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  Exploring Southwark and discovering its history

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By this time however large houses like this had become very hard to let, and the only offer received by  Dulwich Estate, who owned the freehold, was to develop the land for a large number of small terraced properties which the Estate turned down.  Casino House was demolished in 1906 and the grounds left undeveloped though were used on a temporary basis for such activities as allotments and experimental fish farming in the pond.


In 1918, one of the governors of Dulwich Estate, architect Edwin Hall, presented a scheme for the development of the Casino House site and the adjoining Sunray Avenue site, that followed garden city principles such as building small groups of houses around green areas and curved, tree-lined roads.  The houses were aimed at the “poorer middle classes” but no government subsidies were forthcoming for the scheme and Dulwich Estate, unable to raise the necessary finance themselves, shelved the scheme.  


Meanwhile, Camberwell Borough Council had started work on the Survey of Housing Needs required by the Government and found that a total of 2183 new houses were required in the borough.  Camberwell Borough Council advised the Government the only part of the borough where there was sufficient land was in Dulwich.  The Government advised the Council they were to use their powers of compulsory purchase if necessary. This led to Dulwich Estate being told that large areas of the Estate, including central parts, would be compulsorily purchased where 2,000 small houses would be built. Imagine the apoplexy!


The Dulwich Estate must have negotiated hard and eventually a compromise was reached.  It was agreed that the old Casino House site would be leased to the Council for 200 years.  The Council adopted the road layout scheme proposed by Edwin Hall, and though to a higher density, the design incorporated similar elements to his proposals.  By the end of 1921, 154 dwellings had been built – 30 three bedroomed houses, 100 three bedroomed houses with a parlour and 24 three-bedroomed flats.  Dulwich Estate were insistent that an area of public open space around the fishpond of Casino House should be retained to form Sunray Gardens.  













Source:  The Dulwich Society








The Dulwich Estate and Camberwell Borough Council reached agreement regarding the adjacent Sunray Avenue site and building works commenced in 1921, providing a total of 138 homes to a similar mix as those built on the Casino House site with the addition of 14 four-bedroomed houses.  


The Sunray Estate has been lauded as one of the finest examples of a small garden city development and was designated a conservation area in 2009.



The Sunray Estate

Sunray Gardens Estate

The Sunray Estate to the north of Dulwich Village was built as part of the Government’s Homes for Heroes campaign in the aftermath of the First World War.  Built on land owned by the Dulwich Estate, Camberwell Borough Council had to threaten the use of a compulsory purchase order to ensure the houses were built, but once the Estate accepted that social housing would be built on their land, their input ensured the houses were built to a high standard that incorporated principles of garden city design.


The estate was built on the grounds where formerly an elegant mansion had stood that had been designed by John Nash and commissioned by Richard Shawe, a solicitor, who had earned a vast amount of money in fees from defending Warren Hastings, a former Governor of India who had been accused of corruption.  The trial lasted seven years and Hastings was eventually acquitted.  


Shawe purchased the plot of land on Dulwich Hill (now called Herne Hill) that sloped gently down to beyond what is now Red Post Hill.  The grounds were landscaped and at the bottom of the hill a large gold fish pond was installed.  Originally the mansion was called Casina House, meaning little house, but later became known as Casino House.  Later residents included Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph, and towards the end of the 19th century the owner allowed flower shows to be held there.

Casina House Sunray Gardens Lake