Alleyn] [Belair] [Dulwich College] [Dulwich Park] [Kingswood*]
Pissarro*] [Railway Trail*] [Research] [St Barnabas Church] [Sydenham Hill Woods*]
Note: Topics marked * only feature on the longer Village & Woods walk
Edward Alleyn was a great actor of Elizabethan times and a contemporary of Shakespeare. He was born in 1566, the son of an innkeeper in Bishopsgate. He joined a company of actors at 17 and achieved fame at the Rose Theatre owned by Philip Henslowe, whose step-daughter he married. Alleyn went on to part-own the Fortune Theatre in Finsbury and to become Master of the King's Bulls, Bears and Mastiffs. By 1605 he was a wealthy man and purchased the Manor of Dulwich for £5000 from the Calton family, who had owned it since the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. A statue of Alleyn was erected in the college grounds in 2005 to commemorate his purchase of the estate.
Alleyn with his wife moved to Dulwich and decided to
found an establishment which would provide homes for 12
poor old people and schooling for 12 poor scholars from
four parishes with which he was associated. He was
granted a Royal charter on 21 June 1619, which is
celebrated as Founder's Day.
The boys began school at 6 or 8 years and could stay until they were 18. Each pair of boys selected drew lots and the one who chose the paper with 'God's Gift' written on it had a free place. Others could attend by paying fees. Masters were required not to be married but to have the name Alleyn or Allen - which led to some curious choices.
During the Civil War Roundhead
soldiers were quartered at the College. Although much rebuilt it
retains the layout of Alleyn's time. The central chapel was for
the College but also the people of Dulwich, who at that time were
in the parish of St Giles, Camberwell. The reredos of 1911
depicts two poor scholars and Alleyn's tomb is in the floor of
the altar. The east wing is still in use as almshouses but the
west wing is now the offices of the Estates Governors.
The school outgrew the site and moved in 1870 to new premises in College Road. The Alleyn Foundation was reorganised in 1857 to provide for Dulwich College, James Allen's Girls School and Alleyn's. Alleyn's began in 1842 in the building by Sir Charles Barry known as the Old Grammar School. Edward Alleyn had no children and on his death left the Manor of Dulwich to the college he had founded. It controlled development and made rules which preserved the character of Dulwich.
The new school was designed by Charles Barry jnr and financed from the sale of land to the railway companies. As well as the fine school building the College has sports grounds and residental houses in Dulwich. It has an impressive collection of archives, maintained by former master Dr Jan Piggot, which includes documents relating to the Elizabethan Theatre. It also has memorabilia of PG Wodehouse, after whom the library is named. Another famous 'old boy' was the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The lifeboat James Caird which he used to reach help after the loss of his expedition ship Endurance is on display in the north cloister along with photographs of members of his crew. The archives can be consulted by appointment on Tuesdays 10-5 and Wednesdays 3-5, during school term. e-mail archives(at)dulwich.org.uk
Edward Alleyn bequeathed his collection of paintings to Dulwich College in 1626 as did fellow actor William Cartwright in 1686. These were housed in a gallery in the west wing of the college. However in 1811 Sir Peter Francis Bourgeois RA died leaving a collection of 360 paintings that he and Noel Desenfans had assembled for the King of Poland, whose abdication had ended the commission. Bourgeois also left £2000 for the gallery and £1000 for a mausoleum for himself and Mr & Mrs Desenfans, recommending John Soane as architect. Soane surveyed the site and drew plans, making no charge for his services but his proposals for a new building to the south which involved demolishing the original east & west wings were rejected. He came up with a new design incorporating women's almshouses which met with approval but at £11800 was too costly. Margaret Desenfans offered the money to make up the shortfall and the foundations were laid in October.
In 1813 the project was taken over by George Tappen, architect & surveyor to Dulwich College Estates. The Gallery opened to the public in 1817 by which time the almhouses and stables/coachhouse had also been completed. Tappen also refurbished the south and west ranges of the College between 1820-9. Sir Charles Barry was appointed as architect to the College in 1831, remodelling the east wing and adding to Tappen's west wing. His son, who succeeded him, carried out alterations to the gallery including a new entrance block and 'retiring rooms'. When the almswomen were moved to the vacated Old College their accommodation was converted into galleries (Rooms 6 & 9) with offices and stores.
Between 1908 & 1915 four new rooms were added along the east front of the gallery, designed by E S Hall. The north east corner was built in 1938 but a flying bomb caused considerable damage in July 1944. This was repaired at a cost of £60000 and opened by HRH the Queen Mother in 1953. The pictures had been put into safe storage in Wales during the war.
In 1995 Rick Mather was appointed as architect for a major refurbishment and rebuilding project. This was completed in May 2000 at a cost of £8.8m raised by an appeal and the Heritage Lottery Fund. A second quadrangle has been formed by the cafe/Linbury Room on College Road linked to the gallery by a glass cloister, providing wet weather and disabled access. The Linbury Room can be used as an exhibition space or the floor can be raked as a lecture theatre. Also off the cloister is the Sackler Centre for Arts Education providing a studio or schoolroom space. Part of the Old College building has been made into an air-conditioned picture store for the reserve collection, conservation workshops and offices. In the gallery air-conditioning and new lighting has been provided, room 13 has been re-instated and other rooms redecorated. Outside the front and back gardens have been joined and new paths and paving installed with railings replaced on Gallery Road. The gardens have a number of specimen tress including a Black Mulberry, Tulip Tree and Judas Tree. Also in the grounds is an original K2 telephone box, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and based on Soane's mausoleum design. Unfortunately the cafe has not addressed the need for reasonably-priced, family-friendly facilities but the benches in the garden are useful for picnic lunches.
The Gallery is open Tue-Fri 10-5
and Sat Sun & Bank hols 11-5.
There is an admission charge plus additional charges for special exhibitions
Tours are included in the admission price on Saturdays & Sundays at 3pm
There is a comprehensive events programme including study days & courses, art classes and children's & family activities.
There are lunchtime lectures on some Thursdays 12:30-1:30 (limited to 120 people) for which a donation of £3 is suggested.
There is additionally a Friends organisation which arranges other activities.
Full details are on the Gallery website.
Pissarro lived at Westow Hill, Upper Norwood 1870-1 and the premises, a former Nat West Bank, have a blue plaque. He painted local views including the new Dulwich College, Lordship Lane Station and St Stephen's Church. Nicholas Reed has produced an illustrated book 'Camille Pissarro at the Crystal Palace'.
Dulwich was in the parish of St Giles Camberwell which had a daughter church built in 1891 and made of iron on Calton/Woodwarde Road. This was replaced in 1894 by a new church which became the parish church of Dulwich in 1915. The Estates Governors provided the land and £2500 for this church which cost £20500. The tower was added in 1908. In December 1992 the church was destroyed by a fire, started deliberately. It was spotted at 4am but the building was ruined within two hours. The bell, which had been in the original church and later church plate from the safe was recovered. The tower was found to be unsafe and was soon demolished. Insurance money would be available for a re-build but the project required extra funds to complete. The architects chosen were HOK and their brief required the building to be 'welcoming, functional, adaptable and a clear landmark and symbol of Christian witness in the community'. The front has large windows with a forecourt & welcome area and the octagonal 56' glass spire is illuminated at night. The organ was built by Kenneth Ticknell & Co and is 27' tall and made from American white oak. There are 2544 pipes some in copper and others in polished tin alloy. The windows flanking the organ represent a ladder to heaven with roots & buds topped with a red rose. There are also glass blobs with Christian symbols. The stained glass was designed by Caroline Swash and made by her and Goddard & Gibbs of Shoreditch. There is an octagonal altar and stacking benches also underfloor heating and an integrated sound system. The new church was built by R Durtnell & Sons in 13 months. There are a few remnants of the old church including the font of 1907, some fire damaged wall in the reception area and a 15' cross weighing ½ ton which was made from salvaged roof timbers. The outline of the old tower and walls can also be seen in the entrance area. There are two books about the church 'The Church that Stood on the Hill' by Arthur R Chandler and 'Building for the Future' by Clare Stevens (ISBN 0-9532207-0-2). The parish office is open Tue - Fri 10-5. Tel 020 8693 1524.
This is in the care of Southwark Council. It has a popular cafe, toilets, a lake with a boardwalk, cycle hire, tennis & bowls, a horse riding track, children's playground, rhododendrons (in May/June), Dry Garden and Tree Trails. The Park Rangers have an office in the park. Tel: 020 8693 5737.
The house was built in 1785 for John Willes, a cornfactor of Whitechapel and was known as College Place. It was renamed Belair by a later resident Charles Ranken, a solicitor. It was enlarged to provide 47 rooms when Charles Hutton, a wool merchant and sheriff lived there with his wife, 11 children and ten servants. It remained a private house until 1938 when it was owned by Sir Evan Spicer, a paper merchant. At this time it still had a farm with animals and hayfields, orchards and kitchen gardens. Southwark leased Belair in 1946 for recreation purposes but the house was in a poor state after the war and had to be largely rebuilt. The Victorian extensions were removed at this time. The buildings were deteriorating again in the council's ownership but have now been made into an elegant restaurant with function rooms. The former coachhouse by Gallery Road has also been renovated. The grounds remain a public park.
Kingswood Lodge, later House, was built in a clearing within King's Wood in 1811 for William Vizard who also leased neighbouring fields. Vizard was solicitor to Queen Caroline in her divorce from George IV. In 1831 Vizard returned to his native Gloucestershire and the property leases were granted to others. In the 1860s the London, Chatham & Dover Railway cut through the estate, which provided bricks for the Penge tunnel. There was a private path from the house to Sydenham Hill Station, lit by electricity.
Kingswood was acquired in the 1890s by John Lawson Johnston who spent some £10000 on the estate. Its castellated appearance earned it the nickname of 'Bovril Castle' as Johnston invented and marketed the beef extract. Johnston died in 1900 and during WWI Kingswood was used as a hospital for Canadian troops.
In 1919 Kingswood was sold to
Sir William, later Baron, Vestey who established a cold storage
company and operated the Blue Star Line of ships. Vestey occupied
Kingswood from 1921 and made some interior changes. He died in
1940 and was succeeded by his son, who lived elsewhere. Kingswood
suffered some bomb damage in WWII during which time it was used
as company offices.
After the war the estate was acquired by compulsory purchase by the LCC which built flats, houses & shops in the grounds. The house itself opened as a community centre and library in 1956. A rose garden was planted as a memorial to John F Kennedy, the American President assassinated in 1963.
'A History of the House and its Estate' illustrated with photographs and maps has been compiled by Patrick Darby for the Dulwich Society ISBN 0 9511491 2 1.
These are now owned and maintained by the London Wildlife Trust and are an important wildlife site. This area and neigbouring Dulwich Woods, which are private, are the largest remnants of the Great North Wood. A numbered trail is marked out in the wood. There are workdays and wildlife events. Information on the LWT is available on this site [click here] or on the Trust's website.
A railway was begun in 1862 from Nunhead to the Parade to serve the Crystal Palace, built in 1854. It went through Sydenham Hill Woods, the Dulwich College Estates and two tunnels. It opened in 1865 with one station - Charles Barry's Gothic terminus but other stations were soon added. The fortunes of the railway waned with those of the Palace and declined after it burned down in 1936. It closed during the war and the re-opening was unsuccessful with the station in a poor state of repair. The last service ran in 1954, the track was lifted in 1956 and the terminus demolished in 1961.
The trackbed was built on in some places but in others it has been allowed to revert to nature. The Friends of the Great North Wood produced a walk leaflet for the old railway route called 'From the Nun's Head to the Screaming Alice'. The book 'Crystal Palace (High Level) and Catford Loop' by V Mitchell & K Smith (Middleton Press) tells the story with photos of this line.
Dulwich is in the London Borough of Southwark which has an exellent local studies centre in Borough High Street [more info] [website]. They have produced 'The Story of Dulwich' a booklet in the Neighbourhood Histories series and have on sale maps and publications about the area. A number of books on Dulwich have been written by Brian Green and should be available for consultation or purchase.
© london-footprints.co.uk 2007
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