The Dulwich Society is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was founded on a wave of concern in the 1960’s about the scale of building and redevelopment which the Dulwich Estate (then named Alleyn’s College Estates) was undertaking in order to maximise income to its Foundation and which followed, and sometimes coincided with, the creation of large Council estates among what had been Dulwich’s most attractive corners.
The sense of powerlessness as individuals among Dulwich residents in the face of these huge changes to the local landscape made them aware that collectively they might be able to influence some of this change. In this, they were supported by a countrywide civic movement which was spearheading the formation of conservation societies elsewhere.
The Dulwich Society’s first major success came in 1967 following the Leasehold Reform Act when it formed a team of legal experts from its own membership in order to be represented at the High Court which was to consider the Estates’ application for a scheme of management after the implementation of the Act. They worked on a pro-bono basis and the Society’s officers took personal financial risk in this undertaking. Through their efforts the Dulwich Society was able to have provision of an advisory committee representing the interests of freeholders and leaseholders, in the scheme. It continues to represent residents’ interests at the regular meetings of the Scheme of Management.
Other battles followed, including arguing strongly against development in Dulwich and Sydenham Woods in that area of the wood now managed by the London Wildlife Trust for the benefit of all. Through the Society’s efforts, conservation status has been given to wide swathes of Dulwich, thereby giving these areas greater protection against unsuitable development.
It has supported and encouraged the efforts of those who sought the restoration of the quality of local parks after their decline following the demise of the Greater London Council and it has similarly supported Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum as they sought to improve their facilities. More recently it has been at the forefront of the campaign to secure the future of the Herne Hill Velodrome.
The Society is concerned with the entire area it encompasses, roughly the boundary of the Dulwich Estate but also areas immediate to it where residents might not be represented by a similar society. Recently it has supported the restoration of the Concrete House in Lordship Lane and has greatly improved the appearance in that corner of Dulwich around St Peter’s Church. It is currently assisting in the proposed restoration of the fallen down wall of the church. It has successfully objected to an unsuitable development in the spinney at Spinney Close just below the Crystal Palace Parade. It hopes to play a part in securing the future of Kingswood House.
The 50th anniversary year of The Dulwich Society will commence with an exhibition at Dulwich College entitled Dulwich 63 highlighting the changes in Dulwich over the past fifty years. The exhibition will open on Saturday 26th January at 6.30pm with a Private View and Reception for Dulwich Society members who apply for tickets. Full details of this event and others to celebrate the anniversary are listed in this Journal.