The first documented evidence of Dulwich is as a hamlet outside London in 967AD, 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.
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.
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.
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.
In the Second World War, Dulwich was hit by many V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets. A possible explanation for this is that the British military when announcing V-1 and V-2 explosions deliberately gave map co-ordinates four miles north of the truth in an attempt to protect densely populated central London and focus the drops on the open spaces in the suburbs instead.
There are a number of recognised districts in Dulwich:Dulwich Village which includes the traditional village centre
East Dulwich which bounds Peckham at Peckham Rye is a separate centre - not just the eastern end of Dulwich - with its own distinct character.
West Dulwich which is a mainly residential area bordering West Norwood and Tulse Hill.
Herne Hill (the Southwark half) which forms the North Dulwich Triangle, borders Brixton, Denmark Hill, Loughborough Junction and Tulse Hill.
Dulwich Village contains the original shopping street and still contains nearly all of its original 18th and 19th century buildings. It remains very uncommercialised and is a conservation zone. The village borders on Dulwich Park, where the Dulwich Horse and Motor Show is held every year.
Dulwich is also home to Dulwich Hamlet, founded in 1893 and competing in the Isthmian League today, they ground share with another Non-League football club Fisher F.C. at Champion Hill in East Dulwich. In recent years Sainsbury's acquired the site, built DHFC a new ground, and developed one of the largest Sainsbury's in the country. The Old Alleynian Football Club is a local rugby union team originally for former pupils of Dulwich College, but is now open to all who wish to play. Dulwich Paragon cycling club are also based in the area.
Dulwich Park was opened in 1890. It was formerly farmland, part of the Court Farm, and now offers duck and rowing ponds, children's play area, bowling green, tennis court, bridle path for horse-riding, and café.
Dulwich Hospital in East Dulwich Grove was designed by Henry Jarvis and built on 7 acres (28,000 m2) of land purchased in East Dulwich by the Guardians of the Poor of the Parish of St Saviour, Southwark, for the price of £50,000 in 1885. At the time of opening in 1887, it offered a 723-bed capacity. It was transformed from an infirmary into the Southwark Military Hospital during World War I, when it is estimated 14,000–15,000 wounded soldiers were treated at the hospital. After the Poor Law was abolished in 1930, the Southwark Union Infirmary was renamed Dulwich Hospital and the following year an operating theatre was built. In 1964, the hospital was aligned with King's College Hospital on Denmark Hill. There is no casualty department at Dulwich at present. However, in 2015 it was announced that Dulwich Hospital was to be closed and replaced by a school.
There is a memorial fountain in Dulwich Village which is in remembrance to Dr George Webster, founder of the first British Medical Association (BMA), who worked in Dulwich from 1815 until his death in 1875.
Old Burial Ground, Dulwich Village, was created by Edward Alleyn as part of the foundation of his College of God's Gift. The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, conducted the consecration on Sunday 1 September 1616. Guests included Edmund Bowyer, Thomas Grimes, William Gresham, Thomas Hunt and Jeremiah Turner. Thirty five Dulwich victims of the plague were buried in unmarked graves in the ground. Old Bridget, queen of the Norwood Gypsies (who appeared in the writings of Samuel Pepys) was also buried here in 1768. The ground was declared "full" in 1858, however the family of Louisa Shroeder obtained special permission for her remains to be interred in 1868. The ground's wrought iron gates and twelve tombs are Grade II listed.
The old Grammar School adjacent to the Old College and Almshouses at the junction of Burbage Road and Gallery Road was designed by Charles Barry (senior).
Belair House on the boundary between West Dulwich and Dulwich itself, is opposite West Dulwich railway station and was designed in 1785 for John Files. It remained a private house until 1938 when it came into the hands of Southwark Council. It fell into disrepair in the 1990s but was bought in 1998 and refurbished and turned into an upmarket restaurant. The house has a large park ground attached which is now public, including tennis courts and a children's play area. This area used to be the fields for its farm. The lake is the only substantial stretch of the ancient River Effra remaining above ground.
Bell House (Dulwich) in College Road was designed in 1767 for Thomas Wright, a stationer and later Lord Mayor of the City of London. A large extension was added in the mid-19th century and it is accompanied by a lodge house. The house is Grade II listed. Its name comes from its Bell Tower situated on top of the original house and the bell was restored in the late 1990s. It became a Dulwich College boarding house in 1926 and only returned to private ownership in 1993. The house was bought in the summer of 2016 by an educational charity.
The Crown and Greyhound public house is in Dulwich Village. In the 19th century, two separate pubs stood in this area - the centre of Dulwich Village. The Crown was for the labourers of the area, while the Greyhound across the road, was for local gentry. The Greyhound was a coach stop on the London Piccadilly-Sittingbourne route. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to the village and used to drink at The Greyhound pub. The current pub, known by locals as "The Dog", is a Grade II listed building. In the 1960s, it used to be known as the venue of the "Dulwich Poets".
One of the areas most famous residents and architects was Sir George Frederick Ellyatt (founder of the architecture practice, Ellyatt & Porter). He was responsible for the design or influence of in excess of 25 homes in the area, each built in its own individual style. One of the most notable homes was Crossways, 1 Dulwich Village, which he built as his own home following being granted permission to do so in January 1927 at a cost of just over £2000 and with a ground rent of £22 10s per annum. Uniquely, Ellyatt sought and was granted permission to build in 9" solid brick walls rather than 11" cavity walls (as was usual convention) as long as he used cement mortar. The site was originally occupied by a Georgian built home, known locally as "the Hall" which had become partially derelict during world war 1 and was demolished in 1925. Crossways still exists in substantially the same manner and form as when it was originally built.
All Saints Church, West Dulwich (Church of England) alongside Rosendale Road is a Victorian Gothic building, originally intended to be the cathedral for south London. The church was built between 1888 and 1897 and designed by George Fellowes Prynne, a pupil of George Edmund Street. Although plans were scaled down it was still a huge building and is a Grade I listed building. Unfortunately it was gutted by a huge fire on 9 June 2000, the cause remains unknown. The building reopened in April 2006 after a three-year restoration project.
St Barnabas Church (Church of England) lies on Calton Avenue at the edge of Dulwich Village. The old church was designed by W H Wood of Newcastle upon Tyne and consecrated in 1894. However the original church burnt down in an arson attack by 'unknown persons' on Monday 7 December 1992. The "Phoenix appeal" raised money to build a new church and the replacement structure, designed by Larry Malcic with an all-glass spire, was opened in 1996.
In the south, the spire of St. Stephen's Church can be seen above the trees of Dulwich Wood, adjacent to Sydenham Hill railway station.
Dulwich sits astride the South Circular (A205), one of London's Ring Roads. Also passing through the area is the A2199 and College Road, which features a working tollgate dating back to 1789.
The journey to London Victoria from West Dulwich railway station takes about 12 minutes and there are direct trains to and from London Blackfriars and points north on the Thameslink line during the morning and evening peak periods respectively, East Dulwich is 12 minutes from London Bridge and North Dulwich is 14 minutes from London Bridge. The nearest stations are in: Denmark Hill, East Dulwich, West Dulwich, North Dulwich, Gipsy Hill, Herne Hill, Peckham Rye, Sydenham Hill and Tulse Hill.
Dulwich is served by London Buses routes 3, 12, 37, 40, 176, 185, 197, 201, 484, 450, P4 and P13.
One of the least known facts about Dulwich is that certain houses, in a direct line from North Dulwich Station towards West Dulwich station, have clauses in their Title Deeds protecting the right to build an underground railway beneath their property - it has of course still to be built, 140 years later.
Famous people born there include: the author, Enid Blyton in 1897; the first compiler of the London A-Z, Phyllis Pearsall in East Dulwich in 1906, she went on to live in Dulwich Village; the war-time singer Anne Shelton in 1923 (or 1928?) and who lived on Court Lane until shortly before her death in 1994; also on Court Lane, Dr Reginald John Gladstone FRSE embryologist, lived here until his house was destroyed in the blitz in 1941; TV personality Sue Perkins in 1969; footballer Trevor Sinclair in 1973; and Su-Elise Nash, former pop singer with Mis-teeq in 1981. The actor Tim Roth was born there in 1961.
In 1980 Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC, after a night's heavy drinking, was found lifeless in a car outside 67 Overhill Road, East Dulwich. He was rushed to hospital but was dead on arrival at King's College Hospital.
The Village has also long been popular with people in show business; Ronnie Corbett lived there for years. Jo Brand, the comedian, currently owns a house in Herne Hill. James Nesbitt, the actor, lives in Herne Hill. Rob Da Bank Radio One DJ & Bestival organiser, resides in East Dulwich. Carl Barat Libertines lead singer, lives on Lordship Lane. Micky Flanagan Stand up comedian moved to the village upon hearing Lady Gillian Burt of Cottingham resided in the area. Sacha Baron Cohen lived in Dulwich Wood Avenue when his "Ali-G" character was still called "Diagon-Ali". Ronnie Reed, who ran double agents during the Second World War, and was an MI5 officer from 1940 to 1976, lived in Court Lane Gardens from 1960-1995. Marlon King, the footballer, owned a house in Dulwich when he played for Watford. Huw Edwards, the BBC News at Ten newsreader, also resides in the West part of Dulwich. Tesco 'Spudhunter' & TV presenter Jonathan Corbett based in the East Dulwich area. TV Presenter Kate Thornton and her partner, DJ Darren Emerson also reside in Dulwich. Sky business correspondent Darshini David resides in Dulwich village.
Dulwich has also been home to several Members of Parliament and senior Civil Servants. Margaret Thatcher bought a house in a "gated community" in Dulwich after her time as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Edward George, Baron George, governor of the Bank of England and himself an Old Alleynian, lived in Gilkes Crescent just off the Village until his retirement. Ian McColl, Baron McColl of Dulwich who served as John Major's Parliamentary Private Secretary in the House of Lords, also lives there. Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, a former Chief of the Defence Staff, lived in Woodwarde Road and Sir John Scarlett, head of MI6, lived just off the South Circular Road. Harriet Harman MP lives in Winterbrook Road, Albert Booth MP, Secretary of State for Employment under Jim Callaghan, lived on the corner of Woodwarde Road and Desenfans Road and Sir Robin Butler, secretary to the Cabinet, lived in Half Moon Lane. Other MPs including Ian Twinn MP (formerly Edmonton) and Andrew Rowe MP (formerly North Kent) have also, or still do, live in the neighbourhood.
In the closing chapter of Charles Dickens' romance The Pickwick Papers, Samuel Pickwick retires to a house in Dulwich, "one of the most pleasant spots near London."