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  Exploring Southwark and discovering its history

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God's Gift in Dulwich

In 1592, Joan married Edward Alleyn, the leading actor of the day, who became Philip Henslowe's business partner.  In 1605 Alleyn bought the manor of Dulwich and later set up a charitable foundation consisting of chapel, almshouses and school as an act of thanksgiving to God for his talents as an actor and his ability in business.  The first building to be completed was Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift, consecrated in 1616 by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury.  Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift for 12 poor scholars and the almshouses for 6 poor brethren and 6 poor sisters were completed in 1618.   The buildings that exist today are the result of subsequent rebuilding in the early 18th century and enlargement in the 19th century.  


















Alleyn's Foundation still looms large today and the school has now developed into three top ranking independent schools and is managed by the Dulwich Estate who still own most of the freehold in the area. While there are many regulations about what you can and cannot do with your property if you live there, Dulwich Estate has maintained a very pleasant leafy area with a lot of open green spaces and has resisted much detrimental change.


Joan died aged 51 in 1623 and her husband Edward Alleyn died three years later.  Both are buried in Christ's Chapel, Dulwich.







































Joan Alleyn

This stylish lady is Joan Woodward (1573-1623), resident of Bankside and Lady of the Manor of Dulwich. Her step-father was Philip Henslowe, a prominent businessman in the Parish of St Saviour's (now Southwark Cathedral) where he was a churchwarden and an overseer of the poor.  He was a member of the Company of Dyers and his business interests diverse, including starch-making, pawn-broking, money lending and trading in goat skins.  In partnership with John Cholmley he built the Rose Playhouse on what had formerly been a rose garden, the first of the Bankside playhouses.  He also had interests in the bear pits and some of the many Bankside brothels.

Christ's Chapel and almhouses Alleyn's statue Old College

Christ's Chapel (right) and Edward Alleyn House which provides modern almshouse accommodation in the form of 14 flats and 2 bed-sits.  

Old College (seen from the road) which forms the western wing to Christ's Chapel.  The College moved to the current building in College Road in 1870.  Old College is now used as offices by the Dulwich Estate.

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Statue of Edward Alleyn recalling his theatrical roots installed by the Dulwich Society opposite Old College to commemorate the 400th aniversary of Alleyn's purchase of the Manor of Dulwich.  Plans are now underway to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the consecration of Christ's Chapel and the Old Burial Ground.