It has come as a great shock to residents that a local sports club, Southwark Community Sports Trust, which took over the former playing fields of the University of the Southbank when the latter terminated its use of its ground in Turney Road, has found it necessary to contemplate providing an additional building for use by a children’s nursery to balance its books.
The Trust maintains the extensive grounds very well and the team of volunteers who give up so much of their time for the benefit of many youngsters and other users of the facilities deserve our praise and support.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the Trust’s concerns about viability were not communicated early enough, and the, perhaps, rash decision to build a classroom for a nursery on Metropolitan Open Land, and indeed put down concrete foundations without due permission, must be regarded as reckless.
A number of sports clubs around Dulwich hire their pavilions out to nurseries during the week and this seems to satisfy a demand for a nursery education while at the same time helping the clubs pay their own rent and maintenance expenses. The difference in this case is that Southwark Community Sports Trust wants to build a separate new building for the purpose.
Those opposed to this extra structure, a proposed addition to an already considerable collection of buildings, have rightly pointed out that there is sufficient space in the existing pavilion to accommodate a nursery.
It is however the question of contemplating building on MOL which should exert as much opposition as possible. If one portacabin classroom is provided, what is to stop it being two? Once the principal of protecting MOL is thrown out any forms of development might be contemplated.
Dulwich is unique in London in the amount of open space it has. It also has a lot of schools in and around the area. If the pupils are to receive opportunities for sport, promised as a legacy of the London Olympics, then Dulwich’s playing fields must be defended against any attempt to interfere with the concept of Metropolitan Open Land.
Just as the Journal was about to go to press we learned of the sad news of the death of Wilfred Taylor. An obituary will be published in the next issue. Wilf had only recently decided to retire from his office as membership secretary of the Society and passed over to his successor his meticulous records which he had brought up to date by adopting the latest information technology, a skill which he easily assimilated.
Like others before him who have served the Dulwich Society so well over its fifty years, he will be much missed. Gaps in organisations such as ours need to be constantly filled and if you, dear member, have a particular interest in any of the areas covered by our sub-committees then please make that interest known to the respective chairmen. Naturally, the Journal itself depends on its contributors and it always welcomes news, articles and illustrations.
Schools are currently a hot topic of conversation in Dulwich after the recent arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane and a contentious proposal by the Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) to incorporate a nursery in a new building on its site in Turney Road.
We already have a good number of high quality state and private schools in the Dulwich area but a brief on line check shows that there are also well over 40 nursery schools, nurseries, play groups and pre-school facilities.
The main foundation schools all have nursery schools, as do the private prep schools like Dulwich Prep London, Herne Hill School, Oakfield, and Rosemead on Thurlow Park Road. In the state sector, the C of E School in the Village offers one, as does Langbourne School on the Kingswood Estate – and there are others at Kingswood, the Dog Kennel Hill Estate and the Peabody Estate in Herne Hill.
Nurseries appear to be mainly commercial operations including Nelly’s, which has three sites, and is looking for a fourth, and a brand new one, ‘Under the Willow Nursery’, purpose built on former rail land off Croxted Road. There are also two in Rosendale Road and Norwood Road and one in each of Barry Road, Tell Grove, Greendale, Lancaster Road, Crystal Palace Road, Upland Road, Herne Hill, Chancellor Grove, Chatsworth Way, Lacon Road, Colby Road and Gipsy Road.
Churches like St Stephens and All Saints have nurseries in their halls, St Faiths has a German Kindergarten and the Mustard Seed Christian pre-school is in the Baptist Church in Half Moon Lane. There are also three Montessori Schools in other halls. At least two sports clubs have them, the Dulwich Village pre-school in the Edward Alleyn Sports Ground off Dulwich Common and the Little Fingers Montessori Nursery in the Edward Alleyn Club behind Burbage Road.
What does this all prove? It confirms the area’s pre-eminence as a centre of educational excellence (in 2013 speak of course) – in the old days it just had good schools. It also shows that all parts of Dulwich have become a magnet for young families and that we will soon need more primary and secondary school places – which, in fairness Southwark is trying to provide - but it now has to rely on privately promoted ‘free’ schools or ‘academies’ as current government policy precludes any more local authority run primaries.
The long term impact of school growth is of course on traffic, the numbers of cars and coaches in the mornings and afternoons in the area are already too much - and the arrival of the Judith Kerr Free School in Half Moon Lane, with its additional 350 pupils, many drawn from outside our area, will not help
We need to look urgently at alternative ways of bringing children to school. The Society supports the ‘safer routes to school’ group but it will need a real change in the parental mind set to solve this problem – perhaps the solution for older children is the suggestion from Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, that all children should be dropped off some way from the school gate, with the additional benefit that they will all get a little exercise walking to it.
Charles Drake. The builder of the Concrete House, worked as a manager for Joseph Tall who patented a standardised method of forming concrete walls using timber shuttering. In 1868 Drake, aware of the commercial possibilities of using iron shuttering, set up a rival business and patented his 'Concrete Building Apparatus'. The use of flanged plates of iron enameled or glazed on the side facing the wall and slotted wrought iron vertical channels enabled continuous vertical casting of a concrete wall, exactly the same principle as modern 'slip form' concrete construction today.
Drake had extensively experimented with different forms of mass concrete for use in his apparatus. His mix consisted of a coarse early form of Portland Cement mixed one part to nine with cheap aggregates such as gravel, colliery slag, broken stones, broken tiles, fired clay nodules or chimney cinders. No sand ‘fines’ were used. About a third of the mix consisted of air voids. The material possessed exceptional thermal, fire and vermin- proof properties and had the advantage it could be erected rapidly and cheaply using unskilled labour. Analysis of the material at Lordship Lane revealed it consisted of some 50% burnt clay nodules, 30% void and the rest a coarse, carbonated Portland Cement. It did however require cement rendering to exclude the dampness.
Drake is credited with working with a number of notable architects including F.P Cockerell at Down Hall in Harlow and G.E. Street at the Masters House, Marlborough College. But despite cost savings of 50% over traditional brick construction, his ‘Concrete Builder’ was not to revolutionise the way buildings were built as Drake had hoped. He met fierce resistance from the mainstream architectural establishment who saw concrete as the product of the machine, and therefore abhorrent to the burgeoning renaissance in the decorative arts and the role of the craftsman under the influence of Ruskin and the Aesthetic Movement in the latter half of the 19c.
549 Lordship Lane was Drake's own house, built no doubt as a show-piece for his new system. To court wider acceptability for his invention, he chose a conservative Gothic style. The house survives today as testament to the giant leap forward in the standardisation of building production which the architectural establishment was only able to absorb into architectural expression during the next century in the Modern Movement. Drake seems to have been aware of the portents for in a prophetic speech to the Civil and Mechanical Engineer's Society in 1874 he concluded saying "Much has been written and said lately about the demand for a new style of architecture. May I suggest that this may be found in studying the right architectural treatment of concrete buildings." But it is as a 'show home' produced by a leading Victorian technologist to display the technical innovation of its construction that is the special significance of Drake's villa.
Ultimately, Drake's Patent was to lead him into legal disputes with Tall and his partner Reid. His company manufactured his Concrete Builder and laid claim to sales to ‘all parts of the United Kingdom, South Africa and India’. But he quickly over-extended himself and ran into financial difficulties, Drake himself suffering ill-health, and apparently being forced to sell his house in 1876, only three years after its construction.
When we commenced the project, the house was a ruined shell after determined attempts by a previous owner to encourage its collapse. Only the outside concrete walls survived and these were open to the elements. The porch, east bay window and half the roof had collapsed. The south bay window was detached and leaning outwards. A large section of wall in the north west corner had been pulled away leaving a tall concrete chimney precariously unsupported over three storeys. Internal floors and most windows and doors had been robbed. Fortuitously, Drake's system proved it could outlast a brick house which would have collapsed under similar treatment. Despite numerous cracks and deep cuts made into external walls, the un-reinforced concrete house refused to collapse. The building, which was Listed Grade 2 and is on the Heritage At Risk Register, was in a parlous state and in urgent need of repair.
A partnership between Southwark Council, the London-wide building preservation Trust, Heritage of London Trust Operations Limited (HOLTOP), and a local Housing Association came together at the instigation of local campaigners and Southwark Council to save the building. Southwark were successful in a Compulsory Purchase Order with a back-to-back transfer to HOLTOP, and an agreed sale after conservation and repair to Hexagon Housing Association creating five affordable flats. The creation of rented accommodation qualified for grant support from the London Development Agency.
To begin with, our job as conservation architects was archaeological. Many of the building’s elaborate Gothic window mouldings and the collapsed porch were buried and in pieces. The site was carefully cleared and excavated by hand, all original fabric catalogued and set aside.
Most of the concrete staircase had been destroyed in an air raid in October 1940 and poorly repaired. To avoid a conjectural repair and further damage to surviving internal concrete supporting walls, archaeological records were used to recreate an 1870's timber staircase with turned timber balustrading.
For the window mouldings, instead of traditional lime stucco, Drake used an unusual mixture of one part Portland cement probably gauged with one part hydraulic lime for workability, and 6 parts mixed silica sand creating an extremely dense hard cement-based material. Original mouldings had been formed on site as Drake's system evidently could not 'standardise' the production of Gothic window heads which had to rely upon the traditional skills of the craftsman due to their shape and slight variations in window widths produced by his apparatus. Analysis of the surface pebble-dash revealed that graded chert pebbles had been thrown onto the wet binder then lightly pressed into the surface, giving an attractive warm ‘pebble-stone’ appearance.
It was agreed we could not begin the process of restoring buried pieces of mouldings to the correct places because of the dangerous condition of the structure. After much discussion with contractors and conservation engineers' The Morton Partnership, we determined the safest approach was to secure the surviving concrete walls by stitching together all the cracks with stainless steel needles set in resin to create a stable 'box' followed by underpinning the entire house. The precarious north west corner was carefully cut away to allow re-casting a new section of wall using the nearest match to the original no-fines concrete, modern Lytag lightweight concrete. Missing window bays were cast in the same material, recovered pieces of window moulding being fixed in their original places. These preliminary works allowed timber floors to be safely re-inserted and the roof repaired to tie the structure together.
One section of the ruins we could piece together was the Porch which was recovered from buried remains in 11 separate pieces. The attractive Fleur-de-lis clay ridge tiles were hand made to a special mould. The numerous stitch repairs dramatically illustrate the many repaired fractures. These visual anomalies due to previous structural trauma formed a significant part of the story of the house and they were only lightly patinated with sooty water so as not to completely hide our surgical efforts. Missing sections of moulded window surrounds were formed in-situ replicating the original Portland cement:lime:silver sand mix by our specialists Rominar.
One of the advantages of conservation of a Victorian building is the survival of original catalogues and other archival material. An early 20th century photograph recorded the fashionable 'Aesthetic' foliate design of the front railings, no doubt included to curry favour with the supporters of Ruskin. We discovered the model in MacFarlane’s 19c Castings Catalogue helpfully reprinted by Historic Scotland. The railings were reproduced in cast iron from a special mould. Repairs to the damaged Gothic iron bell pull and missing door furniture followed Archibald Kenrick's 1876 catalogue.
The only evidence we had for the Garden was an early photograph showing curving perimeter gravel paths and a central bed laid to lawn. This, together with the original name of the house, 'The Ferns' gave us a clue that Drake's garden had followed William Robinson's 'Wild Garden' concept which was fashionable by 1870. The Garden designer, Allen Scott Landscape Architecture adopted the theme using plants and tree varieties introduced from the late 19c. We mimicked the curving gravel pathways of a Wild Garden, avoiding the hard lines and municipal appearance of concrete curbs by using partially buried timber railway sleepers cut and mitred into curves to support reinforced gravel parking areas.
In the process of bringing Drake's ruined concrete house back to use, we have learnt and documented how Drake constructed his innovative 'show house' and joined with him in the thoroughly modern excitement of building using unusual techniques and materials, working within the established Gothic style with 'Aesthetic' embellishments, to sell to a sceptical 19c architectural establishment.
The finished project has demonstrated to us the driving force and influence of Charles Drake, a technological innovator working 50 years ahead of his time in a wholly modern material, concrete, within an era in which the architectural expression of material was still only a matter of historical style. The project has also provided an exemplar for Conservation Officers on what can be achieved by a co-operative approach using Local Authority Compulsory Purchase Powers, working back-to-back with a Building Preservation Trust, with an end sale to a local Housing Association.
Paul Latham, AABC, ASCHB, IHBC
The Regeneration Practice
50th Anniversary Party
All members are warmly invited to attend the Society’s 50th anniversary party on Saturday October 12th 7.30-9,30pm at St Barnabas Parish Hall, Dulwich Village. The cost is £7.50 per person which includes drinks and light refreshments (the Society is subsidising the event!). The evening will include musical entertainment and a further showing of the 1967 Dulwich Millennium remastered film The date chosen is a mere two days off from the date of the Society’s inaugural meeting in 1963.
If you are intending coming to the party please complete the enclosed application form.
Southwark Council gives planning consent for a new development on Metropolitan Open Land in Dulwich
Sue Badman reports:
On Tuesday 23rd July, Southwark Council Planning Sub-committee A gave planning consent to Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) who run the Dulwich Sports Ground in Turney Road to construct a temporary modular standalone building (portakabin) on a site adjacent to the club pavilion and an iconic willow tree, on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) The portakabin would be clad to blend with the environment, and would house a daytime nursery and a wet weather sports teaching facility at other times.
Planning Confusion and Poor Consultation
SCST submitted a planning application to Southwark at the end of May but the application and drawings were first published on 3rd July due to delays within the Council. After some initial confusion, the Council announced that the closing date for the consultation was 27th July. It then emerged that the planning hearing would take place on 23rd July some four days before the end of the consultation. Residents and local councillors complained but Southwark Planning insisted that holding the hearing before the end of the consultation was perfectly acceptable and not unusual. If objectors raise a material issue before the end of the consultation period, officers will refer the application back to the planning committee in September and the decision notice will therefore be held over. In such circumstances, SCST could not proceed with the work.
Up to now residents have enjoyed good relationships with SCST and were disappointed and surprised that SCST had elected not to hold a pre-planning public consultation with local residents and amenity groups. Furthermore SCST decided to start work on the site foundations early without consent which further enflamed local opinion against the development.
Travesty at the Planning Committee
Some 55 local residents attended two public meetings with SCST, and the application attracted over 90 objections (as well as approx. 10 letters of support) from across Dulwich. The Turney Road residents affected by the proposed building strongly objected on the grounds of inappropriate commercial development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL)/green space, and the precedent that would set for landowners and developers to trample over our green spaces.
Residents attended the planning hearing on 23rd July in force but the committee didn’t listen to residents’ or local councillors’ concerns. Any exploration of the issues around MOL by the committee members fizzled out or got blocked by planners who were resolved to grant consent.
Consent was granted subject to conditions relating to the tree and a green transport plan, and to no new material concerns emerging before the end of the consultation period.
All is not lost
At the time of writing, a number of residents have written to challenge Southwark’s interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), now in force, in relation to MOL and green space, and the lack of attention to the flood risk.
We’ll report back in the next journal.
S G Smith in Dulwich Village
It has been confirmed that S G Smith are moving their Audi servicing business out of Dulwich though they will still sell cars from the showroom at the front. This is very good news for Dulwich, it will remove the parking stress being experienced by Gilkes Crescent and other roads near the centre of the Village and considerably improve the physical environment. The Dulwich Estate proposes to build nine houses on the site and a public consultation was held on 15 and 16 July at S G Smith’s showroom.
The Society welcomes the principle of residential development but is also keen to see provision for older residents, particularly the introduction of warden controlled flats – this is a central location and would enable those older residents who wish to remain in Dulwich to downsize in the area.
Trees Committee Autumn Colour Coach Trip
The now annual fixture in the Society ‘s calendar, the Trees Committee’s Autumn colour coach trip will this year be to Myddelton House Gardens and Capel Manor Gardens on Thursday 24th October (see booking form page ?). Myddelton House was the home of the famous plantsman E A Bowles and the garden has recently been restored. Capel Manor College trains the horticulturalists of the future. It has 30 acres of themed gardens.
The Society on BBC Television
The Society appeared on two programmes on BBC London local news in June and July. The first instance was in an article about the war memorial plaques from Christchurch East Dulwich recently found at Wellingborough Prison. Brian Green from the Society described the importance of the plaques and our wish to return them to their original location.
The second was the dedication of the memorial plaque for bombing victims of WW2 at Park Hall Road. The plaque was unveiled by one of the survivors who lived nearby.
Gardens Group Summer Visit
The Autumn colour trip compliments the Summer trip organized by the Society’s Gardens Group which this year visited Parham. Bernard Victor reports:
The house and gardens of Parham were specially opened for the Dulwich Society, so we did not have to contend with other visitors. We were greeted by the Curator, who split us into two parties, one to tour the gardens in the morning and the other to be taken around the house, the process reversing in the afternoon. However before starting on our visit we all enjoyed coffee and cake in the 15th century Big Kitchen.
I was in the gardens’ morning group, which was led by the young, witty and very knowledgeable Head Gardener. After a short talk on the development of the garden, we were conducted through the conservatory to the walled kitchen garden ( which is still dedicated to producing a regular supply of flowers to decorate the house and vegetables for use in the kitchen). We then moved onto the small but very well planned rose garden. Unlike some rose gardens which are filled with many different varieties, the number of varieties here was restricted to just a few to get the maximum effect. Our garden visit ended at the herbaceous borders and the old orchard and there was a chance to buy some plants before we enjoyed a pre-ordered cold lunch. After lunch, my party was taken for a tour of the house. This too was led by a very knowledgeable guide.
Premier Hire, Burbage Road
This plant hire business which operates from the northern Network Rail railway arches in Burbage Road is seeking to expand its operations. Local residents are already concerned over the number of trucks parking illegally in the road and the amount of noise and disruption that they are experiencing early in the morning. The Council parking enforcement teams have promised to monitor the situation but questions are being asked as to whether this is an appropriate type of business to be carried on in a residential area.
Judith Kerr Free School, Half Moon Lane:
The Society welcomed the new school on the former Sir James Black Laboratory Site in Half Moon Lane in principle but shares local residents’ concerns over the traffic and parking implications. Although the plans suggest that parents will drive in and out of the site, the proposed gate is not wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass. Traffic will back up along Half Moon Lane and impact on cars coming down Holmdene Avenue directly opposite. It is likely that the new access will lead to changes in the layout of Half Moon Lane, including moving the adjacent pedestrian crossing, and the introduction of a 20mph zone complete with raised tables and footway build outs.
Dulwich Society Newsletter Digitalisation
For the past ten years, firstly the Newsletter and more recently the renamed Journal has been available to be read online and has been a valuable tool for anyone interested in Dulwich. The Archives Department of Dulwich College has now offered to digitalise the earlier issues. Our secretary, Patrick Spencer has a complete run for our own archive with the exception of nos. 58 & 72. He would be very grateful if any member could supply these. The process requires a second set which can be taken apart for the digitalization process. There is a second set but we are missing Newsletters nos. 85,88,94,98, 103-4.
The Concrete House – Restored at last!
The listed Concrete House, 549 Lordship Lane, has for several decades been a worsening eyesore on the edge of Dulwich opposite St Peter’s Church in Lordship Lane. Under the guidance of Diana Beattie (who is a Dulwich Society member) Director of the Heritage of London Trust and with the assistance of Southwark Council, English Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Dulwich Society the house has been rescued from the brink of ruin and restored. Interestingly, it was Piloti of Private Eye who first flagged up the dodgy owner of the property who was interested in seeing the house crumble so that the site could be redeveloped.
The Concrete House was formally opened by the Duke of Gloucester on 13th June. The Hexagon Housing Association is now managing the property which accommodates five affordable flats. Members of the public will be able to see the house during Open House Weekend / September.
The full story of the builder of the house, Charles Drake was the subject of an article by his grandson, David Scott Cowan which appeared in the Journal in the winter edition 2010 (it can be read on the online Journal archive). The restoration itself was so complex that we asked the architect, Paul Latham. to allow us to reproduce his account of the work, which appeared in the booklet put together by Ian McInnes for the opening ceremony.
20th Dulwich Festival
The 2013 Dulwich Festival was largely blessed with good weather which allowed the large number of outdoor events to pass off successfully. As reported in the Spring Journal, street art played an important role in this year’s festival some of which has left a legacy of twelve massive murals painted on the end walls of buildings throughout Dulwich. The project, organised by Ingrid Beazley, led to leading street artists being invited to Dulwich Picture Gallery to take inspiration from its Baroque paintings and reinterpret their choice on the walls around the Dulwich area. To view these again, and hear an explanation join Ingrid on Sunday 26th September at 2pm, when she will conduct a walk to look at these murals. Baroque the Street tickets are available at the Gallery at £10.
Southwark Council sponsored several major street art initiatives during the festival, one of which was the SCARECROWS project, created by Graham Shackell of Sometime Soon Arts, a historically inspired type of performance art where scarecrows carrying messages of incidents or people from Dulwich’s past were made by schools, clubs and groups and placed at sites around the area – and mysteriously moved at night! They were a source of great fun for children who followed a printed trail leading to them in the course of which they were made aware of some of Dulwich’s historical heritage.
Traffic congestion has been a feature in Dulwich this summer and drivers’ tempers have flared and P4 buses have been delayed. The last weekend of the Festival was a problem again and it is hoped that in future, arrangements will be made to place No Parking cones down one side of College Road and on the build out on both sides of Gallery Road if the event is held in Dulwich Park next year.
The problem was repeated several other times during the summer, especially on Sunday 23rd June when there was a major cycling event finishing at the Velodrome, a new exhibition at the Gallery, a large football tournament at the Pelo ground in Gallery Road, a fun fair at Belair, the Dulwich Players were performing an open-air Shakespeare production in the Park, a major cricket day was in progress at Southwark Community Sports Trust ground in Turney Road and it was as a sunny day which made Dulwich Park extra busy as well.
At the end of July Southwark Council circulated a consultation document regarding car parking in Dulwich Park where there has been serious congestion on some occasions during the summer months and setting out options to improve the matter. The options which people were asked to consider was limiting parking to 4 hours; making the display of a blue badge mandatory when parking in disabled blue bays; enforcement against dangerous or obstructive parking.
Perhaps parking on the long driveway from the Queen Mary Gate with access from Dulwich Common might be considered for busy weekend, provided of course that the road is closed off where it joins the main park loop.
Local police safer neighbourhood team
The local Safer Neighbourhood Teams in College, East Dulwich and Village Wards moved their home base to Camberwell Police Station on 24th June, and the new policing model came into force. We welcome a new sergeant on Village ward, Pete Shaw, while Stewart Turnbull and Warren Gregory remain at East Dulwich and College respectively. They all come under the Southwark South West Quadrant led by Inspector Richard Hynes.
Barbara Hepworth Statue Replacement
The four artists selected to design the replacement artwork for the stolen Barbara Hepworth statue - Anya Gallaccio, Ryan Gander, Eva Rothschild and Conrad Shawcross - will present their formal submissions for public consultation on the last two weekends of September at an exhibition in the Francis Peak Community Centre, Dulwich Park.