Anniversaries serve as reminders of times past. They are also a useful means of giving prominence to an institution, person or an event. It is said, that when the BBC is running short of ideas for its programmes, the calendar is looked at to see which anniversary might be highlighted and developed to fill a space in its schedules. All parties therefore derive a benefit.
The same might be said for a number of events which are to be commemorated in Dulwich this Autumn. Depending on one’s interests, it might be the 100th anniversary of the Battle of High Wood on the Somme on September 15th 1916, the continuing events marking the year of the death of William Shakespeare, or of course the 400th anniversary of the building of Edward Alleyn’s Chapel, Almshouse and College in Dulwich.
As this time the Dulwich Society has no particular anniversary itself to celebrate, it has instead decided to take a leaf from the pages of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and give itself an un-birthday party!
According to our secretary, Sue Badman, who has perused the Society’s Minute Books, there used to be frequent parties; there was once, even a ‘social committee’. Can we deduce from this worthy exploration of our archives that we have become more serious, more troubled by the woes of the world, less gregarious? Further research suggests that the Society is actually enjoying quite a successful period at the moment - membership is at an all-time high, finances are sound, and as the pages of this Journal demonstrate, our activities are wide, interesting and well-supported. Should we risk all this by having a party?
Of course it all depends on what kind of a party. For a description of this we might well be advised to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which produces the ideal word (in French) for it:
soirée /ˈswɑːreɪ/ (noun) 1820 (Fr..f..soir evening)
an evening party, gathering, or social meeting, for conversation or music.
synonyms: social gathering, gathering, social occasion, social event;
There is actually a little extra planned. An exhibition of old photographs will recall the decline of farming in Dulwich, the three paintings by C B Core, recently given to the Society will be on display, the reception will be accompanied by jazz piano music, and during the evening a young folk group, an a capella choir and a string quartet will entertain us.
An application form for tickets is enclosed with this Journal. Don’t miss it - we may not have anything else to celebrate for ages!
September 1st sees the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, now the Dulwich Estate. Any organisation that has lasted for that length of time has clearly changed over the years - it must have responded positively, if perhaps sometimes reluctantly, to changes in society’s attitudes.
When it was set up in 1616 the foundation’s aim was to assuage Edward Alleyn’s conscience as he neared the end of his life - his business interests had been successful but not always straight forward. In setting it up he wanted to help not only his fellow Dulwich residents (the chapel and burial ground) but also some of the poor youngsters (12 poor scholars) and elderly people (6 poor brethren and 6 poor sisters) in the four local parishes where he was born, or had lived and worked. The total population of these parishes was quite small so, in an age that lacked any form of state funded social services, an offer to provide education and alms-house accommodation was a substantial benefit.
But times have changed, and while there are still only 14 almshouse residents, the number of pupils now going to the seven beneficiary schools is around 8,000 - quite a few more than originally intended, and not all of them poor. Perhaps this anniversary might be a good time for the Dulwich Estate not only to look back but also to look forward - and decide where it is going to be in the next 100 years, or perhaps even in the next 10 years.
The Estate’s website says two things about its objectives. The first is that ‘The Board of Trustees seeks to manage the endowment in the long-term interests of all the Charity’s Beneficiaries’ - a worthy statement to which few can object. It is sufficiently general to mean anything and says nothing about what those long-term interests might be.
The next paragraph, however, is very clear. It says that ‘Success in achieving this objective is measured in terms of increasing, in real terms after allowing for inflation, the annual income distribution to the Beneficiaries and maintaining the value of the Charity’s assets.’ For the year 2014/15 the Estate distributed £6.78M to its Beneficiaries, up from £6.26M the previous year - and its most recent accounts also note that in 2012, 2013 and 2014 the Beneficiaries received a substantial capital distribution as well. Clearly, on these criteria for the measurement of success, the Estate does very well.
But if we go back to the ‘long term interests of the Beneficiaries’ is it doing so well? Members will be aware of the less than positive press coverage that the Estate (and the three local beneficiary schools) has recently received over the Almshouse Charity’s proposal to build on the open space next to the new Judith Kerr Primary School. This critical coverage has also referred to the Estate’s policy of maximising shop rents without consideration of either their tenants’ viability or the needs of local users. Rents have increased by 50% on some units in Dulwich Village and it is very possible that some of the traders will close. Recent experience has shown that the shops will be re-let but with very different types of occupiers.
The Dulwich Society’s is not alone in saying that the time has come for the Dulwich Estate to have a serious discussion with its Beneficiaries, particularly the local schools, on what their long term interests really are. Is it just about money or should a wider more inclusive policy be adopted? How about one that takes local residents’ views into account in decisions that directly affect them, and is more responsive to the values and aspirations of contemporary society?
Crown & Greyhound
Mitchells and Butler, the tenant, have confirmed that the pub and hotel will open on 7th November. The hotel will trade under the ‘Innkeeper’s Lodge’ brand and, under a heading of ‘More than just a good night's sleep’, the company’s website says ‘Whatever your plans for the day, you can rely on Innkeeper's Lodge to provide a night of comfort for an affordable price, with a complimentary buffet breakfast provided. Each hotel has a cosy pub conveniently located right on the doorstep and with nearly 50 locations, from Brighton to Edinburgh and everywhere in-between, Innkeeper's Lodge can always be first choice for stays in the UK.’
S G Smith housing development:
The site has been acquired by McCullogh Homes Ltd, a developer/builder based in Bromley. They will build the scheme that has planning consent, and will now come under the Scheme of Management. This consists of 8 three-storey town 4 and 5 bed houses, and four affordable dwellings- 1 three bed wheelchair accessible house, a two bed house and 2 one bed flats. Parking for all the properties will be in a basement car park, with access off Gilkes Place. A social housing provider is already on board to manage the social housing and the company will be working up the detailed planning submissions over the next few months.
Cycling Quietway 7:
The Dulwich Community Council meeting (DCC) on 22 June heard representations from local residents, Southwark Cyclists, Dulwich and Herne Hill Safe Routes to School, and local MP Helen Hayes over the implementation of the proposed new Quietway. Local councillors recommended a pause in the process while key issues were reviewed.
They suggested a trial, not only of the change of priority at the junction in Dulwich Village, but also the reduction of three lanes to two on Court Lane/Calton Avenue. They also wanted no further action on the current proposals until the results were in from a study into alternative routes for the school coaches for Alleyn’s, JAGS and Dulwich College, which all currently use the proposed Quietway
Dulwich Village Farmers’ Market:
A planning application has been made to run a farmer’s market on the playground of the Dulwich Infants School in Dulwich Village. It started in June, without any consent and appears to be quite successful. There have been, as yet, no complaints about additional parking stress in the area, the main comment has been the proliferation of signs, banners on the railings in the Village, and AA signs on lamp posts. These need to be removed.
Impact of new North Dulwich Triangle controlled parking zone:
While the CPZ has made a considerable difference to parking availability for residents in the roads in the North Dulwich triangle, as was expected, it is also now very clear that it has displaced parking further south into the Village, Turney and Burbage Roads. How long before residents there ask for a CPZ?
JAGS Music School:
Revised plans for the JAGS music school have been submitted to Southwark Council (Southwark ref: 16/AP/2403). The scheme has been reviewed following the arrival of a new Head last autumn and both reduced in size and modified to integrate better with the existing school buildings.
C B Core Paintings presented to Society:
The Society has recently been generously given three pictures of Dulwich scenes painted in the 1920s and 30s by local artist Charles Browne Core. They show the Tollgate, Pickwick Cottage and the Dulwich Picture Gallery and will be hung in Rosebery Lodge. They were acquired by the donor’s grandmother who worked between 1945-52 as secretary to Miss Barnes, the Head of the Dulwich Hamlet School in the Village. The donor thinks they were bought at a sale following the artist’s death in 1947.
C B Core was a well-known local builder whose office was where the chemist’s now stands in Dulwich Village. He lived at 57 Dulwich Village, the Georgian house next to the Burial ground, from the 1920s until his death in 1947 aged 86. The picture shows him and his two sons outside his office in about 1910. Sadly both his sons were killed in action in the First World War.
His claim to fame artistically was his conspicuous failure to have any of his paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy. An article on him appeared in the Daily Mirror in May 1939 headed ‘UNLUCKY FORTY YEARS, HOPING’. It said that every year from 1899 until 1939 he submitted three pictures to the Academy - and all of them were returned (it may have been 50 years as a cut out from another newspaper on the back of one of the paintings says he started sending pictures in 1888). He was quoted as saying “All I can think is that some of the pictures are never seen by the committee. Many of the pictures hung are excellent, but some of the stuff that gets on the Academy walls is absolute tripe. Every other exhibition I have tried has been pleased to accept my work, though I have not been able to sell any of it.”
Four hundred years ago, to the day, the celebrated Elizabethan actor and theatre owner opened his charitable foundation in Dulwich. The almspeople and poor boys who were to benefit from his charity began arriving, in ones and twos, over the following days. His staff of a preacher, schoolmaster, organist and usher had been recruited and, keeping it in the family, two cousins, Thomas and Matthias assisted him in setting up this remarkable and enduring enterprise.
But what was Edward Alleyn really like? His portrait, by an unknown artist of course exists and is printed here. We thought it might be interesting to imagine what he might look like if he was alive today; so we asked graphic artist, Alison Winfield, to digitalise his portrait, remove his hat, beard and gown and dress him in a jacket and tie and holding a mobile phone instead of a glove. It strikes us that he comes across as a remarkably energetic, even intense person; one who certainly has a ‘can-do’ character. Which, is what we suppose, he really was like.
On Thursday 1st September at 6pm, on Edward Alleyn’s birthday, and the 400th anniversary of the consecration of Christ’s Chapel, there will be an Evening Sung Eucharist, celebrated by the Bishop of Southwark. There will be a special floral display inside the Chapel. In March of this year, it will be recalled, the Foundation schools gave a celebratory concert at the Royal Festival Hall to mark the Chapel’s quater-centenary. During the autumn, there will be an exhibition recounting the history of both the Chapel and the Dulwich Almshouse in the library at Dulwich College. Organised by Robert Weaver, assistant archivist at the College, it will include a number of books and objects connected with these institutions. The chapel is a beautiful building and has a fascinating history. Both are captured in the illustrated guide book on sale at the Chapel and at the Dulwich Estate office price £5.
Dulwich Almshouse Charity
To celebrate four hundred years of providing a comfortable and secure home to hundreds of poorer men and women the trustees of the Dulwich almshouse asked local historian Brian Green to write an account of its history. This will be published as a book and given to libraries, schools and various charities with which it has a connection. Thanks to a Southwark Council grant, the full text and illustrations is also being made available to be read or downloaded free online from the 1st October and may be accessed through the Dulwich Almshouse Charity website.
Admission to the almshouse depends on a number of factors including living in one of the parishes with which Edward Alleyn had a connection. These were, (and remain) St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, the parish where he was baptised and grew up; St Giles Cripplegate, later devolved to the new and adjacent parish of St Luke’s Finsbury, where he built his theatre named The Fortune; St Saviour’s Southwark where he lived and acted and where he was churchwarden, and Camberwell, the parish in which he had established his College.
In the past each parish was allowed to nominate three aged poor men and women to fill the vacancies. All the parishes experienced a rapid growth in population over the centuries thus ensuring a constant flow of needy residents to the Dulwich almshouse. During the nineteenth century, the Foundation was reformed, the almshouse extended and the accommodation increased to sixteen flats with facilities for up to four married couples. In more recent times, the Second World War caused massive damage to some areas, particularly St Giles Cripplegate, a parish now largely covered by the Barbican complex which was then re-amalgamated with St Luke’s Finsbury.
Today, with Islington Borough Council and the City of London providing housing within the parishes of Bishopsgate and Finsbury, the majority of residents of Edward Alleyn House are drawn from Southwark. An on-going programme of modernisation has taken place and ensuite facilities, stair lifts and a secure entry system have all been installed. Nevertheless, the eighteenth century building which accommodates the almshouse, whilst maintained to a very high standard, has its limitations. The rooms are small and lofty and inconvenient for those with mobility problems. There is also an opinion that to support the services of a full-time warden, at least twenty flats are required. The view of the trustees is that the only way these problems might be solved is to build up- to- date accommodation elsewhere.
Two of the present residents have celebrated their 100th birthdays this year and will be present at a tea party in September when the book will be launched and the anniversary celebrated.
The Old Burial Ground
In the late morning of 1 September 1616, after he had dedicated the chapel, George Abbot (1562-1633), the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined Edward Alleyn in a procession along the high street to consecrate a piece of ground "adjoining the royal road leading from the village of Camberwell” as a burial ground.
To mark the anniversary the Dulwich Society will open the Burial Ground as part of the London Open House Weekend on 17/18 September. Opening times are from 1-5pm on both Saturday and Sunday and there will be talks on the monuments, and some of the people buried there, on the hour every hour.
As part of its plans for the event the Society has secured Cleaner Greener Safer funding from the Council to produce a free explanatory leaflet for visitors, local schools and interested residents. A copy of this is enclosed with this Journal. In addition a small information board giving a brief history of the site will be installed on the railings, and there will also be a new website. Not only will that give the names and information on the people buried there but there will also be an interactive electronic map of the Burial Ground which will enable users to find out more about each individual grave by clicking on the number of a grave.
Trees Walk Dulwich Park - 29th October. 10am - 12noon, meet inside the Court Lane gates. The walk will be led by Daniel Greenwood of the London Wildlife Trust. Daniel will focus on native and long-established trees in Dulwich and their associated wildlife.
The walk is being sponsored by the Dulwich Society and is free to members and suitable for children and wheel chair users.