The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2022.
Several new features grace the Dulwich scene in the closing days of 2022. None were predicted, and so out of the blue they appeared. The first was the arrival of electric hire bikes, most it seems operated by the tech giant Uber. They are bright green and useful, providing there is one where you might expect to find it; parked in a cycle rack for instance. How handy it might be to mount one at, say, North Dulwich Station and scale the heights of Sydenham Hill with ease to arrive, say, at Crystal Palace Park. Alas, that is not the reality. Carelessly strewn electric cycles are left abandoned in extraordinary places - where on earth did the riders go when they have so thoughtlessly dumped their bike in some remote spot waiting for the unwary or perhaps nearsighted pedestrian to trip over it. The same thing seems to also be happening with electric scooters which, with local authority approval, for a trial period, has a rack on Red Post Hill. Scooters always did have a mind of their own and the fact that they rarely stand up unaided makes them even more dangerous to pedestrians
What seems to be required, and surely would be the work of a moment to the hire companies, they being tech companies and all, is for the user of either bike or scooter to be obliged (on pain of a penalty charge for ignoring it) to leave their conveyance in a proper rack. And, we hasten to add, this is not a mandate for the hire companies to place umpteen racks across the area, but for users to find spaces in existing ones, both public and private.
The next novelty is the sudden appearance of the recycled Dulwich Picture Gallery Pavilion, The Colour Palace. Designed by architects Pricegore and artist designer Yinka llori, for display in Dulwich Picture Gallery garden in 2019, it has been reconfigured into street furniture and placed in the yet to be named Dulwich square. Now looking in an extremely distressed state, to many, it seems out of place in its new situation and would be better suited for a seaside pier or as an installation at Tate Modern where it might just fit in. They argue, that In its present location it is incongruous, and that some well-meaning planner came up with the scheme in the interests of conservation, and question if that person actually had visited the site? Yet it also has its defenders, who say that has a very jolly appearance and they can well put up with it for the next twelve months it will grace the local scene.
However, what virtually everyone agrees upon is the ugliness of the festoon of redundant traffic lights which continues to blight the square. Perhaps by the time this copy of the Journal is published they will have disappeared. But what will replace the pedestrian light or ‘green man’ (or should it be woman?) allowing walkers to cross Calton Avenue safely, and avoid a speeding cyclist? And who should have right of way? The pedestrian or the cyclist? Why should the cyclist not be obliged to stop operate the button?
It would also be aesthetically more pleasing if the lights, when they are installed, are on shorter posts, rather like the ones found almost everywhere in European cities.
As always, this issue of the Journal is full of good news; of new projects or activities to come and reports on the success of those now past. For the ridiculously small sum of £10 per household, Dulwich residents can well and truly feel that they belong to a community.
You may be relieved, dear reader, to hear, that after twenty years and eighty issues of your editor’s ravings, such as these, they will cease with the issue of the Spring 2023 edition. Your editor will offer a farewell and thanks to his contributors in that issue but in the meantime, he is looking for someone interested in taking up this role which has kept him occupied so pleasantly for so long.
Earlier this year we updated our website to a new platform. It gave us the opportunity to make the site more attractive with images galore. The modernisation has also made it possible for us to post more up to date news items. Members get a plethora of interesting articles, news and information on upcoming events via this quarterly Journal and, for those of you who have given us your email address, the monthly eNews. However, the website is also becoming a place where members can visit regularly to see the latest news. So far this month there are a dozen new articles posted to our news section. For those of you who are interested in keeping up to date with our articles, I encourage you to look at the website regularly.
As you will see elsewhere in this edition of the Journal, our editor, Brian Green, has decided to retire after many years in the role and so we will be looking for someone to take over as editor from next year to take this valuable publication forward into the future. The Journal is our flagship publication and takes pride of place on many coffee tables in Dulwich. We will give Brian a proper send-off in due course.
We are beginning to use email communications with members more often and this will only increase. Due to its timing, the recent notice regarding the online survey for Southwark's Phase 2 public engagement “Concept Ideas” for “Dulwich Village - Streets for People”, could not be delivered in time either via the eNews or the Journal. Other important notices perhaps regarding the upcoming consultation phase this winter may also be delivered only by email so please make sure you have your email address registered with us. If we do not have it please send it, to
Of the recent news items published on the website I would like to highlight two. The Court Rolls and the Francis Peek plaque. A team led by Patrick Darby of the Local History Group and James Slattery-Kavanagh, our webmaster, has transcribed, translated and made available on the web, the Latin Dulwich Court Rolls from 1333 to 1672 with more court rolls to come. They give a unique historical insight into life in our neighbourhood through the ages. This is a significant project both in terms of the work commitment and also its importance to the publicly available national historical record. Francis Peek was a philanthropist and was instrumental in the establishment of Dulwich Park. Along with the Dulwich Park Friends we have placed a plaque in his memory. At the unveiling we learned from his great-great-grandson about his dedication to the community and to natural public open spaces. The Society volunteers who work to further our aims may not be as wealthy as Francis Peek was but they are all unsung heroes working for the same objectives as Francis.
Looking forward, the Society has organised for the stocks stone to become a permanent feature in the Burial Ground at the centre of the Village. The stone dates from 1760, is listed and bears witness to the lock-up for miscreants which originally stood near the burial ground on the corner of Calton Avenue and Dulwich Village. The stone will get a new plinth and frame worthy of its status as an evocative reminder of crime and punishment during the Georgian period. Thanks to the Dulwich Estate, Southwark and Aquinna Homes for their help in realising and financing the move, the plinth and the works.
For those of you who are interested in local history, please note that our autumn series of popular talks in association with Bell House has re-started. Listings and tickets can be found on our website.
Finally, please can I remind those of you who pay by cash or cheque that the annual subs will be due in January. If you pay by direct debit or standing order, you don't need to do anything.
The Journal, this magazine, is the Dulwich Society's flagship quarterly publication. It is distributed to all members and has a print run of some 1,300 copies.
Our current editor, Brian Green, is retiring after many years of service in this role and so we will be looking for someone to take over as editor from next year to take this much respected publication forward into the future.
If any member or non-member is interested in becoming editor of the Journal, please contact the Secretary, Heather Stubbs, at
Sydenham Hill Woods path improvements
Following its appeal for funds, the London Wildlife Trust has commissioned 337 metres (1,100 feet) of path improvements in Sydenham Hill Woods, with some conservation fencing being moved over the old, eroded pathways to allow these areas to regenerate. The Dulwich Society contributed £5,000 of matched funding to the appeal, which so far has raised £35,000 of its £50,000 target. The appeal remains open, with more path improvement work identified for the future.
The LWT is also applying for a new National Heritage Lottery grant to fund further path, infrastructure and conservation work in the woods, in this case covering both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, as well as developing a "woodland activity programme to reach diverse local audiences".
Fungi walk - 23rd October 2022
Daniel Greenwood of the LWT led an interesting and enjoyable walk in Dulwich Park in October, sponsored by the Dulwich Society. Despite the rain, some 40 people saw a wide variety of fungi including jelly ear, bracket, turkey tail and the ubiquitous honey fungus (a problem for Dulwich gardeners) and learned something of the importance of these often unseen organisms. Daniel’s blogs on fungi are on www.danieljamesgreenwood.com
Dulwich’s Court Rolls Online
The Dulwich Society and Dulwich College Archives have made freely available hi-res images, Latin transcripts and English translations of the Dulwich manorial court rolls covering the period 1333-1672; later rolls up to 1908 will be uploaded to our website on an ongoing basis. Such a long chronological range makes them a hugely valuable historical source.
The court rolls deal with issues such as tenancies, disputes and minor criminal acts; the lord of the manor presided but Dulwich inhabitants had some control over their own affairs. Beer sellers were fined for selling short measures of ale, bakers for selling underweight bread, everyone seemed to be fined for not keeping their ditches clean!
Dulwich College Archives has photographed the court rolls to a high resolution, and Patrick Darby of the Society’s Local History Group has transcribed and translated them as well as writing an introduction to the rolls. Our webmaster, James Slattery-Kavanagh, has presented these highly complex documents in an engaging and contextual way on our website so that not only scholars can access them, but anyone interested in Dulwich local history. The cost of the project was jointly shared between the Dulwich Society through its Mary Boast Fund and Dulwich College
On the website (https://www.dulwichsociety.com/courtrolls) the rolls are arranged by date with the English translation and the Latin transcript in pdfs, then the photographic images of the rolls (both the front and back have been photographed where appropriate). Simply click on a file to open it.
The National Archives, London Metropolitan Archives, Southwark Archives and the British Association for Local History have been notified of this contribution to historical research.
The BALF have publicised it on social media and said what a great job the Dulwich Society has done.
The following letter was received from The National Archives, Kew.
Thank you for details about your project transcribing and translating the manorial court rolls for Dulwich from 1333-1672 which you have made freely available on your website.
We would like to include this news in The National Archives Research Newsletter under the ‘manorial document news’ section.
I have also signposted your website with the images, transcriptions and translations on the Manorial Documents Register under Dulwich manor. Information about the manor is divided into two sections and it is in the first section, ‘View details of this record creator’ that the link to your website can be found - click on the button marked ‘View details of this record creator’, and then view ‘Online related resources’.
The second section, ‘Collections’, provides a list of all the documents associated with Dulwich manor. The entries are arranged in chronological order with the earliest first.
Thank you again for sending us this information.
With best wishes, Liz
Liz Hart| Senior Adviser (Manorial)
T: 020 3908 9284 | W: nationalarchives.gov.uk
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
Gardening in a Changing Climate - online talk by Sue Fisher, 7.30pm Tuesday 28th February 2023
The weather here this year - a warmer wetter winter, a hot dry summer, a mild autumn - could be a taste of the future. In her illustrated talk, Sue Fisher will look at the major impacts of climate change on gardens and how to mitigate the effects, with a wealth of tips and practical advice. Topics covered include how to plant and care for your garden to cope with changing conditions and climate extremes; nature-friendly gardening to encourage wildlife; transforming garden and household waste into soil-enriching mulches and compost; waterwise gardening; and growing suitable vegetables.
Sue Fisher’s horticultural career spans over 40 years, starting with a decade in the garden centre and nursery industry before developing into an accomplished gardening writer, designer and speaker. Sue writes regularly for Gardener’s World and Garden Answers magazines. She has written 10 books on subjects including container gardening, organic gardening, edible crops, and plants for small gardens, as well as co-authoring other books with some of the biggest names in gardening. Sue lives in West Devon where she combines her passions for plants alongside sustainable and wildlife-friendly gardening in her own 3/4 acre plot.
The talk is being given in association with Bell House Dulwich, with any surplus going towards its garden activities. Tickets are £5 - book through www.bellhouse.co.uk/events
Local History Talks Online
Talks are on the first Tuesday of the month at 8pm. The next talks are:
8pm, 3 January: Dulwich and World War One by Brian Green
8pm, 7 February: The Story of the Grove Tavern by Ian McInnes
8pm, 7 March: Social Reformers in Dulwich in the late 19th and early 20th century by Duncan Bowie
8pm 4 April Gentle ‘gentrification’ in an area of East Dulwich: statutory housing action in the 1970s and its legacy by Julia Atkins
The talks will be given online via Zoom in association with Bell House Dulwich, with any surplus going towards Bell House activities. Tickets £5 through www.bellhouse.co.uk/events
On Saturday 15 October, the Society and the Dulwich Park Friends unveiled a plaque to Francis Peek (1833-1899) who was instrumental in establishing Dulwich Park. Francis Peek’s family were tea merchants and by 1895 the firm was the largest tea wholesaler in the world. Emily Montague of the Dulwich Park Friends explained how there would be no park without Peek: ‘During his lifetime he gave away around £500,000 (£25 million in today’s money). In 1872 he offered £7,500 (£375,000 today) towards the creation of a public park in Dulwich but he had to wait some time and become a Dulwich Estate Governor to achieve his aims’. He was single- minded, however, and Dulwich Park opened in 1890.
Chris Corrin, Peek’s great great grandson, told us a little of the life of this great philanthropist. Peek lived on Crescent Wood Road and was very interested in the lives of those South Londoners less fortunate than himself. Having become extremely wealthy through the family firm (another relative founded the Peek Freans biscuit company), Peek believed that ‘to die wealthy is to die disgraced’ and, having made provision for his wife, he set about giving away his fortune. He was very involved in education provision and he also personally funded the building of several churches in South London including St Clement’s, Friern Road, and St Saviour’s, Copleston Road, now the Copleston Centre, and he also helped fund St Barnabas. The Times described him as ‘one of the best types of London citizens’.
As well as members of Dulwich Park Friends, Chris Corrin and his son Jonty, the unveiling was attended by James Thompson, our Chair, Sue Badman, our Vice Chair, Dulwich Village councillors Margy Newens and Richard Leeming, Julia Honess of the Copleston Centre, Sharon O'Connor and Gavin Bowyer of the Society's Local History group, and members of the public.
The most recent recipient of a Southwark Heritage Blue Plaque, Helene Aldwinckle, moved to 76 Farquhar Road, SE19, with her husband John in 1979. Her wartime work as one of Bletchley Park’s senior female codebreakers was probably the last thing on her mind. At the time she was about to become, at the age of 58, the new manager of the Medici Gallery, a large and well-established Mayfair art gallery, but her working life had begun during wartime, as a senior codebreaker at Bletchley Park.
The secret of how Britain cracked the German Enigma codes, said to have shortened the war by at least two years, was revealed for the first time in 1974 in a book called The Ultra Secret. It would not be until several years later that the Government allowed those who had worked there to speak about it, and a further 20 years before public interest in the codebreakers of Bletchley Park was raised by the release of the film Enigma (2001) and, more recently, The Imitation Game (2014).
Born Helene Lovie Taylor, in Aberdeen in 1920, Helene won a scholarship to Aberdeen University in 1939, where she studied English and French. In early 1942, the University’s Principal was asked to recommend female linguists and mathematicians for specialised work with the Foreign Office. After interviews in London and Aberdeen, at which she was intrigued to be asked questions about crosswords and puzzle-solving, she was appointed an Assistant Principal, one of only a handful of women at this level at that time, and told to report to Bletchley Park. On arrival she was asked to sign the Official Secrets Act and billeted with an elderly couple in a nearby town.
She was an intrepid young woman to leave Aberdeen on a troop train during the blackout, aged 21, only the second time she had been out of Scotland, to travel to a place she did not know, to do a job she couldn’t be told about, and to live in a house with complete strangers.
She was assigned to Hut 6, the heart of the codebreaking operation, where German army and air force codes were broken. German forces were provided with Enigma cipher machines, through which all communications between headquarters and units on land, sea and air were encoded. The machines had a series of rotors enabling them to produce 159 billion, billion, billion settings, and different services used different keys. To make communications even more secure, all units were required to change the settings for every key every day at midnight. Unsurprisingly, the Germans believed their codes were unbreakable, so secrecy among Bletchley Park employees had to be absolute.
Initially Helene worked in the Registration Room, where coded messages delivered by motorbike from radio listening stations were studied to see if any intelligence could be gleaned before being passed to the codebreakers, who were known as ‘The Watch’. In May 1943, the intelligence-sharing BRUSA Agreement was signed between Britain and the United States, after a difficult period of strained relations between the two intelligence communities over the UK’s unwillingness to share how Enigma codes were being broken. When the first contingent of 50 US service personnel arrived at Bletchley in August that year, Helene was asked to organise the Americans’ induction and training programme, playing a small but important role at the start of what was to become known as ‘the special relationship’.
It was a shrewd choice. Unlike some of her more blue-stockinged or upper-class contemporaries, Helene had an easy manner, a vivacious personality and a quick wit. She immediately bonded with the Americans and soon put them at their ease. Their most senior officer, Captain Bill Bundy, who later became foreign policy adviser to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, praised the way Helene’s course handled British concerns that the Americans might be less security conscious. “It was dealt with brilliantly,” he wrote. “No stern lectures, just quietly saying how important it was not to let a bit of this come out”.
After running what she referred to as “the School” for two intakes of US personnel, Helene returned to codebreaking duties in late 1943, working for the rest of the war in what was known as the Quiet Watch or Qwatch (a play on the German word ‘quatsch’, meaning nonsense). This was a small team of codebreakers who, to paraphrase a 1970s Heineken advertisement, cracked the codes other codebreakers could not crack, and handled some of the most difficult keys, including one only used by high-ranking generals.
At the end of the war she stayed on to co-write the official history of Hut 6, deemed so sensitive that it was only declassified in 2006 and published in 2014. In 1945 she married John Aldwinckle, a flight lieutenant in the RAF she had met as an officer cadet in Aberdeen, and had to leave the Foreign Office, as all women who married were then required to do, a bar only lifted in 1972. After the war she had four children and accompanied her husband, who worked for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and military intelligence, on his postings to Berlin, Cologne, Paris, Brussels, Rome and Mons, as well as in the UK.
In Cologne and Berlin in the 1950s and 1960s she became a reporter for the British Forces Network (BFN) and a broadcaster for West German radio station Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), for whom she wrote, produced and presented programmes about British theatre and an English programme for schools. She also played leading roles in a string of amateur theatre productions, such as As You Like It, The Millionairess and The Deep Blue Sea.
In Paris in the early 1960s she taught languages, teaching French to English officers’ wives, English to local French women, and French in German to German officers’ wives. Later on she became a German-to-English translator for art publishers Thames and Hudson, including the definitive biography of the Futurist Russian artist El Lissitzky (1968) by his widow, and The Renaissance in Italy, by Heinrich Decker (1969).
In 1975 Helene began a new career in the art world, initially at the Medici Gallery in Grafton Street, then at the Oxford Gallery for a few years, before returning to the Medici as its manager in 1979. With her usual verve and energy, she set about transforming it from a rather old-fashioned establishment into a thriving modern gallery, curating a series of exhibitions featuring contemporary artists and ceramicists, such as Robert King, Pamela Kay and Mary Rich. She recruited young artists as staff and encouraged them in their work, including the internationally renowned light installation artist, Bruce Munro, who credits her for giving him the confidence he needed to pursue his stellar career. She retired in 1986.
Helene was one of life’s enthusiasts. She had boundless energy, a razor-sharp mind and was a superb raconteur and mimic. Dulwich friends and neighbours recall the many dinner parties she and John gave in Farquhar Road, and the fascinating stories and anecdotes she would tell. Still active well into her nineties, she attended the royal opening of the restored Hut 6 at Bletchley Park in 2014, before moving into a care home in Wallington for the last six years of her life.
In 2019, aged 98, she was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian and military honour, for the role she played at Bletchley Park in the liberation of France, and was personally thanked for her wartime work by the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, at her last-ever Prime Minister’s Questions. Helene died in April 2020 and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery, Elmer's End. Her husband John, who was active in Dulwich community life as chairman of the Dulwich Residents’ Association in the 1990s, died in 2012.
On 4 September 2022 a simple but joyful ceremony was held to unveil the Blue Plaque on her former home. Covid lockdown restrictions meant that she did not receive a funeral, so this event provided an occasion that family, friends and neighbours were able to attend and share their recollections of this remarkable woman who achieved so much.
A few yards further up the road, at number 45, there is another Blue Plaque, to the actor Leslie Howard (1893-1943), best known for his portrayal of Sir Percy Blakeney in the 1934 film The Scarlet Pimpernel - so Farquhar Road now boasts dedications to two covert warriors against tyranny, one fictional and one real! For a guide to all the Blue Plaques in the Dulwich area, visit: www.dulwichsociety.com/local-history/blue-plaques-in-dulwich
The Dulwich College Archive holds thousands of pages of manuscripts left to the College by its founder, the eminent actor Edward Alleyn (1566-1626). This archive includes his personal and professional papers and those he inherited from his father-in-law Philip Henslowe (d. 1616). As a group, these manuscripts comprise the largest and most important single extant archive of material on the professional theatre and dramatic performance in the age of Shakespeare, and many of his contemporaries.
Grace Ioppolo FSA, Professor Emerita at the University of Reading, has written an article detailing her work of several decades to digitise these papers. She has kindly given permission to allow it to be reprinted in the Journal. It was originally published in the UK September edition of The Conversation, an online source of informed comment and news analysis.
Most of what we know about the beginnings of English professional theatre as a financial enterprise and artistic endeavour comes from thousands of manuscript pages in the archive of Philip Henslowe (1550-1616) and his son-in-law and business partner, the actor Edward Alleyn (1566-1626). Henslowe and Alleyn financed many acting companies, including Lord Strange’s Men, the first to employ Shakespeare, and Lord Admiral’s Men, the important troupe of its time. These manuscripts, currently held at Dulwich College, London, comprise the largest and, arguably, the most important existing archive of material about professional theatre in early modern England. Among the manuscripts are the only surviving records of box office receipts for any play by Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus and Henry IV) and Christopher Marlowe (Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta and Tamburlaine). The manuscripts remained stored in Alleyn’s locked trunk, in their original folded condition, for 260 years, and access to them was gained through visits to the college’s library. For many years, they remained uncatalogued, and sticky-fingered visitors purloined pages, sending fragments of the archive across the country and later the world.
In 2004, I founded a project to digitise these records. By 2022, with the help of other scholars and the archive at Dulwich College, I had reunited all the known fragments, as well as pages of correspondence, legal documents, receipts and other records for the first time in more than 200 years. In the early 18th century, rumours began to spread about the uncatalogued archive and a stream of people went to Dulwich College (a school founded by Alleyn) determined to unlock the history of Shakespeare’s dramas, playhouses and performances.
As well as box office receipts, Henslowe and Alleyn’s archive includes the sole surviving actor’s “part” (or script) of the age from the play Orlando Furioso and the “plot” (or prompter’s outline) of the anonymous play The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins, one of six plots from this period known to survive. The archive also includes the 1587 partnership deed between Henslowe and his associates to build the Rose Playhouse on London’s Southbank and the 1600 contract between Peter Street, who built the Globe Playhouse, and Henslowe and Alleyn to build the Fortune Playhouse in north London. The most important document in this archive, and in English theatre history, however, is Henslowe’s account book. This document provides detailed records from 1597 to the early 1600s of payments to Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, Henry Chettle and many other playwrights. The document mentions more than 325 commissioned plays, many of which no longer exist, as well as transactions with royal and local officials, actors, censors, costumers and other theatre workers. It also features many signatures (or valuable autographs to thieves).
As scholar and editor Edmond Malone announced in an addition to his influential Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the English Stage from 1790, the document completely reshaped the understanding of early modern English drama. Unfortunately, Dulwich College librarians weren’t so vigilant in protecting this important archive. They allowed some visitors unsupervised access to the manuscripts - many of whom didn’t leave empty-handed. The most infamous of these thieves was the Shakespearean scholar and notorious forger John Payne Collier. Collier not only read the “diary” for his scholarly works on Henslowe and Alleyn but also pilfered pages. Collier pasted pages he stole into a literary autograph scrapbook, which he later sold to the British Museum claiming he had found them in various bookshops. Other collections sold to the British Museum included fragments also compiled by Collier or those he sold them to.
In the 1880s, the manuscripts were finally catalogued in more than 20 volumes by the British Museum’s assistant keeper of manuscripts, George Warner. Warner understood their immense importance to England’s cultural history and recognised that some items had been stolen over the centuries. Luckily, the noted Shakespearean bibliographer W.W. Greg played literary detective, locating most of the fragments, many still uncatalogued, while preparing his first edition of the diary in 1904.
But, as the Shakespeare scholar R.A. Foakes mentioned in his 1961 edition of the diary, at least 69 pages were still missing and others were removed or partially cut out by autograph hunters. Fragments of some of these pages, with the signatures of poet George Chapman, playwright Thomas Dekker and others, found their way into 18th- and 19th-century auctions and later into manuscript collections at the British Museum, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire (discovered by Greg in 1938) and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.
Since the 1800s calls by Dulwich College librarians for the return of these documents have been met with polite refusals. With the help of Calista Lucy, keeper of the archive at Dulwich College, I contacted all the librarians responsible for these pilfered items, asking if I could upload them to the electronic archive. The academic Paul Caton and I have now uploaded all the known fragments, along with letters, deeds and other manuscripts - digitally reuniting the diary and the archive for the first time in over 200 years.
Levon Chilingirian is founder of the Chilingirian Quartet which he formed in 1971 as a recent graduate of the Royal College of Music. Today, he is Professor at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he also performs chamber music with other Professors and students. He is also Chamber Musician in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music. He is passionate in his love of teaching music. He and his wife Susan have lived in Hollingbourne Road for the past thirty years.
Levon grew up in Cyprus, the sanctuary to which his parents and other members of his family had fled for their lives during the years of persecution and genocide in their native Armenia. He bears no malice against his Turkish Cypriot hosts who he explains were quite different from those who lived in Turkey proper in the blood-stained years between 1890 and 1922. Although his mother’s family returned several times to their homeland, Adana in Cilicia, new waves of oppression and worse, each time forced them to flee. They were part of the Armenian Diaspora. His father’s family, who had lived in what was then Constantinople (now Istanbul), fled to Jerusalem before moving to Cyprus where his father, a civil servant, met Levon’s mother. Levon’s wife Susan’s family were among another wing of the Diaspora which found sanctuary in the United States.
In Cyprus, Levon’s house close to the Armenian ghetto was dominated by music, his mother played the piano and his father had a beautiful voice. His great-uncle, Vahan Bedelian was known as ‘The Music Man’; he conducted church choirs, brass bands and taught music. He introduced Levon to playing the violin at the age of five. The Armenian folk music Levon heard at his home would forever play an important part in his life.
The family left Cyprus in 1960, fearful of what might unfold following that country’s independence from Britain, and settled in Beckenham where other members of the family already lived. Life was difficult, his parents had little money, he spoke very little English and as a refugee aged 12, he found life at his first school very challenging, It was a secondary-modern ‘sink school’ in Penge where the pupils were virtually written off. Although he experienced incidents of racism and bullying, he nevertheless retains fond memories of this time because there was a group of boys with whom he became firm friends and they still remain in touch. Luckily for Levon, the school had an inspirational music teacher and so his musical talents were encouraged. He also attended the Junior RCM on Saturdays, a wonderful haven of music.-making. Showing an academic potential among those he thinks were considered ‘rejects’ by the educational system which then prevailed, he went to a technical school in Dartford which offered classes for him to study and take ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels. In 1966, Levon was accepted at the RCM,
His uncle, the eminent violinist Manoug Parikian, was already living in London and would prove to be another inspiration for Levon. When Levon announced that he wished to take up playing the violin for a living, he was taken aside by his uncle who warned him about the pitfalls of life as a professional musician. “Don’t take up music unless you will be happy to spend the rest of your life playing at the back of the second violins in some provincial orchestra”. Manoug, who had been only 19 when WW2 broke out, was selected by ENSA to perform for servicemen during the war. Despite thereby losing six years of his career, he
went on to be the leader of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and later become leader in the Philharmonia Orchestra at the time, considered the world’s best orchestra.
When Levon was accepted into the RCM, his violin tutor was the inspirational Hugh Bean. At the college he also met the easy-going natured pianist Clifford Benson and a rapport was struck and their duo launched. They won the BBC Beethoven duo competition in 1969, and an international ARD competition in Munich in 1971. As a result, they were offered BBC and European radio broadcasts, and London concerts at the South Bank and Purcell Room followed. They would continue to perform together until Benson’s early death, at the age of 60 in 2007.
His uncle cautioned him about too much early freelancing, saying that he should concentrate on building his career. He encouraged Levon to concentrate on chamber music and to form a quartet. Levon took the advice, and after spending a year studying with Parikian, formed the Chilingirian Quartet in 1971, at the age of 23. The Quartet were offered a residency in Liverpool University and it was there, Levon says, “That we learnt our trade”.
Performing in a quartet requires each musician to have implicit trust in, and be at ease with, their partners. Levon had invited three friends from the RCM to join him;:Mark Butler, Simon Rowland-Jones and the late Philip De Groote who would also in time live in Dulwich, in Turney Road. Fifty-one years later, the Quartet, still with three of the original members, continues to perform - surely a musical record. Their 50th anniversary concert was given last April at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The Chilingirian Quartet have recorded a vast number of CD’s - 62 at the last count. Levon would still like to record more, especially more Haydn and Beethoven.
Now in his mid-seventies he shows no intention of retiring. He and the Quartet continue to give recitals around the globe and are looking forward to their annual Easter chamber music course at West Dean College, West Sussex, from April 19-23, to which all amateur and student quartets are welcome. He would also like to perform another duo with his old friend William McVicker whom he met at St Barnabas Church and where his wife Susan sings in the choir.
He tells a wonderful story about his violin - made by Francesco Rugeri in Cremona in 1679. Manoug Parikian had owned it and played it for the ten years he was leader of the Philharmonia Orchestra. When he acquired a Stradivarius in 1958, he sold his old violin to an amateur player. Many years later, Levon was able to acquire the Rugeri violin from the amateur performer who had by then become a close friend.
Levon, in addition to his other duties at the RAM is one of its musical ambassadors. As such, he was devastated by the outcome of Brexit and argues passionately about the depressing effect it has had on the ability of musicians of all nationalities, especially British, to move freely, easily and economically around not only Europe, but elsewhere. He says that as a consequence of Brexit, we see fewer international orchestras and musicians performing in the UK.
The revitalisation of the Herne Hill Velodrome over the last ten years is one of Dulwich’s real success stories and has provided us with a well-designed and much appreciated addition to the local area’s contemporary architecture. Many will remember how rundown the track was in the early 2000s and the concerns that the site would be redeveloped as a commercial sports centre or for housing. Built in 1891 as the London County Club Ground, its importance as a track cycling centre before and between WW1 and WW2 culminated in it hosting the cycling events at the 1948 Olympics.
Luckily, with the upsurge in British cycling generally following Olympic Games successes in 2004 and 2008 (and the prospect of the 2012 London Olympics), a group of local enthusiasts set up the ‘Save the Velodrome’ campaign to safeguard its future. The new pavilion marked the completion of the third stage of this campaign, with earlier stages seeing the 450m track resurfaced, the development of a 250m junior track and the installation of floodlighting.
Funded by Sport England, the London Marathon Trust, the London Mayor and Southwark Council, the new pavilion is similar in scale to its late Victorian predecessor. It was designed, perhaps appropriately, by a local resident who was also architect of the award- winning indoor velodrome for the 2012 London Olympics. A brick- clad base containing ancillary accommodation - first-aid room, coaches’ office, changing rooms and toilets supports an elegant prefabricated ‘glulam’ timber structure which houses a generous raised clubroom, kitchen and meeting room, with direct access to the top of a seating area overlooking the track. The timber roof beams extend to the outside to shelter the seats and are tapered to reduce the perceived depth - with a nod to history, the beams are supported here by the six decorated cast-iron columns from the original building. Below the canopy, the seats are constructed from timber battens fixed to precast concrete steps. The north and south-facing end elevations are clad in western red cedar. Timber is also used internally with spruce cross- laminated timber floors and ceilings and birch plywood fittings. A tensile fabric canopy set between bicycle storage units at the rear of the structure provides a versatile year-round covered space for outdoor activities.
The building was short-listed for the 2018 RIBA London region awards and won the 2018 Institute of Structural Engineers’ awards for small projects between £1 and £3m.
Have you ever wondered about the geology that lies below Dulwich Village? Dulwich sits within the southern part of the London Basin, a geological structure formed by folding related to the alpine mountain building between 40 and 60 million years ago. The basin is defined by the Chalk, which crops out in the Chilterns to the north and the North Downs to the south. Marine and estuarine sands, clays and silts were deposited in the Basin on top of the Chalk. Under Dulwich Village, the London Clay, a marine clay, is the most dominant of these with two other formations between it and the Chalk: the Lambeth Group of estuarine origin and the Thanet Sand Formation of marine origin.
In recent years, boreholes have been drilled at various locations between Alleyn’s School and Dulwich College, which have penetrated through these marine and estuarine layers and into the Upper Chalk. The boreholes are in four groups, from north to south, Alleyn’s School, 103 and 105 Dulwich Village, Bell House and Dulwich College.
- Alleyn’s School (a), drilled in October 1993, Final Depth 65m
- 103 Dulwich Village, drilled in April 2007, Final Depth 60m
- 105 Dulwich Village, drilled in October 2012, Final Depth 62m
- Bell House (b), drilled in November 2020 to February 2021, Final Depth 175m
- Dulwich College (b), drilled in December 2013 to February 2014, Final Depth 126m
(a) Commissioned by Thames Water
(b) Group of boreholes for installation
(c) of Deep Ground Source Heat Pump Systems
The descriptions of these boreholes were lodged with the British Geological Survey, the BGS. They are publicly available on the BGS website under their (Onshore) GeoIndex, searchable in the form of an interactive map. Using this information, I have constructed a simplified cross-section of the geology under Dulwich Village, as illustrated.
Starting with the deepest formation intersected, the Upper Chalk is the youngest member of the Chalk, a thick deposit of soft white limestone, well known for forming the Chilterns, and the North and South Downs, and exposed along the South Coast as dramatic sets of white cliffs. The Chalk is a very thick sequence of soft limestones laid down in the Cretaceous Period from 135 million to 65 million years ago. It was formed as a pure soft limestone by the deposition of the remains of microscopic algae, called foraminifera and coccoliths, in warm shallow near-continental seas. This was at a time of little land erosion and so low introduction of other materials. It was a time of a warmer climate. The Chalk can contain larger marine fossils, such as sea urchins or echinoids, and bands of silica in the form of flints.
The Cretaceous was the last Geological Period of the Mesozoic Era, which famously ended with the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and many other animals and plants following the catastrophic collision of a large meteorite with the Earth, some 66 million years ago.
Under Dulwich Village, the top of the Upper Chalk drops away southwards from a depth of 32.50 metres under Alleyn’s School to 64.00 metres below Dulwich College. The Bell House boreholes were still in Chalk when drilling stopped at 175 metres. The full thickness of the Chalk under London is about 200.00 metres. It is a major aquifer and deep wells and boreholes have been sunk at several local locations to tap into this water supply.
After the deposition of the Chalk in the region, there was then a long period of erosion before deposition started again in the Palaeogene Period, at the start of the Tertiary Era, represented under Dulwich by a layer of marine sands and silts, designated as the Thanet Sand Formation by the BGS. It was deposited between 59 million and 56 million years ago, which is referred to as the Thanetian Age by the BGS. Under Dulwich, it varies in thickness from 10.00 to 15.00 metres and dips southwards. It was laid down under shallow marine conditions and its contact with the Upper Chalk is an erosion surface that can display solution features. It is known to contain fossils of fish and molluscs, which indicate varying climatic conditions but mainly a tropical climate at the time of deposition.
The Lambeth Group are the next formations above the Thanet Sand Formation. They were formerly termed the Woolwich and Reading Beds, but the BGS has adopted the name Lambeth Group to cover them. They are a set of predominately estuarine sediments. They are described as sandier than the London Clay and with more frequent shelly beds and show more disturbed layering indicative of a shallower estuarine environment of deposition. They mark the transition to the start of the Eocene Period and straddle the boundary between the Thanetian and Ypresian Ages. The sediments of the Lambeth Group in the northwest of London overstep the Thanet Formation to rest directly on the Upper Chalk.
Like the Thanet Sand, the Lambeth Group dip southwards and by Dulwich College they average about 10.00 metres in thickness.To the northwest of Dulwich between the Village and Herne Hill, the London Clay has been eroded and the Lambeth Group sediments form the subsurface along a broad band stretching to Camberwell and beyond.
So finally, we come to the London Clay, which lies above the Lambeth Group, a formation well known to residents as a heavy sticky yellow grey clay, which weathers to a claggy soil, and which by swelling and contracting in periods of extreme wet or dry weather can be detrimental to the foundations of houses.
The London Clay is a marine sediment laid down in the Ypresian Age. It was a period that lasted from about 56 million years ago to 48 million years ago.Typically, the London Clay is composed of blue grey or brown grey finely- layered clay, calcareous and often silty or sandy and with some beds of shells. Under Dulwich, it varies between a few metres and over 20.00 metres thick. It is thinnest at the Alleyn’s School site and dips south to its thickest under Dulwich College. To the southeast of the College, the high ground of Sydenham Woods is capped by the uppermost unit of the London Clay, the Claygate Member, which is siltier and sandier and less clayey. In other parts of the London Basin, the London Clay is considerably thicker and can be up to a hundred metres or more thick.
Abundant fossil seeds have been found within the London Clay and they indicate that the nearby land would have been a lush tropical to sub-tropical forest.
While London Clay can be troublesome to buildings, it was the source material for much of the bricks of which those houses were built, especially during the Victorian building boom. The bricks made are the typical yellow brown London Stock Brick.
Quaternary Age deposits overlay the Claygate Member in the form of Head Deposits and Clay with flints. These are both weathering products of older deposits. The Head Deposits are composed of sand, clay and variable amounts of clay formed by material moving downslope due to periglacial action. There is no evidence for Ice Sheets covering Dulwich during the Ice Age, but the area was subjected to Arctic conditions.
To return to the older formations, then for some of the better detail on the fossils found locally in these sediments, we need to turn to observations from the mid- nineteenth century. In 1841, Douglas Allport published Collections, Illustrative of the Geology, History, Antiquities and Associations of Camberwell and the Neighbourhood, in which he devoted 20 pages to Geology. His observations covered finds in pits and boreholes over the whole of Camberwell. More specific data on Dulwich comes from the works associated with the construction in 1859/60 of the Effra Branch of the Southern High-Level Sewer from Herne Hill to Peckham and on to Deptford. These works included the sinking of three shafts to construct a tunnel under the Five Fields, an area now covered by Alleyn’s school playing fields and St Barnabas Church. The deepest shaft reached a depth of some 65 feet, approximately 20.00 metres, Charles Rickman, the honorary curator of the Lambeth Museum of Natural History recorded the sediments intersected by the shafts and the fossils
found. A description of the shafts and of the finds is recorded in “Y Parish of Camerwell”, a History of Camberwell by William Harnett Blanch, published in 1875, in his chapter on geology, pages 9 to 27.
Rickman recorded a wide range of fossils, which included mammal bones and teeth, bird bones, reptile bones, crocodile scutes, fish teeth, over forty different species of shellfish, plant remains and even a few insect wing cases. The fossil assemblage indicates that the climate during the deposition of the Lambeth Group was tropical to sub-tropical.
Three of the shellfish were new to science. One was named Pitharella Rickmanni after Charles Rickman himself. The others were named Arca Dulwichiensis and Cyrena Dulwichiensis from Dulwich, the locality where they were first recorded. The Cyrena Dulwichiensis was recorded from two beds. Rickman wrote up his findings in the Proceedings of the Geological Society and in the 24th March 1860 edition of the Illustrated London News. The latter had a drawing showing the fossil as found in the shelly sandstone bed of which an edited version is shown. In 1880, Cyrena Road in East Dulwich was established and named after the fossil.
Rickman found, additionally, three mammalian fossil fragments in the Shelly Sandstone Conglomerate Bed. There are illustrations of them in Blanch’s book. The first was a molar tooth, identified as from the lower jaw of a tapir-like animal, the second another tooth possibly from a marsupial, and the third, a lower jaw with two teeth likely to have been from an insectivore.
This is just a brief outline of the Geology below Dulwich. If you want to find out more, I recommend reading the accounts by Douglas Allport and William Harnet Blanch. For a more recent take on the surface geology of both Dulwich and wider London, then turn to “London Clay, Journeys in the Deep City” by Tom Chivers, published by Penguin in 2021, especially Part II: Return to the Source, in search of the Ambrook, a tributary of the Effra, which flowed down northwards from Dulwich and Sydenham and Dulwich Woods.
Roger Federer and Dulwich
The star tennis player’s recent announcement of his retirement reminds us that he has a lasting legacy in Dulwich. When, in 2005, the sculptor Louise Simson was commissioned by the Dulwich Society to create a statue to commemorate Edward Alleyn, she was already a devotee of the sportsman and had produced and sold a number of small bronzes of him for sale. When she commenced work on this new commission, she chose to portray the famous Elizabethan actor and founder of Dulwich College with a sturdy pair of legs and thus used her previous studies of Roger Federer’s lower limbs for the new statue.
St Barnabas & Christ’s Chapel support for Ukraine
Since March 2022, St Barnabas has:
- Welcomed and supported over 150 Ukrainian adults, teenagers and children, with everything from matching, hosting, English Classes, employment, CV help, and friendship.
- Financially supported an extended family of nine through their first 6 months in the UK and supported almost 50 host families through the initial stages of hosting.
- Regularly welcomed 50 Ukrainian teenagers to St Barnabas for a weekly youth group and assisted with school placements, university open day support, college workshops, sports, art and drama workshops, mental health signposting, laptops for study, bikes, tutoring, and friendship.
- Employed a part-time refugee support worker, Sara Manwell, to continue to support our Ukrainian guests and their hosts.
- Raised over £12,000 to make the above activities possible.
The parish now hopes to raise funds to pay for therapy, school uniform, and extra-curricular activities for unaccompanied Ukrainian young people, as well as sponsoring weekly workshops of art, music, sports or drama, plus pizza and snacks for the Ukrainian Youth Support Group. It also hopes to support the extended family of 9 in moving into their own homes and provide means-tested grants for struggling Ukrainian families.
Our Ukrainian Youth Group enjoyed a summer outing to Margate and a autumn half-term treat at Pizza Express. We are in need of volunteer support and financial sponsorship for individuals, especially unaccompanied teenagers, in this group.
Music for Advent at Christ’s Chapel
For this year's Advent concert, Dulwich Chamber Choir will be performing a range of Christmas music, including extracts from Handel’s Messiah, and carols for everyone to sing. Do come and join us.
Conductor: Richard Mayo
Organ: Lucy Morell, MA, ARCO
Sunday 4th December, 7.00 pm at Christ’s Chapel, Gallery Road, SE21 7EA
Tickets on the door: £15/10 concession