West Dulwich overview
What’s it all about?
Originally a small hamlet surrounded by fields, Dulwich is still an expansive, genteel and charming area. The land had many royal owners before being taken over by the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn, who shaped the area as a centre for educational excellence. This reputation has remained to this day and the cluster of top independent schools in the vicinity is a major draw for families from across the Capital. The diversity of West Dulwich, with the rural charm of Dulwich Village at one end and the more urban feel of West Norwood at the other, attracts a range of residents. Rosendale Road, Park Hall Road and Croxted Road make up the heart of the area. On these streets you'll find mouth watering homemade pastries, an award winning independent bookshop and the type of quality butcher that unfailingly has a long Saturday morning queue. With the pavements busy with locals gathering for morning coffee and long lunches, there's a happy relaxed atmosphere here aided by the feeling of space. Wide roads and beautiful parks allow plenty of unwind time, while trains to Victoria from West Dulwich station take just 13 minutes.
- Comic novelist PG Wodehouse attended Dulwich College at the close of the 19th century, describing his time there as ‘six years of unbroken bliss’. His desk and papers are still on display there. Author Raymond Chandler and explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton both attended the school.
- The Dulwich Picture Gallery was designed by Sir John Soane and opened to the public in 1817.
- The Victorian mansion Kingswood House, now a favourite as a wedding venue, was once owned by John Lawson Johnson, the inventor of Bovril, and known as Bovril House.
Architecture and property
West Dulwich’s development began in 1863 when the railway station opened. Thurlow Park, Rosendale and Turney Roads were built to provide access to the station. The first houses in West Dulwich were very grand but properties became progressively more affordable as development spread westwards. The main phase of construction came in the years before World War I, although gaps were still being filled in the 1930s. The area suffered badly in World War II, prompting a post war reconstruction programme that included the creation of the Rosendale Road estate. There are large five and six bedroom 1920s detached houses scattered around the area and three and four bedroom 1960s townhouses and flats around Croxted and Rosendale Roads. East of Rosendale Road, there are roads of pretty early Victorian houses. There are also some well designed 1960s flats and townhouses in Lings Coppice and Pymers Mead and those on a budget may be drawn to the ex local authority Kingswood Estate.
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Eating: Belair House is a restaurant inside a lovingly restored 18th century Georgian mansion in Belair Park. Enjoy a stroll around the grounds before heading indoors for a cocktail and a fine dinner. Pizzerias such as Four Hundred Rabbits, Cellar 107 and Rocca di Papa are popular with locals. For other Italian fare, La Gastronomia is an authentic deli and café with friendly staff and lovely produce. Cafée'salva in Rosendale Road also serves good coffee and pastries.
Drinking: The Rosendale pub is a former Victorian coaching inn and has an extensive menu as well as a large garden. Just down the road, The Alleyn’s Head prides itself on its beer selection or, if you’re in the mood for a short stroll, head past the cemetery to the Great North Wood, where comfy sofas and bar snacks are the order of the day.
Culture: In the heart of Dulwich lies Dulwich Picture Gallery, the world’s first purpose built public art gallery, which plays host to changing exhibitions as well as having its own prestigious collection. Just down the road lies one of the last surviving Victorian fire station buildings in London, home to the South London Theatre, a fringe venue putting on more than 20 productions a year. The Lambeth Orchestra performs regularly at venues in Dulwich throughout the year and is always on the lookout for new recruits.
Events: The Dulwich Festival takes place in spring and encompasses a whole host of events, including art exhibitions, talks, nature walks, theatre, music and comedy. Norwood Feast is held monthly and transforms the centre of nearby West Norwood into one big market with stalls selling food, plants, crafts and vintage clothing.
- Dulwich Books organises literary events such as ‘Meet the Author’ evenings and poetry readings. On the same crossroads lies Cook, which sells gourmet frozen ready meals.
- The West Norwood Library has been completely rebuilt and is now housed in a fantastic new building alongside the Picturehouse Cinema.
- For a touch of glamour, treat yourself to a facial and a new hairdo at Partridge's Hair and Beauty. To complete the look, head to Jaadu for clothes with an Indian twist.
- Have a wander around the Alleyn Park Garden Centre for all your horticultural needs, from trees and herbs to bird food and gifts for gardeners.
- When you’ve finished shopping, pop into the Volcano Coffee Works, enjoy a cuppa or pick up some freshly roasted beans.
- There is a large Sainsbury’s on Dog Kennel Hill for most grocery needs.
- If you’re in the mood for something a little more strenuous, book a session at the Dulwich Riding School or head to the Dulwich Leisure Centre, which has a swimming pool and state of the art gym, as well as a creche and a cafe. There are libraries at both ends of the neighbourhood. The larger one at East Dulwich is open seven days a week and offers activities including a craft club and a poetry reading group. The smaller of the two is in West Norwood and hosts book groups and Pilates classes.
- Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club and The Old College Lawn and Tennis Club are also popular with local residents in around West Dulwich.
The 70 acre Dulwich Park opened in 1890 and offers an attractive cafe alongside facilities including a rowing pond, play area, bowling green, tennis courts, bike hire and a bridle path. Belair Park is a peaceful haven away from the bustle of the South Circular and includes wildlife trails, a skate park and a large lake, which is the only substantial stretch of the ancient River Effra remaining above ground. Just a stroll away is Brockwell Park, home to the Lambeth Country Show each July, as well as the popular Brockwell Lido. Also well worth a visit is the grand and atmospheric West Norwood Cemetery, one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.
The Dulwich Estate has plans to redevelop the SG Smith garage workshop site in the heart of Dulwich into homes characteristic of the area. If the plans go ahead, several multi million pound houses and three affordable dwellings, will be built on the site. The Picturehouse Cinema group has been acquiring sites locally and has plans to open cinemas in both East Dulwich and West Norwood.
Rail: The main station for the area is West Dulwich, where trains to Victoria take just 13 minutes. Tulse Hill and West Norwood stations are not far away, offering services to London Bridge, St Albans, Croydon and Sutton.
Bus: The 3 (Oxford Circus), 201 (Herne Hill) and P13 (New Cross Gate) travel through West Dulwich. There is also a night bus, the N3.
Road: The South Circular runs right through the centre of Dulwich so there is easy access to routes heading in most directions.
Cycle: The Dulwich Paragon cycling club is the largest in the UK, offering road and circuit training, as well as organising rides for all abilities.
Getting away: It is under an hour to Gatwick Airport by car.
Dulwich’s private education options, including three of London’s top independent schools in the shape of James Allens Girls’ School, Dulwich College and Alleyn’s, bring students here from all over the City, both boarders and day pupils. Dulwich also has two state primary schools, Dulwich Hamlet Junior School and Dulwich Village Infants School, and a secondary academy, Kingsdale Foundation School. The Gipsy Hill Federation runs several other schools in the area, including Kingswood Primary and Elm Wood Primary.
Please see our schools tab for more information on schools in this area.
If you’re looking to buy, sell, rent or let in West Dulwich, contact the KFH West Dulwich branch today.
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