Following on from a very successful fortieth anniversary party, this year promises to be a most exciting one for the Dulwich Society. Elsewhere in this issue are details of events planned by some of the sub-committees. A unique event will take place on 26 May when the designs of the six finalists for the life-size bronze statue of Edward Alleyn are exhibited in the Linbury Room of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

However, the main function of the Society is to fulfil its object - To foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich - to this end the practical work continues to be done by members. This work is widely appreciated and has attracted the substantial membership the Dulwich Society enjoys. It tries to be fair in its views, especially over often contentious issues such as planning applications. It remains vigilant and apolitical yet tries to channel changes, when inevitable, towards acceptable conclusions.

The Society's funds come from the modest annual subscription, from profits made on its publications and from occasional gifts or legacies from members. The careful management of its finances has meant that the Society has again been able to respond to requests for financial assistance from local concerns.

Recently these have included a substantial sum being given to the campaign of the Friends of Dulwich Park for the completion of the new car park and towards matching funding for the Heritage Lottery Fund grant and a further sum to assist the development of more flower beds. Further substantial sums were awarded to All Saints Church, Rosendale Road and St. Stephen's, College Road for repairs to their fabric. The Society has also underwritten costs associated with meetings concerning traffic, transport and planning. Seats have been placed through Dulwich and trees planted. Last year's production of Dulwich Cavalcade, performed at Christ's Chapel was sponsored by the Society. A recent traffic survey commissioned by the residents of Burbage Road at a cost of £1000 was subsidised by £500 by the Society in response to concerns from residents that Southwark Council's own survey of traffic impact on the proposed Velodrome development was flawed. The sum of £2500 has also been earmarked as the Society's share of a Southwark Council scheme to improve the streetscape of the Village. In December, the Society's 40th anniversary party was partly underwritten from its funds. In May, the Society will bear the costs of the competition for a sculpture of Edward Alleyn.

This all represents a worthy contribution towards fulfilling the Society's object.

Over 370 members and guests gathered in the Great Hall, Dulwich College on 6th December for the Society's fortieth anniversary party. After being greeted by the President, His Honour Judge Michael Rich and by the Master of Dulwich College, Graham Able, who is also a Vice-President, the guests were entertained to a programme of piano music to accompany refreshments. Peter Lawson, a founder-member and Vice President then recalled the origins of the Dulwich Society and proposed the toast to its founder, Alan Mason. The Society's Chairman, Adrian Hill welcomed those attending and introduced the Gallery Singers under the direction of Marilyn Harper who gave a splendid concert of seasonal music.

After some two hundred years a much-loved Dulwich landmark is likely to disappear. The giant Zelcova carpinifolia, a Caucasian Elm, one of the family of elms not subject to Dutch Elm Disease. It was discovered in the Trans Causasian forests of Russia in 1760 and brought to France and then to England. It is comparatively rare in this country

The tree that has guarded the junction of Dulwich Common and College Road is likely to be felled for safety reasons. Probably due to the increased number of heavy vehicles using the South Circular Road, the tree has developed an acute lean across this busy road junction. The lean has caused the centre of gravity of the tree to shift 1.8 metres from the base of the tree. There continues to be a slight increase in this lean (less than 1cm during the period of monitoring).

This remarkable tree has a height of some 90ft and an overall span of 75ft., and a girth of 15ft 8in. It is therefore bigger than the specimen at Kew. Because of its rarity it is the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. It is probable that the incentive to originally plant the Zelcova may have come from the College's late eighteenth century surveyor, John Dugleby who took such a keen interest in Dulwich's trees that he advised the wholesale removal of many established trees in Dulwich's hedgerows and their replacement by nursery grown specimens.

Three reports have been commissioned from experts. The Dulwich Estate sought advice from the Forestry Commission and also the Arboricultural Advisory and Information Service and The Dulwich Society (in conjunction with the Dulwich Preservation Society) sought the advice of an independent tree expert.

All three reports say that the tree is basically healthy but presents a dangerous hazard if it failed. The use of artificial support would be unsightly and the option of pollarding to reduce the risk of failure would require some 80% of the branches to be removed, resulting in an aesthetically undesirable solution. This however is a course which the Dulwich Society's Trees Committee is anxious to take in order to save the tree.

Although a final decision on the fate of the tree has yet to be made, the Dulwich Estate is of a view that the tree presents an unacceptable risk to the public and regrettably, the only practical solution for the long-term, is to remove the tree. By good fortune another Zelcova was planted on the adjoining green a few years ago. As an interim measure, the Estate has formally applied to lift the Tree Preservation Order.

The Dulwich Society Trees Committee announce a TREE WALK in Dulwich Park (Northside) on Saturday 15th May at 2pm led by Letta Jones, Lecturer in Garden History and Horticulture. Meet at the Court Lane Gate.

The Competition organised by the Dulwich Society for the design of a full-size bronze sculpture of Edward Alleyn has attracted a widespread interest. A distinguished list of sculptors, many with impressive portfolios of previously commissioned works has applied for entry and the list closed on February 28th.

The artists have until April 30th to submit drawings and maquettes. A selection panel of judges under the chairmanship of Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery has been formed. The designs of the six finalists' work will be displayed in a special exhibition in the Linbury Room of the Gallery from May 26-June 6.

A Public Appeal for funds to commission the Statue will be launched by The Dulwich Society at a Private View and Prizegiving at the Gallery on Thursday 27 May at 8pm to which all members are cordially invited. During the evening the winning design will be announced and each of the finalists will be presented with a cheque for £750 by. the Society.

There will be opportunity for the artists to talk about their work.

It is anticipated that the completed statue, sited within the grounds of the Old College will be unveiled in 2005 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Edward Alleyn's purchase of the Manor of Dulwich. An Edward Alleyn Statue Appeal Committee has been formed by the Society, under the chairmanship of its President, Judge Michael Rich QC. The target of the appeal will be £30,000. A number of local residents have indicated they would like to become Patrons of the Appeal. Other supporters of the project who would also like to join the list of Patrons are invited to contact Michael Rich (18 Dulwich Village, SE 21 7AL tel. 020 8693 1957).

A list of Subscribers to the Appeal has been opened and donations may be sent to the Treasurer of the Appeal Committee, David Trace FCA, 88 Burbage Road SE 24. Cheques should be made out to the Dulwich Society Alleyn Statue Appeal.

Jim Bellman, proprietor of the Dulwich Riding School has died after a long illness.

He founded the Riding School in 1962 and built it up from what was a demolition site into the high-class and well respected school that it became. Jim was born in Brixton, into a non-horsy background. A local horse dealer took him under his wing and proceeded to teach the eager young pupil everything he knew about the 'horse-game'. War service intervened for Jim and when he was demobbed he began selling fruit and vegetables from a horse and London Trolley around the streets of South London. He bought his horses and harness at the long defunct Horse Repository at the Elephant & Castle - he had a wonderful eye for spotting a horse in the rough; naturally buying for the lowest possible price! His horses used for the greengrocery round were always Welsh Cob or Dales type and these breeds always remained his favourites. When he married and had his children, he swapped the round for a permanent fruit stall in Electric Avenue, Brixton. He would retain the traditional coster dress of jacket, waistcoat and white choker tie for the rest of his life.

In the late 1950's he decided that he wanted to open a riding school and in 1961 he leased a plot of waste ground on Dulwich Common and had a row of five stables built - and so the Dulwich Riding School opened for business in April 1962. Over the years Jim and his staff built the riding school bit by bit, adding more stables and a much needed covered school. Jim was fortunate that he was always supported by a loyal and dedicated team of staff and students. Countless pupils passed through the school and many successes were gained in British Horse Society and Pony Club examinations. Several pupils went on to found their own riding schools, others have gone on to achieve success in the disciplines of dressage, horse driving trials, eventing, endurance riding and judging. Several stunt riders began their riding careers with Jim, before they started to fall off for a living!

British Native breeds provided the foundation for the School's horses and ponies and many of them would be in the riding school one day and winning at a major horse show the next. Jim often rescued (for a very low price!), so called impossible horses; he had the gift of getting them into shape, and bringing out the best. One £4 purchase went on to win the Children's class at the London Riding Horse Parade out of an entry of 52. The Dulwich Riding School also carried off the Team Prize at the same event on several occasions. Driving his horses was Jim's hobby - he was a familiar sight around the streets of Dulwich with a high-stepping Welsh Cob harnessed to a London Trolley.

Jim was a unique character, an old fashioned horse master who did not suffer fools gladly and was never afraid to speak his mind. He demanded and received the highest standards from his staff and his students and the wellbeing of his horses and ponies came before anything. Now he has gone, yet he will not be forgotten and it is hoped that his skills will be carried on the way he would have wished.

Pat Corner
Manager, Dulwich Riding School
1963-1985

Go to top