The area known as Tulse Hill is part of the former Manor or Manors of Bodley, Upgroves and Scarlettes whose precise boundaries are now uncertain. The name of the area comes from the Tulse family who came into ownership of farmland in the area during the period of the Commonwealth in the 1650s. Sir Henry Tulse was Lord Mayor of London in 1683 and his daughter Elizabeth married the Richard Onslow, 1st Baron Onslow. The land remained in Onslow ownership until 1789 when most of it was purchased by William Cole. The estate was further divided on Cole's death in 1807.
The western part was left to "Mercy Cressingham, spinster" (now commemorated by the Cressingham Gardens estate in the area) and the eastern part -now mostly occupied by Brockwell Park - was left to Richard Ogbourne who promptly sold it on to John Blades.
In 1810 Tulse Hill Farm was the only building in western part of the area. The enclosure of land in the parish of Lambeth in 1811 led to the construction of Effra Road in the area immediately to the north. Together with improvements to Brixton Road by the local turnpike trust this greatly improved road communications with central London, and the value of the local landholdings.
The heiress Miss Cressingham did not remain a spinster for long. Her husband Dr Thomas Edwards, took the initiative in buying extra land to make an access from Brixton Hill in 1814 and laying out two new roads Lower Tulse Hill Road (now known simply as Tulse Hill) and Upper Tulse Hill Road (now Upper Tulse Hill) before 1821. A plan of 1821 in the RIBA Library shows a proposed speculative development of both the Edwards estate and the adjacent Blades estate with large detached villas, although only the former actually came to fruition. The new roads were adopted by the parish in 1822.
An 1832 map shows that Tulse Hill still had only a few buildings on the new roads in contrast to nearby recently developed areas in Brixton and Norwood and the longer established hamlet of Dulwich. However, by 1843, there was a continuous line of houses, predominantly detached and usually with separate coach houses along the full length of Lower Tulse Hill Road from Brixton to the top of the hill.
Development of the area to the east of this road commenced in 1845 when Trinity Rise was built to connect Upper Tulse Hill with Norwood Road. Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Rise was built in 1855-6 and is now grade II listed.
Major development of the area further east did not come until the opening of Tulse Hill railway station in 1868.
Most of the original villas with large gardens on the original Edwards-Cressingham landholding have been redeveloped at much higher densities for council housing since the 1930s.
The most prominent survival of 19th century Tulse Hill is Berry House, later called Silwood Hall, and now forming the front part of St Martin-In-The-Fields High School for Girls, a Church of England secondary school which has outlasted the nearby 1950s schools.
The redevelopment of Tulse Hill after World War II by the London County Council had included the construction of two large secondary schools - Tulse Hill School (at Upper Tulse Hill, originally for boys, where Ken Livingstone went to school) and Dick Sheppard School (originally for girls only). Both schools have now closed, and their sites have been redeveloped for housing of very contrasting types. The Dick Sheppard School site was redeveloped as Brockwell Gate, a gated Regency style with houses and apartments overlooking Brockwell Park.
The site of Tulse Hill school was redeveloped as affordable housing. It appeared on the news on 22 July 2005 after a police surveillance operation on a blocks of flats in Scotia Road within the new development. Following the 21 July 2005 London bombings, the terrorist suspect Osman Hussain was linked to a flat in the block. Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was a resident of the same block and was fatally shot at Stockwell tube station by the police who had been tracking Hussain.
The area is served by London Buses routes 2, 68, 196, 201, 432, 415, 332, 468 and P13 and route 3 goes along Effra Road and Dulwich Road to the north of Tulse Hill before passing through West Dulwich along the Croxted Road east of the Hill.
Nearest railway stations
Nearest tube station
- The former St Cuthbert's Presbyterian Church of England on Thurlow Park Road (technically this is in West Dulwich because it has an SE21 postcode) - The church, recognisable by its Green steeple, was built in 1902 and is located a few minutes walk from Tulse Hill station. The building is now used for educational purposes and forms part of Rosemead Preparatory School.
- Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Rise - built 1855-6, grade II listed.
- All Saints Church - An astonishing Victorian Gothic building in West Dulwich, 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.
- Tulse Hill Hotel - Landmark public house at the main Tulse Hill junction with Norwood Road. The pub was built in 1840 on Norwood Lane as it was then known, which was a muddy track leading to Herne Hill.
- Strand School - Grammar School building, opened in 1913 in Elm Park; it is now called Elm Court School. Former pupils include actor and director Tim Roth, Mick Jones of The Clash, broadcaster David Jacobs, CBE, artist Euan Uglow, rock musician Fruitbat (Les Carter, co-founder of Carter USM), James Lovelock, CH, CBE, FRS, scientist and environmentalist who is best known for the Gaia hypothesis, Leroy Rosenior, professional footballer, coach and broadcaster, Jeremy Spencer, founder-member of Fleetwood Mac, politician Sir Reg Goodwin (former Leader of the Greater London Council) and Leonard Hussey, explorer.
- Sir William Henry Harris was a chorister at Holy Trinity Church towards the end of the 19th Century.
- The astronomers Sir William Huggins and his wife Margaret Lindsay, Lady Huggins, had a home and observatory known as Huggins' Observatory from about 1850 until 1915 at 90 Upper Tulse Hill. It no longer stands but was at the approximate location of today's Vibart Gardens.
- The Ionides family lived there between 1838-64. Alexander Constantine Ionides was Greek consul, art patron and donor. His son Constantine Alexander Ionides left his collection of Old Masters to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- John Sentamu, current Archbishop of York, was vicar of Holy Trinity Church for 13 years.
- Julian Cope, lead singer of band Teardrop Explodes, lived at 149a Tulse Hill during the late 1980s where, the Guardian newspaper says, he had 40 ft Scalextrix track and a huge collection of Dinky cars.
- Euan Uglow, artist
- Mick Jones, guitarist in The Clash, lived in Christchurch House on Christchurch Road with his aunt during his childhood years.
Mentions in popular music
- 24 minutes to Tulse Hill by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, from the album 101 Damnations
- Escape from Tulse Hell by Ott, from the album Blumenkraft
- Tulse Hill Night by 999 (band), from the album Separates
Mentions in literature
Samson Young, protagonist in Martin Amis's "London Fields" goes to Tulse Hill to buy drugs.
Jason Strugnell, a fictional poet in Wendy Cope's "Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis", lives in Tulse Hill and mentions it a couple of times in "his" poems.
Noel Streatfeild's novel "Tennis Shoes" (1937) is written about a family who live in Tulse Hill.
- History of Brockwell Park, Friends of Brockwell Park
- 'Lambeth: The parish', A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4 (1912), pp. 50-64. Date accessed: 15 May 2011
- Genealogy & Family History, London Ancestor website
- Profile: Archbishop John Sentamu, BBC
- Recreated rock residences – a wish list
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