Farquhar Road links Dulwich Wood Park and Crystal Palace Parade adjacent to what was the site of the Crystal Palace High Level railway station. Even before the Crystal Palace opened in 1854, it was clear that its arrival would provide a huge commercial stimulus to the area, and in 1853 the area of woodland on the slope to the west of Crystal Palace Parade (as far as what is now Dulwich Wood Avenue) was acquired by a housing developer from Reigate, George Wythes, a friend of Joseph Paxton. Wythes had also bought land on the north and east side of Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham and, in order to concentrate on that development, he sold the upper part of the land he had acquired on the west side to the Crystal Palace Company and the lower part, fronting Dulwich Wood Avenue, to a local Gipsy Hill based builder, Richard H Marshall.
It took until 1863 for the Crystal Palace Company to agree housing layouts along Dulwich Wood Park and Farquhar Road with the Dulwich Estate. Any start on the Farquhar Road houses was then delayed until the completion of the new Crystal Palace High Level Station and the railway line to it - understandably it was felt that it would be not ideal to build a number of high specification house with gardens actually backed on to the railway limes while the railway and tunnels were still under construction. The station was up and running from August 1865 and it took another three years before the Crystal Place Company started building - the first houses to be completed were Nos. 4-20.
The first record of any resident in the road was at ‘Dudley Lodge’, later No 12. In February 1869, the lessee was Richard P Nicholls, Secretary of the London and County Bank in Lombard Street (then the largest British retail bank with over 150 branch offices). He was 65, and he lived at the house until October 1874 when, on his marriage to his second wife (his first wife had died earlier in the year), he retired to the seaside at Hove. The next tenant, Amelia Cornish, had come from Bristol, where her late husband had been a successful solicitor, and she changed the house’s name to ‘Clifton Lodge’. She moved there with her recently widowed daughter-in-law Bertha and her young grandson. Her son (Bertha’s husband) had died in an accident while on holiday in Calais when he fell (or was pushed) off the pier and drowned - they had been married just 11 months. Amelia Cornish died in April 1881 and her will left to her daughter-in-law ‘her residence, with the furniture, plate, and effects during widowhood, and the residue of her property, real and personal upon trust for her grandson.’ In 1884 Bertha assigned the lease to Col Shadwell H Clerke, the Grand Secretary of the Masonic Lodge of England. Before becoming a Freemason, he had served with distinction in the Crimea, the Mediterranean and the West Indies. As a Lieutenant, he had carried the regimental colours of his regiment up the heights of Alma, and subsequently commanded a raiding party at the storming of the Redan at Sebastopol. He had served in the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers and was also a member of Queen Victoria’s Royal Bodyguard. He died at the house on Christmas day 1891 aged 55.
His neighbour at ‘Glanywern’, No 10, was Miss Sidney Madocks. She was one of five daughters and two sons of John Edward Madocks, (1786-1837), a Welsh landowner and politician, who served as the Liberal Welsh MP for the Municipalities of Denbigh between 1832-35. She was 52 when she moved to Farquhar Road and she named the house after her childhood home in Wales. Literally translated into Welsh it means ‘a house next to a bank opposite a stream’, not perhaps the most appropriate name given the location. Miss Madocks stayed just under 30 years, living on her own with two servants - her tenure was definitely helped by the £8000 she received in 1883 from the will of her cousin, George Tierney, a Fellow at Merton College, Oxford.
In 1901 there was a new tenant, George Sargant Oldfield, a company director moving to the area so that his two sons could go to Dulwich College. The younger son, Claude Houghton Oldfield was a well-known novelist in the 1920s and 30s, his best-known book being ‘I am Jonathan Scrivener’. The next family to lease the house, from 1919, were the Cawson’s, previously living in Annerley. George Cawson worked as an administrator in an engineering firm and he and his wife had 12 children including ten sons. Only the youngest, George Adrian Cawson, born in 1899, went to Dulwich College. He was initially too young for active service in WW1 but finally joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1917 with a commission. Shortly afterwards he transferred to the 56th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, with whom he went across to France flying the new Royal Aircraft Factory SE5 fighter, often described as the ‘Spitfire of WW1.’ He was killed in a dogfight on November 30th above Cambrai.
On the other side of Mr Nicholls was ‘Darleydale’, No 14. The first resident here was 67-year-old William Robinson whose trade card in the British Museum collection advertised him as a ‘Linen Draper & Silk Mercer, Manufacturer to the Royal Family’ with a shop at 12 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden. He died in the early 1880s and the house was occupied by his niece for a few years before a new tenant arrived, Mrs Louisa Fenner. She was the widow of a manufacturing City stationer who, in the 1881 Census, said that he employed 93 Men and Boys and 272 Females. She was still living at the house when she died in November 1912, aged 82.
Hurst Lodge, No. 16 was first occupied by Jane E Streatfield, the widow of Rev William Streatfield (1790-1860), Vicar of St Mary Magdalene, East Ham from 1827-60. She was followed briefly in 1880-81 by Kathleen Maclean, wife of a Madras Civil Servant, and then by Henry P Howard and his family - he was a director of Messrs. Howard & Jones, Printers & Lithographers, 16 Cullum Street EC. He died in 1899 but his wife Sarah continued to live in the house until 1920. From then until WW2 the tenant was Lewis Egerton Hopkins DSO OBE, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers, who had worked extensively in India and Persia on railway construction. He was the author of ‘Notes on the Field Work of the Nushki extension (Railway) Reconstruction, June 1918 to January 1919’ and later, in 1925, perhaps the more readable ‘How to judge the prospects of new railways.
No 18, ‘Ortigal’ was the last house on the road to be demolished, it was still occupied as late as in 1960. The first tenant was George Rudall whose brother, Henry, lived next door at ‘Salamanca’, No. 20. The Rudall’s were in the bond investment business but also had connections with the wine trade in Spain and, particularly, Tenerife, - hence the house names ‘Ortigal’ (a wine growing area on Tenerife) and ‘Salamanca’, the city in Spain. In July 1875, the Times reported that their firm, J.H. Rudall & Sons, of King William Street, had filed for bankruptcy, with liabilities estimated at £60,000. Although he retained the lease on the ‘Ortigal’ for a while, George moved to Tenerife, while Henry became a well-known journalist and music critic - later in life he published a significant biography of Beethoven. He was a member of the Philharmonic Society and composed a number of songs and even wrote the music for an opera, opera based on novelist Ouida’s ‘Signa.’ From the late 1870s the lessee at Salamanca was Bernard Farey, a notable mechanical engineer who was a director at Messrs. Bryan Donkin and Co in Bermondsey. Amongst his many inventions there were various machines for the Gas-Light and Coke Company, as well as a more efficient ‘double-cylinder rag-boiler’ for papermakers. He died in 1888 and his wife remined in the house until it became a doctor’s surgery for the local practice, Sharman D’Esterre & Maitland, physicians & surgeons.
Many of the houses were converted into flats after 1910 as their values fell - their 84-year leases were due to end in 1937. Many received bomb damage during WW2 and most had been demolished by the mid-1950s. The last one remaining was No. 18 which was still lived in as late as 1960.
Closure of the High Level Line
The final official train service to the Crystal Palace High Level Station ran on 18th September 1954 although a privately hired steam train, the ‘Palace Centenarian’ ran to and from the station the following day to commemorate 100 years of the Crystal Palace (1854-1954). The removal of the tracks started in the Autumn of 1956 despite a last-ditch effort by some local LCC councillors to reinstate the line to serve the projected new National Sports Centre. The station building stood until 1961 but from 1962 the site was empty. In the late 60s, the LCC put a number of prefabricated housing units on the site while discussions were held about a possible redevelopment - Dulwich MP Sam Silkin was keen that the LCC should build a scheme, but nothing came of it.
Award Winning re-development
The short-term housing had gone by 1979 and the site was redeveloped in three phases. The southern end was used for a large residential nursing home for Kings Community Health Council (now the Bowley Close Rehabilitation Centre) while the centre section was sold to a housing developer. The northern section, largely hidden behind the woods was sold to the Abbey National Building Society. At that time the organisation was keen to undertake its own housing developments, to bring 'building' back into the Building Society movement, and it sponsored an open architectural competition for an affordable housing scheme based on sustainability and energy conservation. The winning scheme, now called Spinney Gardens, by architects PCKO, introduced the first mainstream use of passive solar building for housing in the UK, with two storey triangular conservatories transferring radiation to a high mass wall acting as a heat store; and careful internal planning to derive maximum benefit from the building's orientation. The project won a 1985 Energy Award and a 1987 Housing Award.