Gazetteer of Dulwich roads and place-names

The Dulwich Society’s Gazetteer, which was published as a booklet in 1997 has recently been revised by members of the Local History Committee and is now available on the Society’s website More flats have been included as well as some new developments and dates when names were approved; some suggested derivations have been changed in the light of new information.

Older place-names have their origin in common usage. They were often imprecise, changed over time and the same name (eg High Street, John Street) could be found in nearby locations. By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was apparent that regulation was needed, particularly to avoid confusion in delivering post, attending to fires and compiling census returns. In 1847 therefore, an Act was passed obliging local authorities to clearly mark the names of streets. From 1855 in London, giving approval for street names  and renaming existing ones became the duty of the Metropolitan Board of Works, succeeded by the London County Council and the Greater London Council. Since the latter’s abolition, responsibility has passed to Southwark Borough Council. However, the choice of names in this country, unlike some on the Continent, is left to the developer. Suggestions are generally approved as long as they do not duplicate names in the same area and are accepted as suitable. It is not always possible now to discover why a particular name was chosen.

The origins of many of those in Dulwich can be worked out because they commemorate local people and places. Associations with Edward Alleyn (even Eynella Road), Dulwich College (especially on the Kingswood Estate) and Dulwich Picture Gallery are frequent. Less obvious are some Victorians such as Allison Marshall after whom Allison Grove is named and William Beckwith Towse for Beckwith Road. Former houses on a site are represented by Woodhall Drive, Stonehills Court and Elfindale Road, for example. Older place-names are featured in addresses like Pynnersmead, Morkyns Walk and Ferrings although spellings may vary and they may be some distance from their original location. Perhaps the oldest street name is Croxted Road, first mentioned as Crokstrete in 1335 and presumably referring to its crooked route.

Several others remain unexplained. Why should anyone in the 1890s want to name a road after the seventeenth century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella? More recently, who was the Henry Dent who gave his name to Henry Dent Close? Why would Wavel Place be named after a town in Poland? Why is Normandie Court so named? Further information on these and any other mysteries would be welcomed, as would more likely suggestions than those given. The Gazetteer has been posted on the website so that changes can be made easily when sufficient new information comes to light.

Bernard Nurse, Chair, Local History Group

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