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.
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.
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 www.nationalrail.co.uk 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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.