All posts by letterbox

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.

Ruskin Park Paddling Pool reopens

The popular paddling pool in Ruskin Park is reopening for the summer holidays, the Friends of Ruskin Park have just announced.

The paddling pool should be open again on 24th July until 5th September. The pool is run by volunteers, backed by a community partnership of Urban Village Homes, Lambeth Landscapes, and the Friends of Ruskin Park.

A full refurb for the pool is planned at the end of the year.

If you are able to volunteer with cleaning and other tasks, please see details here or join the Save Ruskin Park Paddling Pool group on Facebook.

Ruskin Park Band Concerts – change of programme

The series of fortnightly band concerts at the Ruskin Park Bandstand will, as announced,  start next Sunday, 4 July, but with a different band  –  The South East London Folk Orchestra.

They play and sing tunes from a variety of folk traditions, deploying a variety of instruments including fiddles, accordions, concertinas, whistles, bodhrans, guitars, mandolins and flutes.

All we need is some fine weather.

 

Ruskin Park News

Urgently looking for financial talent

The Friends of Ruskin Park are an outstanding local charity and play a vital role in keeping the park a vibrant and much treasured asset. In recent months their highly valued Treasurer very sadly died and they are desperately looking for someone to replace him. Obviously with any charity, particularly this one, it’s a vital role. They are struggling now with governance/finance know-how to meet their minimum commitments as an entirely volunteer run charity.

They are looking for a person with some accountancy experience, maybe with charities, and who is a supporter of what they do for Ruskin Park. This is an important and rewarding voluntary contribution to our local community and it will need regular commitment.

On top of that, the committee’s vice-chair has also stepped down recently for health reasons. That’s another post that needs to be filled as soon as possible.

If you are able and willing to help, or know anyone else who might, please contact the Chair, Lucy Hadfield.

It’s the nearly concert season in Ruskin Park

When summer and sunny days return (they will, won’t they?), the bandstand in Ruskin Park fulfils its purpose as a showcase for musical entertainment on Sunday afternoons.

The first concert is on 4th July (3:00 – 5:00 PM), with an appearance by The Sonnet Wind Orchestra – a musically exciting ensemble numbering some 35 players. Mostly retired professional musicians playing an extensive and eclectic repertoire from arrangements of classical favourites, via selections from stage and screen, to the Beatles, Bowie and Queen. Many of these arrangements are by members of the SWO.

More concerts follow, right until the middle of October. The summer programme can be found on the Friends of Ruskin Park website.

 

How much is this bit of road worth?

Yes, this bit…

Townley Road, joining East Dulwich Grove

For Southwark Council, this patch of tarmac is paved with gold.

All you need is some signs and a traffic camera.

Since the Emergency Traffic Measures came into effect, Southwark Council has ensured that these few metres  –  where Townley Road and Calton Avenue converge at the traffic lights to join East Dulwich Grove  –  have raised, at a conservative estimate, over £200,000 from drivers who either missed or misinterpreted the warning signs, or alternatively mistimed their journey.

If you are driving back to Herne Hill from East Dulwich and decide go up Lordship Lane and then take a right turn along Townley Road to run between Alleyn’s School and their playing field, you might miss the warning signs at the beginning of the stretch. But if you do, as you reach the last few metres before the traffic lights at East Dulwich Grove, you are doomed unless you decide to enrage the tailback of traffic behind you by doing a three-point turn to beat a retreat.

Because this is the sign you see:

By the time you have registered what it says, you are trapped.

Within a week or two, the post brings a Penalty Charge Notice that graciously allows you to pay a mere £65 for prompt settlement. The detail of the contravention is stated as “using a route restricted to certain vehicles”.

In some parts of Dulwich around the Village, similar signs have raised even more. The northbound camera in Dulwich Village by the corner of Pickwick Road has raised £695,300.

These figures, revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request recently tabled by a neighbour, only take us to the end of March. No doubt the council’s tills are still ringing. For the wider Dulwich area, Southwark admits to having raised over £1 million during this period.

One consequence is significant traffic displacement. Our local LTNs have caused sharply divided opinions and vigourous debate. Some closures seem more pragmatically sited than others. But the annoying feature about this particular trap on Townley Road   –  readers may of course disagree  –  is that the prevention of traffic taking this route seems to serve no obvious purpose in reducing street pollution, unless it is to cut down on cars, vans and trucks driving past Alleyn’s School at busy school times. Thus, weekends are excluded. But not, mark you, school holidays or even lockdown when the school was empty.

Over time, the penalties do of course work to deter traffic at this point during those stated times, if that is the intention: once stung, one avoids the area scrupulously. So you just find an alternative way home, along busier roads.

The Twin Towers of Loughborough Junction – revived ?

A neighbour reports that they have received a letter from Lambeth advising that a revised application has been made for the notorious Twin Towers project at Loughborough Junction, which we reported on back in 2020: see our summary then,  which contains a link to the Herne Hill Society’s magisterial objection.

Fully conscious that their original application blatantly breached Lambeth’s own policy regarding tall buildings, the developers are now, it seems, trying to breathe new life into the proposal by persuading the council to override their own policy.

We have no doubt that the Herne Hill Society’s planners are now gearing up to return to the charge. Hopefully the Brixton Society and the Loughborough Junction Action Group will also spring into action.

Meanwhile, what isn’t remotely clear is why Lambeth have advised (as far as we know) just one household on Fawnbrake Avenue. Surely they’re not trying to keep this cheeky new application secret, are they?

A Short History of Fawnbrake Avenue

We’ve heard people wondering about the history of our street, so it might be useful to jot down some key dates and developments. Like several other areas of Herne Hill, Fawnbrake Avenue feels outright Edwardian in its architectural language. But it wasn’t all built at the same time. Which makes this post a little longer than our usual ones.

Herne Hill as a small township developed later than, for instance, Brixton. In the mid-Victorian years, much of the prominent domestic housing hereabouts consisted of the generous mansions and villas with generous gardens, occupied by the “carriage trade” gentry leaving central London, dotted along both sides of Denmark Hill and Herne Hill: now, for the most part, replaced by more modern housing. Down in the centre, the railway station arrived in 1862, at first known as “Hernehill” Station and, as in many other places, this was both a stimulus of and a reaction to urban development and population increases.

A glance at an extract from the Ordnance Survey map of 1870 shows the beginning of this phase of local history. Fawnbrake Avenue and similar streets did not yet exist, but some landmarks are already visible: St Paul’s Church and the neighbouring vicarage (now of course Herne Hill School) and the Half Moon Public House. The railway station can also be seen, operated by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. But many of the other features visible here will later be swept away: notice, if you can spot it, the clearly imposing residence known as The Cedars placed between what will later become Kestrel Avenue and Gubyon Avenue. Otherwise on our side of the slope it’s mainly fields, trees and gardens, many belonging to grand houses which front on to Herne Hill itself.

Skip forward to the next generation of the Ordnance Survey Map, surveyed in 1894/96 and published in 1897. Alongside Herne Hill itself and Denmark Hill (not visible on this extract) the big mansions are still there.

Fawnbrake arrives – just!

But on our patch, Fawnbrake Avenue has now appeared, linked to the main road by Gubyon and Kestrel Avenues. The Cedars is clinging on, though with a diminished garden it seems.

What is noteworthy is that the newly-created Fawnbrake Avenue is very curtailed. It only extends as far as the boundaries of the back gardens at the bottom of the eastern edge of Kestrel Avenue –as far as number 27 in present-day numbering. Today, where this row of houses ends, there is a gap between 27 and 29, and a noticeable change of design in the front facade of the houses.

My amateur research in the Electoral Register confirms that no. 5 Fawnbrake Avenue was definitely inhabited by 1893.

After no. 27 on this first row of houses on the north-west side of Fawnbrake, it’s still green fields.

But visible on our northern fringe is part of the Milkwood Estate developed by the Suburban Village & General Dwellings Company. Here Lowden Road had already been established in the 1870s. The map shows its long terrace of houses (with their short back gardens, as now) completed all the way up to Poplar Walk.

The electric tramway along Milkwood Road is also shown on the map, along with Neville’s Bakery, to be superseded in a later generation by the Milkwood Community Park and an extension of Jessop School.

Filling up the Avenue

The extension of Fawnbrake beyond no. 27 depended, naturally, on someone buying the land and (usually the same person) erecting the houses and extending the street. Property developers and speculators were still seizing opportunities to acquire land to infill. The land for my own house (81) and its two immediate neighbours either side was parcelled up for sale as building lots in 1899.

Who owned the land? Mr Sanders, mostly

Thanks to the meticulous research made by our neighbour Laurence Marsh, who is a notable local historian, and others writing for the Herne Hill Society’s historical collection, we know that the major landowners hereabouts were the Sanders family. In this instance, Robert Arthur Sanders was the landowner, being the great-grandson of Samuel Sanders (see Herne Hill Personalities) who had made his money in timber in the 18th century and bought more than 100 acres on the Lambeth side of Denmark Hill and Herne Hill.

Samuel himself lived in one of the houses he had built on Denmark Hill, in what is now Ruskin Park. As Laurence has established, it was Robert Arthur Sanders (1867-1940), later MP for Bridgwater, who started to sell off building land at the end of the 19th century. Later, Robert Sanders also sold some of his land to the LCC to establish Ruskin Park.

Laurence believes that most of Fawnbrake is built on Sanders land. Laurence’s own house was, and so was mine: I have a copy of the deed of conveyance dated 3 February 1899 whereby Robert Sanders and Isabella Sanders (his wife) sold the plot of land (consisting of land which now houses numbers 79, 81 and 83), to a Mr Arthur Walter Tribe – although the Vendor (the Sanders estate) reserved the right to approve the plans for these houses.

Gubbins vs. Sanders

However that first small original stretch of houses that marked the start of Fawnbrake was not built on Sanders land but on property belonging to the trustees of the Gubbins family, who owned the land on which Gubyon, Kestrel, Cosbycote, Shardcroft, Woodquest and Rollscourt Avenues were also built. When it came to extending the original short stretch of Fawnbrake, there was a legal dispute – perhaps let’s call it a negotiation – between the Gubbins and Sanders trustees which was resolved, as you might expect, by a handsome payment to the Gubbins trustees.

(We should assume, Laurence advises, that the Sanders estate (and no doubt the Gubbins land too) would have been parcelled up and sold to builders/developers under building leases (often for 99 years), which meant that the original owners retained the freehold, taking a ground rent of a few guineas a year. It would have been several generations later, maybe half way through the 20th century, that householders bought the freehold.)

Tribe’s the man

So Mr Tribe was the builder-developer for our little plot: there will have been others for different parcels of land, which will account for the differing styles along the length of the street. Mr Tribe lost little time in getting the houses built, as we know that number 81 at least was first registered to an individual owner in August 1902. Not long after, we hear of controversy about the cost of paving the road, which had to be shared among ratepayers. On that, more on another occasion perhaps.

Thanks again to Laurence’s investigations, we now know, too, that Arthur Walter Tribe was an architect and surveyor, born in Kennington in no great wealth: his father was a bricklayer. He died in 1942, leaving a decent fortune.

The 20th century dawns

So by the turn of the century, our urban landscape, at least in these streets, was edging closer to what we now know. The next decade, running up to the start of the First World War, saw the progressive completion of the Avenue largely as we see it today, roughly when Queen Victoria died (January 1901) and was succeeded by Edward VII. (So our street is a mix of late Victorian and (mainly) early Edwardian architecture.)

The 1913 edition of the Ordnance Survey confirms this milestone. Fawnbrake Avenue is by then in its current condition, missing only the link into Brantwood Road which of course did not appear until the 1920s/30s. As far as I can tell from the Electoral Register, number 71 was occupied by 1901, and number 81 by 1903. The letterbox shown on the map outside nos. 79/81, and bearing the cipher of Edward VII, is still here! Whether house building proceeded unit by unit along the street until the road was complete, or in different plots according to the financial state of the housing market, it is not easy to say without further research.

Note on the map that the electric tramway (between West Norwood and the City) is still visible at this point, coming up Milkwood Road from Loughborough Junction with a little branch running along Lowden Road. The tram system was wound up in the 1950s.

So since Edwardian times, Fawnbrake Avenue’s domestic architecture has seen almost no outward change, though of course the arrival of the motor car has made a difference …

World War II

But we must recall that there was a little interruption from the Luftwaffe whose bombs took out a couple of houses (identifiable by their post-war rebuilds) at nos. 133-135: see this extract from the extraordinary  LCC Bomb Damage Maps. (The next bombs to be released from the same aircraft demolished several houses in Lowden Road, where again the post-war rebuilds are obvious.)

The same map also shows bomb damage at the other end of the street, at numbers 1 and 2, which I hadn’t previously been aware of. If rebuilds and repairs were necessary, they have been carried out to match the pre-existing architecture.

On these maps, incidentally, a building colour-coded black normally means it was totally destroyed; other colours indicate varying degrees of damage and repairability. But by comparison with other areas, elsewhere in London, in Britain and in Germany, our streets escaped lightly.

Narrow escape

Nevertheless if we’d been around on 23 August 1944, we would all have heard a massive explosion when a V-1 flying bomb narrowly missed Milkwood Road but took out properties on the northern section of Shakespeare Road, just across the railway lines. Four houses were demolished and 40 damaged, but miraculously, no lives were lost on this occasion. This was the last of five V-1’s to hit our area in 1944.

Still, over 6,000 people were killed (mainly in and around London) by V-1’s and over 17,000 seriously injured and maimed.


Much more local history is accessible through the publications of the Herne Hill Society including:

Herne Hill Heritage Trail
Herne Hill Personalities
The Milkwood Estate – the Story of a Lambeth Community
A Short History of Herne Hill