The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2020.
Where Have All The Blackbirds Gone?
This was the question I asked myself as October progressed when I realized that I had not seen a Blackbird in my garden since mid-summer. Several walks around Dulwich and Belair parks were just as unproductive. Dave Clark has now done his regular, more systematic autumn bird censuses in Dulwich Park and Sydenham Hill woods and reports less than half the usual numbers of Blackbirds and a general reduction in the numbers of all small birds with the exception of Goldfinches that we have previously noted to be thriving. Surprisingly he also notes that in particular there was a dearth of the usually common Blue Tits, and I notice that Blue Tits around here are much outnumbered by Great Tits and even Long Tailed Tits. Happily, on a very wet late October day Blackbirds have returned to take advantage of our berry laden Hawthorn and recently tilled ground. But this is the time of our winter arrival of continental Thrushes including of course flocks of Redwings which are indeed in evidence this week. Blackbirds are part of this movement so our new arrivals may well be passage migrants rather than our home bred population.
What are we to make of all this? The glaring answer is that unfortunately the much discussed climate change is beginning to kick in to our familiar wildlife populations and it is not just the winters but our summers that have become the problem. This year we witnessed a drought that extended from April through the whole of May. For most of us the fine weather made the rigours of the Covid lockdown bearable, but it dried the soil at just the moment when ground foraging birds needed access to invertebrates to feed their nestlings. In some cases it leads to smaller clutch sizes and in others to nestling starvation and our Blue Tits also needed their hatch to match micro moth caterpillar emergence. Most of our small birds have short life spans and need an annual survival of at least two nestlings to maintain their population numbers. It is therefore not hard to see how quickly an imbalance of our natural history can take effect.
So what can we do about it when we are such a small oasis in a global phenomenon? For the problems I have highlighted an answer may be the provision of summer feeding. A clue may lie in the rise in Goldfinch numbers that provides one of the bright spots both locally and nationally and this has been directly attributed to their adaptation to their use of feeders and particularly Niger seeds. Supplies of mealworms could well compensate for dried out soils and peanut and seed feeders can maintain the health of Tits while they forage for caterpillars to feed hungry nestlings. This could be just a small step in the combat of a global trend which is responsible for so many of our wildlife losses that I have reported in this column over the years.
On a different tack there is still plenty of wildlife to observe. Some but not all Egyptian Geese, have bred successfully and have become a permanent feature of Dulwich Park, welcomed as a decorative replacement for the ubiquitous Canada Geese. Cormorants are regularly visiting and appear to be fishing for the introduced Carp. The Herons appear usually to be at rest but maybe they too could have a go. The accompanying photograph was taken by Mary Elizabeth Everitt and her friend who were surprised on a walk down College Road by this very close female Sparrow Hawk that did not wish to relinquish her prey in spite of their proximity.
As to other wildlife it has been a mixed year for butterflies. The hope that the encouraging spring emergence of Peacocks, Commas and Tortoiseshells from hibernation would be succeeded by a big mid-summer population was not realized although a few were present. It was a good year for Holly Blues and there were good numbers of Common Blues, Gatekeepers and Small Skippers in the Velodrome site and also a few Small Coppers. The spectacular Jersey Tiger moths, camouflaged at rest but a brilliant russet orange in flight continued to attract attention and I was surprised to record a Five Spot Burnet moth in my garden that I had not seen there before. Once more this year fine evenings provided records of Stag beetles. These are of course the high visible end of the insect population but a detailed knowledge of the great mass of insects that provide the bed rock of the nutrition of our vertebrates will require more study if we are to understand how to conserve our natural environment.
Do please keep me supplied with your records and observations. I have been glad to hear that the Bats that were identified last year have continued but it would be good to know how Hedgehogs have fared.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel:0207 274 4567 email@example.com)
Society Talks - December 10th 8.00pm
Peter Roseveare, the Society's wildlife recorder, will speak on "Wild Dulwich Through the Seasons". This is the 5th in the Autumn series of our online talks and promises to be one of interest to everyone, covering the wide range of wildlife we can see in Dulwich, along with many interesting anecdotes he can report from his many years as our recorder. As with the other online talks it will be via Zoom.
Joining details are: https://zoom.us/j/96970847928
Meeting ID: 969 7084 7928
We are hoping to run a similar series of talks in the Spring. These will be advertised via the eNewsletter and journal.
Online sources are proving especially useful for those interested in local history at a time when access to relevant archives is restricted, as with Dulwich College Archives or non-existent as with Southwark Archives.
With a contribution from the legacy to the Dulwich Society by Mary Boast, the former Southwark Local History Librarian, the Society collaborated with Dulwich College Archives in making Dulwich Estate maps held there available on line www.dulwichsociety.com/dulwich-estate-maps. They were photographed at a sufficiently high resolution to show individual buildings when enlarged. Eight of them are now on the website dated: 1806, 1852, 1860, 1876, 1886, 1894 (detail), 1906 and 1932.
In this period, the Dulwich College Estates formed possibly the largest compact leasehold estate in inner London. Apart from one property in Shoreditch, all the land was in one area, mostly comprising the former manor and hamlet of Dulwich in the parish of Camberwell, with some adjacent land in Lambeth. It extended about three miles from Denmark Hill/ Champion Hill in the north to Crystal Palace Parade in the South and almost two miles from part of Herne Hill and Knight’s Hill in the west to Lordship Lane/ Forest Hill in the east, so it does not include East Dulwich. The succession of maps give a fascinating picture of the area’s development over more than a century. They complement the Ordnance Survey maps which are freely available on the Southwark Council website from 1879 to date, www.southwark.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/maps-of-southwark as well as the range of maps available on the Layers of London website www.layersoflondon.org.
Dulwich has always been the most thinly inhabited part of what was Camberwell until 1965 and Southwark since then, but the population still grew sevenfold in the nineteenth century and the change in distribution can be clearly seen. The 1806 manuscript plan which spreads over ten sheets is the earliest surviving survey of the estate on a large scale. It depicts a largely rural area occupied by woodland, farms and market gardens with properties centred on the village and features such as a windmill on the site of Dulwich College. By the time of the 1852 map the Picture Gallery had been built (opened 1817) and the avenue of trees along Gallery Road had gone, but otherwise there was very little change.
More development took place in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was brought about by the coming of the railways in the 1860s. The 1860 map shows conjectural routes of the Victoria to Bromley line on the west with stations at Herne Hill, West Dulwich and Sydenham Hill opening 1862-3; shown on the south is a branch of the London, Chatham and Dover line to the Crystal Palace High Level station through Dulwich Woods and the former Lordship Lane station (opened 1863-5) as is a spur linking the two which was never constructed. On the 1876 map can be seen the same company’s line from London Bridge towards Croydon with stations at North and East Dulwich (opened 1868). Compensation paid by the railway companies enabled the Dulwich College to build their present grand new premises in College Road, opened in 1870 as well as the new James Allen’s Girls’ School (opened 1886) and Alleyn’s School for boys (opened 1887). Both schools charged lower fees than the College and were popular with the growing numbers of middle class families in the area.
Housing development was carefully planned; the Governors wanted good quality housing to attract pupils from better-off parents and those in professional occupations. The new railway services increased the attractions of the estate by enabling those who could afford the fares to reach the City with ease. Some development is noticeable by 1876; by then an exclusive suburb of large detached houses was being created on the slopes of Sydenham Hill. In the same way they tried to create a buffer zone against lower density housing spreading from East Dulwich. They were willing to grant land to the Metropolitan Board of Works to create Dulwich Park as shown on the 1886 map, and the later schools with their playing fields were placed on the north eastern side. At the same time the Governors were under pressure from the Charity Commissioners to increase their income further to support the beneficiaries, which included the schools, almshouses, Picture Gallery and chapel. Smaller houses were permitted around West Dulwich station for example, but a recession in the building trade in London slowed progress.
The situation changed from the mid-1890s until just before the First World War, when there was an increased demand for lower density housing helped by the introduction of cheap workmen’s fares. Larger houses with extensive grounds proved difficult to sell as the more wealthy residents moved further out from the centre. The 1906 map shows the effect with a considerable amount of semi-detached and terraced houses allowed on the outer areas of the estate especially on the western side. By 1932 this had been supplemented by the post-war ‘Homes for Heroes’ estate at Sunray Avenue and developments along Burbage and Townley Roads and Court Lane. However, much of Dulwich still had large areas of open spaces by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Further reading: Mireille Galinou, The Dulwich Notebook, 2015; Bernard Nurse, ‘Planning a London Suburban Estate: Dulwich 1882-1920’, in The London Journal, vol. 19, no. 4, 1994.
I recently bought a blue and white pearlware Staffordshire dish of c.1823 (fig. 1). Inside a border of roses and pierced basket-ware, the oval ‘transfer print’ shows three buildings, apparently adjacent: Dulwich College Picture Gallery, the Chapel and a wing of the Old College; the three different architectural styles form a backdrop to the view through trees and across a field where hay-makers are loading a wain. To recognise just where the artist of the scene on the dish was looking when he drew the scene, imagine entering Dulwich Park, by the main gates on College Road, walking for, say, three minutes on the pavement, when you stop and turn round: presto - you blink your eyes, and as if by magic you are snap-shot by this Old Dulwich view illustrated below, a vision of what you would have seen on that spot two hundred years ago; you are wearing, of course, a pair of blue-tinted supernatural spectacles. On the left you see a section of the east front of the Gallery as it was originally, not represented by the artist as well as it deserved. Five (of twelve) arched bays of Soane’s austere blind arcade that flanked the entrance can be discerned; of brick, they were a sort of apology for the loggia he proposed and the College said they could not afford. Above these arches is the ‘attic’ (rendered in stone), with its recessed rectangular panels that the eye might misread as windows; above that is Soane’s long octagonal skylight (a structure rather like a greenhouse) for top lighting. This was just how this elevation looked, the original outer wall of Soane’s original Gallery when it had only the one magnificent enfilade of rooms for showing the pictures; on this east front the present Entrance Lobby and Galleries X-XIII were added later.
Next follow the Chapel and Tower, without Charles Barry Jr.’s mansard roof of 1866, and the Almshouses (rebuilt 1738-9) in the College’s east wing. The latter presents splendid casements, Italianate pilasters and entablature that originally matched the College courtyard behind it (as seen in eighteenth-century engravings and drawings). Perhaps the architect was in fact Inigo Jones (as was claimed in the eighteenth century): he signed as a witness the Foundation Document, a former colleague of Alleyn’s in court entertainments such as masques; there is documentary evidence that Alleyn employed Jones’s builder, John Benson. The College courtyard was embellished with the same giant Ionic pilasters topped by stone balls that Jones added a few years later to the side walls of Old St. Paul’s. Moreover, Sir Francis Bourgeois told Launcelot Baugh Allen, then the Warden of the College, that ‘your chapel is built by Inigo Jones and [Soane] is one of his most enthusiastic admirers.’ The almshouse East Wing as we know it today was yet to be remodelled, ‘modernised’ (ironically, in ‘retro’ style) in rather dull Tudor Gothic livery by Charles Barry Sr., Surveyor and Architect to the College and the Estate from 1831 to 1858, and then by Charles Barry Jr., who took over until 1900. He added the fanciful terra cotta chimneys, marking the date of his own remodelling, 1866, inside a cartouche on the façade.
The Staffordshire dish is an example of the familiar cheap wares printed with blue ‘transfer’ scenes. These included the famous Willow Pattern (a term which originally could include other chinoiserie designs). Many earthenware manufacturers at about this time issued series picturing the ‘Beauties of Britain’; the views they chose were shamelessly pirated from illustrations engraved on copper found in the many topographical books of the period. They sometimes made minor additions or variations, presumably to avoid being sued over copyright. Thus the plagiarist who made the copy of the original print from which this scene was taken added to the foreground of the engraving from which it was taken (fig. 2) a Dulwich Villager sitting with his dog. He appears to be looking at an open book. This may have been intended as a gentleman with literary pretensions who liked to read with the odour in his nostrils of the new-mown hay. We know from a contemporary source how this particular pervasive sweetness greeted visitors to those summer fields at that time in the vale of Dulwich, as they descended from Herne Hill (unlike today’s petrol fumes and foul sub- urban chemical barbecues smells). The idle figure with the dog may of course have been meant to be taken, because of the book, for a Fellow of Dulwich College with its (very dubious) claims to learning. Mostly these ceramic picturesque British scenes were of country mansions in parkland, to be revealed with the left-overs on the plates of less privileged folk, highly popular at home and in America (where they were exported en masse), rather like Downton Abbey. This view of Dulwich College was copied from a copperplate illustration, dated 1819, made from a watercolour by Henry Gastineau (1791-1876) (fig. 2); they found it in Longman’s Excursions in the County of Surrey: comprising brief Historical and Topographical Delineations, &c, published in 1821. The anonymous author of this book was Thomas Cromwell Kitson, F.S.A. (1792-1870), who was on the publisher’s staff; what he wrote about Dulwich is of little interest. Gastineau, a friend of Turner, and famous especially for the wonderful Welsh views engraved from his watercolours, was a local artist, brought up and living much of his life in Cold Harbour Lane.
Early British ceramics were hand-painted, but transfer printing, from about 1750, enabled mass-production of cheaper wares and greater profits. The pirated original topographical prints were re-engraved on copper or (later) on steel. The incised plate or roller (see fig. 3) was inked in cobalt blue, then the surface of the plate was wiped clean, leaving the ink in the cut lines - the process, the opposite way of making a lino-cut or a wood-cut, is called intaglio engraving. The reversed image that resulted from printing on transfer paper was then impressed face down on the ceramic surface, finally presenting the image the right way round, as shown in fig. 3. The paper was either soaked off or burnt during the firing, and finally the piece was fired again with the pearlware or clear glaze over the print. The maker’s stamp on the back of this Dulwich dish is a circular impressed mark, ‘A. Stevenson Warranted Staffordshire’ around a crown emblem. Andrew Stevenson (1780-1855) of the Cobridge Works in Staffordshire (active from 1816-28), was a prolific member of a family of pottery makers. He became very active in the transatlantic trade, actually moving to New York in 1823, and settling there with a shop on Broadway, where Wall Street is now, and he died in the States.
Hay-makers in the same Dulwich fields as on the dish were also seen and mentioned by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), essayist, poet and friend of Hazlitt, Lamb, Byron and Shelley and of Dickens, who immortalised him as Skimpole in Bleak House. Hunt was the editor of The Companion magazine, in which, on 25 June, 1828, he published his own essay, entitled ‘A Walk from Dulwich to Brockham. In a Letter to a Friend.’ He described taking the Dulwich stage-coach from Fleet Street to the Greyhound inn:
We felt as if we had newly got into the country, and ate a hearty supper accordingly. This was a thing not unusual with us; but then everybody eats “in the country” -there is “the air;” and besides, we had eaten little dinner, and were merrier, and “remote.”
On looking out of our chamber window in the morning, we remarked that the situation of the inn was beautiful, even towards the road, the place is so rich with trees; and returning to the room in which we had supped, we found with pleasure that we had a window there, presenting us with a peep into rich meadows, where the haymakers were at work in their white shirts. … We know not whether it was the sultriness of the day, with occasional heavy cloud but we thought the air of Dulwich too warm, and pronounced it a place of sleepy luxuriance. So it appeared to us that morning; beautiful, however, and “remote” and the thought of old Allen, Shakespeare’s playmate, made it still more so.
Hunt and his companion much regretted they did not stop this time to see the Gallery - he tells us about the Claude, Cuyp and Rembrandt to be seen there ¬- but he set down a boyhood memory of how he saw Sir Francis Bourgeois in company with Benjamin West (1738-1820), the second P.R.A., in the latter’s gallery in Newman-street:
He was in buckskins [skinny pale buff breeches, in something like chamois leather] and boots, dandy dress of that time, and appeared a lively, good-natured man, with a pleasing countenance, probably because he said something pleasant of myself; he confirmed it with an oath, which startled but did not alter this opinion. Ever afterwards I had an inclination to like his pictures, which I believe were not very good; and unfortunately with whatever gravity he might paint, his oath and his buckskins would never allow me to consider him a serious person; so that it somewhat surprised me to hear that M. Desenfans had bequeathed him his gallery out of pure regard; and still more that Sir Francis, when he died, had ordered his own remains to be gathered to those of his own benefactor and Madame Desenfans, and all three buried in the society of the pictures they had loved… If there was vanity in the bequest, as some have thought, it was at least a vanity accompanied with touching circumstances and an appearance of a very social taste; and as most people have their vanities, it might be as well for them to think what sort of accompaniments exalt or degrade theirs, or render them purely dull and selfish. As to the Gallery’s being “out of the way” especially for students, I am of a different opinion, and for two reasons: first, that no gallery, whether in or out of the way, can ever produce great artists, nature, and perhaps the very want of a gallery, always settling that matter before galleries are thought of, and second because in going to see the pictures in a beautiful country village, people get out of their town
commonplaces, and are better prepared for the perception of other beauties, and of the nature that makes them all. Besides there is probably something to pay on a jaunt of this kind and yet of a different sort from payments at a door. There is no illiberal demand at Dulwich for a liberal pleasure; then “the inn” is inviting, and the warmth which dinner and a glass diffuses, helps them to rejoice doubly in the warmth of the sunshine and the pictures, and in the fame of the great and generous.
What Leigh Hunt says about the Gallery and his defence of its being so far out of town reminds us that it was specifically founded to open without charge to the public and to inspire young painters. He seems to be suggesting in this passage that learning how to paint by copying Old Masters, as intended by Bourgeois in the Gallery, is obsolete, and that Nature might be the best teacher. ‘Going to Nature’ was something that Ruskin called for in Modern Painters (1843, seq.) He had formed his youthful doctrines walking so often down to the Gallery from Herne Hill to study the Dutch and other Old Master pictures - in reaction to them. Though young Holman Hunt (1827-1910) made copies of several paintings at the Gallery, Pre-Raphaelites did paint from nature over the next twenty years.
Leigh Hunt then left Dulwich the same day for Norwood, “where we rejoiced to hear that some of our old friends the Gipsies were still extant.”
By Duncan Bowie
Margaret Thatcher was not the only prime Minister to have Dulwich connections. Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister between October 1922 and May 1923, was MP for Dulwich for four years - between 1906 and 1910.
Bonar Law, who is sometimes referred to as the ‘Unknown Prime Minister’ (the title of Robert Blake’s biography) was a Canadian-Scottish businessman. Born in New Brunswick in Canada in 1858 to Scottish/Ulster Scottish parents, his father was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. After his mother’s death when he was 14, he moved to Scotland with his late mother’s sister, his father having remarried. His father thought that this would give him better career opportunities. He left school to work in the iron industry as a clerk for Kidston and Sons in Helensborough, near Glasgow - his aunt’s family were partners in the firm, so it was assumed that Bonar (he never used his first name) would join the firm’s management when he was older. In 1870, the Kidston brothers funded Bonar to form a partnership with another iron merchant, William Jacks, and by the age of 30, Bonar Law was wealthy. Jacks was active in Liberal politics, and was elected as MP for Leith in 1885, and having been ousted by his leader Gladstone the following year, joined the Liberal Unionist Party and was returned for Stirlingshire in 1892. Bonar Law joined the Glasgow Parliamentary Debating Society and the Conservative Party, becoming a parliamentary candidate in 1897, first for the Glasgow Bridgeton seat and then for the Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown seat. A working-class area it was represented by a Liberal, so was not regarded as a good prospect. However, in the general election in 1900, known as the ’Khaki ‘election, there was a national swing to the Conservatives as the Liberals were seen as pro-Boers, and Bonar Law overturned the Liberal majority. Bonar Law then moved to London, though keeping his directorship in the company he had helped to found. Two years later, Bonar Law was appointed by Prime Minister Balfour as parliamentary secretary to the Board of Trade.
However, in 1905, the Conservative Party split on the issue of tariff reform and Balfour called a General election in February 1906. Bonar Law a supporter of tariff reform was however defeated, not by a Liberal but by the Labour candidate, George Barnes, who was later (between 1910 and 1911) to be leader of the Labour Party and a Minister in Lloyd George’s coalition governments between 1917 and 1920. The former Liberal MP was in third place. The fact that as a poor area, most constituents would have been disadvantaged by tariff reform which would have imposed taxes on corn imports, hardly helped Bonar Law’s case.
The Conservative Party wanted to find another seat for their experienced businessman and an opportunity was found when the sitting MP for Dulwich, Dr Rutherfoord Harris, decided to retire. Harris had been a friend of Cecil Rhodes who had appointed him secretary of the British South Africa Company. Harris had also been a member of the Cape Colony House of Assembly, before moving to England, and the reason given for his retirement in 1906 was a wish to return to South Africa. The Dulwich seat, which at that time included Anerley and Penge, was regarded by the Conservatives as a safe seat. It had always been held by a Conservative, though Harris’s majority in 1906 over the Liberal candidate, David Williamson, was only 357. In the by-election, Bonar Law increased the majority to 1,279, defeating the Liberal candidate, Williamson, by 6709 votes to 5430. The turnout was high for a by-election at 79% of the electorate. It was suggested that the swing to the Conservatives was mainly due to the Liberal Government’s unpopular Education Bill, with possibly 700 Roman Catholics supporting Bonar Law, somewhat ironic given Law was a Scottish Presbyterian.
Bonar Law was to hold onto his seat in the January 1910 general election, increasing his majority over the Liberal candidate, now Evan Cotton, to 2418. However, as a result of the crisis over the House of Lords’ objecting to the radical ‘Peoples’ budget proposed by the Liberal chancellor, Lloyd George, a further general election was called in December 1910. The Conservative Party however decided they wanted a strong tariff reformer to stand for the marginal seat of Manchester Northwest. The Liberal candidate, George Kemp, who had won the seat by a narrow majority in January, was a former Conservative who had changed parties because of his opposition to tariff reform - Manchester was after all the home of free trade. Bonar Law was defeated by 543 votes - the Conservatives were to win back the seat in a by-election two years later. In Dulwich, Bonar Law’s successor as candidate, Frederick Hall, who had represented Dulwich on the London County Council, increased the Conservative majority to 2,301, and was to win six more elections, serving as Dulwich MP to 1932, increasing his majority to over 17,000. Clearly if Bonar Law had not been persuaded to go to Manchester, he could have represented Dulwich for his entire parliamentary career, including his 12 years as Conservative Party leader (1911-21 and 1922-23) and his year as Prime Minister. Instead, Bonar Law had to wait until March 1911 to return to parliament, winning a by-election in Bootle, a seat he held until 1918, when he returned to Glasgow, where he represented Glasgow Central until his resignation as Prime Minister in May 1923. Diagnosed with terminal throat cancer, he was unable to speak and died later that year.
Clearly as a peripatetic MP, Bonar Law had little connection with Dulwich, other than serving for 4 years as its representative. He lived in Holland Park and does not appear to have raised specifically local issues in parliament. He nevertheless laid the foundation stone for the St Barnabas Church Hall, otherwise I may not have made the connection. His wife died in 1909 while he was the Dulwich MP, and his biographer, R J Q Adams, suggested that he focused on politics to get over his grief. Of their six children, the two eldest sons were both killed in the First World War.
On being returned in Dulwich, Bonar Law joined Balfour’s shadow cabinet. He became one of the leading advocates of tariff reform as well as opposing Irish home rule and supporting the Ulster unionists. His speeches in Dulwich were largely Conservative Party set pieces, normally at election times, focusing on attacking the Liberal governments led by his fellow Scott, Henry Campbell Bannerman, and subsequently by Herbert Asquith. For example, in his re-adoption speech in December 1909, he attacked the Liberals for wanting to destroy the House of Lords, grant Home Rule to the Irish, disestablish the Church of England, pass unjust licensing and education legislation and ‘plunge the country into a sea of revolution.’ In a speech the previous month, he argued for strengthening the navy to resist what he saw as German expansion, saying that ‘he did not believe the flapdoodle about the love of nations’. He was a strong supporter of maintaining the empire and attacked the Liberals as ‘Little Englanders’. Bonar Law returned to Dulwich in June 1915 to present a sword to his successor, Frederick Hall, who was by then a Lieutenant Colonel, as an acknowledgment for his raising of an artillery division in Camberwell.
Bonar Law was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1911 as a compromise candidate in a party that was divided between Walter Long and Austen Chamberlain. He was to lead the Conservative ministers within Lloyd George’s coalition and serve as colonial secretary, chancellor of the exchequer and Lord Privy Seal. Resigning the leadership on the grounds of ill health in 1921, he was replaced by Austen Chamberlain. However, he returned to the leadership the following year after the Conservatives decided to withdraw from the Lloyd George coalition - the origin of the 1922 Conservative back bench committee. No doubt if it had not been for his cancer, he would have continued as leader and Prime Minister - his successor Stanley Baldwin remained leader until 1937, serving as Prime Minister in 1923-4,1924-29 and 1935-37.
This is the account of two inclosures (or enclosures) which took place in the early nineteenth century and had their genesis in Dulwich although they were separated by a distance of over 800 miles. The first was Dulwich Common where Royal Assent was given in 1806 and the inclosure enacted three years later, the second was Fetlar, one of the farthest islands of the Shetland Islands measuring 15 square miles and where clearance and enclosure took place over a period pf forty years from 1816. What bound these two virtual extremities of the British Isles? And what, indeed, is inclosure?
In medieval England, agriculture was carried out with what were termed the two or three field systems where the land around villages or manors was divided into strips shared out on a proportional basis between the lord of the manor and his tenant farmers. Over time, and certainly by the period of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century, this system had gradually fallen into disuse, mainly because of the shortage of labour when it was found to be more efficient to have larger fields for arable farming and fields enclosed by walls or hedges to contain animals, particularly sheep.
Tenants were granted, as part of their agreements with their manorial landlords, the use of common land on which to graze animals as well as to gather underwood for domestic heating . This too began gradually to be phased out as farming became more consolidated and coal became widely available for fuel. Between the early 17th century and start of WW1 over 5,200 Inclosure Acts affecting 6.8 million acres were passed creating legal property rights to land previously held in common.
Dulwich Common’s enclosure was enacted on 4th June 1809 bringing an end to centuries of use. Some twenty years earlier however common rights had been removed from leases granted to Dulwich landowners as the manor, or what we now call the Estate, was increasingly being tenanted by a merchant class who required paddocks around their houses for their horses, instead of land for farming. The number of actual farmers, who increasingly specialised in milk production, declined.
John Coulter, local historian for Lambeth, argues that in the local area landlords took advantage of the frantic climax of the Inclosure movement during the Napoleonic Wars when need to grow more food at home gave a welcome political justification for “this huge land grab.”
Croydon Common’s Inclosure dates from 1797, Sydenham and Norwood 1810 and Penge Common 1827. Interestingly, one of the surveyors for the Croydon inclosure was Robert Boxall who also was retained by Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift for its survey of Dulwich Common . Boxall, who had a long connection with Dulwich as a contractor, land valuer and one-time proprietor of the Greyhound inn,was joined by two other surveyor, William James and Thomas Crawter.
William James had in 1805 been retained to draw up plans for sweeping changes to Dulwich which under its previous administration had been slow to adapt to changing circumstances. William James was a clever man; he initially trained as a lawyer but specialized as a land agent and drew up and carried out a scheme for levelling Lambeth Marsh in 1804. He also envisaged a bridge over the Thames as part of this scheme and his suggested site would later be that of Waterloo Bridge. In that same year he was involved in coal mining and was the first to open the West Bromwich coalfield. James was also a pioneer in the establishment of railways.
James’s plan for the development of Dulwich included the granting of longer leases, the laying out of five new roads across the estate to provide building frontages, building a new church and also, a particularly novel feature; the retention of the Common as essentially what we would term today, a conservation area. He proposed that the area surrounding the Common, rather than the Common itself, be developed for housing. The estimated cost of his scheme was £3000-£4000, which, in a period of economic uncertainty, clearly alarmed the College. James’s plan was thus abandoned although his concept for surrounding the Common with housing would later influence the blueprint which Charles Barry Jnr would adopt some fifty years later as the College’s surveyor. Although James’s scheme was not adopted, two features were retained - the granting of longer leases and the idea of preserving the Common. The latter’s attraction seems to have prompted the College to contemplate applying for an Act of Inclosure. William James was thus retained as a commissioner together with Boxall and Crawter.
Robert Boxall, in a letter to the College pointed out that enclosure of Dulwich Common would require gates, fences and hurdles around its perimeter and he proposed to offset this cost by charging for cattle and horses to graze on the Common from April or May each year until they had to be brought into barns in winter. He suggested that a cow should be charged at 3/- and a horse at 5/- and a herdsman employed. The herdsman would also need to level the numerous molehills ‘which at present encumber the whole of the Common, preventing an eighth part of the herbage from being useful and such a disgrace to the present management’.
The third commissioner retained by the cautious Master, William Allen who had earlier been a civil servant in the office of the Lord Privy Seal, and the Warden, Lancelot Baugh Allen, previously a solicitor, was Thomas Crawter, a long-established Surrey land surveyor and valuer. The remaining two commissioners for the inclosure of Dulwich Common were Charles Druce, the College’s steward and solicitor George Tappen its own surveyor.
So where was the Common? The modern appropriation of the name implies that Dulwich Common consisted of all the land eastwards from College Road as far as Lordship Lane on the south side of the road also named Dulwich Common. A look at the 1806 map of Dulwich however tells us otherwise. The Common occupied all of the area currently covered by Dulwich College’s sports fields on both sides of College Road together with some land west of Alleyn Park as far as Croxted Road . It included the Mill Pond and Pond Cottages and in all totaled roughly 120 acres.
Within a very short time (1812), the shine had worn off of the project of the Common as an amenity area. War with France still raged on, money was tight. The prospective housing development was now a fading memory. The offer by from Thomas Lett, a prosperous timber merchant and Dulwich resident, to take on a lease of the Common for 21 years at £2 an acre and to lay it out with plantations, single trees and clumps with no internal fences and with a possible use for hunting, was seized upon by the College, not least because Mr Lett would pay to fence the Common off. And there for this article at least the story should end.
However, at the eastern end of the road which today is named Dulwich Common stood Dulwich Grove, which at the time of Messrs James, Boxall and Crawter’s survey was a progressive private academy run by Dr William Glennie
The Second Tale of Enclosure
You may have read about Dr Glennie’s academy and the progress of his twelve sons in the Spring 2020 edition of this Journal which you can of course still view online.
Someone who did see the article was Jane Coutts who now lives in Spain but for fifteen years was the curator of the Fetlar Interpretive Centre in the Shetland Islands. Last year her book; Borrowed Time: Debt, social mobility and the Fetlar Clearances: The Nicolsons of Brough Lodge was published. She very generously pointed me in the direction of the archive of the Nicolson Letters held at the Shetland Record office in Lerwick.
The principal subject of her 400 + page book is Sir Arthur Nicolson, who at the time of the Dulwich Common Inclosure, was a 16 year old pupil at Dr Glennie’s Academy. Arthur Nicolson was an orphan and through an extensive network of support from his uncles, other relatives, friends and lawyers and found himself in Dulwich in 1807 where he was prepared by Dr Glennie for entrance into Edinburgh University. Nicolson, it appears was on arrival in Dulwich in somewhat delicate, indeed Dr Glennie’s Academy seems to have been the choice of not only boys with a physical disability (Lord Byron for example in 1798-1800) but often (also like Byron) with Scottish connections.
It would not be surprising if, one day, someone wrote a book about Dr William Glennie and Dulwich Grove. Totally unlike so many such institutions of the time that were so graphically recounted in Tom Brown’s Schooldays or Nicholas Nickleby, Dr Glennie and his Academy stands out as an example of something quite the opposite. He managed to be Incredibly well-read, and acquainted with all the scientific developments of his day as well as being extremely sociable. He was also immersed in the running of his school. Essentially, what William Glennie strove for was a well-rounded and patriotic student who would become a useful citizen and a brother to his fellow man. Clearly young Arthur Nicolson’s guardians, or ‘friends’ as he habitually speaks of them, were very concerned for all aspects of his welfare - Arthur wrote back in October 1807 to assure his guardian, Thomas Bolt - that not only had he recovered from illness but that also he “need not be anxious on the score of morals for particular attention is paid to them here by W. Glennie nor have the boys any bad inclinations in that particular.”
Thomas Bolt a merchant with business interests in the Shetland Islands was in his seventies when this correspondence took place. He and his wife invariably accompanied their letters to Arthur and also to Glennie with a gift of a couple of pairs of stockings, which inevitably must have caused some amusement at Dulwich Grove; “…….we express our obligations to you for the valuable present of two beautiful pairs of stockings to each of us. They are indeed very handsome as well as most pleasant and comfortable stockings to wear.”
Correspondence was difficult; often it took weeks for letters to and from the Shetlands to arrive. Among the archive of letters in Lerwick is a school report sent by Dr Glennie:
it is probable Mr Nicolson’s friends might wish him after completing his school education with me to finish his studies at the University of Edinburgh. It is most natural to suppose this will be the case and I have hitherto directed his education upon this plan. His principal attention is turned to the Greek and Latin Classics. He has gone through a course of Arithmetic and will in proper time be introduced to Mathematics He has already acquired such familiar knowledge of French as to be able to read it with the greatest ease and to write it with tolerable accuracy and finds more amusement than labour in prosecuting the study of History and Geography.
In writing to Mr Innes (Arthur’s uncle and friend of Glennie) and in conversing with Mr Nicolson’s Friends in London I have remarked to them that my young Friend shewed some inclination to expense, the consequence I am so convinced of youthful inattention and inexperience for he did not seem to be aware that a Guinea will by no means go so far as in Scotland . I feel it my duty to converse with him seriously on this topic, and I owe him the justice to say that he has since been more considerate and moderate in his personal expenses. Still however I find that the general expense of his education and that of all my pupils increases with their increase in years and with the increasing pressure of the Times. After Christmas last Mr Nicolson begged I would let him learn Fencing along with several of his companions of the same age. In this I felt great pleasure to gratify him and would even have proposed it to him but was more happy the request came from himself. It is a fine exercise and is of use to his health. Fencing, like music which can be taught only to one at a time and not to a class is a very dear branch of education and I pay my Fencing Master a French officer, a guinea a month for each Pupil.
In the summer of 1808, some of the boys at Dulwich Grove did not go home for the holidays. Instead they joined the Glennie family at Ramsgate where Glennie usually rented a house, In September Glennie wrote to Thomas Bolt:
“….. Mr Nicolson could not be accommodated last summer with his friends, Mr and Mrs Hay who were obliged to disperse with their own family on account of repairs they were making at their house. This made me determined to take my young Friend along with some of my pupils to Ramsgate where I frequently pass the summer holidays with my family. There they had the benefit of sea-bathing, riding on horseback and I indulged them in the innocent amusements of the place suitable to their years.”
Arthur also wrote - I have spent the vacation with Dr Glennie & his family at Ramsgate on the seaside - the bathing has had an excellent effect on my health, for I can walk upwards of 20 miles a day with the greatest ease. We had a most disagreeable passage from Ramsgate it rained violently the whole day and owing to the number of women & children in the cabin who were all sick & the confined air (the windows were shuttered on account of the rain) I laid on deck and got quite wet & slept in that state all night, yet I received no harm from it.
Dr Glennie tended to dislike having to spend time keeping the accounts of his school, he much preferred letter writing and frequently was behind with his business affairs. He liked to reserve the tedious matter of invoicing his pupil’s fees for “the long winter days”. Nevertheless, these once mundane records make fascinating reading two centuries later.
Arthur Nicolson left Dulwich Grove at the end of Christmas term in 1809 after more than two years under Dr Glennie’s supervision. With so rounded an education he must have been ready for what the future might hold. And there our story might have ended happily, instead it would later take a particularly calamitous turn.
The local talk in Dulwich, which would certainly have gone around the dining table at Dulwich Grove during the years Arthur Nicolson was a boarder, was the matter of the enclosure of nearby Dulwich Common. With his family background in mercantile affairs and his own landed inheritance the subject would have, almost certainly, remained in his memory.
We next hear of Arthur shortly after he leaves Dulwich Grove. In March 1810 he wrote to Glennie asking advice in his further studies. Glennie responds at length:
“I had great pleasure in receiving your letter of the 12th of last month, and am happy to see you continue to like your mathematical studies. ………Wishing you well as I do, and valuing your abilities and the promise you give of being a useful man I cannot help feeling a little alarm at some of your expulsions….” This referred to Arthur’s undervaluing of Latin. Glennie reminds his former pupil of the Greek and Roman writers’ role in defining character. “ …Now wisdom, and virtue and good morals are essentially necessary to every man whatever his profession or civil occupation will be. For human wisdom, human virtue, and human morality the Greek and Roman writers have never been equalled.
Glennie remarks on Arthur’s interest in the science and applauds the advances in the subject. He suggests that Arthur confine himself to the ones which will be useful to him in his own life. However he thinks his former pupil is right to study the elements of chemistry and points to the example of the England having the first chemist in the world and the discoveries made by Davy since the founding of the Royal Institution.
Two years later, in November 1812, another letter arrives from Arthur, together with the usual gift of four pairs of stockings for the Glennies. Glennie expresses delight that Arthur is adopting plans for the bettering the conditions of his future tenants and for improving the value of his property. “These objects are not only compatible with each other, but they are the only effectual means by which the mutual benefit can be attained. No species of patriotism can be more meritorious than this. I wish you every success in such a laudable pursuit.”
So what could possibly go wrong?
Through a distant second cousin, Arthur Nicolson had inherited the the island of Fetlar, in the Shetland Isles, in 1805 after it had been acquired in lieu of payment of a debt by the existing owner. In 1825 Arthur revived the baronetcy of Nova Scotia which had been granted in 1629 and henceforth used the title. At about the same time, having returned from a Continental tour he started to build a permanent home for himself on the island. Arthur Nicolson’s extravagance first identified by William Glennie was manifested in the Gothic style ‘castle’, Brough Lodge.
According to Jane Coutts recent study, Nicolson did plan to reduce the endemic debt involved in the system of fishing tenures (the results of which turned out to be tragic for the tenants) and showed the difference between Nicolson’s theoretical education and the conditions of tenants on the ground.
The system Arthur Nicolson inherited dated back to the early days of the previous century when the Shetland economy collapsed and the lairds were forced to sell up to an emergent merchant class of which his ancestors were part. They began to lock their tenants into supplying all their fishing catch to them in return for payment of rent. The debt was endemic and rarely did a tenant escape from this precarious existence.
In 1816 as part of his ‘improvements’ to form a model estate and wishing to diversify away from fishing, he began enclosing the common grazings in order to achieve a more efficient system by the introduction of large scale sheep farming. Evictions began to be carried out and at first Nicolson tried to relocate the tenants to other areas of the island. The clearances continued down the years together with the his control of fishing - for example, the fishermen were also expected to work in the winter for him without payment but receive free rent in lieu. The younger fisherman sought to resist this system by taking work on whaling ships for which they received a cash wage and were thus able to pay their rent up front. Because of the way the system was devised it meant that the laird stood to lose money if the rents were paid in cash because he also set the rate for buying the catch at the beginning of the season and this payment just covered a tenant’s rent and maintenance. Nicolson retaliated by threatening to evict any tenants that took on whaling work. The fishermen reacted by marching on his house and forcing him to retract the threat of eviction.
Now titled, Sir Arthur, through his reactivating of the Nova Scotia baronetcy, he also started to enclose the remaining parts of Fetlar. The population declined from 859 in 1836, to 715 in 1841 and to 658 in 1851. Today the population numbers around 60. Evicted tenants went to other islands or emigrated to Canada or Australia. Some made enough money to return to Fetlar and buy their tenancies back from the laird.
Nicolson made an addition to Brough Lodge in the form of a summer house, which local legend has it, was built from the stones of the houses of the evicted tenants. He is reputed to have only spent one night sleeping inside and heard inexplicable noises after which it was only used as an office.
Arthur Nicolson spent his last days in London, dying in 1863 aged 67 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. His wife lived in Cheltenham after his death and was thus an absentee landlord who received the financial benefits of Fetlar, extracted by her apparently bullying agent in the Shetlands.
Arthur Nicolson’s school fees for the first half year of 1809
June 24 To Board & Instruction from Christmas last £ 63 - -
Washing 3 .- -
Military Exercise -12.-
Drawing, Books, Pencils etc 3.3.6
Fencing 4½ months 4.14.6
School Books and Stationery 2. 16.6
£ 77.6. 6
Pocket money £ 6.2.-
Postage & Carriage of Parcels 2.7.6
Tailor’s Bill 14.16.-
Shoemaker’s dr 7.16.-
Cash given to him when going to Rochester last Christmas 2.- - -
Mr Ware the Occulist 2.6.-
Foils, Ruler and Compass Dumb bells etc 1.17.6
Night Shirts, stockings & sundries 3.18.-
A Hat and cleaning an old one 2.3.-
A deal packing box 27/-Bed engaged on Board the Packet 21/- 2.8.-
Cash given him when going to Scotland 10. - -
Medicine and attendance forgot on a former accout 2.7.-
Carried forward £135.8.-
Amount last account 92.8 -
Cr. By remittance of a Bill on Liverpool
paid in February last 150. ---
By Ian McInnes
Built in 1788-90 by Percival North, a successful grocer and tea dealer and partner in the firm of North, Simpson, Graham and Co. (with shops in New Bridge Street and Fleet Street), the Elms was a large house that sat roughly where the Dulwich Riding School is today. Both his partners, Simpson and Graham, also lived locally, in Herne Hill - Simpson’s Alley (now Ruskin Walk) was named after one of them. North died in 1818, aged 86, and was buried in the Dulwich Burial Ground in what is now known as the Graham Family tomb but was originally his - a quote from the transcript of the burial fees register (p 147) tells us that ’Mr North’s Vault (near Mr Palmer’s) in which Mrs Graham was buried April 11 1806, is the same size with Mr Test’s & holds eight persons, Mr North having made it a course of two bricks higher’. The tomb sits on a battered plain stone base, with a flat-arched vault entrance to its west return, and is Grade II listed.
The one member of the Graham family who was not buried in the family vault is North’s other partner, Christopher Graham, who acquired the Elms following North’s wife’s death - he is listed as the tenant in the St Giles Camberwell Tithe Map of 1837 (the freehold was held by the Dulwich Estate) but he actually lived at the Cedars, No 62 Herne Hill. His claim to fame, if it can be called that, was the circumstances of his death. The Times of 11th March 1847 reported on the inquest held at the Prince Regent Inn in Dulwich Road. The first witness, a footman called Henry Keniance, confirmed that over the last few weeks his master had been very ill with lumbago. He added that, on the Monday morning, a female servant came to him saying ‘Master is very bad, and the stuff they have sent him to take almost choked him, as he was 30 minutes in taking it’. He ran up to the bedroom and, seeing that Graham had clearly been given the wrong medicine, told his master’s wife who immediately sent for their doctor, Dr English. Keniance then said that ‘the servant who administered the lotion was in the habit of being called to their bedchamber at all times of the night, and on the present unfortunate occasion she had in haste taken up the wrong bottle.’ Dr English confirmed that he had found Graham in a partial coma, and had used a stomach pump on him. This extracted a large quantity of liniment consisting of laudanum, camphor and ammonia but it was too late, and Graham died about noon.
There is no record of any house sale but the 1841 Census shows a new occupier, 34-year-old James Smith and his family. He was a Manchester warehouseman - a wholesaler of linen and cotton cloth made in the factories surrounding that city. He stayed a relatively short time as, in 1843, there was a new lease to Jonathan Crocker of Crocker, Son & Crocker, who was in much the same business - a wholesaler of cotton, silk and woollen clothing. He had grown up in Hanover Park, Peckham and his brother Albert also lived locally, at Eastlands, a large house in Court Land now replaced by Eastlands Crescent. In the 1851 Census he was at the house with his wife, Sophia (a cousin of wealthy silversmith George Widdowson who moved into Bell House on College Road in 1852), two daughters and a son, along with six servants and a coachman. The family moved to Rose Bank Cottage, a new house in Lordship Lane in 1857 and, by 1871 they were living at 28 Eaton Square, they had moved up in the world. Back at the Elms the new tenant was George Fordham Blow, a currier (literally a person who curries leather). Bermondsey was the centre of London’s leather trade and Fordham Blow had a hit and miss career in it - he was declared bankrupt in both 1835 and 1845. Luckily for him he was related to the owners of the Fordham Brewery in Lewisham and he inherited a large amount of property in St Albans. Only a newspaper report on the marriage of his son, Alfred, an army contractor based in Birmingham, confirms the family’s connection with the house. The next tenant was a prosperous Portuguese & Spanish wine merchant, Francis Cramp. He was also a bank director and he lived there with his wife, five daughters (Eliza, Alice, Ada, Florence & Constance) plus a butler, cook, housemaid, two nurses and a coachman. In April 1863 the Morning Advertiser reported on a burglary at the house - Cramp apparently lost a coromandel wood dressing case containing jewellery valued at £90.
In 1865 a new lease was granted to Thomas Green, a shipper of iron and hardware to North America. He had been living nearby in Thurlow Lodge, on the corner of Alleyn Park, and moved to the Elms following his marriage to Charlotte, the daughter of Albert Crocker of Eastlands - she would have known the house from when her uncle Jonathan lived there. They sadly had a stillborn daughter while living there but stayed until 1874 when the lease was assigned to Lord Mansfield for a premium of £200. William David Murray, the fourth Earl of Mansfield (1806-98), whose seat was Kenwood House in North London, had had a varied political career. Between 1831 and 1840, he was consecutively the MP for Aldborough, Woodstock, Norwich and Perthshire. He succeeded his father, the third earl, in February 1840 and was appointed Knight Order of the Thistle in 1843. He never lived in the house as he had acquired it for one of his many sisters, the unmarried Lady Elizabeth Murray. She was the niece and cousin respectively of Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Elizabeth Belle (of the famous painting and 2013 film ‘Belle’). Dido was born a slave but brought up at Kenwood by her father’s uncle, the 1st Earl of Mansfield. Lady Elizabeth died in 1880 and the house was then left empty until September 1882 when Lord Mansfield offered to pay the Estate £500 in full and final settlement of the dilapidations.
The Estate minutes confirmed that the house was in a bad state of repair so the Governors took his money and paid W J Mitchell, the main builder in Dulwich Village, to carry out an upgrade - for £200. The work was completed by April 1883 and the house was let shortly afterwards to a new tenant, James Cowie. He was a well-known Scottish farmer with a large land holding in Mains of Haulkerton, near Aberdeen. He did not live in the house for long as he died the following year, 1884, aged 77, after a long illness. His demise was probably not helped by his wayward son who, although a reasonably successful speculator on the Stock Exchange, was frequently in court for refusing to pay his debts - In September 1884 he was sent down for 10 days for not paying £5 12s 6d owed to his tailor. Cowie’s fulsome obituary noted that ‘On the maternal side, Mr Cowie belonged to a family at one time both numerous and influential among the Mearns farmers, and he, on account of his prize essay on the ‘Bothy System’, and other writings, was well-known over a far wider circle than his own county’. He was also a leading antivivisectionist as the later part of his obituary makes clear saying ‘Mr Cowie devoted a large portion of his later years to the cause of anti-vivisection both at home and abroad, and was largely instrumental in mitigating the cruelties of vivisection on the Continent’.
The next tenant was Mrs Charlotte Ormiston, the widow of noted Victorian port engineer Thomas Ormiston, and mother of Thomas Lane Ormiston, the compiler in the 1920s of the Dulwich College Register, 1619-1926. The family had moved from No. 127 Thurlow Park, the large house on the corner with South Croxted Road, now part of Oakfield School. In February 1898 her solicitors wrote to the Estate saying that when she took over the house, she undertook to put it into tenantable repair. The letter noted that the house was a very old one and, although Mrs Ormiston knew that when she moved in, she had only expected to spend about £150 on it. In reality she had had to spend £500 over the years to make it habitable and she asked for an extended term of seven years on her lease, and further help towards the costs. The Estate agreed to the extension and allowed her to continue as a yearly tenant without any liability for external or constructional repairs at a slightly increased annual rent, £85 instead of £70. The Estate minutes noted that the house’s condition was such that there would be considerable difficulty in finding a new tenant. She was still in the house on Census day 1901 but left shortly afterwards.
The house remained empty until October 1905 when Camberwell Borough Council issued a sanitary notice condemning the existing drains. The Estate decided that it was not worth doing the work and the house was finally demolished in July 1909.
The site was turned into allotments which remained until after the Second World War. In the early 1961 it was let to Mr James (Jim) Bellman as a riding school. Dulwich Riding School continues today under the ownership of his daughter.
Friday, May - 1827
I had appointed this morning with my friend W, for a visit to the gallery of paintings at Dulwich College; and he was to obtain from a printseller an admission ticket and bring it with him. He came furnished with the ticket, but as the ticket provided that the public were not admitted on a Friday, our seeing the pictures was out of the question. Neither of us however was in a humour to be disappointed of a holiday; we therefore set out in the direction we had intended. A coachman hailed us from the box of a Dulwich stage; we gave him an assenting nod, and mounted the roof; and after a brisk drive through Walworth and Camberwell, which are now no other way distinguishable from the metropolis, than by the irregular sizes of the houses and the bits of sickly grass and bottle-green poplars that further diversify them, we attained to the sight of the first out-of-town looking trees and verdure on the ascent towards Herne hill. Here we began to feel “another air”, and during the calm drive down the hill into Dulwich - the prettiest of all the village entrances in the environs of London - we had glimpses, between the elms and sycamores, of pleasant lawns and blooming gardens, with bursts of the fine distances. The calm of the scene was heightened by the note of a cuckoo; it was no “note of fear” to us - we remembered our good wives surrounded by their families; they had greeted our departure with smiles, and hopes that the day would be pleasant, and that we should enjoy ourselves; - the mother and children rejoiced in “father’s holiday” as a day of happiness to them, because it would make him happier.
Leaving Dulwich College on our right with an useless regret that by our mistake as to the day the picture gallery was closed to us, we indulged in a passing remark on the discrepancies of the building - the hall and west wing of the Elizabethan age; the east wing in the Vanburgh style; and the gallery differing from each’ Alighting, just beyond . at the end of the old road, and crossing to the new one in the same line, we diligently perused an awful notice from the parochial authorities against offenders and acquainted ourselves with the rewards for apprehending them. The board seemed to be a standing argument in behalf of reading and writing, in opposition to some of the respectable inhabitants of Dulwich, who consider ignorance the exclusive property of labourers and servants, which they cannot be deprived of without injury to their morals.
A gate in the road was opened to us by a poor woman, who had seen our approach from her road-side dwelling: she had the care of collecting the toll from horsemen and carriage drivers - we were foot passengers, and credited our tailors for the civility . At a few yards beyond the turnpike we stopped to read a dictatorial intimation: - “All trespassers on these woods will be prosecuted, and the constables have orders to take them into custody.” I am not sure that there is a “physiognomy of hand-writing,” but I am a believer in the physiognomy of style, and the features of this bespoke of Buonaparte of the hundred who had partaken of the carvings under an enclosure act. No part was fenced off from the common-road and the land had been open to all till spoilation deprived the commoners of their ancient right, and annexed the common soil to a neighbouring domain. Whose it now is, by law, I know not, nor inquired . I look around, and cottages have disappeared, and there are villas instead; and the workhouses are enlarged, and instead of labour, tread-mills are provided. According to a political economy of ancient times, “There us much food in the tillage of the poor,” and “He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.” To whom of old was it said “The spoil of the poor is in your houses>”
Ascending the hill, and leaving on the left hand a large house, newly built by a timber merchant, with a young plantations that require years of growth before they can attain sufficient strength to defend the mansion from the winds, we reached the summit of the hill and found a direction post that pointed to a choice of several roads. We strolled through into one leading to Penge Common through enclosed woodlands. Our ears were charmed by throngs of sweet singing birds; we were in a cathedral of the feathered tribes, when “ every denomination” chanted rapturous praises and thanksgivings ; the verger robins twittered as they accompanied us with their full sparkling eyes and bright liveried breasts.-
Chiefs of the choir, and highest in the heavens
As emulous to join the angels’ songs,
Were soaring larks; and some had dared so far
They seem’d like atoms sailing in the light;
Their voices and themselves were scarce discern’d
Above their comrades, who, in lower air
Hung buoyant, brooding melody, that fell
Streaming and gushing, on our thirsty ears.
In this celestial chancel we remain’d
To reverence these creatures’ loud Te Deum-
A holy office of their simple natures
To Him- the great Creator and Preserver-
Whom they instinctively adored.