This year marks the 175th anniversary of the launch, on 17 July 1841, of Punch magazine, a publication that had many links with Dulwich and the surrounding area. In its early days the magazine's editorial board used to meet occasionally in a local pub, a Dulwich street was named after one of its co-founders and Punch was the source of the description 'the Crystal Palace'. In addition, its first art editor and a number of its contributors used to live in the village or nearby, and the author of The History of Punch even went to Dulwich College.
This part of South London seems to have been a magnet for cartoonists and humorous writers over the last two centuries. The world's first children's comic, Funny Folks, was published by James Henderson who lived at Adon Mount off Lordship Lane and between 1905 and 1943 more than 4000 drawings by students of the Press Art School in nearby Forest Hill had been published in Punch - including some by its celebrated pupil, Kenneth Bird CBE (Fougasse), who would become the only cartoonist ever to be editor of Punch.
Even before Punch was founded some of its future leading lights frequented the old Greyhound Inn (also home of the Dulwich Club for many years), which stood almost opposite the current Crown & Greyhound. These included Mark Lemon, who became the first editor of Punch, and W.M.Thackeray who drew nearly 400 sketches for the magazine and contributed numerous articles. Indeed, it is possible that they may even have discussed the setting-up of the magazine in the Greyhound's rooms.
Once it was founded, the editorial board of Punch (known as the Punch Table) used occasionally to meet at the Greyhound in the summer months. According to the diary of Punch writer Henry Silver (now held in the British Library), the Punch Table met at least six times at the Greyhound between 1860 and 1866 (6 June, 28 June and 26 July 1860; 3 July 1862; 1 July 1863 and 1 August 1866).
In M.H.Spielmann's The History of 'Punch' (1895), a description is given of the writer Francis Burnand being elected to the board, or Punch Table, in June 1863 and making his first appearance in that role at the Greyhound, six months before Thackeray died.
'My first appearance,' he tells me, 'was at the Inn at Dulwich where Punch sometimes dined in the summer in those days. Thackeray drove there, and left early. He had come on purpose to be present on this occasion, and before quitting the room he paused, placed his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Gentlemen, I congratulate you on the 'New Boy'!" I felt, and probably looked, very hot and uncomfortably proud; and then he shook me very warmly by the hand.'
Burnand later recalled that the others present at the Greyhound that day were Lemon and F.M.Evans (of the magazine's proprietors, Bradbury & Evans); the writers Horace Mayhew (younger brother of Henry Mayhew, co-founder), Shirley Brooks (Lemon's successor as editor), Tom Taylor (Brooks's successor as editor), Henry Silver and Percival Leigh; and cartoonists John Leech (who in 1843 created the first modern cartoon), Charles Keene and John Tenniel (the first cartoonist to be knighted). Burnand later became editor of Punch (1880-1906) and was himself knighted. It was he who, when asked why Punch wasn't as funny as it used to be, famously replied: 'It never was.'
Though Charles Dickens frequented the Greyhound (and even occasionally attended Punch dinners), he was never published in Punch. However, at the end of The Pickwick Papers, Mr Pickwick retires to Dulwich and his cottage was drawn by Punch artist Thomas Onwhyn. The book's main original illustrator was the Punch cartoonist (and designer of its second cover) 'Phiz' (Hablôt Knight Browne, 1815-82). Browne's sister Lucinda married the art collector Elhanan Bicknell, one of the 100 local 'notables' listed in Who's Who in Dulwich.
Punch Table members with local connections who had either died or left the magazine by the time of its first board meeting at the Greyhound in 1860 included Thomas Hood (1799-1845) of Camberwell - whose famous satirical poem, 'The Song of a Shirt' (1843) had tripled the circulation of Punch - and Douglas Jerrold (1803-57), who had christened 'The Crystal Palace' in the magazine in 1850, before it was opened and long before it moved to the area of Sydenham now named after it.
Another was the magazine's co-founder, the engraver Ebenezer Landells (1808-60), who had sold his shares in the magazine when it was taken over by Bradbury & Evans in December 1842. Though his connection with the area is unknown, Landells Road off Lordship Lane was named after him and the nearby Rodwell Road was named after the composer George Rodwell, whose daughter married Landells' son, the illustrator Robert Thomas Landells.
A number of future Punch artists also attended Dulwich College. These included Arthur Watts (1883-1935) and G.E.Studdy (1878-1948), better known as the creator of Bonzo the Dog. Later pupils included comics historian Dennis Gifford (1927-2000), and Nick Hobart (b.1939) who contributed articles and cartoons from 1982
Also not to be forgotten are the Punch writers who were at the College. A.E.W. Mason (1865-1948), best known for The Four Feathers,(1902), became President of the Alleyn Club in 1946 and the same year published his last book The House in Lordship Lane. Another Punch old Alleynian was P.G.Wodehouse (1881-1975), who contributed to the magazine from 1902 until 1963 and joined the Table in 1960.
A more recent Punch journalist was R.G.G. Price (Dulwich College, 1922-9) who also wrote The History of Punch (1957). In one essay Price quoted a poem from Boys and Masters (1887) a novel by the College's famous headmaster, A.H.Gilkes, who is also referred to in a 1913 Punch cartoon by George Morrow.
The College itself is mentioned in another Punch poem, 'The Doom of Dulwich (By an old Dulwich Boy in Doleful Dumps)', written by E.J.Milliken in 1896. It bemoans the rise of 'Jerry Builders' and the threatened closure of the Greyhound (demolished in 1898), adding: 'Next, no doubt, they will pull down the College!'
Meanwhile, at Alleyn's School, were the future Punch artists L. R. Brightwell (1889-1962) and F.H. Townsend (1868-1920). Townsend began drawing for Punch in 1897, joined the Table in 1905 and was the magazine's first art editor (1905-20). His family lived in Derwent Villas, Grove Vale, and later in Ashbourne Grove. During the First World War he drew the famous cartoon 'Bravo, Belgium!' (Punch, 12 August 1914) and designed some striking colour Almanack covers.
A number of other Punch cartoonists have connections with Dulwich. Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) succeeded Tenniel as the main cartoonist on the magazine and drew 'The Mahogany Tree' for the Jubilee issue (18 July 1891) showing all the members of the Table (which was in fact made of deal). He was a distant relative of the Dulwich College organist Ozias Linley (1765-1831) - who is buried in Christ’s Chapel - and other members of the famous Linley family, portraits of many of whom hang in Dulwich Picture Gallery.
H.M.Bateman (1887-1970) lived in Therapia Road until 1905 and while there studied at Goldsmith's School of Art with the sister of Old Alleynian Ernest Shackleton, who was then working for the publishers C.A.Pearson. Through him Bateman got his first big break, drawing for The Royal Magazine and Pearson's Weekly. He contributed to Punch from 1916.
Cyril Alfred 'Chic' Jacob (1926-2000), who drew for Punch from 1955, was born in Dulwich Hospital and had family living in Clive Road. He was later Chairman of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain and Secretary (and then Treasurer) of the British Cartoonists' Association.
Leslie Illingworth (1902-79) lived at 67 Dulwich Village, next door to the Crown and Greyhound, from 1959 to 1966. He contributed to Punch from 1931, was elected to the Punch Table in 1948 and in 1949 became the magazine's main political cartoonist (he finally left Punch in 1968). While he was living in Dulwich he was voted Political and Social Cartoonist of the Year (1962) by the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain, and was given a Special Award for Distinguished Services to Cartooning (1965). In 1966 he became a founder member and first Chairman of the British Cartoonists' Association.
Almost next door to Illingworth was another Punch cartoonist, Antonia Yeoman, who drew as 'Anton' and was the only female member of Punch's Toby Club (in 1966 she also became the first woman to be elected to the Chelsea Arts Club). More recent links include Polly Bagnall, artist daughter of Punch cartoonist Brian Bagnall.
The Dulwich Picture Gallery has held two exhibitions of work by Punch artists - Anne Fish (1987) and William Heath Robinson (2003) - and in 1981 the gallery itself was the subject of a double-page Punch cartoon by Kenneth Mahood when its Rembrandt painting, Jacob de Gheyn III, was stolen for the third time.
Mahood also drew 'Dunroamin' in Dulwich' (1986), imagining Margaret Thatcher's house (Thatcher was also the first woman to attend a Punch lunch). On another occasion Dulwich resident George Brown stormed out when called 'not a proper socialist'. Many other inhabitants of the village have been caricatured in the magazine, from Sir Joseph Paxton, Sir Henry Bessemer and Mrs Patrick Campbell to union leader J.H.Thomas, and Old Alleynians Ernest Shackleton and Bob Monkhouse.
The last mention of Dulwich in the pages of Punch was ironically in the address of a letter from a reader decrying its imminent closure. Punch came to an end after 151 years in 1992. It was re-launched in 1996 by Harrods owner, Mohammed Al Fayed, and finally closed its doors in 2002.