Progress is slowly being made towards establishing a new hospital. There was a joint meeting of the Dulwich Project Board and the Community Involvement and Communications Group in the Board Room at King's College Hospital on 19 March. This meeting, described as 'not a public meeting but one which the public is invited to attend', was to enable the Southwark Primary Care Trust (PCT) to present its 'Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) Stage 1 Business Case' to the Dulwich Project Board and Community Involvement and Communications Group, following approval by the Southwark PCT on 8 March at a meeting at Guy's Hospital.

The approval process now follows a number of stages during this spring and summer, after which it is hoped that firm NHS approval will be given for the hospital project to proceed. Provided these are successful it is envisaged that final financial consent would be obtained by August 2008, after which there would be a construction period of two years. This means that a new hospital building would be operational by October 2010, at the earliest. Already a further delay, perhaps of three months, has occurred because NHS London has requested further clarification of some aspects of the Business Case.

Planning application to Southwark Council for a new building will be made only during spring 2008, after the above processes have taken place. The plan is that the new hospital will occupy only 45 per cent of the whole site. The rest of the site will remain occupied by the old buildings, which will continue to provide existing hospital services until the new building is ready. There will be further appraisal of options, followed by public consultation, about this part of the site which will then become redundant. So uncertainties about this are likely to persist so several years.

Heritage Hopes Demolished

A number of people, including local councillors, expressed dismay that the eastern wing of the old hospital (that part designated for the new building) has already been demolished. This followed two unsuccessful appeals to English Heritage to list Dulwich Hospital and to the PCT at least to preserve the front façade of the old building. It judged that the shape of the old hospital made its design unsuitable for new hospital purposes, and that to preserve old features would add unjustifiably to its expense. So the symmetry of the old hospital building has already been irretrievably lost. Any worthwhile retention of its character will now be limited to the central 'chateau' part, and depend entirely on a viable use being found for it.

Freehold transferred to PCT

The freehold of the whole site was transferred from King's College Hospital to the Primary Care Trust in 2005. At the time when Southwark Council's Planning Committee gave outline planning consent for the new hospital, it was hoped that a detailed planning application would relate to the site as a whole. Meanwhile there remains apprehension in some quarters that it will become an increasingly attractive option to sell the redundant part of the site for development, especially if land values continue to rise. The PCT's accountants are also recommending a 'sale and leaseback' of the freehold, to reduce its financial liability to capital charges. We are assured that this proposal applies only to the land on which the new hospital will be built, because this will then have a higher taxable value. 

Doubtful Future

In the present uncertain state of NHS finances, the project is vulnerable at every stage, but the PCT is hopeful that it will continue. NHS policy remains that primary care services should be improved and modernised, and that community hospitals should increasingly take the pressure off larger hospitals with their greater specialised capacity to deal with more serious problems. Unfortunately, delay is a potent government weapon to control the flow of public expenditure and regrets have been expressed at the complexities of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs). With the Government's determination to reduce the burden of public finance there is, for the present, little realistic option that a Dulwich Community Hospital will be built at all.

If you want to find out more about plans for Dulwich Community Hospital, the next meetings of the Dulwich Project Board and Community Involvement and Communications Group will be held in public on Thursday 12 July 2007 at King's College Hospital from 2pm-4pm. For further information about Dulwich Community Hospital please visit

On The Street Where You Live - Peckarman's Wood by Ian McInnes

The original large Victorian houses on this site, numbers 7-21(odd) Crescent Wood Road, had been subject to requisitioning by Camberwell Borough Council during the War and had also appeared on that Council's 1946 list of potential sites for compulsory purchase for council housing. While the Dulwich Estate were prepared to accept, reluctantly, that they would lose some of the Estate (Kingswood and 48-60 (even) Sydenham Hill), by the early 1950s they considered enough was enough. In negotiations over the Dulwich Development Plan (finally approved by the London County Council in 1955), the Ministry of Housing agreed that Camberwell would forgo their right to compulsory purchase this site as long as the Estate carried out their own new development on it.

In February 1956 the Estate Architect, Austin Vernon, flushed with success over his nephew and partner Russell Vernon's successful negotiations with the LCC on the DDP, proposed a series of 3-4 storey flats and maisonettes along the top of the slope along Crescent Wood Road. By November 1957 this had become '50 small houses in small terraces with garages...the scheme has been laid before Messrs Wates Ltd who are interested in the project.' However requisitioning was still in force and Wates qualified their enthusiasm by saying that they 'would be very pleased to take on the development of the above site when the properties have been derequisitioned subject to terms and to a mutually satisfactory redevelopment plan.'

There was also one other complication. In January 1958 the LCC had written to the Governors regarding their intention to purchase the former Crystal Palace High level railway land as public open space and their requirement for an access on to it from Crescent Wood Road -through the proposed development site. The Governors thought that it would be much better to arrange access from Cox's Walk and, after some further negotiation, this was agreed. At the same time they managed to persuade the LCC to allow the old railway land to revert to the Estate on the basis that the Estate would be prepared to allow 'a public walk through the Dulwich Woods with an outlet in Low Cross Wood lane, the walk to be fenced, patrolled and maintained by Camberwell Council.'

In January 1960 the Estate accepted a surrender of the lease of Beechgrove, 111 Sydenham Hill, from the King Edwards Fund for London, with the intention of incorporating it into the proposed development. During July, Russell Vernon, who had taken over as Estate Architect from his uncle, presented a detailed report for a development on both sites noting that the 'site is a particularly difficult one, due to its precipitous nature, which calls for a rather specialized and costly development ..... My proposal for the redevelopment of the first phase, illustrated by the detailed layout plan and the model submitted, is for 101 houses which have been very carefully sited in order to retain the woodland character of the site and to maintain the views to the north and west.... Every effort has been made to keep the wooded character and to treat it in a scenic manner, possibly on the Swedish pattern.'

Delays in sorting out the requisitioned properties and re-housing existing tenants meant that it was not until late in 1962 that a detailed scheme was ready to start. By then there were 30 houses at the top of the site, 12 in the centre and 42 at the bottom. Malcolm Pringle, the design architect, who had joined Austin & Vernon & Partners from John Poulson's office in 1961, confirmed that the unique ranch style houses in the centre were reduced in number and rearranged as a direct response to the contours on the site and to ensure the retention of more existing trees, and that a further house type, a split level town house, was added to keep up the density. The road at the bottom of the site was also designed to be used as an access to the adjacent site for a future development that never took place - growing local opposition to development in the woods stopped it in the 1970s.

Work started on the first phase during 1963 and Wates found that the site had large areas of unstable clay and, as the Architect reported '45 foot piles have had to be driven to provide a stable foundation for the two and three storey houses.' The houses at the top of the site were similar to those built earlier in Dulwich Wood Park, with an open plan living area and a roof 'loft room', all positioned over a double garage. The split level ranch style units were described as 'being designed with a bungalow appearance on the higher level and two stories on the lower level. Each house comprises; on the entrance floor (or higher level) a hall, small dining room with kitchen adjoining (with a screened yard) as well as a bathroom, laundry and separate WC. At the lower level there are two double bedrooms and a bathroom, and at the higher level from the hall a living room with a balcony, and either a fourth bedroom adjoining or a dining room or study. With the living room upstairs, views are obtained across the woods towards London.'

The first completions took place in mid/late 1964 just after the general election which saw Harold Wilson installed as Prime Minister. Political uncertainty combined with high prices (in part a function of the extensive ground works and site infrastructure works) meant that sales were slow. Wates managed to have the estate featured in an article called 'Living In' in the Observer Weekend review of 8th November 1964 written by Audrey Powell. She wrote 'Motoring correspondents are fortunate. Car manufacturers lend them new models so that they can live with them before making a fair assessment of their virtues and vices. Property correspondents are less fortunate. The most we can expect is a conducted tour of a show house. But I have just experienced a pleasant change from this routine: Wates 'lent' me a new house on the Dulwich College Estate. I stayed for a few days in one of their terrace designs in Crescent Wood Road, on the edge of Dulwich. The house has four bedrooms and a double garage and sells at £9,750 on a 99 year lease

She thought the house was generally well planned, that the setting was pleasant and the district quiet with attractive views, 'perhaps a little far from the shops'. She called the design 'modern, but not breaking any new ground' but thought that more attention should be given to the standard of finish 'In the garage the metal runners for the up-and-over doors jut out and could cause six-footers to bang their heads. I have a torn pocket to testify to an awkward, wedge shaped end to a banister rail. The inside of the letter box looked unfinished. And, for a price approaching £10,000, I would like a matwell for my front door mat.

As far as the structure was concerned she had no complaints and noted that 'Wates have the lion's share of new private building in the area....The Crescent Wood Road development will end up with over 300 homes. These will include the terrace houses (of which some are still available); a split level four-bedroom design, on five levels at half storey heights, 42 to be built, selling from January; and 12 Swedish-type two-storey houses in groups of three, which will be ready by mid-summer.'

Many houses in Peckarmans Wood were bought by journalists, media and television workers. The late film critic Sheridan Morley, in a Sunday Times article in the 1990s called 'My first Home' described his time there 'In 1967, Margaret, my first wife, was pregnant and we decided to buy a house. In our Sunday paper there was an advertisement by Roy Brooks, an estate agent who made a living doing anti-ads. It said: "Ghastly small terraced house on golf course in Dulwich, not worth looking at." It turned out to be a lovely, house overlooking Dulwich College, on a Wates estate called Peckarmans Wood.

I discovered that the whole of Fleet Street lived on the estate. I was an ITN newscaster and we would move from house to house to have drinks and talk about deadlines. Wates did not believe in doors or walls, but it wasn't just the houses that were open plan - you'd hear rows five doors down. A wonderful row would erupt between a Sunday Times reporter and his wife, about his mistress, and you'd know who was getting divorced next.

When a family moved in who weren't journalists, they had a dinner party. We all said: 'Let's prove that we're not obsessive journalists.' We arrived at 7:30pm and it was so boring, I heard myself saying: 'Alas, I have to work in the morning so I mustn't be late'. Outside, my wife said: 'Do you know what time it is?' It was five past nine. It taught me a sharp lesson, and now I never leave a party until 3am just in case I am being rude."

Val Harding (1905-1940) is best known as the architect of Dulwich's most important listed twentieth century building, Six Pillars in Crescent Wood Road. The house was built between 1932-35 for the Rev J H Leakey, headmaster of the Dulwich College Preparatory School, but Harding's subsequent connection with Dulwich was much wider.

After prep and public schools he studied at the Architectural Association from 1927-31 and, in 1932, joined the Tecton Partnership led by influential Russian émigré' architect and socialist Berthold Lubetkin. It was one of the few English architectural practices of the time whose work was directly influenced by the new 'modern movement' architectural style emanating from Europe.

Before Six Pillars, Harding, who was regarded as the most talented of Lubetkin's partners, worked primarily on Highpoint 1, the well-known apartment block in Highgate built as staff housing for the Gestetner office equipment firm, the London Zoo and Vega, a vegetarian restaurant in Leicester Square. Although always regarded as a Tecton project, the commission for Six Pillars was secured by Harding himself and he was recognised as the lead designer.

It is not clear whether it was the Rev Leakey, or perhaps his wealthy wife, who was most keen on a modernist design and they had considerable difficulty in persuading the Dulwich Estate to give them permission to go ahead. Initial proposals on a site on the Estate were given cursory dismissal by C E Barry, the Estate Architect, but they finally obtained approval on the site in Crescent Wood Road next to the Dulwich Woodhouse, on the edge of the Estate. The incorporation of brick in the final design of the front elevation was apparently a concession to the Estate and the unusual plan, effectively two separate sleeping suites, was a direct response to the Leakey's particular marital arrangements.

Shortly after completing Six Pillars, Harding left Tecton to set up his own practice with Godfrey Samuel, one of the other partners. He had already designed his own house near Slough and the partnership built further houses in Sussex, Oxford, Poole and Hampstead.

In Dulwich, he clearly retained a good relationship with the Leakeys and obtained a further commission to build a nursery on the main DCPS site. It had a simple L shaped plan but its main architectural interest was in the classrooms' external walls which were glazed doors which could by fully opened during good weather to allow the children to interact directly with the outside - an idea that was quite common on the Continent but had not been seen in England at that time. Though long since demolished, photographs of the building are retained in the Royal Institute of British Architects' library, and are often used to illustrate how avant garde pre-war school design was a precursor of the more child centred education system that underpinned so much of post war school development.

Harding was to carry out one more project for the DCPS, one very familiar to those older Dulwich residents who were pupils at the school in 1939, and this was the design and construction of an evacuation and holiday camp at Cranbrook in Kent. Built during 1938 as a response to Government and LCC initiatives to move children out of London if war came, it was located in an orchard on Mrs Leakey's parents' home in Cranbrook. Built in 6 weeks using prefabricated timber components, it had electric heating and cost £2500. The idea was that, if necessary, DCPS boys could evacuate with their friends to this camp and the school could survive as a unit. A trial run, during a false alarm in 1938 resulted in improvements being made to the original design, and on 1st September 1939, when war seemed inevitable, 135 boys and their teachers were eventually transported from West Dulwich Station to the relative safety of Cranbrook by train.

Harding was killed in France in 1940 during the retreat to Dunkirk and his Times obituary, written by the well known landscape architect, Geoffrey Jellicoe, at that time the principle of the Architectural Association, said 'The death of Val Harding means the loss of one of the most promising younger members of the architectural 1936 Harding and Godfrey Samuel set off in partnership together, and continued their exploration into modern architectural design, the most attractive example of which is perhaps the Nursery School at Dulwich. Val Harding was an engineer, creative artist, and philosopher. He was both gentle and courageous in outlook. The house that he built at Burnham Beeches and enjoyed with his wife and children was at once adventurous and distinguished; and it was characteristic of him to put to one side all his ideals in architecture at the beginning of the war and give himself wholeheartedly to the Army and the country.'

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