The success which the Dulwich Society may have achieved in persuading the railway company to increase the frequency of its service on the Victoria line to West Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Stations (see report below), should be tempered with the fact that the comfort of Dulwich rail users continues to be a low priority.

At both West Dulwich and East Dulwich, the platforms are elevated and exposed yet there are only about six seats under cover and none at all along the lengths of the platforms. It is difficult to understand why at least more metal seats cannot be provided or indeed why the sheltered accommodation cannot be extended.

When North Dulwich Station had its commendable facelift in 2004 in which the Society played a central role, and gave £3000 for the forecourt to be paved in York stone, Charles Horton the managing director of Southern trains undertook to carry out a number of improvements to the station which were concerning passengers and also the Railway Heritage Trust which had put up £83,227 towards the restoration.

While some of the promised improvements did take place, such as the redecoration of the ticket hall and improved signage, Mr Horton also assured the Society that the platforms would be repainted and graffiti removed. This, his company has failed to do. The platform area at North Dulwich is potentially an attractive and architecturally interesting space and could do with some TLC.

Safer Cycling

London has got to address the safety of cyclists. In the space of one week in November two cyclists were knocked off their bicycles in Dulwich Village by motorists and required hospitalisation. It is unacceptable to demand greener forms of transport for either children going to school or adults cycling to work or shops if the roads are too dangerous. One way in which the danger can be reduced is for a portion of every pavement to have a clearly marked cycle path. This is widely done across Europe but less so here.

Certain roads in Dulwich have shared pedestrian and cycle usage - College Road, Alleyn Park, Dulwich Common. This needs to be extended as a matter of urgency. There is no reason why Gallery Road should not receive a similar treatment or indeed Red Post Hill, Sunray Avenue, Croxted Road or Sydenham Hill. Where pavements are too narrow they should be widened. A comprehensive survey of all roads in Dulwich and indeed London needs to be carried out if greener forms of transport like cycling are to be encouraged.

Greater Train Frequency on Victoria Line?

In the Dulwich Society Newsletter last year, the late David Hollis wisely alerted members to the fact that Channel Tunnel trains would stop going through West Dulwich and Sydenham Hill on their way to St Pancras instead of Waterloo, thus freeing line capacity, but Orpington trains to and from Victoria would continue to stop only twice an hour at these stations.

After an ensuing exchange of emails between Isaac Marks of the Dulwich Society's Transport & Traffic Committee and Brett Nurse, Customer Services Advisor Southeastern Railway, the latter eventually responded by stating that "We have recognised some flaws in the specification and are planning to operate four trains an hour calling at all stations between London Victoria and Beckenham Junction. Therefore West Dulwich and Lower Sydenham will benefit from a Metro frequency."

Dare we anticipate the frequency will actually improve, if the Customer Service Advisor is confusing Lower Sydenham with Sydenham Hill? No doubt the residents of Lower Sydenham (who are on the London Bridge line) will be elated with this news, but what about the residents of Sydenham Hill? They might take comfort from the fact that the timetable operational from 10 December 2007 does indeed suggest the service to London Victoria will rise to 4 an hour at certain times of the day, though recently clerks in the West Dulwich ticket office seemed to have received no notice of this improvement I train frequency. 

Oh Mr Porter, What Shall I do?

If the Southeastern Railway is confused over the names of its various stations -Sydenham Hill, Sydenham, Lower Sydenham, Crystal Palace, Upper Sydenham (now closed), what about their poor passengers - no wonder the residents of South Dulwich want a name change for Sydenham Hill Station (see Letters page) 

Cash Point at Barclays Bank Dulwich Village

Following a recent meeting of the advisory committee of the Scheme of Management when the Dulwich Estate said it would consider any application for a cash point at the bank, the Society has pursued the matter with Barclays.

The standard answer to the question frequently asked of the bank staff by customers as to why there is no hole in the wall there, is that it is a listed building and the Estate has refused to allow one to be installed. This is clearly not the case and siting one in the porch at the top of the steps of the bank might prove to be the solution. David Roberts, chairman of the Dulwich Society's Planning Committee says that he has contacted the manager at the main branch in Lordship Lane who has passed this on to the Regional Director - since then he has heard nothing.

There is a great demand for such a facility in the Village and the situation may actually get worse as it is understood the lone cash point remaining at Herne Hill is only a temporary facility. David is anxious to gauge the level of demand for such a facility from members and asks them to email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Listed Wall on Red Post Hill

The long-running saga of repairs to the garden wall of Lyndenhurst continues. The Dulwich Society has made an application for Listed Building Consent for the unstable and demolished sections of the boundary wall to be taken down and rebuilt in accordance with the details set out in a consultative civil and structural engineers' report commissioned by the Planning Department of Southwark Council and carried out by Hurst Peirce and Malcolm LLP.

Permission for taking the wall down and rebuilding is required before the exisiting owners, Hausman Hughes Ltd., Southwark Council, or others would be legally able to carry out this work. The usual timescale for processing a planning application is eight weeks. The rebuilding of the wall can then be enforced under section 215 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

The Toll Gate Weather Vane

The charming little toll-booth in College Road was designed by Dulwich Society member Don Adie in 1995 to comply with Health & Safety requirements which found the original method of toll collection from the manually opened gate, placed the collector in danger from passing traffic, the elements and violent robbery.

In the plans for the new toll-booth Don had made provision for a weather vane to be fixed to the roof. The weather vane was designed and made by the boys at Dulwich College under the supervision of Terry Kent, the Design and Technology master. Apparently the weather vane was never fixed because the then Secretary and General Manager of the Dulwich Estate was nervous about it being stolen! It was pointed out to him that if it was not included, it would have been as if it had been stolen! Nevertheless the official remained adamant and the Tollgate has ever since been without its crowning glory.

Last year, consideration was given by the Dulwich Society to its erection but it could not be found. It has now come to light. Apparently Terry Kent has cared for it all these years and it followed him into his retirement. It is being refurbished and subject to the agreement of the Trustees of the Dulwich Estate, will be erected at last, complete with a lightning conductor.

Presentation to PC Shaun Mulcahy

Police Constable Shaun Mulcahy has been a most popular Community Police Officer since his posting to Dulwich Village in 2003. During that time the police presence in Dulwich has been considerably enlarged and Shaun was part of a team of three police officers and three Police Community Supports Officers. Now, with 26 years service in the Metropolitan Police and nearing retirement, he has been offered the position of Court Officer at Tower Bridge Magistrates Court. At his farewell party given by his fellow officers, the Dulwich Society presented him with an inscribed copy of Brian Green's Dulwich: a History as a memento and thank you for his service to the Dulwich community.

Dulwich Graffiti

No, not the disfiguring kind to be found (happily in diminishing occurrence) in Dulwich, but the title given to the evening of readings of literature about Dulwich, arranged by the Local History Group with the help of Dr Jan Piggott, Emeritus Archivist of Dulwich College and the Dulwich Players, in the Old Library, Dulwich College in November. In addition to the 'usual suspects' of Ruskin, Wodehouse and Dickens, were added readings of the works of Samuel Palmer, Henry James and the inimitable 1960's advertisements of the estate agent Roy Brooks.

Situations Vacant

The success of the Dulwich Society depends on the willingness of its members to share the tasks of helping to run it. Each issue of this Newsletter is delivered by such volunteers. There are two vacancies for Area Distributors in Zone C - largely the Court Lane area (130 copies ) and in Zone F - the Alleyn Park and the West Dulwich area (135 copies ). An Area Distributor collects the bulk delivery from Margaret McConnell and distributes these to the several Street Distributors in the Zone. There are also vacancies for Street Distributors in some of these roads. None of these tasks are onerous; indeed you might enjoy the four times a year stroll around Dulwich! If you think you might be able to help the Society in this way please telephone Margaret on 020 8693 4423.

R B Kitaj 1932-2007

The artist R B Kitaj, who died in October, lived at 131 Burbage Road for about ten years from around 1959 when he was studying at the Royal College of Art. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1932, Kitaj ran away from home as a teenager and spent four years in the merchant navy, breaking his voyages to South America with spells at art school at the Cooper Union Institute in New York and at the Akademie der bildenden K_nste in Vienna.

It was probably in Vienna he met the mysterious Austrian count who was a benefactor to impoverished artists and scholars. The count owned the house in Burbage Road which was to become the home of Kitaj and his first wife Elsi. The fledgling Dulwich Society supported the Kitaj's objection to the building of a groundsman's hut behind their house which they argued spoilt their view. When Kitaj left Dulwich in the late 1960's the count invited the Austrian art historian Fritz Grossmann to live there.

The 1960's were perhaps Kitaj's most successful years with his 1963 one-man exhibition at Marlborough Fine Art being acclaimed a critical and financial success and his work remained in steady demand from museums and private collectors. The decade saw his production of collage-based screen prints which were influential, and widely admired. He was a consistently controversial figure with an uncompromising insistence of subject matter rooted in personal conviction and this led to his consequent dismissal of most abstraction and other forms of late modernism. Paradoxically he was to disassociate himself with the Pop Art he helped to spawn at the Royal College.

According to his obituary in The Times, the suicide of his wife in 1969 sent him into a deep depression which reduced his output for several years. In the mid-1970's he turned to life drawing as the pre-eminent ingredient of his art and characteristically disowned most of his graphic work as facile and overly mechanical.

He never recovered his earlier success in Britain and his exhibitions at Marlborough in 1980 and the retrospective at the Tate in 1994 were badly received, the latter attracting the most violent attacks by critics in living memory. These attacks deeply wounded him and the tragic death of his second wife which followed a few weeks later from a ruptured aneurysm on the brain he blamed on the stress caused by the critics' prolonged attacks. The exhibition was much more warmly received in Los Angeles and New York. Kitaj's last exhibition in Britain was in 2001 at the National Gallery (Kitaj in the Aura of Cezanne and Other Masters). Perhaps the Dulwich Picture Gallery should consider a retrospective of his art of his Dulwich years.

Dermot Englefield 1927-2007

Dermot Englefield was a long-term resident of Dulwich and a member of the Dulwich Society. For forty years he was the Librarian of the House of Commons Library. During this time he supervised the enlargement of the Library and its research, information and reference services. He played a highly appreciated role in international work and he was chairman of the Parliamentary Libraries Section of the International Federation of Library Associations from 1985-89. He acted as a consultant to the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the proposed Scottish assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

The Great Storm

Twenty years ago, in the early hours of 16 October 1987 to be precise, the south of England experienced unprecedented high winds which caused widespread structural damage and the loss of some millions of trees. In hindsight, Nature's clearance of wide swaths of woodland gave a chance for other plant species to flourish and the glades the storm opened up have often become filled with bluebells and grasses.

In Dulwich it was felt that the storm was catastrophic. Dulwich Park lost around twenty mature trees and a similar number lost their tops. In Dulwich Woods 72 oaks were blown down and 89 tops were lost. The Dulwich Picture Gallery lost its famous Judas Tree, the magnificent Cedar of Lebanon in the grounds of The Old College was uprooted and countless other trees in roads, gardens and playing fields were destroyed.

Council action to open blocked roads was swift but the demand for the services of tree surgeons meant that it was months before all the fallen trees were removed. There was also the embarrassment to be endured in having large branches of a tree from your garden landing up a neighbour's garden two houses away. How to respond to the received terse telephone call ; "Your tree has landed in my garden, would you mind coming and removing it", required a certain amount of tact and several months of procrastination.

At the Sydenham Hill Nature Reserve the London Wildlife Trust brought in heavy horses to drag out the fallen trees. These Ardennes horses, each weighing one ton, were supplied by the National Working Horses Trust and were found to be the most sensible method of removal as the woodland is steep and not appropriate for motor vehicles. Not unexpectedly, the event received widespread picture coverage in the national press.

The subsequent efforts of Southwark Council, the Dulwich Estates Governors (later Trustees) and the Dulwich Society in carrying out a continual programme of tree planting have returned Dulwich to its former glory. Indeed, judging it by this autumn's colour, it is possible that Dulwich looks better now than it has ever done because of the wide variety of species planted.

Recently a copy of Trees of Dulwich by a local resident, M. J. Teesdale and published in 1902 was given to the Dulwich Society. Interestingly, it suggests that many of Dulwich's then non-native trees, and especially the North American varieties were the result seeds obtained locally from a Peter Collinson, a Quaker and Woollen-Draper and a resident of Peckham in the eighteenth century. Collinson, a friend of Linnaeus, was importing large quantities of seeds - including many of the kind we still have here, from John Bartram, a gardener botanist of Pennsylvania, and was selling them to noblemen and other owners of large gardens.

Teesdale also suggests that Dr John Coakley Lettsom, the celebrated physician and garden-lover who lived at Grove Hill, Camberwell might have been another source of local exotic trees. Lettsom was a leader in horticultural improvement and botanical research.

Of the Dulwich officials responsible for planting trees, the first was James Allen, Master 1721-46. Allen was interested in trees and is credited with the planting of Horse Chestnuts along the Village. Another was John Dugleby, who was appointed the College's Surveyor in 1785 who carried out large-scale clearances of many existing pollarded trees which he considered commercially wasteful and ordered their replacement by specimen trees. According to Teesdale, the planting of (then) younger trees along College Road, was carried out by Charles Druce, the College's Steward at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The North American species growing in Dulwich at the beginning of the 20th century included, the Flowering Ash, the Yellow-flowered Horse Chestnut , both in the same garden at the corner of College Road and Dulwich Common as the well-known Zelcova. A North American Nettle Tree (Celtis Occidentalis) and an Indian Bean, a native of Georgia and the Carolinas, were growing in the grounds of the Old College. Growing in the front garden of Woodlawn, in Dulwich Village was a fine specimen of an American Black Walnut, some 80-90 feet in height. Another specimen in the grounds of Woodlawn was a Bald Cypress. Other examples of this tree were growing in the gardens of The Orchard and Cypress House, Toksowa House all on Dulwich Common, and Belair and Bell House.

Dulwich Trees Map to be reprinted

Stella Benwell reports that Jenny Park has done such a wonderful job supplying local outlets with the Dulwich Trees Map illustrated by Rosemary Lindsay, that the print run is virtually sold out. All members of the Society received one free but there remains a steady demand for copies. The Trees Committee would like to reprint the map but will need someone to replace Jenny as distributor. Please telephone Stella on 020 8693 1447 if you think you can help. 

Anne Shelton OBE nominated for Blue Plaque award

Court Lane in Dulwich could be getting its second Blue Plaque, with the nomination of the singer Anne Shelton for an award in Southwark Council's 2007 "Blue Plaque" scheme. If she wins, a plaque will be placed on the house in Court Lane where she lived for over 50 years. A plaque was awarded last year to mark the birthplace in Court Lane Gardens of Phyllis Pearsall, creator of the A-Z map of London.

An award would be a fitting tribute to a hugely popular singer, who shot to fame in 1940 with the Ambrose Orchestra and became the war-time "Force's Favourite" for her wonderful songs and personality. Anne was later awarded an OBE for organising shows for the "Not Forgotten Association" of disabled ex-servicemen and women, which she continued, with her singing, until her death in 1994.

Another nomination in this year's awards with a Dulwich connection is the film actress and director Ida Lupino (1918-1995), who was born in Ardbeg Road.

Awards depend entirely on votes received. To vote, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Blue Plaques, Southwark Council, Southwark Local History Library, 211 Borough High Street, London SE1 1JA. 

Great Exhibition Medal Found

Dulwich Society member Dr Pentney reports the unearthing in the garden of her former home at Stonehills Court, of a medal bearing the inscription EXHIBITOR Exhibition of the works of industry of all Nations 1851. It is possible that the medal was dropped during the building of a mansion named Stonehills which was erected in the early 1860's and after which the present complex of housing is named.

The Dulwich Society's Local History Group sent the details engraved on the medal to the Victoria & Albert Museum and was informed by Lucy Cullen, the Curator of Sculpture that the medal was awarded to Cowell & Thomas 103 High Street, Marylebone - Designers and Manufacturers 'for the exhibiting of a specimen of solid inlaying, by hand, intended for floors of drawing rooms, boudoirs, ballrooms. Executed in deal and mahogany, in board of ordinary width.'

Nearly 14,000 Exhibitors Medals were awarded to anyone who had materials shown.

Beltwood Menagerie

The eccentric American owner of Beltwood, Sydenham Hill fled back to New York in the summer and the house has been repossessed by the bank. After failing to gain permission to continue the premises as a nightclub, Beltwood became a kind of menagerie. The RSPCA inspectors removed 64 dogs, 7 horses and two peacocks from the extensive grounds. All were in good condition. The house was restored by English Heritage some ten years ago following changing occupancy after its use as a nurses' home for Kings College Hospital ended. This attractive and surprisingly modern looking house was built in 1851 by Edward Saxton, a city solicitor, who continued to live in the house until his death in 1911 at the age of 97. Be prepared for planning applications for the intensive development of this large site.

International Dining Group Closes

After sampling the cuisine of more than 150 different countries over a period of 30 years a Dulwich dining group has finally thrown in the tea towel. Each of the four couples was responsible for researching and preparing one course or select wine for the meal and during the dinner a ballot was held for the next country to be dined out. Memorable meals apparently include those of Burkina Faso and the Comoros Islands! Before the arrival of the Internet, help was sought from embassies and a wealth of international cookery books.

James Allen's Old Home Repaired

Closed for 17 years as a danger to the public, the ruins of Tudor Cowdray House in Midhurst, West Sussex, once the home of James Allen, are open again following £4 million of repairs, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The house was built in two phases, first the Great Hall, chapel and probably the kitchen in the 1520's by Sir David Owen and continued from 1535 by Sir William Fitzwilliam. Work was then continued by the latter's half-brother Sir Anthony Brown and his son the first Viscount Montague. Cowdray was, for over two centuries, a centre for Catholicism. The house was destroyed by a savage fire in 1793 and has remained a ruin ever since.

James Allen's, a Master of Alleyn's College and Founder of what would become James Allen's Girls' School, moved to Cowdray with his parents and brothers and sisters in1688 when he was 5 years old. His father, also named James, was appointed Park Steward to the Montague family. Two years later James senior drowned in the lake at Cowdray and his mother brought her young family back to London. There was clearly some connection between the Allen's and the Montagues involving the Jacobite cause as his mother then married the Rev Francis Salisbury, a former priest with Papist leanings, of South Harting, a parish endowed by the Montagues.

Salisbury was convicted of forging documents in order to undermine the government and was executed at Tyburn. Despite this the family still remained connected to the Jacobite network and James's sister Elizabeth later married Lord Pitsligo who was exiled for his role in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.

Early Days

I had not expected to spend fifty years as a shopkeeper in Dulwich Village when I left Alleyn's in 1953, although I was keen on a career in retailing which I began as office boy to the chairman and directors of the Harrods group of department stores, then still in family ownership. National Service in the RAMC followed, after which I left the shores of England to spend a few months working in the main Eaton's store in Toronto.

I entered the family business in the summer of 1957, the result of a message that my father's eyesight was failing. Fortunately his poor sight did not deteriorate further; he would still continued to run one of the family's shops in the Village until 1972, and indeed for several years still put in a day or so a week as a guillotine operator in a printing company; a somewhat dangerous occupation for a short sighted worker!

At the rear of my shop in those days was an extensive printing works owned and run by one Albert Chapman, a character indeed. Albert had left his native Wisbech, where he had learned to become a printer, for Dulwich in the early 1930's. He had bought the shop and printing works from a previous owner (The Art Stationers was then called The College Press and had been a stationers and artists' materials shop since the late 1860's). The shop did not interest him greatly which is how my parents came to buy that part of the business from him in 1947.

Albert was subject to numerous enthusiasms, the pursuit of which invariably relegated his business of printing to a poor second place. He was attracted to botany and became an expert on African Violets, rising to become president of the society established in their name. He was a member of the British Herpetological Society, and an enthusiast for life plaster casting. In the printing works, classical music emanating from stereo-speakers competed with the hum and rattle of flat-bed presses and linotype machines. Buried in the confusion was Albert, invariably engaged in his latest hobby. Poetry was a particular love and his printing works became the HQ of Poetry Commonwealth, an organisation started by two local poets and founders of the Dulwich Poetry Group. The print works' disappearance more or less coincided with Albert's death and the redevelopment at the rear of the row of shops to build the SG Smith garage complex.

Although the Village in 1957 continued to enjoy a timeless atmosphere which still survives today, elsewhere around Dulwich the scene was quite different. The Dulwich Estate had only just begun to embark on its massive house-building programme following the end of World War II and while Frank Dixon Way had been completed, the 'town-house' and the numerous developments by Messrs Wates & Co. graphically recalled in this Newsletter by Ian McInnes, had yet to arrive. Indeed, there was only one estate agency in the Village (today there are five). The more senior of the male office workers still wore bowler hats on their way to work and children carried satchels to school, the boys wearing caps and the girls straw boaters in summer or soft velour hats in winter. Two households still retained their long-serving elderly uniformed maids at their houses in Village Way and Woodwarde Road. I recall being asked by one of my first customers, a delightful elderly lady with a dog on the longest lead I have ever seen, and who had a permanent suite at the Selsdon Park Hotel, what kind of pen would be suitable for her to give to a member of the working class!

Among my fellow shopkeepers a number had seen service in the war. Howard Bartley the greengrocer, who in addition to sporting the regimental tie of the Royal Tank Regiment, also carried on his back the burns he received when his tank caught fire in North Africa. Stanley Legge, the pacifist newsagent and former RAF serviceman continued to pour scorn on Alleyn's celebrated cadet force which he described as akin to the Hitler Youth Movement. At the Crown & Greyhound, Sydney Kitching who had served as a fighter pilot was, with the help of his glamorous wife Dorene, creating a distinctive and pleasant atmosphere in his pub, where, in the large upstairs room the Rotary Club met on Tuesday lunchtimes. A cricket competition was started between two teams drawn from owners and staffs of businesses at either end of the Village, and WJ Mitchell the local builders made a giant wooden spoon as a trophy for this annual competition.

Not all the shopkeepers were paragons of virtue. One had received a substantial fine for publishing obscene books (it was before the arrival of Lady Chatterley's Lover ), another, who ran an antiques shop in the premises now occupied by Harold George Hairdressers, had disappeared with all the antiques people had left for him to sell on commission. An owner of the TV and radio shop was imprisoned for receiving stolen property. Indeed, things were not to change greatly; some years later a local estate agent who showed great promise as an amateur actor received a twelve-month sentence for embezzling his company's profits and a another estate agency manager was sacked for other financial misdemeanours. The highlight of my fellow shopkeepers' failings however is more recent and certainly more innocent. It concerns a particular lady I nicknamed 'The Luscious Linda'. Nothing can compare with the career of Linda; it is the stuff of an improbable TV soap.

Linda was, she said, a former Miss Barbados who had had a fling with Ian Botham on one of his West Indies tours. Her arrival in Dulwich Village in the early 1990's actually came as a bit of light relief. The housing slump had had a knock-on effect on the viability of the Village shops and the arrival of Sainsbury's in Dog Kennel Hill had killed off the butchers (2) , bakers (1), greengrocers (2), off licence (1) , the fishmonger having succumbed somewhat before. Linda's foray into retailing was therefore somewhat refreshing and she began with the renting of part of the former post office as a 'nearly-new' ladies' wear. This was successful and soon she took one of several vacant shops to extend this enterprise, curiously adding a café cum restaurant.

Despite Linda's obvious enthusiasm the economic climate at the time mitigated against her and she became so far behind with her rent and other financial demands that the Dulwich Estate were about to foreclose on her business. Then, to amusement of her fellow shopkeepers she won a cool quarter of a million pounds on the National Lottery. One can only imagine what kind of note she wrote when enclosing her arrears of rent. That was not the end by any means of the Linda saga. Several months later she had a further win, but this time only a modest £20,000! And then, to cap it all, she was approached by Pizza Express who were anxious to get a foothold in the Village and offered £100,000 for the remainder of her lease; a sum she quickly took much to the chagrin of the Estate.

Sadly Linda's tale did not have a happy ending - another attempt at combining coffee, this time with antiques also failed. Vintage cars, extravagant trips to New York and a new house at Hambledon Place quickly blew a hole in Linda's new fortune. A rapid exit back to Barbados and the family home was the last we saw of her. The house was repossessed, the school-fees arrears written off and a little colour went out of the Village for a time.

Then there was John Heller, whose wife Betty owned one of the Village's first boutiques in the 1970's. John was a publisher but also had an acting career and as a character actor was usually cast as an arrogant German officer, invariably sporting a monocle - remember him sharing the spotlight with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in 'Where Eagles Dare'? John was always in charge of the boutique on Saturdays which was Betty's day off, a role which he and his female customers appeared to relish.

Perhaps unexpectedly some of the proprietors had a different persona outside of business hours. The often dour Walter Bartley who owned one of the greengrocers' shops was a splendid ballroom dancer, W F Fordham, whose sons joined him in his electrical business in the 1950's was formerly a professional music-hall turn, Brenda Dawson who ran the memorable Olde Village Tuck Shoppe was a keen bridge player. Wally the newspaper vendor, who had a pitch at North Dulwich Station, was a bookmaker with a pitch at most of the southern racecourses.

Latter Days

The fall-out of the twin attacks on local shops - the supermarkets' virtual monopolisation of food retailing and the economic downturn of the early 1990's created vacant shop premises, which, as the economy eventually recovered, were gradually taken over by estate agents, restaurants, cafés and boutiques. The adoption of the continental custom of the outdoor café has been a very recent phenomenon, certainly too late for Linda's early enterprise and it cannot be entirely down to climate change as the photograph of ice-bound coffee-drinkers shows. What has taken place is that visiting Dulwich Village has become a leisure activity. A coffee, a browse in the shops en route to Dulwich Park or Picture Gallery has become a pleasant all-year round activity.

The Shopping Bag or basket, so many years absent from local shopping expeditions has made a welcome return, thanks to the guilt factor stimulated by the media and the 'Dulwich Going Greener' campaign. The bicycle has made a similar come-back, not, one suspects for environmental reasons but simply that it is easier to park. As a consequence, bike racks have returned after a century's absence from the village street. The art of writing a cheque has disappeared and the 'hole in the wall' has created frustrating problems over the supply of change. The five-pound note, which when I started my career was a large white tissue-like piece of paper the size of a handkerchief is now a tatty little green number of even greater rarity than its 1950's predecessor.

The Swiss au pair has been replaced by her Polish counterpart and domestic born domestic helps have retired to the Costa Blanca. The vacancy thus created has been filled by industrious East Europeans whose back does not ache so regularly as her predecessor and who seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of other such girls who might be available for such work, as well as tips on finding a plumber or electrician of her acquaintance.

Being a shopkeeper in Dulwich continues to be a satisfying and entertaining occupation - perhaps surprising after fifty years.

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