Global warming gave us a searingly hot summer and a major drought through the natural breeding season of most of our small birds, and it would seem to have affected some species more than others. Populations should have doubled or quadrupled by autumn to withstand the expected losses in the coming winter. Blue and Great Tits and also the Long Tailed Tits appear to have fared well but House Sparrows seem to have suffered yet another setback. They are dependent upon caterpillar type food to feed their young and if this is not available in sufficient quantity the young will not survive. The previously well established colony around the Burbage Road Surgery has disappeared, not helped by the over-zealous pruning of the Forsythia hedging that had been their cover.
Of our summer migrants Blackcaps were abundant, probably because they will take a broad variety of food whereas Chiffchaffs, which are insect dependent, were less in evidence. Usually in late September and October they can be seen feeding in the company of Tit flocks before they migrate south, but this year very few were to be seen. House Martins, which were in short supply in early summer, clearly did very well and when a Sparrow Hawk paid a visit I saw 50 or more take to the air. Where they have built new nests these should be left through the winter to enable early breeding next year. (My house painter painted a House Martin's nest white one winter and they never used it again!). I noticed also that House Martins were often to be seen flying around the Horse Chestnut trees so they may be taking the micro-moths which are so devastating to our Chestnuts.
The Dabchicks that were nesting on the Dulwich Park lake were unfortunately not successful but have been seen there subsequently so may well try again next year. And there is good news about the Editor's Mandarin Ducks. They moved from his garden to Belair and have now moved on to the Dulwich Park lake where the male is in all his finery. He is not always easy to see as he tends to hide around the island, but people should look out for him as he is one of the ornithological jewels.
I had a report from Patricia Hole in early October that she looked skywards and saw what she thought was a flock of cranes. This is not as fantastic as it may seem as it followed a day of bad weather and as the normal migration route is from Scandinavia to Spain via northern France they could well have been diverted. I would be very interested to know if anyone else has seen them. Paul Bradbeer is good at finding rarities when he revisits Dulwich and telephoned me to say that he had seen a Firecrest. We do have a population of Goldcrests, the smallest British bird and often difficult to see, although those with good hearing can pick up its very high pitched song. The Firecrest is equally difficult but brighter and a good tick for a twitcher.
(tel: 020 7274 4567)
While strolling with my dog in Sydenham Woods last Spring, I bumped into Angela Wilkes who told me that the Dulwich Society was keen to enhance the biodiversity of Dulwich Park and had encouraged a 10 metre wide cordon sanitaire of unmown grass around the park's perimeter which was a big step in the right direction.
My interest was aroused and I volunteered to carry out a butterfly survey of the park during 2006. It seemed a good idea to also do a botanical survey at the same time to provide a context for the presence or absence of butterflies in the park. The survey was carried out on three occasions in May, June and July. I had hoped to find 17 butterfly species and, in the event, recorded 15, a promising start in the first year of the survey. I am confident that Common Blue and Peacock butterflies breed in the area if the park even if they failed to materialise this year.
The botanical survey yielded an interesting mix of herbaceous plants of wasteland and several garden escapees including a lovely stand of Honesty favoured by Orange Tip Butterflies. The consequence of excessive mowing for many years was reflected in the narrow range of plants and trees and shrubs offered greater promise. There is no doubt that if the more relaxed regime of recent years is maintained the number of species will increase slowly.
I sent the data from the botanical survey to Angela Wilkes and, to my pleasant surprise received a very generous donation from the Dulwich Society in favour of "Butterfly Conservation". At the most recent meeting of our Surrey/SW London Group the Dulwich Society donation was discussed and it was agreed to add it to some branch funding to buy a cow, probably a Dexter, to augment the small herd of about 20 Dexters currently grazing Denbies Hillside and Ranmore. This location on the North Downs close to Dorking is one of the country's best-known butterfly hot-spots. Much of it is National Trust land and they, with their team of highly trained wardens, will care for the new addition to the herd.
When further details of the new cow are available I will update you and hopefully, next summer, you can make the journey to Denbies, see some wonderful butterflies and say "Hello" to the newest addition to the herd.
Malcolm Bridge - Butterfly Recorder for Surrey/SW London Branch of Butterfly Conservation
The rapid increase in Dulwich's population in the mid 18th century, the result of an improvement in roads as a consequence of the activities of the turnpike companies, as well as the building of Westminster and Blackfriars bridges to complement London Bridge, until then London's only bridge across the Thames, made the area vulnerable to crime.
Nine years after the small lock-up was built in Dulwich in 1760, with its inscribed stone plaque: It is the sport of a fool to do mischief: to thine own wickedness shall correct thee, which can still be seen in the small ornamental garden at the bottom of Calton Avenue, a case involving theft reached the Old Bailey. Never was this inscription more apt than in the case of a thief named James Simpson.
The victim was Thomas Wright, a wealthy stationer and bookseller, who had in 1767 completed the building of his large and splendid mansion, Bell House, which still stands in College Road. He would be elected Lord Mayor of London in 1785. He was driven, probably daily, to his firm in the City in his own coach. This regular journey to the City by Wright's coachman would lead to the uncovering of the crime.
The accused was one James Simpson who was not a resident of Dulwich and was accused of theft: simple grand larceny at the Old Bailey on 6th December 1769.
James Simpson was indicted for stealing a woollen cloth coat, value 20 shillings the property of Thomas Wright Esq. on December 2nd of that year. The following is a transcript of the proceedings of the trial.
Rubon Cannicot: I am coachman to Thomas Wright; he lives at Dulwich; our coach was locked up, and the great coat on the coach box. The key was left in the door, on the out side; the yard gate was all fast, and the yard is walled all round; whoever got the coat must get over the wall. I know nothing of the prisoner, I never saw him to my knowledge before I saw him here at the bar, it, ( the coat) was missing last Saturday morning.
Hugh Riley I am a watchman; and buy old clothes, and old rags, and such things. I met the prisoner with this coat, in Cheapside, last Saturday morning about nine o'clock. He asked me if I would buy it. I went with him down Pater-noster-row, and in a little court that goes from thence to St Paul's-church-yard, there I bought it, and paid him the monet, (sic) fourteen shillings; but told him I would not part with him till he sent for a surety. We were in a public house; he wanted to break thro' the window; I held him, and the man of the house assisted me. I brought him before my lord-mayor; my lord ordered the coat to be advertised, and Mr. Cannicot came and described it before he saw it; and I went with him to Mr Wrights (Produced and deposed to by Cannicot.)
My brother was a coachman; I had this coat of him; he was coachman to Mr Hutchinson in Southampton. I offered it to this man; (I) am bricklayer; my brother has been dead some time; I am a Guernsey man.
Verdict - Guilty. Sentence - Transportation (at that time transportation was carried out to the American Colonies)
'It is the sport of a fool to do mischief and to thine own wickedness shall correct thee' - never has a quotation been more true. Simpson must forever have reflected on his bad luck on that day in 1769 when he stole a coat from a village five or so miles distant from London and then tried to sell it in the one place if would be readily recognised - Paternoster Row, the very place where London's booksellers and stationers had their shops and warehouses, and just a stones throw from Stationers' Hall in Ave Maria Lane and to where Thomas Wright, one of its the most prominent members made almost daily journeys. And Simpson's further misfortune was to try to sell the coat to someone who turned out to be an off-duty member of the City's law enforcement body - The Watch.
Introducing a botanical delight on the doorstep of Dulwich...
The South London Botanical Institute was founded to enable the people of south London to have the opportunity to study plants. It is not aimed at academics, although there are professional plants people on hand, but at people who have an interest and who would like to develop this interest in the company of like-minded people.
The SLBI at 323 Norwood Road, SE24 was founded in 1910 by Allan Octavian Hume. Hume had been a high ranking civil servant in India in the late 1800's where he had in his leisure been a leading ornithologist. His collections of birds is the largest ever presented to the Natural History Museum and his collection of mammals can still be seen in the NHM galleries today. An outspoken individual, he is officially considered one of the founders of the Indian National Congress that worked towards self-determination for India. After his return to England he became interested in botany and eventually purchased the Victorian house at 323 Norwood Road for this purpose. The SLBI still provides facilities for discovering botany, ecology, horticulture, plant conservation and related arts today.
Our members include a variety of people - amateur and professional botanists, gardeners, artists, photographers, writers and others. Many distinguished botanists have been associated with the SLBI, notably W.R. Sherrin, Dr. John Ramsbottom, Ted Lousley and Dr Cecil Prime.
In December our Christmas party will feature a selection of short films about the SLBI, its members and related matters. All are welcome. In January we are running evening classes on medicinal herbs and a six week course on Saturday mornings for Botanical Illustrators. Our lectures and educational courses are highly reflective of the varied interests of our members and are suitable for beginners and refreshers. In the summer, field excursions are arranged, and dispersed throughout the year are workshops, garden open days and other events of interest.
Members receive a bi-annual newsletter, the SLBI Gazette which is packed with articles with a botanical slant.
A lovely botanic garden first established in 1935 is maintained by volunteers, and themed beds occupy the entire garden. Volunteers are encouraged, and the annual seed swap allows members to grow rare plants at home. Our Spring Plant Sale in May is popular and plants are grown locally by members.
The Institute supports an extensive botanical library specializing in regional flora, a historic herbarium, a basic laboratory and lecture facilities. The herbarium houses many thousands of pressed and dried plants collected from the British Isles and from across Europe during the late 1800s. Curious visitors and volunteers are always welcome. These resources are available every Thursday from 10am to 4pm.
Alternatively visit our website www.slbi.org.uk and visit "What's on" for our latest programme of events.
Who was Who in Dulwich by Ian McInnes - John Belcher junior RA (1841-1913)
Redholm, the large house on Champion Hill behind the Fox on the Hill pub was built in 1885 to the design of the well known late Victorian/Edwardian architect John Belcher who lived in it until his death in 1913 - he was buried in West Norwood Cemetery.
He was the son of John Belcher senior, also a successful architect, and was born at 2 Montague Terrace, Trinity Church Square, Southwark. He had a privileged education which included architectural studies in Paris in 1862/3, where he was apparently more interested in the new buildings promoted by Baron Haussman and the Emperor Napoleon III, rather than the historic ones. He worked with his father between 1865 and 1875 and one of their best known joint designs was for the Mappin & Webb building opposite the Mansion House in the City, demolished only relatively recently as part of Lord Palumbo's Number One Poultry Development. He was elected ARIBA in December 1879 and FRIBA in March 1882.
An innovative and influential architect, Belcher was one of the founders of the Edwardian Baroque style with buildings ranging from country houses to office blocks. He was President of the Royal Institute of British Architects from 1904 to 1906, RIBA Gold medallist in 1907 and he was elected RA in 1909. A very religious man, he was a leading member of the Catholic Apostolic Church and wrote 'The History of the Ecclesiastical Movement' (1872) and 'A Report on the position of Organs in Churches' (1892). He was also a fine solo bass singer, cello player and conductor and was probably better known to the public as a musician rather than an architect. His architectural books included 'Essentials in Architecture' (1907) - widely read at the time, and between 1898-1900 he wrote 'Later Renaissance Architecture in England', in conjunction with Mervyn Macartney, editor of the Builder Magazine.
He was chairman of the first meeting of the Art Workers' Guild in 1884 to 'reverse the drifting apart of the arts of Architecture, Painting and Sculpture' and had an active policy of fostering younger talent in his office. He was in partnership with Arthur Beresford Pite between 1885-97 (Beresford's Pite's office designed the boarding houses at Dulwich College in 1932) and J J Joass from 1905 (the latter had been his chief assistant from 1897). His most influential building was the Institute of Accountants (1888-93) in the City which demonstrated that the Baroque style was a suitable style for realising the Arts & Crafts ideals of fine sculpture and painting as an integral part of architecture.
His most important buildings included the Southwark Church in Camberwell New Road (1877) - now the Greek orthodox Cathedral, Stowell Park in Gloucester, Colchester Town Hall (1898-1902), Electra House, Moorgate (1902-03), the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park in Lancaster (1904-06) and Royal London House, Finsbury Square (1904-05). From 1905 J J Joass took over more of the design in the office and together they built Winchester House, Old Broad Street (1905-07), the Royal Insurance Building St James (1907-08), Mappin & Webb in Oxford Street (1908-09), the Royal Society of Medicine (1910-12), Whiteleys in Bayswater (1908-12), the Headquarters of the Royal Zoological Society in Regents Park (1910-11) and Holy Trinity Church in Holborn (1910-12). Belcher was also chief architect for the 1908 Franco-British exhibition at White City. Other than his house, his only other local work was the Cottage Hospital in Hermitage Road, Norwood (1881) - it is still standing.
Belcher's influence on architectural practice was such that, in the early 1900's, an advertisement appeared in architectural magazines offering students instruction in the Gothic, Renaissance, Classic and 'Belcher' styles - so closely was his name linked with the Free Baroque style which had become so fashionable in Edwardian times.
Some modern historians have suggested that his strong religious faith had a major impact upon his designs particularly the use of sculptured angels and lions and the numbers seven and twelve. The Catholic Apostolic Church used the word 'Angel' to denote a priest (Belcher was an Angel at the Southwark Church in Camberwell from 1908 until his death in 1913) and the members of the Church apparently genuinely looked forward to the destruction of the old world and the creation of a new Heaven on Earth and thought that the lion would play a key role in this event. Numbers were also of crucial importance, they deliberately built seven churches in London because seven was a holy number. There were seven epistles and in the book of Revelation there were sevenfold protest, seven trumpets, seven vials, and seven golden candlesticks. 'The Testimony of the Stars to Christ', a Catholic Apostolic pamphlet of 1899, referred to the Old Testament Book, Numbers, as proof of the all-importance of numbers in the divine scheme: 'Seven is the number of completeness, a seven fold rainbow is seen in the vision of Ezekiel. Seven covenants were made with Man.'
The precise numbers of the lions and angels on Belcher's buildings could therefore be symbolic. On the facade of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in the City of London, for example, there are two giant angels either side of a rusticated alcove above the side entrance in Great Swan Alley. There is also a row of angels above the ground floor piers of the two street frontages, 7 on the Moorgate Place facade, the main entrance, and 5 on the Swan Alley façade. The original design for Electra House had 8 lions on the Moorgate side and 4 on the side street, a total of 12 and there are 12 lions on the cupola.