A Word of Thanks

At the Society’s AGM in September, a number of members of the Executive Committee stood down from their roles following years of long service. Dr Colin Niven OBE retired after serving ten years as president, Ian McInnes retired as chairman after eighteen years, Adrian Hill, the Society’s legal advisor also retired after eighteen years, Bernard Nurse, chairman of the Local History Group after twenty years, Angela Wilkes, chairman of the Wildlife Group after twenty years. The Society is hugely grateful to them all for their loyal and effective service and we hope to continue to have the benefit of their expertise in the future.

We thank Dr Kenneth Wolfe who has retired as vice-chairman and has been elected the Society’s president. We also wish to thank Sue Badman who has retired as secretary and has been elected vice-chair of the Society. We welcome James Thompson as chairman, Heather Stubbs as secretary and Sharon O’Connor as media & communications representative. In the sub-committees, we welcome Ian McInnes as chair of the Local History Group and Dr Peter Roseveare as chair of the Wildlife group.

An Interview with James Thompson - new chairman of the Dulwich Society
Brian Green

James hails from East Yorkshire, where he attended a school whose architecture had been based on that of Charles Barry jnr’s design of Dulwich College. It was not that link however that initially brought he and his wife Anne and their three children to Dulwich. After university, where he studied mathematics, James embarked upon his career in accountancy and worked for one of the Big Five. As a newly arrived employee seeking reasonably priced accommodation with easy access to his office in the City he explored all the stops on the Northern Line. Tooting was the nearest he could afford! A secondment for two years to Paris led to his meeting with Anne, also an accountant and a resident of Bayonne and marriage and living in Clapham.

Later, like many others, they were attracted to Dulwich because of its large houses with good sized gardens coupled with its educational and amenity assets. James has now lived here since 2001, where, as he says, he joined the Dulwich Society ‘as a passive member’! Nevertheless, he drew up the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust’s original business plan which created a sustainable range of activities for this heritage and community asset. He has also served as chair of the Stradella and Springfield Residents’ Association and is auditor of the Dulwich Festival. After retirement in 2017 he became more involved in the Society’s work and has served on the advisory committee for the Scheme of Management in conjunction with the Dulwich Estate.

He his keen to state his ‘green’ credentials - ‘living in a way which is not detrimental to the planet’. He is a strong advocate for the prevention of air pollution and is conscious of the effect of vehicle emissions on this and climate change. Ideally he would like to see fewer cars on local streets. However, for people for whom a car is a necessity, he is very keen on a switch to electric cars and would like to see more accessible charging points around Dulwich. He suggests that people have to be nudged to actually find better transport alternatives than car. James emphasises that he does not advocate prescriptive measures to change public behaviour, but rather to form a set of objectives upon which the majority people might agree. In his view, ‘doing nothing is not an option’. He sees household heating as important also. Insulation and air-sourced heat pumps are a way forward to minimise climate change but is keen that the pleasing streetscape of Dulwich is not impaired by unsightly installation and visible plant. He welcomes the opportunity of opening a debate on this issue.

He says that he has great admiration for all the work the Society’s sub-committees carry out and that he appreciates the amount of time and effort their members contribute and is very much looking forward to being closely involved with them.

He thinks that Dulwich residents are lucky to live in such a special place and recognises the contribution that the Dulwich Estate has made in managing the area for public benefit over so many years but he emphasises that change will inevitably occur. He would like to see any change carried forward gradually, and with public support and carried out sympathetically to respect Dulwich’s unique character.

2021 open gardens in Dulwich - a real treat!

Local gardens opening for charity are a firm feature of the social scene in Dulwich, and despite Covid this was also the case this year.

Social distancing rules began relaxing from mid-April, coinciding with the start of the garden opening season, which was pretty much in full swing in May and entirely so in June. The pandemic had a number of impacts. More gardens opened this year. With staycationing the norm, there were more visitors, and the growing interest in gardening meant more young families visiting as well. The move to a cashless economy has also been exacerbated by Covid and many garden openers had to grapple with card readers for the first time - which they took in their stride, as you would expect from such a determined group.

There was certainly more choice for those visitors - 27 gardens opened in June this year compared to 18 in pre-Covid 2019, so there was more competition for the garden openers. Local publicity is key, and the Society’s gardens committee is pleased to publicise the openings in its annual brochure Dulwich Gardens open for Charity, which is distributed to all Dulwich Society members and available in local garden centres and other outlets.

A lovely garden (or a group of two, three or even more) showing at its best, fine teas, home-made cakes and the chance to buy plants that you may just have seen, all at excellent value, is a winning formula. It also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work, so hearty congratulations to all the garden openers and their helpers.

Jeremy Prescott

Village Orchard - Volunteers Wanted

Volunteers are needed to maintain the lovely and well-used Village Orchard in Gallery Road. At present there is a small group of volunteers and a few more are needed for a pruning session in February, mulching in the spring, watering in the summer. If you think you can help please contact Paul Millington (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone him on 07939 052383)

A Fond Farewell from Dr Colin Niven OBE

When I was five my father took me from my native Edinburgh to Dulwich, in order for him to join the City of London Police. As we settled down in Denmark Hill my mother set out in search of a good local school for my brother and me. She came home triumphantly, having found her ideal school. Now, as I approach my eightieth birthday and after a lifetime in schools, I wholeheartedly agree with my mother that she made an impeccable choice. We all owe Dulwich Village Infants School a vast debt.

As I retire as President of the Dulwich Society I’m often asked what changes I have seen in these seventy-five years, and the one that predominates is unquestionably the improvement in our local education. When I was young our private schools all enjoyed great reputations that made it harder for the others to compete. However, year by year the gap closed, and now we can look around at so many fine schools, to the huge benefit of our community.

A recent school leaver in Dulwich is a fine symbol of this progress. Worthy to stand alongside everybody’s favourite, Emma Raducanu, is Alex Yee, who won both gold and silver medals in the triathlon events in the recent Tokyo Olympics. A splendid representative of Kingsdale Foundation School and of the many levels of success in all our local schools.

In the late twentieth century it was standard practice for three Deputy Presidents of our Society to be Heads of the private schools, and I was lucky to be a Deputy President. To general approval this policy has long disappeared, but by chance it placed me in a good position to become President.

At that time I was invited to become Chairman of the Society. I asked what that would entail. ‘Endless work, immense vision, care, judgement, stamina and no mean courage’, they replied. I declined politely.

Having watched Ian McInnes perform miracles in the role, supported by his equally talented, loyal and gifted wife, Diana, as our Membership Secretary, I see a tremendously thriving society that owes them so much.

I was approached again. ‘How about being President then?’ ‘What does that involve?’ I asked. ‘Absolutely nothing’. ‘Then I’m your man.’

And I’ve enjoyed it hugely! I’m sure my successor, Dr Kenneth Wolfe, will make a splendid success of a post that enables you to work with so many gifted officers on the committee and such a variety of experts in so many fields. And all of them delightful company.

It’s invidious to pick anyone from such a constellation, but we all owe Sue Badman endless gratitude for her tireless and brilliant work as our Secretary. And of course Brian Green is a legend. Since we were both little boys together in that wonderful Dulwich Village Infants’ School eighty odd years ago and throughout his time as a local historian and editor of this glorious magazine, he stands for the best in Dulwich, just as our Society will always try to make it even better.

Thanks to you all.

Dulwich Society Website

About 100 people browse our site every day, seven days a week, making around 37,000 users a year. Not surprisingly, they mostly find us via internet search engines (70%), around 15% come to us via our Twitter account and around 10% are direct, meaning they type our website address straight into their browser or they bookmark us. They use phones and desktop computers, not tablets. Over 85% of our users are from the UK while the remainder come from the US (we are very popular in Virginia and California), China, Canada and Australia, though we do have single users in most European countries.

The top 10 most popular pages are:

  1. The home page
  2. Dulwich Estate maps
  3. The local history home page
  4. Southwark traffic measures report
  5. About the Dulwich Society
  6. The Grove Tavern saga
  7. The Journal archive
  8. Who Was Who in Dulwich
  9. Membership
  10. Gazetteer of road names


New Logo for the Society

A new logo is to be commissioned by the Dulwich Society to better reflect its identity. The logo currently used is from a woodcut by Thomas Berwick (1753-1828) and depicts a swan. It has been used on all the Society’s publications for over fifty years and is thought to have been arbitrarily chosen by a previous editor of the Society’s then newsletter. Its use has become increasingly ambiguous as swans have not been found on any waters in Dulwich for over twenty years.

2022 Subscriptions

Please note that subscriptions for 2022 are due on January 1st. Subscriptions remain at £10 per household. Most members pay by standing order and if so, you do not need to take any action.

However, if you pay your subscription by cheque (or cash) then please send it, payable to The Dulwich Society, to me at the address below. To save on costs of posting reminders it would be appreciated if this was done promptly. If the Society has not received payment by the end of March then names will be removed from the membership list.

If you would like to start paying by standing order then please contact me at the address/number below for a form or download it from the membership leaflet on the Society website. Alternatively, payment can be made by bank transfer but please contact me for your reference number and our bank details.

A Happy Christmas and New Year to all our members.

Diana McInnes, Membership Secretary,
11 Ferrings, Dulwich, London SE21 7LU.
020 8693 6313
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you have not told us your email address you will not be receiving the monthly members eNewsletter, which is becoming a very popular source of up-to-date local news. Please send your email address to the membership email address above.

Your Journal will continue to be sent on a quarterly basis.