What’s in a name?

The attentive reader might have noticed a slight change to the cover of this publication.  The Dulwich Society Newsletter has been renamed the Dulwich Society Journal.  It is not a hugely significant change but it has been felt for some time that the current publication is rather different in appearance to the title it set out to be 161 issues ago.  In the early years of the Dulwich Society it was indeed a newsletter; several foolscap sheets of paper produced on a duplicating machine (remember those?) and stapled together.  Successive editors have made changes to its physical appearance.  It was made squarer and more compact.  Extra pages were added and the newsletter was reproduced on a printing press.

Changes in technology, especially in the ability to produce photographs from the taking of the picture to its reproduction on a piece of paper have been reduced from about three weeks to three minutes.  As importantly, the cost of reproducing images of any kind has also been dramatically reduced.  These benefits have allowed us to illustrate articles and have, we hope, provided a different and interesting dimension.  On the other hand, becoming familiar with desktop technology has been a steep learning curve, one which has not been entirely climbed.  What my grandfather took five years to absorb as an apprentice compositor was condensed into a few weeks.

Technology has also been the medium through which a fascinating letter, written almost 150 years ago has been forwarded to us and is reproduced in this issue.  The Journal and a number of other Dulwich Society publications are regularly put on the Society’s website and accessed by members of the public. This has proved helpful to a number of people who have been inspired to trace their ancestry. 

News, as originally indicated by the title Newsletter remains paramount and matters affecting members and the Dulwich community in general will always take priority.  Nevertheless, there has been a gratifying increase in the number of contributions on a wide variety of topics which have Dulwich as their focus.  In this issue, the centenary of St Faith’s Church, North Dulwich is a cause for celebration and we are grateful for several articles on this anniversary.  By contrast, the Dulwich Players celebrate 40 years of presenting am-dram to local audiences and this too makes fascinating reading.  I am also grateful to our regular contributors who keep us up to date with what is happening in this part of South London.

Recently, the more mundane but essential task of the Journal’s distribution has come under scrutiny.  Margaret McConnell, who has been hugely efficient in being in charge of distribution for some twenty years has said she would like to be retire from this responsibility (although Margaret will continue to be the Advertising Manager).  For her long service in both these roles the Society owes her tremendous thanks. A number of other zone distributors, all who have served for many years would also like to be replaced.  Details of what these essential tasks entail is listed elsewhere in this issue.

These are hard times financially and Dulwich is not immune from the effects of the credit crunch. Many residents were becoming worried over the potential loss of shop tenants in West Dulwich and Half Moon Lane (though both have been re-let) but there is now also considerable concern over the viability of several shops in Dulwich Village. Rumours abound but, at the time of writing, not only has Gill Holland, the dress shop, closed, but Studio 45  has given notice confirming that it too will close in September - and several rent reviews, including the Post Office, are due in the next 12 months.

People tend to blame the Dulwich Estate, saying that the rents they set are too high, but all shopkeepers will also have been affected by this year’s rise in business rates - in some cases these have risen by 60%.

The Estate responds that it is their job to maximise income for their beneficiaries, mainly the Foundation Schools, Dulwich College, Alleyns and JAGs, but it cannot be in their or their beneficiaries’ interest, to have empty units. Surely some rent is better than no rent and the danger is that too many empty units leads to the gradual downgrading of an area - a self-fulfilling prophecy as less shops mean less people buying, which means less shops.

Whatever leases may or may not say it must be in everyone’s interest to keep the shops trading. If that means rents paid one month in advance instead of three months, or, as in many shopping malls, turnover rents where rental levels are based on the actual shop’s takings, so be it.

More importantly, Dulwich residents must make sure that they use the local shops as much as possible. Yes they may be more expensive sometimes, but they are convenient, and not driving to the supermarket of DIY store helps the environment.

If the shops are not used, they will close. Some can still remember the time, not so long ago, when the Village had a butcher and a vegetable and fruit shop, do we want to be left just with estate agents and a garage?

Historic Organ returns

The organ, which has been played in Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich Village for two and a half centuries, has been reinstalled following three years of restoration by the specialist organ builders William Drake of Buckfastleigh, Devon at a cost of £½million. 

On 3rd August 1754 the College resolved that a new organ be built to replace the one which had been assembled from the remains of the organ destroyed during the Civil War. Payments of £20 a time were made to the builders over several years, the fourth payment being in 1756.  The new organ, made by the celebrated George England (‘Old’ England) and Thomas Whyatt (who may have made the oak organ case) was installed in the Chapel by the last Sunday in August 1760. The cost was £260 plus the old organ.

Dr William McVicker, the consultant on the restoration says, “There is precious little organ-building work by George England which has survived unaltered and of the original specification.  The survival of so much early pipework gives the organ a national importance - the instrument has both the earliest surviving Gothic Revival organ case and Cornet stop in the United Kingdom”.

The Chapel Organ is at the centre of a Georgian entertainment - The Dulwich Assembly to be held at the Chapel on Monday 7th December which celebrates in music and prose not only this organ but incorporates the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and the discovery of the diaries of Richard Randall the chapel organist from 1762-82 who was a celebrated tenor and harpsichordist.  Full details may be found on page 29.

Dulwich Park Lodge, College Road

Southwark Council has confirmed that a tenancy has been awarded (subject to contract) to Whippersnappers CIC to run a range of services including workshops for elderly and disabled people, a small cottage industry crafts/ gifts shop; and meeting, function and training rooms.

The Society understands that Southwark Council’s Planning Department has given the go-ahead for the Parks Department to undertake the external repairs and the tenant has submitted a planning application for a Change of Use. The building works on the external repairs should start in February 2010 with internal works following on in May. These works will include general upgrade and repair to exterior and installation of a lift to ensure that the building is DDA compliant.

The tenant aims to be in operation by July.

Dulwich Park Lake

Earlier this year Southwark received four expressions of interest to run the boat concession on the lake in Dulwich Park. The concession brief required applicants to make a financial offer that included an annual rental offer and a premium payment to part-fund the construction of a boat house - the park has CGS funding for their part of the construction.

There have apparently been some problems over the final contract wording but these have now been resolved and, if an appointment can be made sooner rather than later, it may be possible to have some boats running by this autumn. The aim is to have the boat house constructed by summer 2010.

Dulwich Garden Safari

A splendid day in June gave about 800 people the opportunity to visit seven local gardens on a round trip in the Village.

There was great variety, from the tightly controlled and comprehensive planting of flowers, fruit and veg in one of the smaller gardens, to the equally controlled space, designed to show the lovely Comus Kousa trees, at peak of perfection, with their unusual 4 petalled perfect white flowers, in a stark modern setting of another.  At a further modern house the space had been well designed and the planting looked well established in a relatively short space of time.

The largest garden, with its surprise extension behind the shops, gave room for several large trees, herbaceous borders, and an attractive island bed.  Another charming garden, with a half-pergola to articulate the space, dividing without obstruction, showed many well chosen planting companions; geranium Johnson’s Blue, alchemilla and artemisia, the blues being particularly lovely in the early evening light.

A further planted space, perhaps an example of ‘guerrilla’ gardening was a vegetable plot, the beds surrounded in grass borders and then using every portion of “borrowed” fence, which was offered with expert advice to all potential grow-your-own hopefuls.

Thanks to the hospitality in a further garden, there was an exhibition and sale of paintings by Gail Gosschalk, together with a very long and enthusiastic queue for cups of tea and excellent cakes - all going to make a very successful afternoon of peaceful enjoyment, and helping to raise over £5500 for a local charity, Dulwich Helpline, which has been offering friendly volunteer support to isolated people living in Dulwich and neighbouring areas, for the past fifteen years.

Jill Manuel

House Driveways

All new drives and hard standings will be subject to the new legislation on sustainable urban drainage systems for driveways (SUDS). Unless you use the special paviors that allow rainwater to drain naturally you will be obliged to seek planning consent from Southwark Council. All new works, including alterations to existing drives, also need the permission of the Dulwich Estate and it is likely that they will insist on this type of paving being used. Residents should also be aware that Southwark will not construct crossovers unless they have confirmation from the Estate that the new drive has the latter’s approval - an all to rare, but very welcome, example of the Estate and Southwark working together.

Memories of Alleyn’s

Following on from the success of the book, ‘Drama & Music: The Performing Arts at Alleyn’s’, the School will be hosting a series of reunion lunches for its former pupils to quiz them about their school day memories at Townley Road.

‘Drama & Music’ is a lavishly illustrated collection of personal memories of the musical and dramatic activities of pupils. It also tells the story behind the new Edward Alleyn Building, which houses the Michael Croft Theatre.

The School will invite all those Old Boys who were at the School in the 1930s and ‘40s to a reunion lunch on 2 March 2010. (For those wondering about Old Girls, girls didn’t arrive at Alleyn’s until the 1970s.) They will be given a tour of the Alleyn’s site, and then treated to lunch whilst sixth-form students interview and record them about their schoolboy days at Alleyn’s. Headmaster Dr Colin Diggory says ‘It is clear that there is a wealth of untapped information about our School and we really want to record it for posterity. When former pupils visit the School I am always amazed by the clarity with which they remember a whole variety of different aspects of school life. The stories they tell are fascinating.’

It is hoped that the format will be repeated for subsequent generations of pupils and that all their memories will be collected together and published in a book.

If you were at Alleyn’s in the 1930s or ‘40s, or are in touch with someone who was, please do get in touch with Susie Schofield, Head of Alumni Relations, on 020 8557 1466 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To order a copy of ‘Drama & Music’ please send a cheque for £15 (+ £1.50 p+p) made payable to ‘Alleyn’s School’ to Alumni Office, Alleyn’s School, Townley Road, London SE22 8SU. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Alleyn’s Bursary Fund to provide free places to those with ability, regardless of background.

Susie Schofield

Public Meeting with the Dulwich Estate

Tuesday 29th September 2009 at 7:30pm
St Barnabas Parish Hall, Dulwich Village
The Dulwich Society is arranging a series of public meetings over the next twelve months to discuss residents’ views on Dulwich as it is now and their aspirations for its future.

The first meeting will be with representatives of the Trustees of The Dulwich Estate, the Estate Management Office and the Scheme of Management Administrator.

The purpose of the meeting is to review the wider aspects of the Estate’s stewardship of the area. Queries regarding individual properties will not be discussed.

There will be opportunities for questions from the floor but, in order to cover a relevant balance of subjects, it would be helpful if these could be provided in advance so that they may be collated, and in order, to avoid any duplication. If you have any questions you would like put to the Estate please send them by email to the Dulwich Society Chairman, Ian McInnes, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Topics to be covered include:                       

The Dulwich Estate:
A brief history
The Estate’s role today

The Scheme of Management:
A brief history
Policy Guidelines               
Trees on the Estate
Relationships with Southwark Council
The Advisory Committee

In addition, if you have not looked at the Estate’s new website at www.thedulwichestate.org.uk, you should do so as there is a considerable amount of information on it that may answer many more general queries.                   

Local History Day  ‘Dulwich House Detectives’

Sunday 11 October 2009
12-4pm. In the Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery                                                                            

In conjunction with the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Dulwich Society is organizing a day on the subject of researching the history of one’s house.
Those interested in finding out more are fortunate in that most of the land in Dulwich has been owned by one institution for a long period of time. Not only has this determined the character of the area, but also an exceptional series of records survive to throw light on building development.

Throughout the day, there will be an exhibition of maps, photographs and documents. Archivists from Dulwich College and Southwark Local History Library and local historians from the Dulwich Society will be present to give advice on the most useful sources for research. A leaflet will be available describing where they can be found. Gareth Martin from estate agents, Harvey Wheeler, will give approximate current valuations of properties in particular roads.

A programme of short talks will take place every hour:
12.30 The development of Dulwich up to 1920, by Brian Green
1.30 The development of Dulwich after 1920, by Ian McInnes
2.30 Sources in Southwark Local History Library, by Stephen Humphrey
3.30 Sources in Dulwich College Archives, by Calista Lucy

This is a good opportunity to learn more about Dulwich’s fascinating past and how you can find out about the history of your own property. Those who have old photographs, plans or documents relating to local properties would welcome to bring them.
There is no charge to attend

Cleaner Greener Safer awards

The Society application to the Dulwich Community Council for funding to assist in the repair of the decorative fountain in memory of Doctor Webster, in the middle of the Burbage Road/Dulwich Village roundabout has been successful.  It also successfully applied for a grant for new fencing to the Marlborough cricket ground on the South Circular Road near the junction of Lordship Lane.

Other grants towards funding include a new gate from Great Brownings on to Low Cross Wood lane and the installation of a new pedestrian ramp in Giles Coppice - both of these are on Dulwich Estate developments and will require permission form the Estate to proceed.

The Stradella Road Residents’ Association also received backing for security improvements to the service area behind the shops on the south side of Half Moon Lane. This award is subject to equal funding from the Dulwich Estate which is the ground landlord of the shops.

Local History Sub-committee

The special character of Dulwich is due largely to its history and the way the area has developed within the Dulwich Estate over the last 400 years. There is a strong interest in the people who lived here, their houses, local schools, churches and other institutions from residents of Dulwich as well as from those with family connections.

The Dulwich Society’s local history sub-committee has lost several valued members recently for various reasons; and anyone actively interested in the history of Dulwich who wishes to join would be welcomed as a new member. The committee meets three times a year to organise local history walks, talks and events; individuals carry out research and contribute to the Society’s Journal. With an increased membership, more could be done to enhance the history section of the Society’s website, publish local history and generally make the Society more active in this aspect of its work.
Those who would like to know more or receive details about where and when the committee meets should contact the Chairman, Bernard Nurse on 0207-326-1786 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Society distributes its quarterly journal for free because a good number of members have volunteered to deliver copies door to door. The considerable postage thus saved is applied to enhancing the amenity of the area.  A number of members who have been zone distributors for many years have indicated they wish to be relieved of this task.

The job entails collecting the journals, or having them delivered, from a central location (College Road, by the Tollgate) and delivering the relevant number of copies to the street distributors, who actually put the journal through the letter boxes. The zone distributor’s work takes no more than 3 - 4 hours, four times a year. 

For this purpose, we have divided Dulwich into zones, each of which is lead by a zone distributor, and we are urgently looking for new volunteers to act as zone distributors in four of our zones. We would be most grateful if you could help us by becoming a Zone distributor for one of the zones listed below.
Zone A1:  Central Dulwich Village area - 159 journals to 4 street distributors
Zone B: Central Dulwich Village and streets eastwards - 157 journals to 8 street distributors
Zone F: South and West Dulwich -136 journals to 3 street distributors   
Zone G: Sydenham Hill area - 44 journals to 1 distributor.
If you are able to help please email Ian McInnes, the chairman, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 0208 693 6313.

We are also interested to hear from other members who are prepared to help by delivering journals in streets any of these zones.

Conservation Areas at Risk

English Heritage have reported that 81 Conservation Areas in London are at risk.  Regrettably Southwark Council did not fully complete all the surveys, those that they did were taken into account.  Eleven London boroughs and the City of London failed to complete the survey by the deadline.

Conservation Areas were introduced by the 1967 Civic Amenities Act as ‘areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

The top ten threats to the condition of conservation areas (based on an English Heritage survey of local authorities)
1.  Plastic windows and doors (83% of conservation areas affected)
2.  Poorly maintained roads and pavements  (60%)
3.  Street clutter  (45%)
4.  Loss of front garden walls, fences and hedges  (43%)
5.  Unsightly satellite dishes  (38%)
6.  Effects of traffic calming or traffic management  (36%)
7.  Alterations to the fronts, roofs and chimneys of buildings  (34%)
8.  Unsympathetic extensions  (31%)
9.  Impact of advertisements  (23%)
10.Neglected green spaces  (18%)

Obituary - Russell Vernon MBE (1916-2009)

Russell Vernon was educated at Alleyn’s School where he shone as sportsman, captaining both the Cricket First Xl and the Soccer First Xl.  He also was a fine Rugby Fives player.  On leaving school he reluctantly buckled down and studied architecture part time at the Regent Street Polytechnic while working for his great uncle, George Vernon (1870-1942), an architect with a very successful commercial and residential practice in central London.

Russell volunteered with his brother Ken into the Artists’ Rifles in 1939 and at the outbreak of war was transferred to the Royal Engineers and was soon in France.  He was posted ‘missing’ following the Dunkirk evacuation but two weeks later appeared with all his equipment and unit intact, having sought an alternative means of escape via Cherbourg.

In the years waiting for D Day, Russell was charged with building defences along the South Coast against a possible German invasion.  It was whilst engaged in these duties that he became friends with the historian Norman Mackenzie who was commanding a Home Guard unit. It was comforting for both that in their later years they were neighbours at Ryecotes Mead, Dulwich Common.

Following the Allied breakout and advance after D Day, Russell, by now a major in command of an engineer company RE built a bridge across the Rhine to speed the advance. Later his unit was ordered to enter Belsen Concentration camp and Russell was faced with the harrowing task of burying hundreds of rotting corpses, a task he reserved for himself by driving the bulldozer which pushed its human cargo into mass graves. For his work at Belsen, Russell was awarded the MBE.

Following demobilisation in 1946 he joined his uncle, Austin Vernon (1881-1972), the Surveyor and Architect to the Dulwich Estate, in practice locally and became his partner in 1948, after completion of his RIBA exams. The first major projects of the new practice, Austin Vernon & Partners, were the building of the new Dulwich College Science Laboratories and the almost complete reconstruction of the severely bomb damaged Dulwich Picture Gallery - opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.  The restoration of the Gallery was a particular triumph for Russell and would lead to him and his wife Ruth maintaining a close association with it.

During the late 1940s he took a town planning degree and was heavily involved in the negotiations over the Dulwich Development Plan which received London County Council approval in 1955. This set the pattern for the redevelopment of the area over the next twenty years - its main objective being the regeneration of the Estate and the Foundation Schools.

The plan envisaged the demolition of many of the bomb damaged or run-down larger old houses that had suffered, not just from bomb damage, but also from a gradual drop in value since most had un-mortgageable short leases and to redevelop the sites at more realistic densities. Replacing them with more affordable small family houses would bring in new families to the area and hopefully create a supply of pupils to attend the Foundation Schools, which had declined in size and standards through the 1930’s and 40’s.

Although not widely publicised at the time, the work produced by Russell Vernon’s office during the late 1950s and 1960s is now appreciated as some of the highest quality spec housing in the country. Great care was taken to respond to the natural contours of the sites and existing trees were generally retained. Great efforts were made to keep all new developments below the tree line on the tops of the hills around Dulwich and with the sole exception of the block of flats on Sydenham Rise this was the case.  Extensive hard and soft landscaping schemes were an integral part of all the developments and several received architectural awards.

He succeeded Austin Vernon as Architect and Surveyor to the Dulwich Estate in 1959 and was joined in the partnership by Victor Knight, a friend from his college days, and later on, Malcolm Pringle, Harvey Borkum, Victor Janes and Derek Fricker.

The practice designed well over 2000 houses on the Dulwich Estate, as well as buildings at Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School, JAGS,  Dulwich College Prep School and St Dunstans College, Catford. The practice worked extensively with Wates and other housing developers in Croydon, Norwood, Windsor, Tonbridge, Oxford and Leeds. Their commercial work ranged from shop interiors through to offices and factories - particularly notable examples are in Crawley in West Sussex. In the early 1970s the firm worked extensively in Saudi Arabia rebuilding the Al Kharj Military Cantonment near Jedda.

Russell Vernon was an active member of the Dulwich community, being chairman of many local charities and he was also, for many years, architect and surveyor to All Saints Church, West Dulwich where he was also a parishioner for some 70 years. He retired in 1982 and the practice closed in 1995.  By nature he was a cheerful personality with a ‘can-do’ character which his service in the army had demonstrated.  Seemingly always dashing from one place to the next he nevertheless unfailing had time to stop and talk and encourage all those he met.

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