The large sites of the substantial old houses that stood at the south end of College Road were replaced by the Hitherwood Drive development in the late 1950s. Most probably the original houses were designed by Robert Richardson Banks, partner of Estate Architect & Surveyor Charles Barry Junior - whose own house was on Crystal Palace Parade nearby. They were built in the early 1870s by local builder, Joseph Bowyer & Sons. One of his yards was located on what is now the landscaped triangle site on the corner of Pond Cottages and College Road (it closed in the early 1920s).
The original owners tended to be very wealthy. Among them at no 132 was the Australian (originally Scottish) David Fowler, a partner in one of the largest Adelaide based wholesale grocer and import/export merchants. He called the house ‘Pandura’ after the huge sheep station his family owned near Port Augusta. He had moved back to London to take advantage of the new under-sea telegraph wire connecting England with Australia which revolutionised his firm’s ordering systems (the internet of the day!). He was also an advocate of women’s education, his daughter, Laura Margaret, being the first female medical student to graduate from the University of South Australia.
A later owner of the house (by then named Trefusis) was old Alleynian Captain Tolmie John Tresidder, C.M.G., director of Sheffield steelmaker John Brown and Co. A former naval officer, he was an authority on ship’s armour and projectiles. He invented a special device for ‘de-capping’ enemy shells - basically protective steel mats fixed a few feet off to the sides of battleship and cruiser hulls, and also developed a slide rule for calculating the striking velocity of naval gun shells against enemy armour. He received the Institution of Naval Architects’ gold medal in 1908.
In the 1930s at Northlands, no 124, Raymond Raikes, a BBC announcer and radio drama director, converted his basement into a small professional theatre - the family used to put on Shakespeare plays for friends and local residents (see article in Journal 113, Summer 1997). The house had originally been called Baldorran, the first owner being solicitor George Crafter, and later owners included retired Indian Army General Sir George Stewart CB, a participant in the Indian Mutiny. Crowhurst, no 134, further east, was owned by Arthur Bristow, a wealthy stockbroker, and brother of Thomas Lynn Bristowe, MP for Norwood from 1885, and active in the campaign to raise funds to restore Brockwell Hall part of which is now the café in Brockwell Park.
The houses were originally sold on 84 year leases and, by the late 1930s, were becoming difficult to sell. They were not well looked after and some were converted into flats. There were exceptions - Nos 138 and 140 College Road, were demolished in 1938 and a new house, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, built on the site. The owner, Basil Aldous, was a director of Higgs Builders (based in Loughborough Junction) and was Chairman of the Estates Governors in 1952-54. The house, Athol House, now the Leonard Cheshire home, was, until the 1950s, the most expensive house ever built in Dulwich, it cost £8500.
All the leases but one ran out in 1954 - only Ringwood, no 128, had been allowed to have a lease extension when it was converted in the 1920s; it was not knocked down until the mid-1960s - as the original site plan in the brochure shows. The houses’ future was discussed at the February 1955 Estate Board Meeting where it was agreed that they should be demolished and the whole site redeveloped with smaller houses along a new road. The meeting opted to use one builder for the whole site, under a building agreement, rather than selling individual plots. Recent experience at Frank Dixon Way where single plots had been sold to individuals had proved to be expensive in management time, and not particularly profitable.
It is not clear why the Manager was instructed to go to one of the other architects on the Estates’ list rather than Austin Vernon, perhaps they thought he had enough work as it was - and he had been less than helpful on the development of Frank Dixon Way. Francis J D Daly ARIBA of architects Daly & Burn was appointed to prepare a preliminary scheme. He produced three options, none of which the Governors particularly liked, but a revised scheme which contained 42 houses and two blocks of flats and maisonettes was finally agreed in October. The houses fronting College Road were to be detached while those in the new road behind were to be semi-detached.
When the site was advertised in the property press Mr L G Day, of Messrs Day & Co, builders and contractors, made the only offer - on the basis of the previously approved Daly and Burns scheme. In the mid-1950s Wates were not yet the Estate’s preferred development partner and it was only when it had problems with other developers like Mr Day that it fully appreciated Wates’ level of expertise.
Austin Vernon was, not surprisingly, very unhappy and, in March 1956, tried to take over the scheme by submitting a plan for a larger site, but he was ignored, The final scheme confirmed the intention to build much larger houses on the College Road frontage and preserve more of the trees as the LCC’s required. At the July Board meeting, a revised lay-out with minor changes to the access road, showed a total of 33 detached houses, with a block of five flats and nine maisonettes at the end of the new road on the Kingswood Drive frontage. There were to be four house types with four different elevational treatments. The houses either side of Hitherwood Drive are detached, with four bedrooms and integral garages They were built relatively close together and were faced in either brickwork or painted render. The original photograph of the completed development show that the rendered houses painted several different pastel colours, including light blue and cream. They cost just under £6000 to buy in 1958 and residents also had access to a small section of woodland to the west, between Hitherwood Drive and the later Wates development at Giles Coppice. The three later houses built on the site of Ringwood, No 128, were designed by Malcolm Pringle, one of the younger partners at Austin Vernon and Partners - he and his family lived in No 12.
The selection of the names of new roads was something that the Estate’s Board liked to be involved in and Hitherwood Drive was typical. In March the builder told the Estate that it had written to Camberwell Borough Council asking for the new access road to be named ‘College Crescent’. The Governors were unhappy and proposed ‘Fountain Crescent’ as an alternative. In fact, the final choice was made by the London County Council who rejected both for being too similar to College Road and Fountain Drive. They suggested Hitherwood Drive, based on the derelict Hitherwood House on Sydenham Hill above the site.
One of the estate’s most notable residents was the former Labour Minister for the Disabled between 1974-79, Alf Morris MP (later Lord Morris of Manchester). In 1970 he successfully introduced the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, the first in the world to give rights to people with disabilities.
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