Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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PECKHAM AND DULWICH.
Situation of Peckham—Queen's Road—Albert Road—The Manor House of Peckham—Hill Street—Shard Square and the "Shard Arms"—Peckham House—Old Mansions in Peckham—Marlborough House—The "Rosemary Branch"—Peckham Fair—The "Kentish Drovers"—Hanover Street—Hanover Chapel—Basing Manor—Rye Lane—The Railway Station—The Museum of Fire—arms—Peckham Rye—Nunhead Green—The Asylum of the Metropolitan Beer and Wine Trade Association—Nunhead Cemetery—Nunhead Hill—The Reservoirs of the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks—Heaton's Folly—Honour Oak—Camberwell Cemetery—Friern Manor Farm—Goose Green—Lordship Lane—The "Plough" Inn—The Scenery round Dulwich—The Haunt of the Gipsies—Visit of the Court of Charles I. to Dulwich, for the Purposes of Sport—Outrages in Dulwich Wood—The Stocks and Cage at Dulwich—The "Green Man" Tavern—Bew's Corner—Dulwich Wells—Dr. Glennie's School—Byron a Scholar there—The "Crown," the "Half Moon," and the "Greyhound" Taverns—The Dulwich Club—Noted Residents of Dulwich—The Old Manor House—Edward Alleyn at Home—Dulwich College—Dulwich Picture-gallery—The New Schools of Dulwich College.
Peckham, as a metropolitan suburb, has a history completely of its own, made up of King John, Nell Gwynne, the great Duke of Marlborough, Hannah Lightfoot, Dr. Collyer, and other celebrities; yet it is nevertheless curtly described by Priscilla Wakefield, in her "Perambulations of London," as "a hamlet in the parish of Camberwell, on the road proceeding to Greenwich." The only scrap of information which she adds is that "a large fair is held at Peckham annually, affording a holiday to a vast number of the lower classes of Londoners." Of this fair we shall have more to say presently. The road above referred to leads from the Green at Camberwell, passes the parish church, and, continuing on through the village of Peckham, terminates in Queen's Road, which winds in a north-easterly direction, and ultimately unites with the Old Kent Road, near New Cross. Queen's Road, now a broad and well-built thoroughfare, was formerly known as Deptford Lane, and was re-named in honour of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who often passed through it on her way to the Royal Naval School at New Cross. It is not so very long ago that Albert Road, a turning out of the Queen's Road, was known by the not very euphonious appellation of Cow Walk. Within the present century Peckham rejoiced in a park of considerable extent, extending at one time from the High Street as far northward as the Old Kent Road; but its existence is now merely kept in remembrance by Peckham Park Road, which, with Hill Street, unites the two thoroughfares, and has long been built upon. The Manor House of Peckham, which occupied a central position, was standing in 1809, when Priscilla Wakefield wrote her work above quoted. It is said to have been built by Sir Thomas Bond, (fn. 1) one of the confidential friends of James II., and who loyally accompanied that monarch into exile.
Sir Thomas Trevor, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, created Lord Trevor by Queen Anne in 1711, and one of the twelve individuals who were made peers at once during the struggle for power, purchased the Peckham estate from Sir Henry Bond. The judge resided here occasionally, and after his decease, in 1731, the estate was purchased by a Mrs. Hill, from whom it descended to her nephew, Isaac P. Shard, Esq.; in 1812 it belonged to his second son, Mr. Charles Shard, of Lovel's Hill, near Windsor, who inherited the property from his elder brother. "In 1797," writes Mr. Blanch, in his History of Camberwell, "this ancient mansion was levelled to the ground for the then commencing great metropolitan improvements, and the present Hill Street forms the site of the once magnificent and stately mansion." The Shards are kept in remembrance by Shard Square and the "Shard Arms."
Branching out of the Peckham Road, a number of new thoroughfares have sprung up within the last quarter of a century, the names of which impart quite a legal tone to the district, the roads being dedicated to Lords Lyndhurst, Denman, and Selborne, and to Mr. Justice Talfourd. A few steps out of the High Street is Peckham House, formerly an old private mansion, but for the last half century a lunatic asylum, kept by Dr. Stocker, whose predecessor was a Dr. Armstrong. Its interior has been more than once graphically described by newspaper writers. The fine old mansion and surrounding acres have not always been connected with the sad side of humanity, for prior to 1826 the noble building resounded with the merry laughter of freedom. The wealthy family of Spitta lived here in grand style, giving fêtes, or what would now be termed gardenparties, to their neighbours, and dispensing charity with no niggard hand amongst the poor of the locality.
The High Street still boasts of many quaint houses, some of which can date back more than two centuries. The police-station forms part of what was once a fine mansion, formerly occupied by a wealthy family of the name of Dalton, and subsequently used as a convent. The policestation occupies the site of one of its outbuildings. Another house, now a draper's shop, was formerly the head-quarters of the Royal Asylum of St. Ann's Society, which was founded in 1702; whilst Avenue House, now the central office of Miss Rye's establishment for aiding the cause of female emigration, was, in days of old, a family mansion of some note.
Near the High Street, on the ground now covered by Marlborough Road, formerly stood Marlborough House, a fine old mansion, supposed at one time to have been the residence of some members of the Churchill family. The building contained a noble entrance-hall and a fine oak staircase, and frescoes adorned the walls and ceilings. For some years prior to its demolition, the building was used as a workhouse, where the city paupers were farmed. Blenheim House, still standing in the High Street, is thought to have been a minor building attached to the mansion.
The "Rosemary Branch" tavern, in Southampton Street, which stands at the junction of the Commercial Road, although possessing but a local reputation at the present time, was a well-known metropolitan hostelry at the commencement of the century. The old house, which was pulled down many years ago, was a picturesque structure, with rustic surroundings. Its original sign, if we may trust an entry in the churchwardens' accounts for 1707, appears to have been the "Rosemary Bush;" at all events, the entry referred to runs thus: "Received of Mr. Travers, for a stranger dying at ye Rosemary Bush, 00. 00. 04d." Tradition has it, that whenever the landlord of the old house tapped a barrel of beer, the inhabitants for some distance round were apprised of the fact by bell and proclamation! When the new house was erected it was described, in a print of the time, as an "establishment which has no suburban rival." The grounds surrounding it were most extensive, and horse-racing, cricketing, pigeon-shooting, and all kinds of out-door sports and pastimes were carried on within them; just as at Belsize a century ago. (fn. 2) The grounds have now been almost entirely covered with houses.
The "Rosemary Branch" is by no means a
common sign for a public-house; but this house at
Peckham is perhaps one of the best known in the
metropolis. Rosemary was formerly an emblem of
remembrance, much as the forget-me-not is now.
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," says
Ophelia, in the play of Hamlet; and, in the
Winter's Tale, Perdita says:
"For you, there's rosemary and rue; these keep
Seeming and savour all the winter long;
Grace and remembrance be unto you both."
A local tradition says that King John, hunting at Peckham, killed a stag, and was so pleased with the sport, that he granted its inhabitants an annual fair of three weeks' continuance; but no charter to that effect has been found. Another account says that it was granted, at the instance of Nell Gwynne, by our "merry monarch," on his return from a day's sport in the neighbourhood to the residence of Sir Thomas Bond, already mentioned as one of his favourites. The fair is stated, by the author of "Merrie England in the Olden Time," to have been held in the immediate vicinity of the "Kentish Drovers," an old-established tavern in the Peckham Road, which is said to have existed here for about two centuries. When Peckham was a village, surrounded by green fields, the "Kentish Drovers," as the sign implies, was a well-known halting-place for cattle-dealers, &c., on the road to Kent. Peckham Fair, with its wild beast and other shows, was of venerable antiquity at the date of its suppression. It was a famous place of resort with holiday-makers in the last century, and always had more than its share of curious monsters exhibited in its booths. Here, for instance, is one of its programmes, at the top of which stands the name of "George I. R.":—
2. The noble Vulture Cock, brought from Archangell, having the finest tallons (sic) of any bird that seeks his prey. The fore part of his head is covered with hair; the second part resembles the wool of a Black; below that is a white Ring, having a Ruff that he cloaks his head with at night.
6 & 7. The two fierce and surprising Hyænas, Male and Female, from the river Gambia. These creatures imitate the human voice, and so decoy negroes out of their huts and plantations to devour them. They have a mane like a horse, and two joints in their hinder legs more than any other creature. It is remarkable that all other beasts are to be tamed, but Hyænas they are not.
9. Also several other surprising Creatures of different sorts. To be seen from 9 in the morning till 9 at night till they are sold. Also all manner of curiosities of different sorts are bought and sold at the above place by John Bennett.
In August, 1787, were to be seen at the fair such examples of the four-footed race as bears, monkeys, dancing-dogs, learned pigs, &c. Mr. Flockton, "in his theatrical booth opposite the 'Kentish Drovers,'" exhibited the Italian fantocini, the farce of the Conjuror, and his "inimitable musical clock." Mr. Lane, "first performer to the king," played off his "snip-snap, rip-rap, crickcrack, and thunder tricks, that the grown babies stared like worried cats." This extraordinary genius "will drive about forty twelve-penny nails into any gentleman's breech, place him in a loadstone chair, and draw them out without the least pain! He is, in short, the most wonderful of all wonderful creatures the world ever wondered at." At this fair Sir Jeffrey Dunstan sported his handsome figure within his booth, outside of which was displayed a likeness of the elegant original in his pink satin smalls. "His dress, address, and oratory fascinated the audience; in fact, 'Jeffy was quite tonish.'" Peckham Fair was held on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of August. It grew, however, to be a nuisance, as fairs generally do, and was abolished in 1827.
At Peckham—though the statement is very doubtful at best—George III. is said to have been married to the fair Quakeress, Hannah Lightfoot, on the 27th of May, 1759. We have already introduced this lady to our readers in our account of St. James's Market. (fn. 3)
There was in the High Street a theatre, at which, says tradition, Nell Gwynne sometimes performed, and her royal paramour attended the entertainments. Dramatic performances occasionally took place here as late as the beginning of this century. In 1822, however, the Lancasterian school for boys took possession of the premises.
The house at Peckham, where Goldsmith was employed as tutor in a school under a Dr. Milner, and where he wrote the best part of his "Vicar of Wakefield," was pulled down in 1876. In the Life of Goldsmith prefixed to his "Works" we read: "Tired of practice, or disappointed of success, he soon exchanged the phial for the ferule, and prescriptions for spelling-books. Goldsmith came out in the character of a schoolmaster's assistant at Peckham, a kind of employment to which he had been used before; and at the table of Dr. Milner—for so the master of the school was named—he became acquainted with Smollett, who first directed him to literature as a means of subsistence, by employing him as a contributor to the Monthly Review. Subsequently, physic and literature were combined to eke out a maintenance, and, in the double capacity of doctor and author, he presents himself to our notice in a wretched lodging by Salisbury Square, Fleet Street. Here we have a peep into the life of a poor literary man of the eighteenth century, to which parallels are numerous enough in the nineteenth. Leaving his lodgings, he kept his appointments at some house of call; the Temple Exchange Coffee-house, Temple Bar, was his most favoured resort. There, indeed, was his ostensible abode; and the people who saw him by day had little idea of the forlorn lodging where he spent his nights." The school was afterwards called in his honour Goldsmith's House. An avenue of trees in the grounds was once known as "Goldsmith's Walk," but it has long since passed away.
Hanover Street, in Rye Lane (formerly South Street), was doubtless intended as a compliment to the House of Hanover, some members of that family having been great patrons of Dr. Collyer, whose chapel, at the entrance to Rye Lane, is also known as Hanover Chapel. Basing Yard, in the rear of Hanover Street, serves as a memorial of Basing Manor, a well-known residence here during the time of the first and second Charles. Among the former residents of Peckham, there was Sir T. Gardyner, of Basing Manor, who, when writing to Lord Dorchester, in 1630, concerning the Papal machinations in Spain, eccentrically remarks that he would write a book on the subject if his time "were not so much occupied with growing melons and other fruits."
In Rye Lane is a large and well-built station, on the South London and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railways. Close by the station, a large building was erected in 1867, as a Museum of Fire-Arms, and for the exhibition of everything connected with gunnery. After standing a few years, it was burnt down, but was subsequently rebuilt. A rifle-range was also connected with the building, which, in process of time, was made to serve the purposes of a pleasure resort; but this in the end was converted into a manufactory of fire-arms.
Peckham Rye—a tract of common said to be upwards of fifty acres in extent—has from "time immemorial" been used as a recreation-ground by the inhabitants, not only of this district, but by thousands upon thousands whose life is principally spent amidst City smoke or over-built suburbs. Peckham Rye formed part of two manors, known as Camberwell Buckingham and Camberwell Friern; but in the year 1868 the manorial rights were purchased by the vestry of the parish. Previous to this acquisition of "the Rye"—as the common is popularly called—by the vestry, the lord of the manor, Sir William Bowyer Smyth, had granted to a few of the inhabitants in its vicinity leases for twenty-one years, all of which expired in December, 1866. The lessees usually expended about £100 per annum (partly contributed by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood) in keeping the common in good condition.
The lord of the manor formerly held considerable property in the vicinity of Peckham Rye; indeed, as Mr. Blanch tells us, at one time the Bowyer family were the principal landowners in this parish. As far back as 1766, and again in 1789, protests were made by the parishioners against encroachments on the Rye, facts which are duly recorded in the Vestry Minutes. In 1865, a meeting of the inhabitants was held, to consider the best means to be adopted to prevent the erection of buildings on the Rye; and the matter was taken up by Parliament. In his evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1865, the deputysteward of the lord of the manor claimed for Sir Bowyer Smyth the absolute ownership of the Rye, and asserted that he was entitled to the full building value of the land, there being at that time, in his opinion, no copy-holder having rights over it. In the end, however, as we have stated above, the manorial rights, whatever they may have been, were purchased by the vestry; and thus the Rye has become the common property of the parish, and made available for the free use of the South Londoner. (fn. 4)
In former times, the people's claims to the
commons were stoutly defended—even to the
sacrifice of life—not so much for the right of
recreation as for the right of grazing or of gathering
fuel. An old ditty, embodying the feeling of the
people, runs thus:—
"'Tis very bad, in man or woman,
To steal a goose from off the common;
But who shall plead that man's excuse
Who steals the common from the goose?"
In some old documents the Rye is spelled "Rey;" and the old word "ree," a water-course, river, or expanse of water, is considered as probably the origin of the term. On the Rye is a quaint old farm-house, known as Homestead Farm, which takes us back to the time when such holdings abounded throughout the district.
On the north-east side of Peckham Rye is Nunhead, which is rapidly becoming a place of some importance, with a large population, and the head quarters of various centres of industry. Nunhead Green, an open space about one acre in extent, still remains; but its surroundings are now very different to what they were half a century ago, when village lads and lasses were wont to dance and romp there, and when the ancient "Nun's Head," which has been an institution in the locality for above two hundred years, was an object of attraction, through its tea-gardens, to worn-out citizens.
Here is the Asylum of the Metropolitan Beer and Wine Trade Association, which dates from 1851, when, at a general meeting of the beer-trade as a protection society, the idea assumed a substantial form, and a subscription was opened. The beer-sellers actively bestirred themselves to imitate the good example set by the licensed victuallers, by seeking to provide an asylum for their aged and decayed members. Indeed, one of the original objects contemplated by the promoters of the society was, "To raise a fund from which to allow temporary or permanent assistance to members of the trade." It was considered that the most useful permanent assistance that could be rendered would be by the erection of almshouses. The present plot of freehold ground, situate at Nunhead Green, was consequently purchased with the funds in hand for £550. An appeal was then made to the trade for further funds to erect the building, the result of which enabled the committee to commence the work. The first stone was laid by Lord Monteagle (the patron of the society) in June, 1852, and the building was completed and opened for the reception of inmates in September, 1853, the total cost being about £3,000. It comprises seven houses, each containing four rooms and a kitchen, accommodating in all thirteen inmates, and a piece of garden-ground in the rear for the use of the inmates is attached to each holding. In 1872 a new wing was completed, by the erection of eight six-roomed houses, thus providing accommodation for sixteen more inmates. There is an allowance of 6s. per week to single inmates, and 9s. per week to married couples.
Nunhead Cemetery, covering an area of about fifty acres, occupies the summit of some rising ground, whence a good view is obtained of the surrounding neighbourhood. The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1840, and is beautifully laid out with gravel walks, and thickly planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers. The chapels in the grounds are conspicuous objects for miles round.
Nunhead Hill is mentioned by Hone in his "Every-day Book" (1827), as being "the favourite resort of smoke-dried London artisans." A narrow path by the side of the cemetery is all that remains for their Sunday promenade.
On the north side of Nunhead Cemetery are the reservoirs of the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company, covering several acres of land. The works include four reservoirs—two high-level and two low-level; the former holding 6,000,000 gallons, and the latter double that number. The water is drawn from the Thames, about six miles above Teddington Locks. The water having been pumped up by an engine at Hampton Court, is forced on to Battersea, whence powerful engines again send it on to the reservoirs at Nunhead. The engine-house here, which stands between the upper and lower reservoirs, is a handsome brick structure, with a square tower seventy feet high, and built in the Venetian style of architecture.
Within the grounds now occupied by St. Mary's College, stood a building of some note in the early part of the present century, and known as "Heaton's Folly." This building was capped with a tower, giving it the appearance of a religious edifice. Lysons gives the following account of the structure:—"On the right side of the path leading from Peckham to Nunhead, appears this building, environed with wood. It has a singular appearance, and certainly was the effect of a whim. Various tales are related of its founder; but the most feasible appears his desire of giving employment to a number of artificers during a severe dearth. It is related that he employed five hundred persons in this building, and adding to the grounds; which is by no means improbable, as, on entering the premises, a very extensive piece of water appears, embanked by the properties taken from its bosom. In the centre of it is an island, well cultivated; indeed, the whole ground is now (1796) so luxuriantly spread, that I much doubt if such another spot, within a considerable distance from the metropolis, can boast such a variety and significance. The whole is within a fence; and, time having assisted the maturity of the coppice, you are, to appearance, enjoying the effects of a small lake in the centre of a wood. Motives the most laudable, as before observed, induced the founder of this sequestered spot to give bread to many half-starved and wretched families; and, to use the phrase of our immortal Shakespeare, 'It is like the dew from heaven, and doubly blesses.' If from appearance we are to judge of the phrase, it thrives indeed; and what was meant as assistance to a neighbouring poor, and stragglers, wretched and forlorn, is now, with all propriety, the Paradise of Peckham."
In the neighbourhood of Peckham Rye, on the road to Forest Hill and Sydenham, is a hill with an oak upon its summit, called the "Oak of Honour:" at present shortened into "Honour Oak." It is said to have been so called because Queen Elizabeth, in one of her excursions on horseback from Greenwich, dined beneath its shade. The original tree has long since perished, having been struck by lightning, but it has been replaced by a successor. Mr. James Thorne, in his "Environs," writes:—"In the Chamberlain's papers for 1602 is this entry: 'On May-day the Queen [Elizabeth] went a-Maying to Sir Richard Buckley's, at Lewisham, some three or four miles off Greenwich.' Bulkeley's house was probably on the Sydenham side of Lewisham, where is Oak of Honour Hill, so named, according to the local tradition, from Queen Elizabeth having sat beneath the oak on its summit when she went hither a-maying."
Honour Oak, which is one of the boundaries of the parish, has witnessed many interesting gatherings, not the least impressive being that performed there, in former times, on the occasion of "beating the bounds," when it was customary for those assembled to join in singing the 104th Psalm, "under the shadow of the Oak of Honour Hill." From the advantages offered by its elevated position, the place formerly served as a beacon-hill, and a semaphore telegraph at one time was raised upon its summit.
Friern Place, on the south-west side of Peckham Rye, keeps in remembrance the name of Friern Manor, the farm of which was known in recent times as a dairy-farm on a large scale. The Manor Farm-house and all its sheds and out-buildings were sold at the end of 1873. The house, which was not the original manor-house, was built by Lord St. John, in 1725; and there is a tradition that Alexander Pope resided there for a season, writing a portion of the "Essay on Man" beneath its roof, but it is merely a tradition. Lordship Lane, which lies on the west side of Friern Manor—uniting Goose Green and East Dulwich with Court Lane and the village of Dulwich—is supposed to have taken its name from the lordship of Friern Manor.
In Lordship Lane, there was, in the time of William Hone, an inn called the "Plough"—an old-fashioned wooden structure—on one of the windows of which was the following inscription, cut with a diamond:—"March 16, 1810. Thomas Jones dined here, eat six pounds of bacon and drank nineteen pots of beer." This record of disgusting gluttony was, no doubt, swept away when the "Plough" was rebuilt some few years ago.
A writer in Hone's "Every-day Book" (1827) thus describes the scenery in this neighbourhood:—"Below me, yet wearing its sober livery of brown, lies the wood, the shadowy haunt of the gipsy tribe ere magisterial authority drove them away. Many a pleasant hour have I spent in my younger days with its Cassandras, listening to their prophetic voices and looking at their dark eyes. I proceed: Sydenham lies before me; beyond it, in softened distance, Beckenham and Bromley meet the eye, with Dulwich below; and in the foreground lies a rich variety of upland and dale, studded with snowwhite dwellings."
Dulwich, which we now enter, is described in Hone's "Table-Book," with some little exaggeration, as "the prettiest of all the village entrances in the environs of London;" and Priscilla Wakefield, in her "Perambulations" (1809), says it is "a hamlet to Camberwell, and is pleasantly retired, having no high road passing through it. It was formerly," she adds, "the resort of much company, on account of a medicinal spring, which has now lost its reputation. The house which has the sign of the 'Green Man' was for some time the residence of Lord Thurlow. A fine avenue through the wood faces this house, and leads to a charming prospect. The manor of Dulwich belongs to the college founded there, in 1614, by Master Edward Alleyn, the proprietor of the Fortune playhouse, in Whitecross Street, and also a favourite actor. The foundation was for a master and warden of the lineage and surname of Alleyn (but the impossibility of finding them has obliged the name of Allen to be of late years accepted), also four fellows, six poor brethren, and six poor sisters; twelve scholars, six assistants, and thirty outmembers or pensioners. It was originally built after a design by Inigo Jones, and formed three sides of a square. The picture-gallery, which is on the first floor, contains some scarce and valuable paintings. The chapel is a plain building, which serves as a chapel of ease to the inhabitants of the hamlet. The founder, his wife, and her mother, are buried in it; and a clause in the statutes permits that privilege to the master, warden, and fellows, but excludes all others."
Notwithstanding the active building operations that of late years have fenced in London and its suburbs with miles of bricks and mortar, the village of Dulwich still presents a rural aspect, and large tracts of meadow-land are yet to be found within its borders. From the high grounds of Champion Hill, Denmark Hill, and Herne Hill, of which we have spoken in the preceding chapter, through the whole length of the intervening valley, and up the opposite slopes to the summit of Sydenham and Forest Hills, may still be heard the song of birds; whilst the beauties of the place are spread out in groves and pleasure-grounds, green lanes, and flowery meadows. The southern portion of the hamlet was formerly an immense wood, intersected with devious paths. It was the sacred home of the gipsy tribe, and the rendezvous of summer parties. At the beginning of the present century, before what may be termed modern Dulwich sprang into existence, Byron, then a schoolboy here, made Dulwich Wood one of his favourite haunts, and, we are told, would there "daily hold converse with motley groups of the vagabond class."But little is left of the wood beyond a memory, which local nomenclature has done something to preserve, in the names of Dulwich Wood Park, Kingswood Road, and Crescent Wood Road. We are told how that, in the days of Charles I., the Court paid frequent visits to Dulwich and its woods for the purposes of sport; and how authority was given by warrant to one Anthony Holland, one of the yeomen-huntsmen in ordinary to his Majesty, to make known his Majesty's commands to the inhabitants of Dulwich "that they forbeare to hunt, chace, molest, or hurt the king's stagges with greyhounds, hounds, gunnes, or any other means whatsoever;" and also how the said Anthony Holland was further authorised "to take from any person or persons offending therein their dogges, hounds, gunnes, crossbowes, or other engynes."
Dulwich Wood has been the scene of several outrages, notably those which occurred in 1738, when a man named Samuel Bentyman was murdered, and in 1803, when Samuel Matthews, known as the Dulwich Hermit, met with a similar fate. Mr. Blanch informs us that the wood has been gradually disappearing from the time when Edward Alleyn issued his statutes and ordinances for the foundation of the college in the early part of the seventeenth century, for by the 106th item it is ordered "that twentye acres of woode be felled and sold yearly, such wood-falls to be made at seasonable times, and in accordance with the laws and statutes of England, for the preservation of timber-trees, such trees to be of the growth of ten yeares;" and by the 110th item it is enacted "that no timber-trees shall be sold to any pson. or psons. whatsoever, but to the tenants of the lands belonging to the said college in Dulwich, for the building or repayring of their tenements."
The same writer justly remarks, in his "History of Camberwell," that "the Dulwich College Building Act of 1808, the Metropolis Local Management Act of 1855, the Charity Commissioners' scheme of 1857, the formation of the iron roads, and the craving of merchants for suburban residences, have done much to alter the aspect of the place;" but that, "compared with neighbouring suburbs, it has died hard, and not until Cowper's 'opulent, enlarged, and still-increasing London,' by sheer force of circumstances, has laid its hands upon it, will Dulwich surrender its individuality."
The village "stocks" and "cage," with the motto, "It is a sport for a fool to do mischief; thine own wickedness shall correct thee," formerly stood at the corner of the pathway across the fields leading to Camberwell, opposite the burial-ground; and the college "pound," which formerly stood near the toll-gate in the Penge Road, was, in 1862, ordered to be removed to the end of Croxted Lane. One of the most interesting spots within the hamlet is that formerly known as Bew's Corner, Lordship Lane. The "Green Man," a tavern of some note in the middle of the last century, formerly occupied the site, after which time Dr. Glennie's school was built; and that in its turn having disappeared, a beer-house was opened there, by a man named Bew, formerly employed at the college, who made use of some out-buildings of the once famous school, and converted the grounds into a teagarden.
The famous Dulwich Wells were in close proximity to the "Green Man," and the Dulwich waters were cried about the streets of London as far back as 1678; and for many years, through the high repute of the waters, much custom was drawn to the adjoining tavern, which, in 1748, was described as a "noted house of good entertainment." The proprietor flourished so well, that a publication of the time tells us that "he has lately built a handsome room on one end of his bowling-green for breakfasts, dancing, and entertainment; a part of the fashionable luxury of the present age, which every village for ten miles round London has something of." A full account of the Dulwich mineral waters was communicated to the public through the "Philosophical Transactions," by Professor Martyn, F.R.S. Mr. Bray, in his account of this parish in his "History of Surrey," writes:—"In the autumn of 1739, Mr. Cox, master of the "Green Man," about a mile south of the village of Dulwich, having occasion to sink a well for his family, dug down about sixty feet without finding water. Discouraged at this, he covered it up, and so left it. In the following spring, however, he opened it again; when, the Botanical Professor in the University of Cambridge being present, it was found to contain about twenty-five feet of water, of a sulphureous taste and smell." It was found by experiment to be possessed of purgative qualities, and was for some time used medicinally, but was afterwards neglected.
Dr. Webster, who has been considered a high authority on the subject, writes as follows with reference to these waters:—"The saline spring was, and is, situated on Sydenham Common, in Wells Lane, on the slope of the hill between Dulwich and Sydenham. The little old cottage and garden where the 'Sydenham Wells' are, belongs to two elderly women of the name of Evans, and on my expressing surprise that they had not been 'bought out' for building, as the spot is surrounded by modern mansions and good houses, they replied, they kept possession, as the little property would be beneficial to their deceased brother's children. It is not at all resorted to now for medicinal purposes; but the water is strongly saline, similar to that at the quondam 'Beulah Spa,' at Streatham Common, and at Epsom. It is situated in the parish of Lewisham, Kent. The Dulwich Spa was a chalybeate spring, situated about a mile S.E. of Dulwich College, close to, or rather, I believe, in the premises of the 'Green Man,' then a place of resort on the verge of Dulwich Common. This was as far back as the seventeenth century; but this house of entertainment was, when I first knew it (1815), a house of instruction, as Dr. Glennie's well-known academy, at which Lord Byron was a pupil for two years. The old house was taken down about ten years after, when Dr. Glennie had left, but I remember then seeing a well within the premises, which had been long shut up or disused, and I tasted the water, which was decidedly chalybeate. On the site of the old 'Green Man' now stands the 'Grove Tavern,' of no celebrity in any way unless from the circumstances now stated, and which very few knew besides myself. I knew the supposed localities of both these places many years ago, but it is only recently that Evelyn's "Diary" fell in my way, and it is remarkable that he incidentally mentions them so as to identify the two springs. Under date September and, 1675, he notes: 'I went to see Dulwich Colledge, being the pious foundation of one Allen, a famous comedian in King James's time. The chapell is pretty; the rest of the hospital very ill contriv'd; it yet maintaines divers poore of both sexes. 'Tis in a melancholy part of Camerwell parish. I came back by certaine medicinal Spa waters at a place called Sydnam Wells, in Lewisham parish, much frequented in summer.' And further on: '1677, August 5th, I went to visit my Lord Brounker, now taking the waters at Dulwich.' So you see," adds Dr. Webster, "there were two distinct spas within a mile, but in different parishes and counties, as Dulwich is in Surrey." So, as our readers will observe, fashionable persons resorted to Dulwich for the purpose of "taking the waters," just as they did at Hampstead a century later.
Among the pupils at Dr. Glennie's academy in Dulwich Grove, were several who in after years rose to fame and fortune—Lord Byron, General Le Marchant, Sir Donald M'Leod, Captain Barclay, the celebrated pedestrian, and others. "Once a week did the little party meet together in the spacious entrance-hall for a little rational amusement, and the Saturday evening concerts at Dulwich attracted visitors from outside the family circle. 'Tom' Campbell the poet, Howard and Wilkie, artists and academicians, and Barker the well-known painter of panoramas, and many others, often found themselves at Dulwich. Campbell had not far to come, for he resided at Sydenham for seventeen years before that retired little village became an 'endless pile of brick.' Here the happiest of the poet's days were spent in genial and congenial society, and much concerning 'evenings' there may be found in the memoirs of Moore, Hook, Hunt, the brothers Smith, and others.
"The narrow lane, lined with hedgerows, and
passing through a little dell watered by a rivulet—the extensive prospect of undulating hills, parklike enclosures, the shady walks," where the poet
was "safe from all intrusion but that of the Muses,"
as he himself describes them—
"Spring green lanes,
With all the dazzling field-flowers in their prime,
And gardens haunted by the nightingale's
Long trills and gushing ecstasies of song."
With respect to Byron's school-days at Dulwich, there is nothing remarkable for us to record. In a letter to Tom Moore, Dr. Glennie speaks of Byron's ambition to excel in all athletic exercises, notwithstanding his lameness; "an ambition," writes Dr. Glennie, "which I have found to prevail in general in young persons labouring under similar defects of nature." It is said that Byron and his schoolfellows kept up a mimicry of brigandage, and that the stern demand of "Stand and deliver" was often made, to the amusement of the boys, and the fright of the passing stranger. "It must not be imagined," adds Mr. Blanch, in writing of this epoch, "that brigandage in Dulwich was all play, for at the commencement of the present century Sydenham Hill had then a reputation somewhat akin to Hounslow Heath. Dulwich Wood was the halting-place for gipsies; and highwaymen and footpads abounded in the locality."
Dulwich has long been a favourite resort for the working men of London, for the purpose of holding their annual gatherings at one or other of its taverns, the chief of which are the "Greyhound," the "Half Moon," and the "Crown." The "Crown" has been an "institution" in Dulwich for upwards of a century and a half; the greater part of the present house was rebuilt in 1833, and it was further modernised about twenty years later. In the garden of the "Half Moon," at the northern extremity of the village, for many years was to be seen the old tombstone of Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich College, and it doubtless proved advantageous to the landlord in drawing visitors to his house. It has, however, been superseded by a new tombstone in the college chapel. The "Greyhound" is a well-known hostelry here, and has been held by the same family for upwards of a century. Here the Dulwich Club holds its meetings. This association was established in 1772, for the purposes of friendly converse and social cheer among a large body of literary gentlemen; and the club has entertained at its table during its career many distinguished men, such as Dr. Glennie, Thomas Campbell, Dr. Babington, Dickens, Thackeray, Mark Lemon, and others.
Among the residents at Dulwich in recent times have been several whose names have become famous. Of these we may mention Mr. Howard Staunton, who lived at Ivy Cottage, while engaged in his Shakespearean researches at the college. Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, the well-known authors, at one time lived here. Another noted name in connection with Dulwich is that of Henry Bessemer, the inventor of a new process in the manufacture of steel, and whose numerous patents connected with improvements in machinery have been such as to have established his reputation as a scientific and practical engineer of the highest order.
Numerous mansions and seats are scattered about in the neighbourhood of Dulwich, notably Casino, on Dulwich Hill; Mr. Bessemer's house on Denmark Hill; Woodhall, formerly the residence of the late Mr. George Grote, the historian of Greece; the Hoo, on Sydenham Hill; and lastly, the Manor House. This last-mentioned edifice is a building of more than ordinary interest, from the fact that it was once the residence of Edward Alleyn, the Lord Mayor of London, and perhaps, at an earlier period, the summer retreat of the Abbots of Bermondsey. It was formerly called Hall Court. "The house, since Alleyn's time," writes Mr. Blanch, "has undergone sundry additions and alterations, and at the present time is in a marvellous condition for so old a building—a fact which seems to confirm the belief that it was built before Alleyn's time, as the erection of the old college, which was closely watched by the founder, began to tumble to pieces soon after his death. The Manor House had been designed and built in a very different style. The magnificent oak staircase, and spacious entrance-hall, and lofty rooms, are worthy of the majestic actor; and, as one looks around, the form of its dignified host is conjured up; now receiving the poor brethren and sisters, holding consultations with the master, warden, and fellows, and anon holding converse and correspondence with the great men of the land, Alleyn's life at Dulwich must have been delightful. Possessing ample means—much given to home comforts and duties, to which he was so attached that within three months of losing 'his good sweete harte and loving mouse,' he took unto himself another partner—regarded by his neighbours as a man of considerable substance, and treated in a manner befitting the squire of the place—having great worldly knowledge, serene temper, and considerable tact—he made many friends and few enemies; and as his journal teems with payments for sundry bottles of wine when he went to London to see his friends, it is fair to assume that his cellar at the Manor House was well filled, and at the service of his visitors.
"And what more delightful walks could any
mortal have had than those surrounding the fine
old mansion in Alleyn's time?—when the meadows
were yellow with the crowfoot, flushed with the
sorrel, or purple with clover; the thornbushes,
white or pink with their blossoms; the commons,
golden with mellowing fern or glowing with purple
heather; and deciduous trees contributing their
varied tints to the scene—all this was then a
reality! Would that it were so now—and to the
same extent!—and the shade of wood and grove,
and the ramble
"'O'er many a heath, through many a woodland dun,
Through buried paths, where sleepy twilight dreams
The summer-time away;'
and the feast of satisfaction as the founder viewed the progress of his college, at the end of a summer's stroll—all this must have made life more than endurable at the Manor House.
"That Alleyn received at his board many distinguished men of his day is beyond doubt; but, strange to relate, no scrap of evidence has yet been produced in support of the supposition that Shakespeare ever made pilgrimage to Dulwich. It is, to say the least of it, an extraordinary circumstance, that two such prominent characters in the same profession should not have been brought together—or rather, that no evidence should be forthcoming in support of such a natural supposition. Garrick, Malone, Collier, Ingleby, Staunton, and other able and industrious workers have toiled diligently, and hoped unfalteringly, but without success. And yet Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton were intimate associates both of Shakespeare and Alleyn. They were not divided by disparity of age, for Alleyn was Shakespeare's junior by only two years, four months, and a week, and both relinquished the stage, and invested their earnings in houses and lands, at about the same time."
From the old Manor House, the home of
Edward Alleyn, it is but an easy transition to pass
to the College, of which he was the founder—or, to give it its full title, to "Alleyn's College
of God's Gift." Born in the parish of St.
Botolph, Bishopsgate, in September, 1566, Alleyn
lived to attain extraordinary celebrity as an actor
in an age prolific beyond all others in dramatic
talent. Fuller, in his "Worthies," describes him
as "the Roscius of our age, so acting to the life
that he made any part (especially a majestick one)
to become him." The following epigram, addressed
by Ben Jonson to Edward Allen, will serve to
show the reputation in which the latter was held
among the poets and men of letters of his time:—
"If Rome, so great, and in her wisest age,
Feared not to boast the glories of her stage,
As skilful Roscius and grave Æsop, men
Yet crowned with honours as with riches then,
Who had no less a trumpet of their name
Than Cicero, whose every breath was fame:
How can so great example die in me
That, Allen, I should pause to publish thee?
Who both their graces in thyself hast more
Outstript, than they did all that went before;
And present worth in all dost so contract,
As others speak, but only thou dost act.
Wear this renown. 'Tis just, that who did give
So many poets life, by one should live."
"The connection of the name of Allen (usually spelt Alleyn, but now printed Allen) with the munificent endowment of Dulwich College," writes Mr. Robert Bell, "has eclipsed his reputation as an actor; but, independently of this high encomium of Jonson, ample evidence has been traced, not only of the influential position he held in relation to the stage, but of his great skill as a player. He appears to have been the chief manager of the business of the company for Henslowe, with whom he was part-proprietor of the Fortune, and to whose stepdaughter he was married. He negotiated with authors, and made engagements with actors, for which he was better qualified, in some respects, than Henslowe, who, although an excellent man of business, was illiterate. There is reason to believe, also, from certain entries in Henslowe's diary, that he sometimes helped to reconstruct, or adapt, pieces for the stage. As an actor he certainly stood in the first rank, and his special merits in particular parts are testified by Nash, Dekker, and Heywood. All the particulars of his life that are now likely to be recovered have been collected by Mr. Collier, in the 'Memoir' of him, and in the 'Alleyn Papers,' published by the Shakespeare Society."
In 1606 Alleyn had already commenced the acquisition of property at Dulwich. The most important of the valuable estates which now collectively form the endowment of the college were the lands and lordship of the manor, purchased in the above-mentioned year from Sir Francis Calton, to whose ancestor, Thomas Calton, they had been granted by Henry VIII. upon the dissolution of the Monastery of Bermondsey. The college land stretches southwards from the high ground, known in its several parts as Champion Hill, Denmark Hill, and Herne Hill, through the whole length of the intervening valley, and up the opposite slopes to the summit of Sydenham and Forest Hills, a length of more than three miles as the crow flies. The breadth of the estate from east to west is quite a mile and a half in its widest part. The village of Dulwich occupies a central position on the college lands. It lies, as we have stated above, in the bottom of the valley between the ridge on which rests the Crystal Palace and the less lofty ridge midway between Sydenham Hill and the Thames. It is so shut in by near hills, or by lofty trees, in all directions, that its horizon is nowhere more distant than a mile or two. Visitors constantly remark that when in Dulwich they are as much in the country as if they were fifty miles from London; and yet the village milestone in front of the college, bearing the hospital invitation to wayfarers, "Siste, Viator," records the distance of that spot from the Treasury, Whitehall, or from the Standard at Cornhill, to be only five miles.
In 1613 Alleyn contracted with a certain John Benson, of Westminster, for the erection of "a Chappell, a Schoole-house, and twelve Almeshouses," and in the course of the years 1616 and 1617 the first members of his foundation were admitted into the college. But Alleyn's great work was still far from completed. For some years he was engaged in harassing and apparently futile negotiations to obtain a royal patent for the permanent establishment of his foundation. It is interesting to observe that the impediments which Alleyn experienced seem to have proceeded chiefly from no less eminent a man than the great Lord Bacon, then Lord Chancellor. In a letter to the Marquis of Buckingham, dated August 18th, 1618, Bacon, while he says, with characteristic point and quaintness, "I like well that Allen playeth the last act of his life so well," yet pleads with the king, through Buckingham, for the curtailment of Alleyn's eleemosynary foundation, and the promotion in preference of endowments for the encouragement of learning. In spite, however, of all difficulties, Alleyn's unflinching perseverance at last prevailed, and on the 21st of June, 1619, the great seal of England was affixed to letters patent from James I., giving licence to Edward Alleyn "to found and establish a college in Dulwich, to endure and remain for ever, and to be called 'The College of God's Gift in Dulwich, in the county of Surrey.'"
Aubrey has recorded an amusing story, which the reader may believe or not as he thinks best, that Alleyn was frightened into his generous and charitable scheme by an apparition of the Prince of Darkness, in propria personâ, among six theatrical demons in a certain piece in which he was playing. In the fright thus occasioned he was said to have made a vow, which he redeemed by the founding of the College of God's Gift.
The college was formally opened with great ceremony on the 13th of September, 1619; and Alleyn had the satisfaction of recording in his diary: "This day was the fowndacion of the Colledge finisht;" and so, in the quaint words of old Fuller, "He who out-acted others in his life, out-did himself before his death." Amongst the distinguished guests on this occasion, of whom Alleyn gives a list, we find "the Lord Chancellor (Lord Bacon), the Lord of Arondell, Lord Ciecell (Cecil), Sir John Howland, High Shreve (Sheriff), and Inigo Jones, the king's surveyor." He adds, "They first herd a Sermond, and after the instrument of creacion was by me read, and after an anthem, they went to dinner."
Alleyn survived the opening of his college seven years, but there is some difficulty in determining the exact day of his death. On the present tombstone (which is, however, of recent erection) it is stated to have been November 21st; but documentary evidence seems to point to Saturday, November 25th, as the correct date. At all events, be this as it may, he affixed his signature to the draft of his Ordinances and Statutes on November 20th, and was buried in the chapel of his college on November 27th, 1626.
"God's Gift College," thus founded and endowed by Edward Alleyn, "to the honour and glory of Almighty God, and in a thankful remembrance of His guiftes and blessings bestowed upon me," consisted of a master and a warden (both to be of the name of Alleyn), four fellows, six poor brethren, six poor sisters, and twelve poor scholars. The almspeople and scholars were chosen in equal proportions from the four parishes severally of St. Botolph without Bishopsgate; St. Saviour's, Southwark; St. Luke's, Middlesex; and St. Giles's, Camberwell. In the letters patent a right was reserved to the founder to frame statutes for the government of the college. Alleyn seems, however, to have overrated the powers thus vested in him, and consequently several of his provisions, after long disputes and litigation, were set aside by the courts of law.
The most important of the modifications introduced by Alleyn's maturer judgment into his original scheme, it appears, were those designed to extend the basis of his educational foundation. He now ordained that his school should be for the instruction of eighty boys, consisting of three distinct classes:—(1) Twelve poor scholars; (2) children of inhabitants of Dulwich (who were to be taught freely); and (3) "Towne or Forreign Schollers," who were to pay "such allowance as the master and warden should appoint."
Though to some extent the issue and production of the stage, Dulwich College never greatly benefited the members of the dramatic profession. Alleyn had resolved to found and endow in his own lifetime an institution of a semi-monastic character, like the Charterhouse, for the reception of aged pensioners, and for the nurture and education of orphan boys. The original statutes and ordinances define the qualifications and duties of the several members of the college, and regulate the distribution of the income. They embrace provisions which have many times proved a fruitful source of costly litigation. Thus, the second statute provides for a large addition, under the designation of six "chanters," six assistants in the government of the college, and thirty out-members, beyond the personnel authorised by the letters patent.
In the dietary for the boys is included "a cup of beere" at breakfast and "beere without stint" at dinner, "with such increase of diett in Lent and gawdy days as the surveyor of diett may think fitt." The beef and mutton for the boys were to be "sweet and good, their beere well brewed, and their bread well baked, and made of clean and sweete wheatten meal." Their coats were to be of "good cloth, of sad cullor, the boddys lined with canvass." A statute fixed twenty-one years as the maximum term of a lease of any part of the college property. This restriction hampered more than any other the development of the college property, and it was eventually rescinded by the Dulwich Building Act of 1808.
Vacancies on the foundation, whether of scholars or old pensioners, or in the superior offices of fellow or warden, were to be filled up by the "drawing of lots" by two selected candidates. Even the mastership was to be filled up in the same way, if at the time of a vacancy there was no warden to succeed. The manner of drawing the lots is minutely described in one of the statutes, and the process continued in force till the re-organisation of the college in 1857. "God's Gift" was written on one of two equal small rolls of paper; the other roll was left blank. Both were placed in a box and shaken thrice up and down. The elder of the two selected candidates then took up one roll, the younger took the other. The fortunate drawer of the God's Gift roll carried the prize. The founder's preference for the four parishes from which the poor scholars and brethren and sisters should be selected was based on his perception of the doctrine that property has its duties as well as its rights. As we have already seen, he owned theatres and houses in St. Saviour's and St. Luke's; his patrimonial estate was in St. Botolph's; and he had acquired by purchase the whole lordship of Dulwich, in the parish of Camberwell.
In spite of Fuller's declaration that "no hospital is tyed with better or stricter laws, that it may not sagg (swerve) from the intention of the founder," there can be little doubt that the want of elasticity in its original constitution prevented, for more than two centuries, any healthy development of the college, and thus effectually frustrated the true "intentions" of Edward Alleyn. Some partial attempts were made under injunctions of several Archbishops of Canterbury, as visitors of Dulwich College, to extend the educational benefits of the foundation; but little was really effected until the passing of the Act of Parliament in 1857, under the provisions of which the college is now administered.
"The founder's scheme," observes a writer in Macmillan's Magazine, "too rigid and inelastic to sustain the shock of modern notions, had long ceased to be seriously defended, even by those who dispensed its gifts and luxuriated in its most substantial rewards. Hampered by the fixity of inflexible statutes, embarrassed by riches which it could not spend without shame, and which invited incessant onslaught from the four interested parishes, Alleyn's College succumbed on the last day of 1857 to public opinion, released its members from monastic rule, sent them forth well pensioned into the outer world, and opened its gates next day to its new rulers."
By the Act of Parliament, passed in 1857, Alleyn's foundation was completely re-constituted. The government of the college is now vested in nineteen governors, of whom eleven are nominated by the Court of Chancery, the rest being elected by the four parishes to which special privileges were attached by the terms of the original foundation. The officers of administration are a "Master of the College" (whose office, however, is no longer restricted to a person of the founder's name), a Chaplain, an Under-Master of the Upper School, a Master of the Lower School, a Receiver, and a Clerk, together with such Assistant-Masters, Professors, and Lecturers as may be required to ensure thorough efficiency to the educational department.
The revenue of the college, which at the time of the founder's death was £800 a year, now amounts to more than £17,000. The surplus revenue (after provision has been made for the maintenance of the fabric, and of the chapel and library) is divided into four portions, of which three are assigned to the educational and one to the eleemosynary branch. The educational foundation comprises two distinct schools—the "upper school" and the "lower school." In the "upper school" liberal provision is made for the endowment of exhibitions, tenable either at one of the English Universities, or by a student of any learned or scientific profession or of the fine arts. Sundry scholarships of £20 a year, tenable in the school, were likewise established in 1870, under authority of the Charity Commissioners. The "lower school" is described as being for the instruction and benefit of the children of the industrial and poorer classes resident in any of the four parishes. It is a separate school, and is entirely distinct in its conduct and arrangements from the "upper school." Provision is made for the establishment in the "lower school" of scholarships and "gratuities" to be awarded to deserving boys, for the purpose of advancing them in the world.
The old college, though the central attraction of the village, has but limited pretensions to architectural merit. It has been thought by some topographers that it was built by the famous Inigo Jones, but it is scarcely probable that so good an architect could have been employed upon it, as we find that the tower fell down in 1638; moreover, the specification for Benson's erection is still preserved, with memoranda showing payments made to him as the work progressed. The fall of the tower so injured the revenues of the college, as to occasion its being suspended for six months, during which time the master and fellows received no salary, but the poor people and scholars had two shillings a week each. Not long after this another portion of the building fell down; and, in 1703, the porch and other parts followed. Frequent repairs were accordingly made, which were marked by dates in different parts of the old building.
Dulwich College suffered its full share of the havoc committed by fanatics in the Civil Wars. It was turned into quarters for a company of soldiers of Fairfax's army, who, it is said, took up the leaden coffins in the chapel, and melted them into bullets. The fellows of the college were in arms for the king; in consequence of which they were deprived of their fellowships, and a schoolmaster and usher were appointed in their stead. During the government of Oliver Cromwell, and the short power of his son Richard, the lands and goods of the college were taken away, and its rights set aside; but at the Restoration these were recovered, and have since remained secure.
The old college building are spacious, having
regard to the limited numbers for whom they were
built, and comprise a chapel, dining-hall, parlour,
library, school-room, kitchen, and appurtenances.
They occupy three sides of a square. The entrancegates are of curiously wrought iron, surmounted
with the founder's arms, crest, and the motto,
"God's Gift." These lead into an outer court or
green. The old chapel, a very plain structure, has
long served as a chapel of ease, for this village, to
the church of Camberwell. Although built for the
college, it is frequented by the inhabitants also, and
was long ago enlarged for their accommodation.
The font is inscribed with a palindrome, in which
the sequence of the letters is the same backwards
nipson anomima mi monan opsin
(Wash sin, not the face only.)
In the chancel is a marble slab, marking the tomb of Edward Alleyn, the founder.
A curious collection of pictures and portraits, more remarkable, however, with a few exceptions, for their historical associations than for any artistic excellence, was bequeathed sixty years after the founder's time by the grandson of his confrère, Cartwright. In this collection (including a few left by Alleyn) are striking and characteristic portraits of the founder himself; one of Frobisher, the scourge of the Spaniards in the old Armada days; Michael Drayton, the poet, who, with Ben Jonson, was a guest at Shakespeare's table at that last "merry meeting," a few days before his death; and also of many players who trod the same stage and shared the same social gatherings with Shakespeare and Alleyn, such as Burbage, Nathaniel Field, Sly, Bond, Perkins, and Cartwright. These pictures were formerly hung in the corridors and staircases of the old college, but are now transferred to the new buildings. In 1840 Mr. J. O. Halliwell exhibited before the Society of Antiquaries a copy of a pen-and-ink drawing from the back of a letter in Dulwich College, and supposed to be a portrait of Shakespeare, by Henslowe, to whom the letter is addressed. The college, as might have been expected, was particularly rich in old plays; these were collected by Henslowe, Alleyn, and Cartwright, and were treasured here until Garrick acquired them from the then master, warden, and fellows, for the inadequate recompense of a parcel of new books. The collection passed, on Garrick's decease, to the British Museum.
The pictures mentioned above are in no way connected with those belonging to the Dulwich College Picture Gallery, which is situated at the south-west corner of the old buildings. The gallery was built from the designs and under the direction of Sir John Soane, and was first opened to the public in the year 1817. The history of the collection is, in many ways, a remarkable one. It owes its foundation to "a noble trio of benefactors." Towards the close of the last century there was living in London, and plying there an active trade in pictures of the highest class, one Noel Joseph Desenfans, who is considered to have been a keen critic of art, and a no less shrewd judge of a bargain. He was a native of Douai, in France, but had settled in London first of all as a teacher of languages. His taste for art, however, and the advantageous sale of a "Claude" in his possession to George III. for 1,000 guineas, induced him to devote himself entirely to the more lucrative employment of a picture-dealer. In course of time he was commissioned by the unhappy Stanislaus—then almost in the dying throes of the fated kingdom of Poland—to purchase pictures to form a National Gallery for Poland. In his negotiations, Desenfans had been constantly aided by his friend Sir Francis Bourgeois, R.A. On the overthrow of the Polish kingdom, Desenfans offered his pictures to the Czar, Paul I. of Russia, but without success; and in the end it became the nucleus of the Dulwich Gallery. Desenfans spent the last few years of his life at the house of Sir Francis Bourgeois, in Charlotte Street, Portland Place, and on his death, in 1807, bequeathed to him the whole of his large and valuable collection of pictures. Bourgeois, like Desenfans, had no children to claim inheritance in it, and he resolved to carry out what appears to have been the desire also of his friend, and to place their joint collection of pictures in the custody of some public body for the encouragement of the study of fine arts. An accidental acquaintance with one of the fellows of the foundation, we are told, directed his attention to Dulwich College. Accordingly, in 1811, he bequeathed his pictures "to the master, wardens, and fellows of Dulwich College in trust for the public use, under the direction of the Royal Academy." The bequest was accompanied by a condition that a mausoleum should be contained in the gallery, where his own remains and those of his two friends, Monsieur and Madame Desenfans, should be placed. A separate building attached to the rooms where the pictures hang was therefore erected for the purpose. The collection (including four or five pictures which have been presented subsequently by other donors, and a few unfinished sketches) consists of upwards of 370 pictures. It is particularly rich in works of the Dutch and Flemish schools, and contains examples of the Spanish schools which, it is said, are not surpassed by any in this country. The pictures are fully described by Dr. Waagen. (fn. 5) One of the chief ornaments in the gallery is the celebrated "Madonna" of Murillo. At first the gallery was opened to the public on Tuesdays only, and some little difficulty was thrown in the way of free access to the collection: all intending visitors were obliged to obtain tickets previously from one or other of the great London printsellers, who were authorised to supply them gratis, and notice was given both at the gallery and in the catalogue that "without a ticket no person can be admitted, and no tickets are given at Dulwich." The limitation to a single day in the week was not long retained, and since 1858 visitors have been admitted without tickets or introduction, on the sole condition of entering their name in the visitors' book.
The new school buildings, now popularly known as "Dulwich College," are situated about a quarter of a mile south of the old building. They are in the "Northern Italian style of the thirteenth century," and were built from the designs of Mr. Charles Barry. The first stone of the new building was laid in June, 1866, and in June, 1870, the edifice was formally opened by the Prince of Wales. The schools comprise three distinct blocks: viz., a central building, containing the public and official rooms, the great hall, the lecture-theatre, library, &c.; and two wings, connected with the centre building by corridors or cloisters—the south wing being appropriated to the senior section of the upper school, with the residence of the master of the college; and the north wing to the junior section, with the residence of the under-master of the upper school. The buildings are constructed of red brick with terra-cotta ornamentation, the front of the centre building being the most profusely ornamented; the decoration is carried entirely round the building. For the most part, the ornamentation is architectural, but a distinctive and characteristic feature is a series of heads, in very high relief, from concave shields, of the principal poets, historians, orators, philosophers, &c., of Greece, Rome, Italy, Germany, and England—the names of each being legibly inscribed in the hollow of the shield. The cost of the new schools was about £100,000; the building provides accommodation for between 600 and 700 boys. The college stands in an area of forty-five acres, of which about thirty acres have been appropriated to the schools and playground. The lower school is at present located in the old buildings of the college.
There can be no doubt that the art-schools of the college owe much of their remarkable success to their association with the splendid collection of pictures forming the Dulwich Gallery. It is at least certain that the study of art has been carried much farther and to higher perfection at Dulwich than at any other public school in the kingdom. On the annual "speech day," when the distribution of prizes takes place, dramatic performances are given by the boys in the great hall; and from 700 to 800 visitors can be readily accommodated on these occasions. Since its new birth, Dulwich College has started on an era of educational advancement; and the extraordinary increase in the number of boys, and the numerous honours obtained by them in almost every competition open to our public schools—for this college holds its own both at Oxford and Cambridge—speaks eloquently, not only of the appreciation of the school throughout the districts south of the Thames, but of the great need which formerly existed there of increased educational facilities.
In a small brochure, entitled "Alleyn's College of God's Gift at Dulwich," issued at the opening of the new schools in 1870, the writer concludes: "Thus, after many struggles and difficulties, and a long period of lethargy more fruitless still, Dulwich College has started at length into fresh and vigorous life, with powers of influence and means of usefulness which few foundations can rival, and with wellfounded hopes for the future which far surpass the utmost expectations of its pious and munificent founder."