dulwich-wine-society.co.uk provides further information on current and previous programmes, trips and contacts. The Society membership subscription is £45 for the current 14-week autumn session. The cost per evening, which includes the speaker and all wines and refreshments is £15 for members and £25 for non-members. Once or twice a term there may be a ‘premium evening’ with a special speaker and/or wines which costs £25 for members and £35 for non-members. If you are thinking of joining the Dulwich Wine Society and wish to sample an evening before committing yourself to the full session, a reduction in membership may be negotiated. Come along and give it a try!
By Ian Mcinnes
Everyone knows Pond Cottages, the quaint row of small houses facing the millpond that you pass when heading south along College Road towards the Tollgate. And most will know that the large building at the end of the road is Dulwich College’s PE Centre, a modern building opened in 1967. What many people will not know, however, is that it was not the first building on the site - it replaced an earlier structure, known as the ‘Covered Courts’, which looked rather like an aircraft hangar. Long forgotten, probably justifiably, it loomed over this part of Dulwich for over 50 years.
It opened on 10 April 1911 as a commercial tennis club, with three indoor courts and a large seating gallery for spectators. Contemporary newspaper reports noted that construction had only taken thirteen weeks, that 100 tons of steel had been used, and that it had cost £6800. A huge gas lighting installation, apparently based on principles “used in the King of Sweden’s’ court in Stockholm”, meant that play was possible “at any hour of the day or night”. The official opening included several display matches, one between Dorothea Lambert Chambers and Dora Boothby. How good it actually was might be debatable as the couple met again at Wimbledon in June - and Mrs Lambert won 6–0, 6–0!
During World War 1 it was used as an ambulance station, and it received a direct hit in one of the rare German heavy bomber raids, killing the caretaker and a child. Although it was primarily intended to be a club for local residents (Hiram Maxim was the first club secretary), it was also used for competitions such as the annual London – Paris match. This event was played here for over 20 years from 1912-14 and 1919-39 - the French winning most of the time. There are many newspaper reports of these and other competitions - like the Surrey County Youth Championships, but perhaps the most unusual one was about Bunny Austin, the last Briton to be in a Wimbledon final before Andy Murray. A March 1933 headline said ‘Austin changes into tennis shorts: halt in final set of match’, and it described an ‘amazing scene in the London v Paris lawn tennis match at Dulwich today’. After losing the fourth set at 2-6, Austin apparently walked cross to the side of the court and asked an onlooker to go to the dressing room and find a pair of shorts in his bag. He then changed into them and came out for the fifth set - which he won. After the match he was quoted as saying ‘I will never play in long trousers again, they are most uncomfortable and shorts are obviously the things to wear, I will wear shorts in future.’ And the following year he wore them at Wimbledon, the first man to do so.
By the 1930s the Courts were an integral part of the nearby Toksawa Hotel’s offer of ‘country house’ hotel accommodation near the Centre of London, with adjoining sports facilities (they also offered golf at the Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club). Their brochure said ‘Here, independent of the time or the weather, Tennis played on a hard wood floor is at its fastest and thrilling best. Three full size tennis courts occupy the floor space: there is a gallery with accommodation for 1000 spectators. Continuous tennis is provided, the glass roof affords a steady light by day; by night the Courts are scientifically illuminated by 90,000 candle power high pressure gas. Professional players and a staff of ball girls are always in attendance.’
Early in WW2 the building was sublet to Messrs Convoys Ltd, for storage purposes, but in 1941 it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works as a supply depot for the distribution of catering and other equipment to the armed forces. It was de-requisitioned in 1947, having not been looked after very well. The dilapidations report listed damage to the walls, the roof and roof glazing, the guttering, and the metal windows. The wooden floor was also so badly decayed that it had to be replaced. The Estate pursued the Ministry for compensation – with some success.
At the same time, it rejected an approach from the Surrey Lawn Tennis Association to take over the building and, later in the year, let it to Dulwich College as a sports hall on a temporary licence at a rent of £50 per annum. There are rumours that it was used as one of the additional venues for the 1948 London Olympic Games but there is no actual record – and tennis was not an Olympic sport at the time. The College took out a longer lease in 1950 with the proviso that, in due course, it would be rebuilt.
Old Alleynians of a certain age will probably recall, in bad moments, the hot summer days when the old ‘Covered Courts’ were used for G.C.E examinations. One of them wrote to the Society some years ago saying “The gym (as it was in those days) was run by Wally Cromey and his assistant Ted Day. It was also used as the examination hall and was uncomfortably hot when the sun shone during the O Level exams in the summer. When it rained I remember Ted Day padding around in his plimsolls putting buckets out to collect drips from the leaking glass roof panels. Patrick Spencer, an OA and former Dulwich Society Secretary, confirmed the heat generated by the glazed roof and that the boys “all stripped off to our waists before even we had looked at the examination paper”.
On the last day of term, the whole school congregated there for assembly and Ronald Groves (headmaster 1954-66) addressed the school and said farewell to the leavers. The school captain read I Corinthians 13. II “When I was a child I spake as a child. . . . etc”. The building then reverberated to the hymn “Now thank we all our God” - an emotional occasion for many.
It was finally demolished to allow the construction of the current sports hall in 1966. The Summer 1966 edition of the ‘Dulwich Villager’ reported ‘It is doubtful if many people will mourn the passing of what was probably the ugliest building in Dulwich. The old covered tennis courts, which for generations marred the would-be artist’s view of the eastern aspect of the Pond and its adjacent cottages on Dulwich Common, is no more. In its stead will rise a new structure which it is earnestly hoped will be more pleasing’.
Daniel Greenwood writes
Autumn has been a busy season for London Wildlife Trust, with lots of work being undertaken in the Dulwich woods as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Great North Wood project. A significant chunk of match funding has been provided by the Dulwich Society and Dulwich Estate, to install wooden conservation fencing in areas where soil erosion is severely impacting on the health of the woodland habitats. In October six workdays took place and volunteers worked really hard to get the fences in and well put together. The fencing is sourced from a company in Sussex which specialise in sweet chestnut coppice materials.
We appreciate that this work may not be what all visitors to Dulwich Wood are expecting, but we have so far received positive feedback. It has been a pleasure to talk to the hundreds of people who have passed us whilst the work was ongoing, to help increase understanding of what a woodland needs to be healthy. The Dulwich and Sydenham Hill woods have seen a big increase in visitor numbers since 2010 meaning that more investment is required to protect the woodland from the increased footfall. It is not anyone’s fault that this work needs to be done, on the contrary it is wonderful that woods are becoming part of people’s lives again. Recent research has come to show how important it is for people to have access to local woodlands for their mental and physical health. What is also important is the health of the woodland, and that means healthy, airy soil full of all the organisms that give it life. It also means a layer of young trees to replace those in the canopy layer. Hornbeam, hazel, holly and oak saplings have been transplanted to aid the process of regeneration.
In Low Cross Wood, London Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers have been clearing invasive cherry laurel from this ancient woodland, allowing light back in and space for broadleaved trees such as oak, hazel, holly, ash, elm and rowan to seed in their place. The next step in Dulwich Wood (no pun intended) is to begin rebuilding pathways next to fenced areas before the mud makes some of them too difficult to use. So if you see a mini-digger in Dulwich Wood, don’t worry, no one is building a mansion as they did in the 1860s, it is the Trust preparing paths for resurfacing. Our materials will be natural and in the form of Coxwell gravel and limestone for the hardcore of the path structure.
Looking to the changing seasons, autumn has so far been dry and mild, making the installation of fenceposts much harder. In August mushrooms boomed in the woods, a real summer surprise, due to the level of rainfall and temperatures similar to those of autumn. A mushroom walk on Sunday 22nd October was a case of hard graft in finding a few larger parasol and funnel mushrooms, but even the deadwood-dwelling species were tricky to pick out. It is always a readily available excuse to point out that the majority of fungal species will remain hidden to our eyes anyway.
The Great North Wood project is being led by Project Manager Andrew Wright and officers Sam Bentley-Toon and Edwin Malins. Sydenham Hill Wood’s volunteer project, led by Daniel Greenwood and majority-funded by Southwark Council, will carry on as normal with regular weekly workdays. Sydenham Hill Wood will act as the core site and practical base for the project work undertaken in Dulwich. Volunteers are needed to help with the work. We provide training, safety briefing and plenty of biscuits. You can join our events or volunteering mailing lists by contacting us on