Month 7: Dulwich

Old Dulwich College
Old Dulwich College

Today was a gorgeous day for photography, and just being outdoors in general. Although harsh shadows from directional sun can be tricky for the camera, the sun sure feels good on my shoulders. Plus, my coin had landed on Dulwich Park (one of South London’s gems), and I was also thinking of stopping off at the Dulwich Picture Gallery to round off my artistic Sunday afternoon. (Sadly, it was closed today.)

I decided to cycle to Dulwich, as it’s not far, and a lovely day for it. So I entered my photographic circle via some rather beautiful residential roads, where London’s well-at-heel residents had their front gardens in gorgeous full bloom. Once past these bits, my next stop was at the Old Dulwich College buildings and chapel, with its immaculately manicured lawn, beautiful old stone archways, and clock tower dating back to 1616. It was pretty overwhelming to think how many feet had stepped on these stones in the last 400 years or so. I love London for this kind of thing. The chapel still has services, but it looks like the other buildings have now been converted into residences. There is also a monument to Edward Alleyn here, to commemorate his dedication to education and charity. His is an interesting story, which I read up on when I got home. I reckon every South Londoner should. Back then, the Alleyn estate stretched from Sydenham Hill, through all of Dulwich, encompassing Herne Hill and Denmark Hill, too. Pretty impressive haul for an actor, born the son of an innkeeper and servant. I guess Alleyn was the Tom Cruise of Elizabethan England.

Family of Geese
Family of Geese

I eventually tore myself away from the old college, and headed in the direction of the new college, even though it wasn’t in my photographic circle boundary, as I had been wanting to go to the farmer’s market there, and the buildings could put Hogwart’s to shame – not a bad place for a spot of lunch. After my lunch, I headed up College Road towards the park, pausing to photograph the rather quaint sounding ‘Pickwick Cottage‘ sign, wondering if it had any relation to Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. A few doors down I was floored by the sight of what looked like a New England American colonial house, straight out of Massachusetts. It is called Bell Cottage, and I have now learned that it dates back to 1741, which would explain why it reminds me of the architecture of the early American colonies. You certainly don’t see wooden houses from that period much in Britain, especially one so immaculately preserved and restored.

I eventually made it to the park, but it was expectedly crowded. I did capture a few scenic shots (and an ice cream!) before heading back onto the streets to round off the day on some quaint little side roads, finishing in Dulwich Village with its posh boutiques before the cycle home.

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One Response to “Month 7: Dulwich”

  1. William Blake

    The place now called “Pickwick Cottage” is supposed to have inspired Dickens:

    “At the end of Pickwick Papers, Dickens describes Samuel Pickwick retiring to Dulwich ‘one of the most pleasant spots near London’. He takes a house with a large garden, and ‘fitted up with every attention to substantial comfort…Everything was so beautiful! The lawn in front, the garden behind, the miniature conservatory, the dining-room, the drawing-room, the bed-rooms, the smoking-room, and above all the study…with a large cheerful window opening upon a pleasant lawn, and commanding a pretty landscape, just dotted here and there with little houses almost hidden by trees’.
    Although Dickens’ son is reported to have said that his father had no real house in mind when he was writing the book, the house now numbered 31 College Road has often…”


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