At long last, the sculpture commissioned from Conrad Shawcross to replace the stolen Barbara Hepworth bronze statue ‘Divided Circle’ has been installed in Dulwich Park and Trevor Moore reports on the ceremony in this issue. Like its predecessor, the new work will undoubtedly attract both praise and criticism. In time it will be accepted as a key element in this truly remarkable park, reborn following a long period of decline. Perhaps the most important change was to ban traffic in the park by providing a dedicated car park in the former grounds of the maintenance department.
Now that Thames Water has virtually departed, the vistas have returned, the play areas regained once again. Rosebery Lodge, now leased by the Dulwich Society for occasional exhibitions and meetings is also being extensively used by the U3A and as a base for the Dulwich Vegetable garden. The ‘village copse’ has matured and a tree has been planted nearby in memory of Stella Benwell who had such an influence on Dulwich Park's redesign.
During the consultation in the aftermath of the Hepworth robbery, when it became clear that a substantial sum would be available from the insurers, a number of varying proposals were made with how to spend it. Although the majority opinion was to replace the Hepworth with another piece of art, one of the suggestions which attracted a great deal of support was for a bandstand.
What form a bandstand might take, whether it would be a Victorian style one to reflect the park’s heritage, or a more modern design was not discussed. Certainly a bandstand would be a great asset; if there is one thing the park actually lacks, except during the Dulwich Festival, is any form of entertainment. Older residents will recall that the field where two of the three Shawcross installations are sited was actually called the bandstand field and during and after WW2 a prefabricated bandstand indeed stood there.
Bandstands exist in several other local parks and concerts are successfully held in them. There is a demand for various kinds of music: choirs, brass, ukulele and so on to add yet another dimension to the facilities in Dulwich Park. Perhaps the suggestion should be revisited.
Dulwich Village is having a serious problem with its iconic horse chestnut trees. It is thought that the tradition of planting this species along the broad former high street dates back the early 18th century. Of course trees do not live for ever, and over the years some of the majestic specimens have succumbed to old age and been replaced. Recently however, a disease has struck some of the remaining large specimens and two of the most prominent have been identified as diseased with trunks hollowed out. By the time this issue is printed, they may already have been felled. The plan was to replace them with London Plane, an equally large but arguably, not such a showy tree. However, following intervention by local residents, Copper Beech has been agreed.
It is proposed that the issue of street and garden trees will be discussed at a public meeting convened by the Dulwich Society in due course.