On the Street Where You Live - by Ian McInnes
In 1900 the northern section of Dulwich Village, or High Street Dulwich as it was then known, looked very different from what we see now. Pond House and Lyndenhurst in Village Way we would recognise but the west side of Dulwich Village down to the schools was largely fields, mostly let to J Sainsbury & Co. as a sports ground. The only property on this side of the road was Warrigul, roughly where no. 14 now stands. On the east side were three substantial houses, The Hall, Fairfield (formally known as Menival) and Lake House and, further south, the parade of shops was largely complete except for the last three units over Smiths, with the smithy on the corner of Calton Road (now Avenue) still in operation.
The first development in the new century was on the west side, on the corner of Village Way, where a Mr Hobden built 6 houses in 1901-02 (numbers 2-10 inclusive). The largest one is now the JAGS junior school. At the same time a Dr Clitheroe bought the corner site diagonally opposite in East Dulwich Grove and had a substantial house built to the design of architect Henry G Brace.
St Barnabas Hall (1909-10) was the only other building built in the area until 1912-13 when a Mr E Room, builders merchant, of 238 Upland Road, East Dulwich, was granted permission to build a pair of semi detached houses on a site between the St Barnabas Hall and Lake House. The Surveyor noted that the 'external treatment is novel, but effective, and I think the Governors might approve the plans submitted'.
The First World War put any further development on hold until 1919 when, despite a substantial increase in prices (caused by a rise in labour rates of over 200%), the demand for new houses returned. Several local builders bought sites in Burbage Road and Court Lane but Dulwich Village missed out initially, as the fields were still let to J Sainsbury. It was not until January 1922 that the first house was completed on the west side, the unusual cottage style house, now no. 24 but formally no. 20. The architect was R S Bowers of architects, Culpin & Bowers, and it was built for his own occupation.
At about the same time and, following successful developments in Court Lane during 1921, Messrs Williams, a well known pre-war local builder secured the site between Mr Bowers' house and the schools on the corner of Turney Road. He built a terrace of 6 houses and a pair of semi detached houses. All were completed and sold by July 1922. The design is the same as his houses in Court Lane and the architect for both was the firm of Culpin & Bowers (did Mr Bowers win the job because he was literally next door?). The London County Council Archive has a fascinating correspondence between the firm and the Camberwell District Surveyor regarding party walls. Pre-war the London Building Act had required party walls between houses to project 18 inches above the roof line but this was seldom done elsewhere in the country and builders objected to the additional cost. The LCC finally granted a waiver and the Act was amended shortly afterwards.
Culpin & Bowers were quite a well known firm in the 1920s, Ewart G Culpin , the senior partner being very influential in the town planning movement. He was also a long standing member of the London County Council becoming vice chairman in 1934-37 and chairman in 1938-39. The firm carried out several projects for the trade union movement including Transport House in Smith Square and were also the architects for Poplar Town Hall.
The last site on the west side, Warrigul, was sold to another local builder, Mr H Wilmott, in July 1923 and he built six houses designed by an architect called Woolnough. In his report to the Governors on another concurrent Wilmott development in Burbage Road the Surveyor said 'The Architect, Mr Woolnough, who has prepared these plans, has erected several similar houses in Southgate, London N, where, I am informed, they have been a great success.' Mr Wilmott himself initially lived at no.18 which he named Warrigul after the original house.
The old smithy on the corner of Calton Avenue was derelict by the end of the War but it remained until 1922 when local jobbing builder, Mr Core, who rented the shop next door as his office, agreed to build two shops with flats above to the designs of the then Surveyor, Mr C E Barry. The Chairman of the Governors confirmed that he had taken it upon himself to allow the builder to appoint Mr Charles Barry to save time. Normally Mr Barry was not allowed to work on projects for builders, only on works for the Estate, but an exception was agreed in this case. The new building cost £3000.
Of the three houses on the east side of the road, Lake House was the only one in a reasonable condition, the tenant, Mr H Newton Knights, employing Mr Barry to build him a billiard room in May 1919. Mr Barry reported in January 1920 on the state of Fairfield 'there are serious defects, partly to the exterior and partly to the interior of the house. As regards the former much of the stucco has fallen away on all four sides of the building. The roof and gutters are also imperfect. As to the interior of the building, the chief defect is the presence of dry rot in several places and another serious matter is the falling down of the ceiling in the cloak room which has disclosed the fact the joists of the roof above are in a decayed state'. Repairs were carried out and the house re-let but it was only to be a short term solution.
In July 1922 the Governors sold part of of Fairfield's extensive garden to form the Gilkes Crescent development with a mix of detached and semi-detached houses lining a new road connecting East Dulwich Grove and Elms Road. The site area of 3 1/2 acres generated considerable interest from a number of builders but the final winner was W L Cook & Co Ltd who agreed to pay a ground rent of £275 per annum. Mr Cook and his partners had been developing on a smaller scale in the Village for a while and had just successfully completed four houses at nos. 87-91 Burbage Road. He agreed to build 36 houses costing £1400 each. His architect was Murrell & Pigott.
Following the completion of Gilkes Crescent in 1925 the Estate took back the leases on The Hall and Fairfield and demolition followed shortly afterwards in March 1926. The demolition company, Stephen Dennis, secured the winning bid by offering the Governors £750 for the privilege of carrying out the contract as long as they were allowed to auction the demolished materials from the site.
The first new house constructed on the now cleared site fronting Dulwich Village was the current 'Fairfield'. The client was Mr B T Ames and his architect, Alistair G MacDonald from North London. The surveyor was not happy with the first design proposal noting that 'The house would be of the Georgian type with redbrick in front and roofed with slates; it would appear however that the back and side elevations are to be faced with yellow bricks which does not seem to me desirable'. The design was amended in line with his comments and completed in April 1927.
The next house to be built was Crossways, No 1 Dulwich Village, on the corner of East Dulwich Grove. The architect/builder here was Mr G F Ellyatt who was granted permission in January 1927 to build in solid 9" solid brick walls rather than 11" cavity walls as long as he used cement mortar. The value of the house was to be not less than £2000 with a ground rent of £22 10s per annum. Mr Ellyatt formally lived in another house of his own design, Whitecroft in Village Way, and had been building in Dulwich since before the war. He also had his own architect's practice, Ellyatt & Porter.
Despite many enquiries, the plots for numbers 3, 5 & 7 remained unsold until 1929 when Mr J G A Smart, a builder of 63 Melbourne Grove, East Dulwich agreed to lease them. The Surveyor drew the Governors attention to his designs saying 'the front elevation is the same for all three houses' but permission was granted. The ground rent for the three houses was £52-10s per annum and the first owner of No 3, Mr W G Rickerby, paid £2150.
Lake House remained but suffered serious bomb damage during the Second World War. It was demolished in the late 1940s to create the site for another school.