SE22: To bus or not to bus, that is the question

SE22 is East Dulwich, which confusingly is actually north of Dulwich Village. At its core is a very long road called Lordship Lane. In fact it is rather too long to expect you to walk all the way, so we will have to ask the question “to bus or not to bus”.

We start our walk at East Dulwich Post Office, 74 – 76 Lordship Lane, Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Lordship Lane.

Part A: around the northern bit of Lordship Lane

This part of Lordship Lane is an interesting mix of old and new style shops – almost no chains, a few real old school type places and some modern day tat shops, but then there are some interesting looking cafes and food shops.

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Our first stop is at the corner of Spurling Road, which is on the right.

Stop 1: Fight Club – inspired by the Massacre of the Innocents

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This is a really dramatic piece of street art. It is called Fight Club and is by Conor Harrington. It is inspired by Charles Le Brun’s picture “The Massacre of the Innocents” which is in Dulwich Picture Gallery. This is one of a series of pieces which came out of a project called Dulwich Outdoor Gallery in 2013. We will hear more about this later on.

Keep going to the little roundabout which marks the end of Lordship Lane and turn right, where you will see an expanse of grass, known as Goose Green.

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This was common land near the old village (or was it a hamlet?) of East Dulwich. The poor with no land of their own would use it to graze their livestock, amongst which would have been geese – hence the name..

The arrival of the railway nearby in 1868 kickstarted the area’s development. The green was purchased in 1868 by Camberwell Vestry at the same time as Peckham Rye Common to save it from development.

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There are a couple of interesting building alongside the green.

Stop 2: St John the Evangelist Church

On the left you will see St John’s Church. This too dates from the 1860s

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However it was practically destroyed by fire bombs in 1940. It was rebuilt under the direction of J .B. Sebastian Comper (1891 – 1979), son of the famous gothic revivalist Sir Ninian Comper (1864 – 1960). The latter, although well into his 80s, designed some of the features used in the restoration of the building.

More on the history of the church on their website

http://www.stjohnseastdulwich.org/st-john-the-evangelist-a-short-history-by-maureen-abbott

Stop 3: Dulwich Baths

On the right you will see Dulwich Baths.

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The baths opened in 1892, and are said to be London’s oldest public baths to have remained in continuous operation. The baths are Grade II heritage listed

Now return to the end of Goose Green where you started and turn right into Grove Vale. Our next stop is almost immediately on the left.

Stop 4: Number 72 Grove Vale

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Hard to believe now but this was the site of an old cinema.

According to the wonderful Cinema Treasures site. there was first a public hall called The Imperial Hall in January 1902. This was converted into a full time cinema in September 1910 and was renamed Pavilion Cinema in 1923. It was closed in July 1935, to be demolished and replaced by a new Pavilion Cinema was built on the site, which opened in July 1936

The new Pavilion Cinema was initially independently operated but was soon taken over by Odeon in August 1937. It was re-named Odeon in around 1939 and continued as a cinema until October 1972

In June 1973, the building was sold to the Divine Light Mission and became a Palace of Peace Temple to the followers of 15 year old Guju Maharaj-Ji from India. In 1978, the building was purchased by the London Clock Company and converted into offices and a warehouse. The firm moved out of the building in July 2000. The building was demolished in April 2001, and a housing project was built on the site.

Continue along Grove Vale and soon you will see a railway bridge. This is where our next stop is.

Stop 5: East Dulwich station

The station here was named Champion Hill when it first opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1868.

The station has 2 entrances, one to each platform. The ticket office forms the entrance to the southbound (or “down”) platform.

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Going under the bridge you find the London bound side has just a ticket machine and a departure display board.

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The way up to the platforms is not inspiring on either side.

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And when you get up to the platform level, it is even more depressing, if that is possible. Just bus shelter like structures, with nothing of the original station.

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Not exactly attractive and welcoming.

Now return to the street and turn left. Soon you will see a little park on the left. This is St Francis Park and just before you go in, there is a sign with information about the place we are now headed to.

Stop 6: Dulwich Hamlet Football Club

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To get to the actual ground, go through this park.

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As you go through the park, have a look to your right and you will see a little sculpture.

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It is kind of a joke in that the road outside the park is called Dog Kennel Hill.

On the far side of the park you will see the modern stadium, and a large Sainsbury’s.

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The club was founded in 1893 and played at various locations until 1902 when they came to this area. Between 1902 and 1912 they played at Freeman’s Ground on Champion Hill before moving to an adjacent plot of land, where they played until the opening of the Champion Hill stadium in 1931. .

In 1991 that stadium had to be demolished, as it could not easily be brought up to the tighter safety standards introduced as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. During the 1991–92 season the club played at Tooting & Mitcham United’s ground, whilst a new, smaller stadium was built on the same site, opening for the start of the 1992–93 season.

The new stadium was funded by the sale to Sainsbury’s of land that had once been the club’s training pitch, situated immediately behind the large covered terrace on the north side of the ‘old’ Champion Hill, by the landlords King’s College London. The new ground remained in King’s ownership, with the club having given up the lease on the old ground in return for the new ground being built.

There are two plaques on the wall. First is to the founder of the Football Club, “Pa” Wilson (1865 – 1924).

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Second is a more recent Southwark blue plaque to Edgar Kail whose claim to fame is that he was the last non-league player to represent his country at full international level. That was in 1929.

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However it seems that he was not actually the last amateur player to appear in the English national team – that was one Bernard Joy in 1936 according to the various references cited in Wikipedia.

In February 2014, Champion Hill stadium was bought for £5.7m by a development company called Meadow Residential. In 2018 the company forced the club out of the ground, resulting in a temporary groundshare again with Tooting & Mitcham. Although Southwark Council and others are keen for the club to remain, it is not currently clear how this will be resolved.

Now we are going back to explore a bit more of Lordship Lane. As we are right by a football club named Hamlet, it seems only right to ask “To bus or not to bus, that is the question”

It is quite a long road, so I would suggest getting a bus. Go back to the main road and at the Quorn Road stop catch a 40, 176 or 185 bus to Dulwich Library (It is 8 stops).

In passing you will see on the right hand side, East Dulwich Picturehouse which is at 116a Lordship Lane

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Whilst East Dulwich has lost its purpose built cinema, it has acquired this new picture house. It is a conversion of a public hall – the Thomas More Hall.

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It opened in May 2015 and boasts a cafe and garden according to the sign.

Also watch out for some other pieces of street art work. This one is the Queen and corgis on a hoverboard by Catman. This is on the right around Number 182.

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This seems to be a one off not connected with the more arty ones of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. In fact there is a version of this particular image in Whitstable High Street, Kent which we happened to see recently when we were down there.

Then on the other side of the road on the side of the Lordship pub in Colwell Road is this (you will need to look back):

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This is by an american artist called Mear One. It is her interpretation of The Madonna of the Rosary by Bartolomé Murillo in Dulwich Picture Gallery and was also produced for Dulwich Outdoor Gallery in 2013.

Get off the bus at Dulwich Library

Part B: Lordship Lane around the Library

Stop 7: Dulwich Library

This was a Passmore Edwards library. We have come across others of his philanthropic works in Acton (W3) and Shepherds Bush (W12).

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The library was designed by Charles Barry Jr. in his capacity as architect and surveyor to Dulwich College, who donated the site on which the library stands. It was built as a memorial to the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College and Alleyn’s School. The foundation stone of the library was laid by the prominent actor Henry Irving on 24 September 1896, and the library was subsequently opened by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury, on 24 November 1897.

This is a curious location for a library as it is in neither the centre of Dulwich nor East Dulwich. But it is a destination for buses. Seeing Dulwich Library as a destination is misleading for the unwary who might be expecting more of a “place” around the library.

Now head towards the Plough pub diagonally opposite the Library and look to the right at the wall at the end of the car park.

Stop 8: Lady Digby on her deathbed

This is part of Dulwich Outdoor Gallery (DOG) which consists of a collection of murals painted by international contemporary street artists, based on Baroque paintings in the Dulwich Picture Gallery collection. The artworks are dotted around Dulwich – but not the Village as far as I can see.

The DOG was established by Ingrid Beazley (1950 – 2017), a pioneer of promoting street art.

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The work here is by MadC. It is her take on the Van Dyck picture of Lady Digby on her deathbed, painted in 1633.

Our next stop is just across Lordship Lane from the Plough pub.

Stop 9: Number 354 Lordship Lane

Nothing particularly interesting about this building itself.

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But look, there is a Southwark blue plaque. This is at first floor level and hard to get a decent picture of because of the bus stop and shelter.

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This was where Enid Mary Blyton was born, although the building that is here today is of a later vintage.

Blyton was best known for creating the character of Noddy and for the ‘Famous Five’ stories. Her works have been translated into nearly ninety languages and have sold more than 600 million copies worldwide. She has not fared well in more modern times being accused of racism and sexism. There has apparently been some judicious rewriting in recent times, golliwogs have become goblins, children are scolded not beaten and characters of Dick and Fanny have been renamed as Rick and Frannie.

Return to the bus stop and catch a 176, 185 or 197 (the 40 terminates at Dulwich Library and the 197 has joins Lordship Lane here) for two stops to Overhill Road..

Part C: the far end of Lordship Lane.

Having got off the bus at Overhill Road walk back to the turning of that name. Just on the wall ahead of you there is a little blue plaque.

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We will hear about the connection between Bon Scott and Overhill Road in a short while but first we have a rather dramatic housing development to look at.

Stop 10: Dawson Heights

Keep going along the road on the left hand side and follow the road as it goes up hill. Soon on the left you will see a massive development.

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This is Dawson Heights. I can’t help feeling the name would be great for an Australian soap opera.

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It is actually two massive blocks: one called Bredinghurst and the other Ladlands, designed for Southwark Council by Kate Macintosh.

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Curious names – With Ladlands, one has the image of load of lads wandering around. Not sure how the other name is pronounced by it could be “Breeding hurst” in which case this is for the families!.

The Estate was constructed between 1968 and 1972 and contains 296 homes – 112 one-bed, 75 two-bed, 81 three-bed and 28 four-bed flats, Sitting on a hillside, every flat has a view to the north and about two thirds have a view to the south.

Do go into the estate. Follow the road round Bredinghurst and you will see the Ladlands block. Go down the path to the left of that and you get a fantastic view of central London.

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There is an interesting article about the ups and downs of this estate: https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/dawsons-heights-east-dulwich-an-example-of-the-almost-lost-art-of-romantic-townscape/

Head back onto Overhill Road and at the far end of the estate you get a great view of Canary Wharf looking along the road.

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Now just around here is number 67 Overhill Road.

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This is actually the place associated with the singer Bon Scott (1946 – 1980), he Scottish born, Australian singer and songwriter with hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until his death here in 1980.

It is a strange story as told in Wikipedia:

“Some time during the late evening of 18 February (1980) and early morning of 19 February, Scott, 33, passed out and died. He had just visited a London club called the Music Machine (currently known as KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by a friend of Scott’s, Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich. Later that day, Kinnear found Scott lifeless, and alerted the authorities. Scott was rushed to King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The chronology of events on 19 February and when exactly Scott was found dead has been challenged by Jesse Fink’s book Bon: The Last Highway, which quotes UFO guitarist Paul Chapman as having been informed early that morning by Scott’s friend Joe Fury that Scott was dead. Kinnear said he found Scott in the evening. Chapman claims Scott and Fury were with him the previous evening of the 18th and Scott left his apartment to buy heroin, never to return.”

If you want to read some more about this odd tale, here is a link to an extensive article:

https://www.loudersound.com/features/what-really-happened-on-the-night-bon-scott-died

Now return to Lordship Lane (you can cut off the corner by going down Melford Passage). Turn left when you reach Lordship Lane. Our next stop is on the left just near where the South Circular Road joins, right by the closed down Grove Tavern. I have driven along this part of the South Circular many times but only now have I actually walked round here.

Stop 11: Number 549 Lordship Lane

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At first glance this looks like a washed out old Victorian villa but it is no ordinary Victorian villa.

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Officially its name is “The Ferns” but it is also known as the “Concrete House” – a grade II listed building,and believed to be the only surviving example of a 19th century domestic concrete house in England.

The Concrete House was built in 1873 by Charles Drake of the Patent Concrete Building Company. In 1867 the builder had patented the use of iron panels for shuttering rather than timber.

It became derelict in the 1980s and was on the Heritage at Risk Register from 1994 to 2013 when it was removed following its successful repair and conversion to five flats in shared ownership.

Now take the side turning to the left which is Underhill Road.

Stop 12: Number 58 Underhill Road

Our final stop is a little way down on the right.

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This was the home of novelist C S Forester.

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C S (Cecil Scot) Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (1899 – 1966) known for writing tales of naval warfare such as the Horatio Hornblower series, featuring a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars, as well as the novel, The African Queen, later made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Forester was born in Cairo and, after a family breakup at an early age, moved with his mother to London, where he was educated at Alleyn’s School and Dulwich College, so this may have been the time he lived here. He began to study medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London, but left without completing his degree. Around 1921, after leaving Guy’s, he began writing seriously using his pen name.

He moved to the United States during the Second World War and continued to live there until his death. Many of the Hornblower books were in fact written when he was living in the States.

So that brings us to the end of our SE22 jaunt. We have seen some interesting street art, plus heard of some famous people with SE22 connections. Sadly even with hopping on two buses we could not squeeze in No 36 Forest Hill Road – birthplace of William Henry Pratt, better known as horror movie actor Boris Karloff!

We are now on the border with SE23 Forest Hill. It is probably easiest to jump on another bus (176, 185 or 197) to get to Forest Hill for onward travel.

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3 thoughts on “SE22: To bus or not to bus, that is the question

  1. Hi Stephen. Just on a point of interest, another early (sometimes claimed as “first”) concrete house was built in my hometown of Grays (Thurrock) in Essex, by the great naturalist and co-signatory of the paper to the Royal Society, on Evolution by Natural Selection, Alfred Russel Wallace; (the other signatory being Charles Darwin of course). I know that it is well out of your remit of London Post Codes, though London has spread a long way East since I lived in Grays. We used then to recon that London was 20 miles away, but the last time I was down there I could clearly see the Queen Elizabeth Bridge (M25) from the house I lived in. In a few years I will be able to claim that I am a Londoner by birth, and not just adoption!!
    Anyway Wallace’s concrete house (built in the 1870’s I think,) is currently owned by a Convent, and they wont let you in to see it! You have to peer over quite a high wall (looking distinctly pervy, peering into a convent’s grounds!) even to see it. He decided to use concrete, because of all the chalk in the area. It was a thriving concrete producing area until a few years ago.
    He was sufficiently famous at the time for the town to name two streets after him, Russel Avenue, and Wallace Avenue. But I have to admit that when growing up there I had never heard of him, and we were taught nothing about him at School! The local museum does now feature a display about him and the house.

      • Yes indeed! There are some interesting parts of Estury Essex, though Grays is a rather dull town now. Just down on the river shore there are the remains of a splendid pleasure beach that was very fashionable in the 19th Century (and up till about WW 2), but it is all in ruins now.
        I always describe Grays as the town that committed suicide. It had a lovely old high street (Called “The Old High-street!) which ran from the river up to the top of a slight hill, where the Railway was placed in the 19th C. which brought in visitors from London, and made the town prosperous enough that they built The New High Street down the other side of the hill. Then, in the 1970’s, they pulled down all the 19th and even 18th century buildings that formed the Old High Street, and placed a row of ugly, badly made high rise flats which cut the town off from the river. So you now have a riverside town that faces inland! Madness! Most of those flats are now condemned, because they were so poorly constructed.
        The final straw was when they built “Lakeside shopping centre” in an old disused chalk pit, that we used to play in (very dangerously!) as kids, and that took all the commerce out of Grays.
        It has had a slight injection of “life” more recently, with the opening of a big Tech College, where the old Regal Cinema stood. (Grays had three cinemas when I was growing up; none now of course, thought the Grade 2 – I think- listed State Cinema building sits sadly in the centre of the town; unused and unloved -certainly uncared for- waiting for someone to find a use for it. The State was where they filmed part of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but I dont think it has been used for anything much since then. It had a working organ that rose out of the orcherstra pit and everything! Fabulous building back in the day!)
        Just upstream, at Purfleet (where Dracula lived in the book!) there was a huge Botanic Garden in the 19th C. where London Tourists would come for the day to marvel at the lush and verdant greenery. Made so lush by the fact that it grew on the site of one of London’s Plague Pits! I dont think the tourists new about that! I often wonder if Bram Stoker new, when he decided to allow Dreacula to settle there!?
        Anyway, enough rambling on about my old stamping grounds!
        Thanks very much for your posting which I always enjoy!
        All the best
        Francis

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