Or 549 Lordship Lane, is another local landmark that S E Londoners may recognise. Not just the rat infested wreck I dismissed it as, it’s a Grade II listed building believed to be the only surviving example of a 19th Century concrete house (1873) by builder Charles Drake. Drake set up the Patent Concrete Building Company so that he could explore concrete construction in the architectural style of his time. Something of a trend forecaster he declared shortly afterwards: “Much has been written and said lately about the demand for a new style of architecture. May I suggest that this may be found in studying the right architectural treatment of concrete buildings.”
It’s as if he knew those concrete-loving Modernists of the 20th Century were coming…
There is some conflicting opinion about the place, but it’s thought (by the Dulwich Society among others) that Drake built the house for his family, calling it The Ferns. It was listed on the English Heritage Buildings At Risk register after the last owner jeapordised the structure by building on the site without planning permission. However, Southwark Council lately obtained the site under compulsory purchase and the Heritage of London Trust is due to reconstruct what’s left of it as Housing Association flats, reinstating the original name The Ferns.
“I grew up in East Dulwich and the house on the corner of Lordship Lane and Underhill Road was a childrens home in the 70’s – definitely. It was run by a woman known as Auntie Lena and I had a few friends at the time who lived in there, so I used to be round there quite a bit! I cant remember any of the kids there being much older than me and I think there were only about 8 kids there at any one time. Every time I go past there I have fond memories!”