The Diamond Jubilee is an occasion to celebrate being British and there will no doubt be many street parties in Dulwich and elsewhere this June. Indeed, Dulwich has a great tradition of street parties and some roads are well versed in their organisation. The usefulness of street parties is that you actually meet your neighbours. Once met, it leads to reciprocation in looking out for your neighbours’ house if they are away, having a spare key to turn off their alarm, being a refuge for children and teenagers who might be accidentally locked out and a host of other benefits, not least making the road a more pleasant place to live in.
A Jubilee is also often marked by a community by the setting up of a seat, the planting of a tree and sometimes by a large gift such as providing a playground or recreation field. For the Silver Jubilee the Dulwich Society restored the fountain in the Village, this time it is to contribute towards a Dulwich Heritage Room in Rosebery Lodge, Dulwich Park. There is also a plan to plant a memorial tree.
Even the most cursory of readers of this Journal might have noticed a change over the last couple of issues. After much deliberation and with an eye to costs we have finally succumbed to the advantage of colour. Certainly it has in the past been virtually impossible to convey, in black and white, the beauty of trees and wildlife which are regularly featured and which no doubt interest a large percentage of the membership. We know this from attendance at tree walks, garden visits and lectures and a keen interest in wildlife which has led to practical help being extended to the London Wildlife Trust and to the Friends of Dulwich Park.
It is now possible to capture in colour other aspects of Dulwich to which the membership has contributed money and labour: the winter garden in Dulwich Park, the Village copse in the Dulwich Park, the long hedge and wildlife walk in Belair and the newly planted hedge in Gallery Road. Indeed in coming issues we will do just that.
Participation by the membership (and others) has not stopped there. There has been great support for the setting up of a trust to run the Velodrome, and a similar enthusiasm to assist another new trust to take over the playing fields so long run by the University of the South Bank and its predecessors in Turney Road. A full account of the latter will be found in this issue. No greater input of effort can be found than in the Dulwich Festival, held annually since 1993. Like its founders, the current organisers include mothers with young children, and often they are work full time.
All of the forgoing has happened because people can be bothered to do things Community spirit has become a dated and somewhat maligned phrase. That is a pity because that is what makes Dulwich what it is.
In the Autumn 2010 Journal I reported on the increasing pressure on Dulwich’s unique semi rural character from changes in residents’ aspirations - how what was previously considered to be an acceptable size for a family house seemed to be no longer the case. The growth of applications for retro-fitted basements appears unstoppable even when, as noted previously, the houses are located in designated flood risk areas (Dulwich has several). As demand expands, and they are increasingly dug below terraced and semi-detached houses, there is potential for serious impact on neighbours. The Turney Road Residents Association is so concerned that it sent a deputation to the April Dulwich Community Council to lobby Southwark to introduce more controls on basement construction. Camden Council has recently produced a good ‘basement impact assessment’ document and the Society has suggested that the Council use this as a model. A positive meeting has been held with Council officers and we are hopeful that it will move forward very soon.
The meeting, chaired by Cllr. Barrie Hargrove, Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment & Recycling, was held at St Barnabas Church on 19 March 2012 and attended by senior Southwark officers, including Gill Davies, Strategic Director of Environment and Leisure and John Wade, Parks and Open Spaces Manager, together with Cllr. Veronica Ward and all Village Ward councillors.
Dr Gary Savage, Headmaster of Alleyn’s School has agreed to become a Vice-President of the Society. He joins Marion Gibbs, Headmistress of James Allen’s Girls’ School; Dr Joseph Spence, Master of Dulwich College; Peter Lawson RIBA, Ian Dejardin, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery; HH Michael Goodman and HH Michael Rich as Honorary Vice-Presidents.
In order to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee the Society is proposing to set up a ‘Dulwich Archive’ - our current plan is to house it in Rosebery Lodge in Dulwich Park. It would be a permanent exhibition of Dulwich History, with reproductions of old pictures and maps, and it would also house the Dulwich post cart that, until recently, used to be in the Post Office. Our aim is to open on certain days in the year to the public, eg summer weekends and the Dulwich Festival, but more frequently for schools and other interested groups.
At the March Dulwich Community Council meeting the Council awarded the Society substantial CGS funding which would have allowed the ground floor rooms at Rosebery lodge to be completed. Unfortunately the Council’s Property Division appears to have a different agenda and seems unwilling to allow the Society to occupy the space, even when we are prepared to make a substantial financial contribution towards the refurbishment.
They intend to go out to ‘the market’ to seek expressions of interest. Has no one told them that it took nearly 10 years to sort out Whippersnappers’ occupation of College Lodge and that, when they previously asked for potential tenants for Rosebery Lodge, they had no response at all?
The Society was founded in 1963 and next year it will be 50 years old. This is an important anniversary for an amenity society such as ours and we are currently putting together a comprehensive series of events for 2013 which will be publicised later this year.
Southwark Council has managed to identify some CGS (Cleaner, Greener, Safer) funding for this year and the Society was very pleased to learn that the six of our submissions for funding were successful.
New Finger posts - £5,000*
Dulwich Archive/Museum - £20,650*
Aquatic Plants in Belair Lake - £4,582*
Belair Park entrance gates on South Circular - £4,000
North Dulwich Signs - £750
*The Society will be adding some matching funding to these items
St Peters Church Wall - £16500
(The Society will be adding £3000 to this sum and the Heritage of London Trust has already confirmed that they will contribute a similar amount pending confirmation of matching funding from the church)
The Friends of Belair Park were also successful with their proposal for new playground equipment for the Under Fives and a CGS grant of £13,000 has been made for this purpose.
The Society has agreed to donate £500 towards improving the rivulet in Dulwich Park and has also planted Black Poplar trees in Long Meadow at a cost of £250 and made available a further £200 for additional tree planting. The Society is also to support the publication of a booklet on The Concrete House, Lordship Lane at a cost of up to £300 once the restoration is completed.
There was a good response to our request in the last issue for members’ email addresses, but we need more. The facility to send our members information and updates is essential and email will let us do this. The addresses would only be used for important local issues and upcoming Society walks and talks or other events which do not fit easily with the Journal’s regular time table.
The lengthy and ugly hoarding which has stood around the Vicarage of St. Faith’s Church for almost two years is a considerable blot on the landscape. How much longer this state of affairs is to continue is anyone’s guess.
The vicarage was closed in 2010 following the retirement of the vicar of St Faith’s, The Revd Hugh Dawes. The majestic Plane Tree standing in the front garden was felled, apparently without consultation, as it is claimed that its roots were causing damage to the building. Nevertheless, the removal of this tree is a great loss of amenity and causes the vicarage to be completely exposed. It is doubtful if a license for its removal was granted under the Scheme of Management before other steps to save the tree could be explored.
Apparently the Parochial Church Council of St Faith’s have had no say in the future of the vicarage as its future is determined by the Southwark Diocese vicarages board. As a consequence, St Faith’s new vicar, The Revd Susan Height is obliged to live in rented accommodation some little distance from the church and the matter is a frustrating one for all concerned.
It is understood that Southwark Diocese has plans to demolish the existing vicarage and build a new one, a scheme financed by the building of additional housing on the site. However, the land was given by the then Governors of the Dulwich Estate in 1950 solely for the purpose of building a church and a vicarage and any variation of this gift is likely to be rejected by the Charity Commission.
The announcement that Southwark Council has allocated £54,000 for an ‘event/s that celebrate communities’ in the period up to 2014 in the south of the borough and that it was to consult local groups on possible projects came as a considerable surprise considering cuts to local services elsewhere. Or is it some Machiavellian scheme to cheer-up the community in the face of increasing austerity? There seems to be general agreement that a repeat of large-scale events in Dulwich Park was undesirable, largely because of the damage inflicted to the gates and grounds by heavy vehicles.
Ideas from the community at the initial consultation in February included building on the existing Dulwich Festival with arts workshops and new themes such as filmmaking and grow-you-own food. Extension by Dulwich Picture Gallery of art education into local council estates was also suggested as was the provision of a bandstand in Dulwich Park (apparently there is considerable enthusiasm for a bandstand as it was also suggested as a Barbara Hepworth ‘Divided Circle’ replacement).
By the time of a second meeting in March enthusiasm seemed to be waning, or at least ideas were thin on the ground. Community theatre was suggested and added to the list. Essentially, it seems that Dulwich and East Dulwich which comprise the area ‘south of the borough’ are already provided for with the excellent community based events organised by the Dulwich Festival in May and that the council would like to replicate this type of event in north Southwark (Bermondsey and Rotherhithe) and central Southwark (Elephant & Castle area). On the other hand, local groups are anxious not to forgo any of .the funding apparently being offered by a bounteous borough of Southwark
The story of the Home Guard unit established at the Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club in July 1940 and told in a recent edition of the Journal has brought to light further information. Mr Patrick Taylor of South Norwood writes to tell us about the rocket battery manned by HG personnel of which his father was a member and which was sited beside Cox’s Walk on Dulwich Common.
Mr Taylor snr. belonged to 103 (County of London Home Guard) Mixed ‘Z’ Rocket Battery, Royal Artillery serving at The Gun Site, Cox’s Walk from November 1942 until the end of June 1944. Initially his cap badge was that of King’s Royal Rifle Corps of which the local unit was the First Surrey Rifles. This unit was also connected with nearby Highwood Barracks. Like his counterpart at the Golf Club, Mr Taylor also initially kept a unit diary and being a school teacher he not unnaturally used an exercise book for the purpose,
The exercise books contain the nominal roll and addresses of those in the unit together with and names of relief members. Although membership of the unit was essentially local, one or two men came from as far away as Beckenham and Farnborough Common and some went on to fulltime service, some even into the Navy or RAF. The rockets, named ‘Z’ projectiles, were fired in salvos and were a British invention dating from 1936 and were in use in London from 1941. What is surprising from the documents in Mr Taylor’s possession is that this appears to be the only case we have heard of where HG members worked jointly with their regular counterparts, the same way as the Territorial Army operates today.
A new and very attractive guide to West Norwood Cemetery’s amazing variety of funeral monuments has been published by the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery. Printed on two sides of A3 paper, the map and guide folds to a convenient size and illustrates the most interesting of the monuments including those to Mrs Beeton, Sir Henry Bessemer and a host of other important national figures. The design is by James Slattery-Kavanagh who is also responsible for the Dulwich Society website. The guide is available from The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery, 79 Durban Road, SE27 9RW.