A Brief History of Dulwich

The following article will give a brief history of the town in South London known as Dulwich

The first documented evidence of Dulwich is as a hamlet outside London in 967 AD, granted by King Edgar to one of his thanes Earl Aelfheah. The name of Dulwich has been spelt in various ways, Dilwihs, Dylways, Dullag, and may come from two old English words, Dill, a white flower, and wihs, meaning a damp meadow, giving a meaning of “the meadow where dill grows”.

Harold Godwinson owned the land at one point, and after 1066, King William I of England. In 1333, the population of Dulwich was recorded as 100.

In 1538, Henry VIII seized control of Dulwich and sold it to goldsmith Thomas Calton for £609. Calton’s grandson Sir Francis Calton sold the Manor of Dulwich for £4,900 in 1605 to Elizabethan actor and entrepreneur Edward Alleyn. He vested his wealth in a charitable foundation, Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, established in 1619.

The charity’s modern successor, The Dulwich Estate, still owns 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) in the area, including a number of private roads and a tollgate. Alleyn also constructed a school, a chapel and alms houses in Dulwich. Dulwich Almshouse Charity and Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift at Dulwich (where Alleyn is buried) still fulfill their original functions.Dulwich College

Alleyn’s original school building is no longer used for that purpose, instead now housing the Estate’s Governors. The school moved around 1840 to accommodate larger numbers of pupils into new buildings designed by Charles Barry (junior), son of Sir Charles Barry who designed Westminster Palace. It was subsequently divided into Dulwich College and Alleyn’s School in 1882, the latter moving to the present day site in Townley Road.

In the 17th century, King Charles I of England visited Dulwich Woods on a regular basis to hunt. In 1738, a man named Samuel Bentyman was murdered in Dulwich Woods.

On 5 August 1677 John Evelyn writes that he took the waters at Dulwich. The Dulwich waters were cried about the streets of London as far back as 1678.

In 1739, Mr. Cox, master of the Green Man, a tavern situated about a mile south of the village of Dulwich, sunk a well for his family. The water was found to be possessed of purgative qualities, and was for some time used medicinally. While the water was popular much custom was drawn to the adjoining tavern, and its proprietor flourished.

The oak-lined formal avenue, known as Cox’s Walk, leading from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was cut soon after 1732 by Francis Cox to connect his establishment of the Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with the more popular Sydenham Wells.The Grove Tavern, public house, located on the busy South Circular road

By 1815 the Green Man had become a school known as Dr. Glennie‘s academy in Dulwich Grove, although it was demolished about ten years later. Among the pupils here there were a few who became well known, Lord Byron, General Le Marchant and Captain Barclay.

Dr Glennie held Saturday evening concerts which attracted visitors from outside the family circle, such as the poet Thomas Campbell, then living in nearby Sydenham, and Robert Barker, inventor of the panorama. Following the closure of the school, the building reverted to its original use and was known as the Grove Tavern. The building has now been boarded up and neglected for many years by owners the Dulwich Estate.Dulwich Picture Gallery

In 1803, Samuel Matthews – known as the “Dulwich Hermit” – was also murdered in Dulwich Woods; he was buried in Dulwich Old Cemetery.
1811–1814 saw the building of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. By 1901, the population was recorded as 10,247.