There can be little argument that the concept of community councils has been a great success; or rather it has in Dulwich where the Dulwich Community Council has been well attended, responsive and transparent.  Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a return to councillors’ surgeries or the tedium of full council meetings to discover what is going on in the ratepayers’ name.  Now it is possible to hear the details of neighbours’ plans to build right up to your boundary line and even to voice your objections to the same.  It is also possible, with some prior notice to raise matters of local interest and importance.  As Bill Higman said back in 2005 when the mechanics of the first year of the Dulwich Community Council could be assessed, it worked rather like a New England ‘town meeting’ – “open to all and regularly attended by local councillors and Southwark Council officers who carry out the work on our behalf.”

One of the great attractions of Dulwich Community Council is that since July 2004 it has, like other Southwark community councils, been awarded a sum of money to spend on local improvements.  Individuals and organisations have been able to propose items for such expenditure which are then reviewed and prioritised by the council.  Because Dulwich is demographically smaller than the seven other community councils it receives a smaller slice of the total grant.  The amount it receives is then divided into three equal parts which are then shared amongst College, Village and East Dulwich wards. The Dulwich Society has annually produced a list of potential improvement projects and many of these have been approved and carried out, in some cases supported by further funds of its own.

With the large cuts to local authority budgets it comes as little surprise that this largesse has been curtailed, indeed it is of greater surprise that what is called the Dulwich Community Council’s CGS (cleaner, greener, safer) grant still exists at all.  It is, of course, only a shadow of its former self, standing at £15,000 instead of £316,000 in 2004, rising to £372,000 in 2007/8 and dropping to £325,000 in subsequent years until 2010/11, although this figure did not include a 15% project management fee. Basically the sum has remained the same for the past four years.

Despite this huge drop in the available cash there still remains the incentive to propose constructive improvements, albeit on a much more modest scale.  It is envisaged that grants between £100 and £1000 will be considered, a far cry from the £25,000 or £35,000 grants of the past.  Nevertheless, there is still an opportunity for creative thinking and members’ suggestions will be welcomed.

The recent saga over the new pedestrian crossing in the south of Dulwich village just before the Burbage Road roundabout brings to mind the old paradox of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

You couldn’t make it up! Despite having been given a detailed schedule that spells out exactly who owns which manor wastes in the Village (those areas of grass that the sheep used to graze on in the C18 on their way to Dulwich Common), and which posts and chains, Southwark Council officers assured their councillors that yes the Council did own the grass area outside no. 113 Dulwich Village. They installed the raised crossing on the assumption that they could alter the posts and chains, and cut a path through the grass, and then they discovered that, no they did not own the land, it belonged to the Dulwich Estate.

So off they go to see the Estate, mindful presumably that this is the second time recently they have had to go to them cap in hand – two years ago there was several months delay to the construction of the new store/public changing room building in Belair Park while some land ownership issues were sorted out.

The Estate, not unreasonably, were not particularly happy and discussions over the length of a lease for the land and its cost soon stalled.  However, although the Council was at fault initially, this crossing is undoubtedly a benefit to Village residents and the grassed area is not actually used for anything, it just looks good and enhances Dulwich’s ‘rural village’ ambience. Could one not expect a little compromise?

But it seems that is not possible; the Estate will not grant the length of lease that the Council feel they should have and the Council will not pay the fee that the Estate think the land is worth – so stalemate. Village ward councillors and the Society have tried to broker a deal but have had no luck.

The position at the end of April was that the pedestrian crossing had to go and the lowered disabled paving areas removed – more Council money spent for less result.

Hopefully the raised table will be left alone as it clearly works well in slowing traffic down before the roundabout and one bright side, the spring flowers in the central island there looked great.

World War Two Civilian deaths to be commemorated

As part of its celebrations for its fiftieth anniversary in 2013, The Dulwich Society is to mark with plaques, the sites where there were multiple civilian deaths as a result of air-raids in World War II.  The engraved metal tablets will indicate the date of the raid and  the numbers of those killed, and will be affixed in prominent places in the roads where the incidents occurred.  The area expected to be covered will include all of Dulwich including adjacent roads in East Dulwich, and neighbouring roads in Lambeth such as Rosendale Road.  So far fifteen sites have been identified including Burbage Road, Court Lane, Dog Kennel Hill, Dovercourt Road,  Dunstans Road, Friern Road, Grove Vale,  Lytcott Grove, Melbourne Grove, Lordship Lane, Park Hall Road, Underhill Road, Woodvale, Woodwarde Road.  As a result of further research there may be additions to this list.  To date 155 are known to have been killed in the roads mentioned.  Many of those killed are commemorated at the civic war memorial at Honor Oak Cemetery dedicated in 1995.

In several instances whole families were killed when bombs exploded on individual houses.  One case in particular is especially tragic.  Herta Loebenstein , aged around 20  had fled from Hanau, Mainz, Germany as a refugee in 1939 because she was  Jewish  and was killed in an air raid  at 72  Half Moon Lane on13th September 1940.  A suitcase belonging to Herta was discovered many years later in the loft of the house where she was working as a live-in maid.  The contents of the suitcase were examined by staff at Lambeth Archives and it was found that Herta had died from her wounds in Dulwich Hospital and is buried among the Camberwell War Dead at Honor Oak Cemetery where her name is recorded on the memorial.  The papers, letters and photographs in the suitcase are now held at Lambeth Archives Department. Through the organisation Genes Reunited, another researcher traced a Heinz Boley, a person Herta had written to in New York.   According to Heinz, now called Henry, all of Herta’s relations had perished.

St Peter’s Church/Deeper Life Bible Church

Through the involvement of the Dulwich Society in seeking to improve the appearance of the former St Peter’s Church, a Grade 2 listed building, an award of £3000 has been offered by the trustees of the Heritage of London Trust towards renovation works to the stone boundary wall and cast iron railings along Lordship Lane.  The Dulwich Society is now looking to the Deeper Life Bible Church, the Dulwich Community Council and other Southwark grant sources to raise the remainder of the sum required .  An estimate of £36,000 including VAT has been received for works and other quotes are being sought.

License Applications to the Dulwich Estate

Four members of the Planning and Architecture Committee visited the Scheme of Management offices on 10 February when 15 license applications were commented on. On 10 March 22 license applications were commented on.
Objections were made on ; 60 Dulwich Village for a large rear and side extension ; 8 Frank Dixon Way for substantial demolition and large rear and side extensions ; 136 Woodwarde Road for a rear ground floor extension.

Freeholders of the Dulwich Estate are reminded that they can now check online on the Estate’s website to see if works underway at a neighbouring property have been authorised or not.

Former United Dairies site, 13-15 Croxted Road

Copies of the draft design document have been provided to the Dulwich Society Planning & Architecture Group for comment and the Society has discussed the scheme with the architects Panter Hudspith. The scheme is for eight dwellings and one retail unit covering most of the ground floor. Initial concerns raised by the Society were for car and commercial parking and a single retail unit. The architects are to  hold a public consultation event by the site for local residents and others to see the scheme and comment

Dulwich Tree Committee Visit April 2011
Twenty five lucky people went on a Tree Walk to Buckingham Palace Garden on a glorious sunny day in April. We were led by Mark Lane, the Gardens Manager, who has been in the post for over seven years, but having been working in the garden for many more, knows the history and name of every tree. Walking briefly through the Palace and taking tea in a reception room close to the garden we stepped out on to a broad terrace. It was an amazing sight to see the great lawns and the surrounding thick ring of trees which Mark explained have been planted to screen the garden from the surrounding buildings, and it helps with reducing the traffic noise. The first stop was at two enormous Plane trees (Platanus x hispanica), 26m high and a spread in excess of that, in full leaf already, known as 'Victoria and Albert' as they were planted by them but no one knows who planted which one. Mark told us these trees retain their leaves longer than the others of that type. Like so many other London parks and gardens, the Palace garden has many fine London Planes.

On the edge of the lawn there is an avenue of Indian Horse Chestnut (Aesculus indica) with fresh young bronze leaves. These trees flower later than the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and have conkers with no spines on the outer covering. Further along the path we encountered a Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) which had been struck by lightning but had been pruned to encourage a new leader. In shrubberies nearby were a Chinese Tulip tree (Liriodendron chinense), an Indian Rain tree (Koelrueteria paniculata), a Cast Iron tree (Parrotia persica) and two Handkerchief trees (Davidia involucrata var.vilmoriniana) just progressing to full 'Handkerchief ' mode. There are lovely camellias and a yellow Magnolia from America. Mark has planted several rare trees, such as a Sassafras tzumi and a collection of different Pittosporums .The Garden also holds the National Collection of Mulberries - 34 varieties in all including cultivars which are mixed into the general landscape, not as a collection all in one place. The scent of the yellow flowered Azara from New Zealand was delicious and none of us had heard of the Northern Indian Melia azadarach, a young specimen which later bears blue flowers, and we observed one yellow fruit.

Finally near the Mound there is a trio of splendid Acer platanoides 'Aureum'. These are considered to be very rare and it is hoped that it will be possible this year to propagate material from them. The wonderful bright yellow leaves looked at their best against the clear blue sky. The accessions policy for the gardens has been to bring together a collection of unusual and interesting trees whilst encouraging native species to thrive. Marginal areas abound with natural wild plants.

We are very grateful to Mark for giving us such a splendid tour - Jill Manuel Trees Group

A win-win at Red Post Hill

There is a win-win for traffic and pedestrians at the Red Post Hill cross roads with a changed layout at the traffic lights at the junction with East Dulwich Grove.

We now have two instead of three lanes of traffic approaching the junction eastward at the end of Village Way.  The pavement has been built out across the third lane.  This lane had been intended for vehicles turning northwards into Red Post Hill.  It was little used.

As a result of the recent alteration, pedestrians can cross the end of Village Way more quickly and safely.  In consequence of this, the traffic lights were re-phased to give more time for buses and other traffic.  This change was suggested some years ago by the late David Hollis, a member of the Society’s Traffic and Transport Committee.  Thank you David.
Can you think of other places which could benefit from similar win-win changes?

Alasdair Hanton

Dr Colin Niven, President of the Dulwich Society writes

I am very privileged to succeed Judge Michael Rich, who retires with the affection and admiration of all those in Dulwich who know him.  My own links with Dulwich go back a long way, I think I’m still a local inhabitant, but a friend asked me recently where I lived.  ‘Dulwich’, I replied, ‘Oakfield Gardens’.  ‘That’s not Dulwich, that’s SE 19.  ‘Well, it says Dulwich in the Dulwich Wood Avenue address’, I protested.  ‘And I live in London Road, and that’s in Edinburgh’, replied my now former friend.  Anyway, if physically I’m beyond the Pale, spiritually my heart has been here since the Second World War, when my parents moved to Acland Crescent on Denmark Hill.

With my brothers Peter and Alastair I used to play in the glorious forest where the flats of the Bessemer estate now stand.  We each ‘owned’ a bombed out house and invited our comrades at Dulwich Village Infants and later at Dulwich Hamlet School to play conkers and canasta in the ruins.  Health and Safety would have had a fit!  Under Miss Barnes, kindliest of headteachers, we rushed around in our red and black caps, until that solemn morning when we were summoned to an emergency assembly to hear that the King had died, my first serious recollection.  St Barnabas and the Chapel both sowed important seeds, and I must be one of the longest serving parishioners of the church, for at the age of seven I was the tallest in my class and therefore carried the heavy cross at Dulwich Hamlet’s Easter Service.

Later I moved up to the College, and again the three of us enjoyed idyllic days in that splendid school. We were part of the famous Dulwich Experiment promoted by Christopher Gilkes, forerunner of the Assisted Places scheme, to which my generation owe so much.   Members of Spenser House, we were exceptionally lucky in our teachers, and among the very best was the current Senior Fellow of the College, Mr Terry Walsh.  He and many others fostered a great love of sport, and in days to come I played for the Old Alleynians at cricket, rugger and hockey, and I also joined the Dulwich Hockey Club and the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club.

Meantime, in the university vacations, I drove the lift in King’s College Hospital, carted the laundry around Bart’s, sold sheets in Selfridges and gradually qualified for a career in teaching that took me to Alleyn’s where I was incredibly happy as Headmaster from 1992 to 2002, living at 8 Dulwich Village, and then to Shanghai, Beijing and Suzhou where I was lucky enough to help start the new Dulwich Colleges.  Thanks to the Alleyn’s job I was on the Chapel Committee and a Trustee of the Picture Gallery when both buildings were refurbished.

So here I am, still bravely supporting Crystal Palace Football Club and hoping that for the next few years the Dulwich Society will continue to be of so much benefit as it has been in Michael Rich’s time.

South London Gallery receives funding increase

The South London Gallery has announced that it has secured funding from the Arts Council for a further three years.  The grant for 2011/12 of £346,752, will rise to £646,752 in 2012/13, £746,752 in 2014/15, £846,752 in 2014/15.

Margot Heller, Director of the South London Gallery said: “Everyone at the SLG is thrilled with the increase to our funding.  This is a wonderfully heartening and much needed acknowledgement of the quality and impact of our programmes.  The Arts Council’s decision recognises the degree to which the SLG has grown, having doubled in size and significantly expanded the scope of its programmes following the recent expansion of the building.

It will also enable us to forge ahead with exciting plans for the future, further developing our contemporary art, film and live art programmes, and our award-winning education work with schools, young people and local residents.”

New Tenants for the Dulwich Estate

The Herne Hill Velodrome has been leased to The Herne Hill Velodrome Trust (HHVT) which has been incorporated and granted charitable status:
(1) Terms have been agreed with the Dulwich Estate for a 15 year lease of the track and the area within the track. Based on this, British Cycling will resurface the track, probably in June, at a cost of £300,000, borne by them.
(2) Sport England  have obtained a grant of £8,000 from the Marathon Trust. This will enable them to prepare a Business Plan in collaboration with the HHVT. This is a sine qua non of a long lease from the Dulwich Estate for the whole area (i.e. the track, the area within the track and that outside the track).
(3) An open process of recruitment of additional trustees will shortly be set up.

The Dulwich Estate has also confirmed that the lease for the sports ground in Turney Road has been assigned by South Bank University to Southwark Community Sports Trust CIC.

Paxton Green gyratory

Southwark Council has allocated £280,000 of their much diminished budget to works to make this roundabout safer for pedestrians, bus users, school pupils, cyclists and vehicles. In parallel with this, Lambeth Council will be making the roads leading into the gyratory from the Lambeth side safer.

Dulwich’s Vintage TV

Early in March the Society was contacted by Bonhams auctioneers seeking more background information about a very early pre-war television set coming up for auction in April.

Originally owned by a Dulwich resident, Mr G B Davis who lived at 118 College Road, it is the oldest working set known in this country and was the seventh unit manufactured by Marconi – it has a 12 inch horizontal screen and the picture is viewed via a mirror in the lid.  Mr Davis’s daughter, Rosa, a  long-time member of the Society’s trees and wildlife committees passed away last year.

The set was bought 4 days before transmission began in November 1936. It cost £99 5s and came complete with the original bill of sale, an instruction manual and the service sheets which confirm that, following WW2 (when there was no TV transmission), it was sent back to Marconi EMI’s Hayes factory for testing prior to the re-start of TV transmissions in 1945.

118 College Road is about 200 metres from the house where John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, lived and, amazingly, the Marconi engineer who tested it and offered upgrading suggestions and testing formulas, was the world-famous Gerry Wells, who runs the British Wireless and Television Museum from his house in West Dulwich, only a mile away.

The television was sold on 20th April for £16,800 to an American buyer.

The Concrete House, 549 Lordship Lane

At a ceremony at the House of Commons on 21st March the chairman of the Heritage of London Trust officially handed over one peppercorn to Southwark’s chief executive as the annual rent for the property. Southwark Council have finally obtained the site under compulsory purchase and the Heritage of London Trust will be reconstructing the house as five housing association flats. The design team are currently working up the scheme and hopefully work will start on site towards the end of the year. This is a great result for Dulwich as the house has been largely derelict for at least 20 years.

The full story of The Concrete House was published in the winter 2010 edition of the Journal and can also be read on the Society’s web site.

Highgrove Garden with the Mark Evison Foundation

Prince Charles has very kindly offered his garden Highgrove, near Tetbury, Gloucs, to the Foundation for a lunch and reception on 17 June 2011. This will include a garden visit of about two hours, at a time that the garden is looking at its June best, also the Wild Garden will be in abundance. It is extremely kind of him, and is because of his interest in the Foundation through the Welsh Guards. It is a great opportunity not often available at this time of the year, for a wonderful garden experience and lunch.

There are a limited number of tickets still available at £85 each, to include a two-hour garden tour, and a two-course lunch with wine. Tickets at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 020 8693 2254, 07789 765 867.

Dulwich Garden Safari - Sunday 12th June 2011 2pm-6pm

Come and explore five beautiful Dulwich gardens (not normally open to the public!) Ticket/map available on the day from 22 Court Lane Gardens, SE21 7DZ.  Adults £5, children under 16 - free!  Sorry – no dogs please! Tea and home-made cakes will be available to refresh you, and a Plant Stall will enable gardening enthusiasts to add to their collection! 

The various gardens incorporate a wonderful variety of trees and shrubs, herbaceous borders, climbing roses, winding paths, water features, ceramics and statuary…..and more!  All proceeds from the Safari are in support  of Dulwich Helpline. Dulwich Helpline, founded in 1993, is a small local charity providing friendly volunteer support for over 300 isolated older people living in Dulwich and neighbouring areas.  Through their team of excellent volunteers, they offer practical help with escorted shopping, gardening, odd jobs, and transport.  They also provide social and emotional support through befriending, and a variety of activity and friendship groups.  Daytime volunteers and help with fundraising are always needed!  If you would like to find out more, please contact Caroline Dunmail on 020 8299 2623 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Post Office

Mr Patel, who came to the Post Office in Dulwich Village twenty-one years ago has retired.   He always preferred to run it single-handedly and despite the Post Office being very heavily used, at Christmas especially, when long queues loop around the shop, he never became flustered.  He always made time to help the older members of the community to complete the unfamiliar forms they had to fill up.

He was also instrumental in getting the post office retained in the Village when other offices were closing elsewhere and he was well-supported in his efforts by the community in the raising of petitions and letters of protest.

For the Dulwich community, the Post Office is one of the most important shops in the Village, so it is vital that Mr Patel’s successors, Nathan and Vimala Rajan are supported in their new enterprise.

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