With news that a new North/South London tramway is to be built, with its southern terminus in Rye Lane, Peckham, we asked Alan Gildersleeve to tell us about the history of trams in Dulwich.
Trams in Dulwich? Well trams in East Dulwich really. They have always fascinated me. Looking at a map, its seems that the nearest points that trams got to SE 21 were in Lordship Lane at the Grove Tavern (now The Harvester) and at East Dulwich Station. Interestingly though, if one walks along Dulwich Common from east to west, one the right hand side pavement one can trace a line of access covers in the pavement labelled LCC Tramways! This is a power cable run linking Lordship Lane with West Norwood. No trams actually ever graced Dulwich Common.
To begin at the beginning - around 1883, a horse tramway was laid near Dulwich Library to Peckham. This started at the top of Crystal Palace Road and ran down that road to Goose Green. It then crossed into Adys Road and continued to the lower end of Hollydale Road via Maxted Road, Choumert Road, Rye Lane and Brayards Road and thus into Hollydale Road.
In 1906 the London County Council built many electric lines, one of which ran from Camberwell to Dulwich Library via Dog Kennel Hill. This was extended two years later to Forest Hill. The power supply was via live rails under the centre of the tracks, sunk into a slot. This was done, very expensively, to avoid unsightly overhead wires and was known as the conduit system. It was never very satisfactory, but it lasted until the end of trams in about 1950. Much of this is still in situ, buried in concrete and comes to light from time to time during roadworks.
SE21 had a narrow escape when it was proposed to lay tracks from Denmark Hill to Crystal Palace via Red Post Hill, Dulwich Village and College Road or possibly Gallery Road and Alleyn Park. This plan came to nothing as it was strongly opposed. Not even buses were allowed through the Village in those days.
The earliest electric trams in Dulwich were of necessity, short open toppers because of the steepness of Dog Kennel Hill (or Tram Kennel Hill as I once heard it called!) Not long after trams started running on this hill one ran backwards and crashed at the bottom. In view of this, the number of tracks was doubled so that only one tram needed be on the track at any one time. One of these trams can still be ridden at the tramway museum in Derbyshire. These old trams were not all scrapped but some were retained as stores vans or converted into snow ploughs and snow brooms. It is one of these (No. 106) that has been restored at the transport museum at Crich.
Trams were fitted with a hopper of sand beneath the seats, which squirted sand on the rails if the wheels slipped in wet weather. If there was an obstinate dog in the road which would not get out of the way, the driver would squirt some sand under the wheels and this made a loud growling noise as the wheels went over it and the dog would run for its life!
There were no bell pushes on the top deck. Passengers wishing to alight had to struggle down the bouncing staircase and ring the bell at the bottom. These were pneumatic bells and the plunger had to be pushed hard to send a draught of air through the tube to operate the bell at the other end. If the conductor was collecting fares on the upper deck he had to lean out of the window above the entrance toto ensure it was clear and then blew a whistle.
Tram fares were very cheap. The return fare to central London was 5d. For 6d one could get an evening tourist ticket, available on any tram, for travel either north or south of the River Thames, and for a shilling one could buy an All Day rover ticket for journeys all over London. A _d scholar's ticket for use to and from school was sold in school offices. I once travelled all the way from Dulwich to Horns Cross (beyond) Dartford, Kent via Woolwich for 4d return.
One of the surprising things about the tram crews was that they were always cheerful despite working in horrendous conditions in winter. There were no heated wind screens until about 1928. Drivers were frozen stiff and were turned into snow men. The conductors often had their own brand of amusing patter. Thus we had 'The Same Pattern Man' who, if two passengers were obviously together, would ask the second one, "same pattern?" when issuing the tickets. There was also 'Husky Bill' who used to call out "All Fezziwigs, all Fezziwigs" as he collected fares (all fares here please). Another conductor used to call out "High School" when we arrived at the top of Dog Kennel Hill where the primary school stands, and "Low School" when we arrived down the hill at Grove Vale (school).
Just over a hundred years ago Andrew Carnegie and John Passmore Edwards each founded a public library in Dulwich. Our Victorian benefactors probably had the impressions that libraries (from the Latin 'liber' after all) were intended primarily to contain books. A century later they would undoubtedly be happy to see that the valuable local amenities they created were still opening their doors to the public (even if in some cases for rather fewer hours in the week than they did originally), but they might be mystified by what is now going on inside them.
The Carnegie Library in Herne Hill Road celebrated its centenary in July this year, and Dulwich Library in Lordship Lane did so in November 1997. Carnegie was a Dunfermline boy who emigrated to the United States, established a major steel-mill and railway industry, sold out to US Steel and spent the rest of his life in the equally strenuous pursuit of giving away all his money. Passmore Edwards was a Cornish publisher and civil-rights campaigner, who also endowed the South London Art Gallery in Peckham. Both had a public-spirited feeling that the recently literate general population, including a new clerical army of South London Pooters, should be given free access to the delights of English literature. Crowds of them queued all night, to buy the next instalment of each novel by Dickens (as a choreographed line of children still does for the latest Harry Potter book).
A penetrating wind has recently been blowing through our public libraries, sweeping away any dusty misconception that they are just repositories for boring old books. In some of them most books have disappeared altogether. The Carnegie Library used to hold over 30,000 books but now has only 7,000. Reference libraries have been stripped out, leaving only a few shelves in main libraries to hold a restricted range of standard works that one might expect to find in a moderately good bookshop. Where there were once densely filled book stacks are now wide open spaces, in which little islands of activity appear to showcase popular CDs and DVDs, 'talking books', large print editions, reading-group choices, and 'special interest, sections addressing a selection of ethnic, language, gender and ability groups. Infants and schoolchildren are well provided for too, in separate rooms filled with colourful picture books and suitable video and audio material. There are homework help facilities and a battery of flat-screen computer terminals with access to the Internet.
This could convey an impression that local authorities now treat normal adult English literacy as a minority, possibly elitist, pursuit, but do not want to scare away any diffident newcomers to the strange world of books by confronting them with too much reading matter. With this newly created pressure on available book-space, each book evidently now has to 'compete' for its position on the shelf like any brand of washing powder in a supermarket. This makes for some real clearance bargains on the disposals shelf; of nearly-new books at knockdown prices. Meanwhile readers may be glad to know that Southwark Libraries have in stock 100 copies of the Da Vinci Code and 34 copies of the recent King Kong DVD. This is at a time when local authorities are protesting that their finances are under severe constraint, while there are commercial video-rental stores everywhere and more books are being published than ever before. What exactly is going on?
Public libraries, like English fiction, have trodden a delicate line between edifying and entertaining the public, but perhaps did not always assume such a full social service role as they know try to, or feel that they also have to compete in a new audio-visual society. Within this new regime there is a considerable contrast between the present condition of the two principal libraries in Dulwich; one in Southwark and the other in Lambeth.
Dulwich Library is by far the busiest of the four immediate local public libraries, and probably the most active of the twelve libraries in Southwark. It is one of the two 'strategic' libraries in the borough (the others are 'community libraries'), opens on six days each week, including Sundays, and has 22,000 visitors a month. It is housed in its dignified original brick building, recently refurbished, with the name of John Passmore Edwards still inscribed in its external wall. Sir Henry Irving, the Victorian actor-manager, presided when the foundation stone was laid on 24 September 1896. It now proudly proclaims itself as a destination on London buses that arrive in Lordship Lane (ever since the name of the pub which succeeded The Plough as a local landmark became just too obscure for most people to recognise).
On first inspection Dulwich Library too appears to have undergone a thorough purge of its books, but librarians assure us that this largely an illusion since most of the more serious books have been consigned to a back room. One librarian has special responsibility to ensure that 'classic' titles are retained. This does not necessarily means having to keep old and tired editions on the shelves since 'Everyman Library', for example, has brought out as good new series of many better-known English classics. It is a little dispiriting, though, to find some of these already on the disposals shelf. Dulwich Library maintains a considerable collection of sheet music for loan in the reference library upstairs, together with a good range of classical CDs. There is also a room available for local public meetings, of which this library has had a long and interesting history.
Grove Vale Library near East Dulwich Station consists of two adjoining shop premises. Half of the limited space has been converted into facilities for small children and most of the other half is occupied by audio and video material for rental. It is bright and lively and opens on four days in the week. The restricted remaining area for books still contains a few unexpected titles, evidently reflecting current local demand - for example a copy of The Ragged-Trouser Philanthropists .
Kingswood Library occupies one grandly panelled ground floor room in the house formerly owned by the Vestey family and now in the centre of the Kingswood Estate. It is an isolated, seemingly under used Southwark facility now open on only five half-days each week.
The Carnegie Library in Herne Hill Road is an attractive Grade II listed building in mellow brick with stone- mullioned windows. The Friends of Carnegie Library have successfully resisted Lambeth Council's attempts to close it down. At present it opens on just three and a half days in each week which seems to be the extent of all that Lambeth's staffing budget will allow. It has the internal appearance of having been stripped of its books fairly comprehensively. What was previously the reference library is now a completely bare room. The Friends of Carnegie Library regard this as part of a philistine Lambeth Council policy which has been spurred on by its interpretation of central government guidelines.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has produced a 10-year policy document on public libraries called Framework for the Future. Its main targets are: reading and literacy, lifelong learning, social inclusion, cultural diversity and digital citizenship. These include performance guidelines for local authorities, including an intriguing expectation that public libraries should aim to replace 15% of their stock each year. This may sound like another vigorously progressive government target, but could also have the disturbing consequence that few of the public library's remaining books are more than seven years old. Which could be interpreted as another conspiracy to obliterate our cultural memory.
The Minister of Culture has expressed himself a little sad that the Friends of Carnegie Library see it that way. They however, observe that the government has apparently discarded an earlier target, that local authorities should also retain in their libraries a minimum number of books per 1,000 head of the population. With the removal of this parallel constraint the Friends suspect that some shrewd Lambeth Council accountant has realised that the Authority can reduce the annual cost of its library budget considerably, simply by reducing the total number of books it has in stock.
Two other libraries, also in Lambeth, and on the periphery of Dulwich serve the Society's members. West Norwood Library, next to West Norwood Cemetery in Norwood High Street is a bright purpose-built civic centre and has a well-presented array of books. Upper Norwood Library in Westow Hill, is managed jointly by Lambeth and Croydon councils. It seems to have retained more of its traditional stock, possibly because it serves two boroughs as well as being near the frontiers of three other boroughs, Southwark, Bromley and Croydon.
Information Technology is undoubtedly changing the character of our libraries fundamentally and will continue to do so. There are definite advantages in being able to dispense with the whole traditional apparatus of library tickets, book slips and index cards. There are also advantages to any library user who has a personal computer with internet access. Southwark Council's website address (Southwark.gov.uk) gives access to its entire library catalogue (including the number of copies held of any item). Books can be ordered or renewed online and made for collection at any library branch in the borough. The website also gives on-line access to such reference books as the Dictionary of National Biography, Grove's Music and Art, the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Reference encyclopaedia. Not having to buy or replace hard-cover editions of such reference books produces considerable cost saving. So does keeping fewer copies of less well-known classics. Southwark libraries seem to have adopted the practice of holding just one copy of an older book, for which there is less demand, to serve all twelve of its branches.
Librarians will track down any book a reader asks for. If it is not on Southwark's computerised catalogue, they will search the records of other libraries, including the British Library is necessary. Southwark will buy in a new book, DVD or a CD if they think there will be a sufficiently large demand for it - or if librarians think it ought to be on the shelf anyway (this must account for the spectacular number bought of some popular, not to say junk, new publications or releases). Books borrowed from other libraries are subject to substantial fines if they are lost or overdue.
Librarians say that they perform a valuable service by providing free access to the internet from public libraries. This enables local residents, some of whom may still not own a computer or cannot afford to pay for broadband, to make job applications or send emails to relatives abroad. The social divide is not entirely one of cost since some older people (though fewer in recent years) still have an emotional block about using computers this, librarians stand ready to help any library users who are not computer literate. Computer instruction can be arranged for those who need it although this is not necessary encouraged by describing computer courses for older people as being for "silver surfers".
It should be accepted that public libraries, like the public they serve, must move with the times; that there are needs and tastes of a new generation to cater for, and that the best resources should be available to provide the most efficient service. Some of us might still regret losing the pleasure of having a row of books in front of us to choose from, instead of having to interrogate a machine to track down a title and then wait for days for it to be produced. Bound books are still remarkably efficient and compact source of information and the internet, like each new technological breakthrough still needs harnessing. We may still be someway short of what Professor Charles Handy (formerly of the London Business School) calls the "virtual library - a library without a library, a concept not a place", where books are just a quaint relic.
It's Dulwich; or is it?
Dulwich appears on the very first page, and re-appears with considerable frequency. But somehow, it's not quite the Dulwich we know and love. Imaginative poetic licence has enabled Louise Candlish to evoke the pleasant green of the Village and the Park without actually describing anywhere recognisably. Equally, although her Picture Gallery and its Friends are subjected to a little gentle mockery, as are the local tennis clubs, there is nothing you can quite put your finger on and say I recognise that house, that person, that road.
This fun read is set mainly in London with a trip to Granada. Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, Hampstead and, above all, Dulwich are the fashionable settings where the thirty something heroine explores the gaps - generation; work/home; life style; boy/girl - in her desperate attempt to win over her prospective mother-in-law - one of the great and the good of Dulwich.
The author uses the apparent serenity of the Dulwich locale to contrast with the frantic working life of Anna where office politics are played out in all their venom. Add in the heroine's sophisticated flat and her off- beat friends and the opportunities for social comment are legion. There are plenty of positive characters, all of whom you know but none of which is identifiable, there is a heroine and an anti- hero and even an anti- heroine and there is the trip to Granada thrown in. As I said, a fun read.
The Double Life of Anna Day by Louise Candlish is published by Sphere, 2006, £6.99.
The Herne Hill Society's latest publication was launched in July after several years' preparation by the dedicated Local History Group that produced the Herne Hill Heritage Trail in 2003. Benefiting from the support of Heritage Lottery Fund Awards for All, the Society has been able to issue a substantial work of 152 pages at a low cost.
They have included biographies of 146 people who lived in Herne Hill (but are now dead), concentrating on those "whose character, life-circumstances or achievement are of lasting and far-reaching significance". This is a lot of people for a small area, and some appear to have gained entry on the strength of their titles, like Sir Kingsmill Key described even by Who's Who as having "a very quiet career". Others had a very fleeting connection with the area, such as James Callaghan, former Prime Minister, who was lent a house in Carver Road for a short while.
The index is a useful guide to the contents, showing what a variety of claims to fame that the personalities represent, whether actors or archaeologists, murderers or missionaries, sailors or singers. Many are linked to business and the most common addresses are Denmark Hill and Herne Hill. This is where the larger properties were and the more wealthy residents lived. It would have put the biographies into a wider context if a fuller introduction could have developed this theme to explain the attractions of the area and how it has been defined.
There is surprising little overlap between Patricia Jenkyns' The Book of Herne Hill (2003) with 36 biographies, and the Dulwich Society's Who was Who in Dulwich which includes 16 of people who lived on the Southwark side of Herne Hill. Readers might be a little confused by comparing details in some of the lives. Taking one example, Anna Storace, the singer, last sang in 1808 according to the Herne Hill Society but in 1807 according to the Dulwich Society. The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which is now available online to any member of Southwark Libraries at home) agrees with the Dulwich Society on this date but with the Herne Hill Society on Storace's date of birth. Referencing is poor as sources are not given against entries, making it difficult to check information or identify new research, which is unfortunate because a great deal of new work has been done. The location of Storace's house has been found for example, census returns have been searched for other subjects, and much fuller information is given than in the other two works. Overall the book is well written and illustrated and deserves to do well.
Obtainable from Brockwell Art Services, Herne Hill; Dulwich Art Stationers, Dulwich Village or the Herne Hill Society price £7.
On The Street Where You Live - Ian McInnes looks at the High Street, Dulwich Village around 1900
The Crown and Greyhound, designed by the firm of Eedle & Myers, one of the leading pub architects of the day, was built in 1895-96 and was (and still is) a fine example of late nineteenth century pub design. A particular feature is the large garden at the rear which is very popular in summer.
Early in 1900 the London General Omnibus Company proposed to run a horse drawn bus service from Dulwich to Farringdon Street (via Brixton) and Liverpool Street (via Tower Bridge) and the Crown and Greyhound was to be the terminus at the Dulwich end. Their idea was to convert the land at the rear of the pub to stables; they proposed to build stall accommodation for 214 horses, with 10 loose boxes, a harness room, surgery, office, farrier's shop, and living rooms for a yardman and a large yard covered in by a glass and iron roof. It seems that the whole of the garden would have been built over and the Dulwich Estate was, understandably, not very keen. The Surveyor noted;
'I am informed by the architects that it is proposed to excavate the present garden to the depth of about 4 feet, so that the top of the stable and other buildings would be very little higher than the present oak boundary fences. The estimated outlay is £8000. The site of the proposed stabling abuts, on the south side partly on business premises and partly on the garden of Cedar House, on the north side on the private house known as the Cottage and north east on building land having a frontage to Court Lane. There is no doubt that if such a building was agreed to, the residential character of the building land in the immediate vicinity will be destroyed and only fitted for low-class property.'
The Governors inspected the property late in June and wrote formerly on 28th June declining the offer.
Cedar House, referred to above, sat where North House and South House now stand. It was a much modified late eighteenth century building which was actually attached to a row of Georgian houses collectively known as Woodlawn (today No. 105 Dulwich Village retains the name Woodlawn). Early in 1900 the Lambeth Water Company, acting under statutory powers, had instructed the tenant of the first of these houses - now No. 97, the Rev. J H Smith, to install new waste preventing water fittings to the water closets. While the work was being carried out it was found that all the soil pipes and related underground drainage were defective and the Governors accepted liability and paid for a complete new drainage installation - W J Mitchell & Son, one of several local builders who tendered for the work, won the job with a quote for £44.10s.
Poor drainage seems to have been a common problem in Dulwich before the First World War. In 1911 the drainage of Rose, Woodbine and Briar Cottages, the first three houses south of Turney Road, were found to be defective. The Manager tried to persuade Camberwell Council that it was their problem to resolve but they produced a drawing from 1863 confirming that it was the Estate's responsibility. One of the residents, a Mr Lassam, who had lived in Rose Cottage for 37 years, thought the Estate might be persuaded to fund other works and, in April 1913, he approached them for a contribution towards the repair of his roof and some external redecoration. The Manager noted:
'The premises are old, but as Mr Lassam holds them upon very reasonable terms, I advise that the application be not granted'
Cedar House did not attract the wealthiest tenants and by 1908 a Mr R D Hansom was writing to the governors saying:
'I regret to inform you that my income has fallen to such a pitiful amount that I find myself compelled to leave Cedar House and to beg the Governors to release me from my lease.' It was not the only house in the area in poor condition. In April 1911 the executors of the late Canon Carver, attempted to return the leases he held of Camden House and Plas Gwyn (destroyed in World War II) to the Estate. The Manager reported 'One of them is empty and the other is let to a very aged tenant at £50 a year. Both houses are very old, and some years ago they were faced with cement to give them a modern appearance, with the object of attracting tenants. The executors are anxious to rid themselves of their responsibilities under the lease'.
The Hollies was another old house on the opposite side of the road (now No. 62) which had trouble finding a new tenant. The existing tenant, a Mr Massey had been trying to assign the lease for several years and finally found a potential buyer early in 1911. The new buyer, a Mr R Maiden offered to renew the lease from Christmas 1911 but with the option of determining it after 7 or 14 years. (Mr Maiden was described as 'the proprietor of the Kasanli Hotel, and lessee of the Grand Hotel, Kasanli, Punjab India') The Estate normally insisted that the option for determination should be mutual but such were the difficulties of letting older properties the Manager said:
'I could not advise the Governors to insist upon this proviso and run the risk of losing a tenant for this house, which will certainly be vacated by Mr Massey at the end of his lease, he having purchased a property in the country.'
It is interesting to note the condition of this house when the lease was taken over by Cecil Elsom ARIBA, a well-known London architect, in May 1957. The schedule of works required included the installation of new sanitary equipment as well as new electrical wiring, central heating, internal alterations to enlarge the basement kitchen, the creation of a new toilet in the old coal cellar and complete redecoration. Cecil Elsom later built a new living room extension on the side of the house and a swimming pool in the garden.
Houses were not the Estate's only problem, in November 1910 a Mr R Edwards, a laundryman and the tenant of the shop at No. 5 High Street (now No 74) abandoned the premises leaving behind some items of furniture and laundry machinery. The Manager noted:
'On enquiry, I found a Mr Cudlip and his men on the premises removing the machinery which had been hired out to Mr Edwards. On the premises I found an unsigned and undated note to the effect that the furniture was left behind to cover rent etc., but it was of insufficient value to cover the Governor's claim.' Mr Cudlip offered to pay the Governors claim for rent as long as he could remove the hired machinery and a deal was agreed.
The Estate managed to keep Cedar house tenanted until the early 1930s when they sold the site to the builders, Messrs Rider and Dove, who agreed to demolish it and build the two houses that now stand on the site. Messrs Rider and Dove were very much the up-market builder/developers in the area and only built large houses; North and South House were sold for £4500 each - a substantial sum relative to contemporary houses in Eastlands Crescent which went for less than half that price. Their other major developments were the six houses next to the Southwark Sports ground on Dulwich Common and Fernwood on Sydenham Hill. For their first two projects they used Charles Barry, the Estate's Surveyor, as architect but in their last project they used E Turner Powell, a well known Arts & Crafts architect, although the houses themselves are neo-Georgian in style.