Christmas Trees to support St Saviour’s School – order soon!

We are fortunate in having several nice schools within easy walking distance and now it’s almost Christmas (which seems to have crept up on us more quickly than usual this year), St Saviour’s School have announced a clever way to support their fundraising campaign and also help us get a Christmas tree in a highly convenient & hopefully stress-free way. The school earns £10 per tree ordered.

Baubles and other ornaments not included!

Prices vary of course according to the size of the tree but seem reasonable.

Orders have to be placed and paid for online by close of play on 26 November, so not long to go. Trees will be ready for collection from the school playground on Saturday 4 December. Probably within walking distance unless you order a giant tree.

Use this link to order.

Registration and payment are quick and easy and you get an email acknowledgement which you need to take along when collecting the tree on 4 December.

Electric cars – where can we charge them (and other problems)?

I’m afraid I have shamelessly lifted this article from a recent Spectator website. It attracted a very high number of interesting comments, which I cannot begin to reproduce.

But the many problems of electric vehicles – including not just the initial cost but also their weight, the environmental impact of the raw materials, their high demands on the electricity network and of course, as mentioned below, the obvious problem of where they can be charged especially in a crowded city – are beginning to dawn on people. True, some houses on Fawnbrake Avenue have been able to convert their front gardens to a parking space, thereby solving one of the problems. But a majority of residents don’t have that option. And lamp-post charging sets off a whole number of other complications.

 

“With their private jets and gas-guzzling mansions, delegates at Cop26 have been widely criticised for an elitist attitude towards the environment. Nothing better demonstrates the gulf between policymakers and ordinary people than over the charging points for electric cars. It is one thing to install a home charging point for your car if you own a large house up a crunchy gravel driveway – indeed, according to the property website Rightmove, owners of such properties have been fitting charging points with great enthusiasm, with a 541 per cent increase in the number of homes being advertised with such a facility over the past year.

But what do you do if you live in one of the 43 per cent of homes which do not have off-street parking? In fact, you don’t necessarily have to be of modest means to live in such a house – there are plenty of city centre homes, in Belgravia and such places to boot, which open straight onto the pavement. Owning a car in a city has not been easy ever since controlled parking and traffic wardens started to appear in the 1960s, but it is just about to get a whole lot more difficult. Even if you can find somewhere to charge an electric car the electricity is likely to be several times more expensive than plugging it in to your home supply.

That said, there have been some trials with on-street recharging points, which may be coming to a street near you soon. Under the Go Ultra Low City Scheme, 1000 on-street charging points were installed in London in 2019 – utilising existing lamp-posts. You are not going to get a rapid charging point from the electricity supply to a lamp-post – they are limited to 3.7 kW – but it is enough for an overnight charge. Reading, too, has been experimenting with fixing sockets to existing lamp-posts.

But there are still many problems to overcome. In Reading, many street lamps proved to be unsuitable because there are installed on the nearside of the pavement, which would have required a cable to be dangled dangerously across the footway. Pedestrians face enough obstructions without having to step over an electric cable every few yards. That problem could be overcome by excavating small channels beneath the pavement so that a cable can be run across without tripping people up. One company, Greenmole, in association with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Salford has been installing just that: channels which lead from a motorist’s own home to the roadside, to enable charging. It comes at a price – such an installation will cost you around £3000. But there is a bigger problem, too: very few people have a reserved parking place directly outside their home – even where parking permit schemes exist they tend to allow parking on a street-by-street or area-by-area basis, not to individually-designated parking spaces.

As more electric cars come into use, there are going to be intense battles over this. Should homeowners be allowed to claim parking spaces directly outside their homes so they can charge their vehicles more easily – and if so, what should they be charged for the privilege? After all, the public highway is supposed to be a facility for all, not for bits effectively to be privatised for the exclusive benefit of nearby property-owners. In any case, reserving parking spaces outside homes is not going to help everyone. If you have a house, say, divided into three flats, who, if anyone, gets to bag the single streetside parking space?

One thing is for sure, until the problem of charging electric vehicles on the streets is solved, properties with off-street parking are likely to command an even greater premium than they already do. The Battle of Cable Steet is long remembered as the struggle between communists and fascists in the 1930s. The Battle of Street Cabling has yet to come.”

“Sunset over Herne Hill”

A new and deeply interesting book about John Ruskin and Herne Hill has just been published by the Herne Hill Society (as members of the HHS have just been told).

John Ruskin spent his childhood and most of his working life here in Herne Hill. When he died in 1900 just a year before Queen Victoria – about the same time as many of the houses here on Fawnbrake Avenue were built – he had become one of the most original,  controversial and globally influential thinkers and writers of the 19th century.

Despite the cascade of studies and biographies of Ruskin over the last hundred years, this is the first book to look with authority and in depth at the importance of South London in shaping Ruskin’s thinking.

Despite all his foreign travels, public lecturing, the academic posts at Oxford, his work for London’s museums, and those messianic forays into the new industrial regions of England, Herne Hill was the place where Ruskin spent his childhood and most productive years. Here he wrote the increasingly passionate books, articles and speeches that made him nationally and indeed globally celebrated.

It was also from here, and well into his old age, that he studied and pronounced upon his shifting world.

A witness to a degrading environment

Even from his early age a precocious and acute observer of nature, Ruskin loved the then unspoilt hills, skies, rivers and fields of Herne Hill, Dulwich, and Norwood .

But his affectionate memories of this unblemished (but as he discovered, all too fragile) environment also turned out to be a painful benchmark for what developed in later decades. So it was also in Herne Hill, as the years passed, that Ruskin witnessed and described, with increasing horror, the destruction of the natural environment through railway building and uncontrolled suburban growth.

Sunset at Herne Hill through the Smoke of London 1876 (The Ruskin Museum,Coniston)

A prophet of climate change?

As early as 1860, he had written “Whenever I look or travel in England or abroad, I see that men, wherever they can reach, destroy all beauty.” (Modern Painters V). His vivid 1876 watercolour “Sunset at Herne Hill through the Smoke of London”, featuring on the front cover of the new book, is a melancholy and prophetic attempt to illustrate this change

Published by the Herne Hill Society, this important new book by local historians Jon Newman and Laurence Marsh, based on meticulous research, brings sensitive and original insights into the development of Ruskin’s distress about the world and the environment, as he prophesied how manufacturing and hasty urbanisation was damaging society and the climate across England, and especially, from his own bedroom window, in the world metropolis that his native city had become.

“Sunset over Herne Hill” concludes with a rewarding examination of the social and historical context of Herne Hill and Denmark Hill during Ruskin’s lifetime and his family’s place within South London as the 19th century progressed, when London was becoming the most prosperous and populous city in the world, as well as probably the most polluted.

This illuminating and touching book restores John Ruskin to South London… the authors of ‘Sunset over Herne Hill’ take us back to the neglected roots of the great Victorian romantic’s creativity”Andrew Saint, Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, general editor of the Survey of London, and author of the newly-published “London 1870-1914: a City at its Zenith”

The book has 160 pages with 80 colour & b/w illustrations, with a map by David Western.

£17.00 (including delivery) by mail order from the Herne Hill Society
or from Herne Hill Books.

Crossrail draws ever closer

The Elizabeth Line, its official name, now seems almost within reach.

Although the full stretch of the route from Reading or Heathrow all the way to Brentwood and Shenfield in  Essex may not be ready next year, we are now being assured that the busiest, central section, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, is on course (fingers crossed) to open to passengers in the first half of 2022.

 

It’s a fiendishly complicated project with many features that need to be severely tested before passengers are allowed on. The ‘Trial Running’ phase (operating timetabled train movements in the central operating section) is almost complete now, and the more real-life ‘Trial Operations’ testing phase is scheduled to open later this year.

At the moment, Crossrail is running 12 trains per hour (tph) in the 42km of tunnels that have been built below London, increasing train mileage, building reliability and flushing out issues with the systems and signalling software. Already seven of the new stations have been commissioned and handed over to TfL following successful completion of testing and integration work. Canary Wharf and Bond Street will follow.

12 tph is the initial level of service on the Elizabeth line, but they will also be testing 24 tph train movements on the railway later this year – this will be the service frequency in the central section when the full Elizabeth line is operational. Which is pretty fast.

But we aren’t on Crossrail

No indeed, so why does this matter to us?

Well, because Herne Hill Station is in the fortunate position of offering not only a swift direct line to Victoria but also the Thameslink route which takes us to Farringdon, where there is a major interchange with the Elizabeth Line. From Farringdon it’s only a few stops west to Paddington or east to Canary Wharf, cutting out some of the tiresome interchanges on the tube network.

Farringdon Elizabeth Line Station (c) Crossrail

A couple of years ago, we asked some local estate agents if they thought Crossrail would make an impact on property values in Herne Hill. We got some blank looks, and the impression that they hadn’t even thought about this.

It’s often true that people buy flats or houses here without first carrying out a deep study of transport options. But those potential incomers who do take such things into account must see these improved travel options as being another positive feature about SE24 – as might many of us who already live here.

Except, of course, for people who are permanently WFH? Nice if you can get it, and many observers think that it is now embedded in work culture; but  as a total replacement for commuting to the office as well? Maybe not: we’ll still need to get around.

Crime and Punishment in Herne Hill

Crime and Punishment in Herne Hill, 1750 – 1900  –  a free illustrated talk by Laurence Marsh and Rebecca Tee from the Herne Hill Society, Monday, 27 September 2021, 7.00pm to 8.00pm

This is a free online event via Zoom as part of Lambeth Heritage Festival.

Join to listen to the stories uncovered by research into the murkier history of Herne Hill.

In 1750 there were more than 150 crimes where the death penalty could be imposed. 1902 saw the very first use in evidence of fingerprints in an English courtroom.

Book via Eventbrite here .

 

One of the most unusual houses in Herne Hill …

… is an archetypal 1930s modernist home in Dorchester Drive, which has just come on the market after 65 years.

It starts with Kemp & Tasker

Who? Leslie Kemp and Frederick Tasker were English architects who practised in the 1930s as Kemp & Tasker.
They are best known for their cinemas (many now demolished, inevitably), although they are also responsible for several notable 1930s/modernist buildings in South London and Kent, often constructed by an energetic firm of builders, the Morrell brothers of Bromley.
These include the Dorchester Court flats between Herne Hill and Dorchester Drive, which as many local people will know are now owned by a neglectful property company harbouring ambitions for deleterious extensions.
However the Morrell brothers also built individual family homes including two Kemp & Tasker designed houses just up the road from our street, on Dorchester Drive. Indeed, the Morrells designed and built that whole street, each house being different from its neighbours.

Dorchester Drive

In 1934, one particular Kemp & Tasker house design was submitted to the Daily Mail’s Ideal House Competition.

The Morrells embraced and promoted this design, claiming in a glossy brochure  (unearthed for us by our learned neighbour Laurence, who indeed spotted that this distinctive house has come on the market) that it could be built to order anywhere. And so it was.

It’s red

Unlike another No 10 with a famous black door, number 10 Dorchester Drive, two streets up from here, has in fact a red door and windows and is one of the three known Kemp & Tasker examples of this design that still exist – and it is now on sale.

Morrells brochure for K&T house


Form an orderly queue

The 5-bedroomed  house is said to be fundamentally in good order, having been lived in and cared for by the same family – Mr & Mrs Eysenck – since 1956. Hans Jürgen Eysenck, the celebrated and latterly controversial psychologist, died in 1997 and his wife Sybil Eysenck died in March 2020, which explains why the house is now on the market for the first time in 65 years.
The property is being marketed through estate agents Hamptons. Their blurb announces that

“… this house now provides the opportunity for a buyer to breathe new life into a well-loved family home to create something really special in terms of style and space. It has wonderful features such as curved doors, original hardwood flooring (beneath existing carpets), original Crittall windows, the fabulous ‘sunspan’ curved window in the lounge, grand iron staircase and original tiled bathroom. There is a wraparound garden and off-street parking on both sides.”

However, the buyers will need to find £1.75 million, plus a fair bit more for the necessary updating. Insulating all those big windows will also be quite a challenge. The red paint will probably be replaced by something more muted from Farrow & Ball or Mylands.

Disappointed dreams

Incidentally, the Morrell brothers (they were twins) also built a much bigger house, for themselves, at no. 5 Dorchester Drive. But they managed to go bankrupt and never got to live there.

Boundary Commission proposals to carve up Herne Hill

Tomorrow, Monday 2 August, is the last day on which we can submit our comments to the Boundary Commission’s proposals to abolish our constituency and split it three ways – an outcome that would seriously weaken our ability to articulate our interests to local authorities and central government, which can at present be voiced by our current MP.

I am thinking in part of Helen Hayes’ ability and willingness to support our local refugee initiatives, which would inevitably be diminished under the Commission’s proposals. But there are many other implications in the current proposals.

Herne Hill carved up?

The Herne Hill Society has already commented.  But individual objections also count. Those who believe that our identity is important could perhaps take a few minutes to get a grasp of the issues and lodge a comment on the Boundary Commission website (link at the end).

For what it is worth, I have written in the following terms, which draw heavily on the well-argued submission from the Herne Hill Society:

“I am strongly opposed to the Boundary Commission’s proposals for the drawing the constituency boundaries for Herne Hill, an area with a strong local identity centred (though not exclusively) on the SE24 postcode. I strongly urge the Commission to develop an alternative solution, perhaps along the lines identified below.

Under the current proposals, Herne Hill, the area in which I live, would be divided between three constituencies. This means that the Lambeth ward of Herne Hill would become part of the new Clapham and Brixton constituency; the Southwark ward of Dulwich Village would become part of the new constituency of Dulwich and Sydenham; and the Lambeth ward of Thurlow Park would be attached to the far-distant Streatham area. Herne Hill is already divided between two London boroughs, but this proposal sees it losing its current unity within one parliamentary constituency.

This is a major loss to the people of Herne Hill on two levels.

The first relates to local identity, a vital element in a city as large as London. An essential part of community cohesion is the sense of belonging to a particular place. People are motivated by this sense to strive for the best outcomes for their area. One of the criteria that the Boundary Commission must take account of is “local links that would be broken by changes in constituencies”. The local links in this case are those that have given Herne Hill its cohesion and hence its very identity over many generations. Splitting Herne Hill three ways can only be permanently damaging to Herne Hill’s identity and would gravely hamper our ability to voice our democratic concerns.

The second level of loss concerns the practical advantages for Herne Hill in being in one constituency and is therefore easier to define. There are distinct benefits in having one member of parliament, particularly where local issues concern the whole of the Herne Hill community. These include Issues such as traffic calming measures and transport more generally, public safety and policing, and the promotion of social, humanitarian, educational and economic initiatives that help keep our community together. It makes practical sense for one member of parliament to represent Herne Hill’s interests. In the present constituency, one member of parliament can – and does – speak to the local authorities in both Southwark and Lambeth, as well as to national government, and can have an overview of matters that cross the borough boundary. Under the Boundary Commission proposals as they affect Herne Hill, Southwark and Lambeth are divided. In our view, this can only lead to a fragmentation of the interests of Herne Hill and a lessening of the ability of our community to be heard effectively through parliamentary representation.

However, there is a counter-proposal that would achieve the goal of numerical parity within given margins and avoid the harm to Herne Hill outlined above without inflicting disproportionate disadvantages on other areas.

This solution would involve retaining the current constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood (or whatever name is most appropriate), but with some modification of the boundaries. Thus the revised constituency would comprise: the wards of Coldharbour, Gipsy Hill, Herne Hill, Knight’s Hill and Thurlow Park in Lambeth, and the wards of Champion Hill, Dulwich Village and Dulwich Wood in Southwark.

I urge the Boundary Commission to consider this alternative solution which would ensure that Herne Hill remains within one parliamentary constituency, an arrangement which has served us well over many years.”

The link to the Boundary Commission’s comment facility is here.

New ULEZ restrictions – and heavy charges – fast approaching

Just a reminder that from 25 October 2021, the existing central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand to create a single larger zone up to, but not including, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

That includes us, obviously.

TfL have a link which tells us whether our cars meet the emissions standard and the charges we shall need to pay. Four out of five cars, they say,  already meet the ULEZ emissions standards, but they need owners of older polluting cars, motorcycles, lighter vans and minibuses to take action. (Meaning? … sell the offending vehicle to somewhere outside London, presumably  –  and no doubt at a loss.)

This is the link.

ULEZ expansion could cost £12.50 per day when your car moves

Cars, motorcycles, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes), and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes) will either need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards, or pay a £12.50 daily charge when driving within the expanded ULEZ zone.  You will not be charged for a non-compliant vehicle parked in the zone on days you don’t drive it (how gracious of the Mayor!).

The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day (25 December).

The current ULEZ emissions standards will continue:

• Euro 3 (NOx) for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles
• Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes)
• Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes)

What isn’t clear is how TfL will check vehicle movements (and therefore surcharge liability). Presumably we will see an expanded network of cameras such as already exist within the present Congestion Charge/ULEZ zone.