Inventory Site Record

Dulwich College Grounds, including Old College and Christ's Chapel of God's Gift

Dulwich College Grounds, including Old College and Christ's Chapel of God's Gift (Southwark)

Brief Description

Dulwich College arose out Alleyn's College of God's Gift founded in 1619 by theatre impresario Edward Alleyn. The school moved to the current site in 1870 when the main building, originally called New College, was built, designed in Italianate style by Charles Barry Jnr, son of the architect of the Houses of Parliament. The site was formerly part of Dulwich Common. Numerous new school buildings have been added since that time. A small strip of land of 0.5 hectares in front of Dulwich College remains commonland.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Alleyn's College of God's Gift
Site location:
College Road
Type of site:
Institutional Grounds
Open to public?
Opening times:
Dulwich College has opened for London Open House. Otherwise private, school users/visitors only.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: West Dulwich. Bus: P4, P13

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Dulwich College was founded by Edward Alleyn in 1619. A famous theatrical impresario, Alleyn was a partner in the Fortune Theatre by 1600, the rival to Shakespeare's Globe. He became wealthy as a result of his various activities, which included staging entertainments such as bear- and bull-baiting; in 1604 he was made Joint Master of the Royal Bears, Bulls and Mastiff Dogs. In 1605 he purchased the Manor of Dulwich for £35,000 from the then owner Sir Francis Calton, whose name is recalled in a street in Dulwich Village. Alleyn continued to live in London until 1613, staying at Dulwich in the summer. He then decided to establish a charitable foundation to be endowed with his property at Dulwich and elsewhere. On 21 June 1619 he was given license by James I to set up Alleyn's College of God's Gift and began building his Almshouses for 'six poor brothers and six poor sisters' and his School 'for twelve poor scholars'. All the beneficiaries were to be chosen from four parishes: St Giles' Camberwell and the 3 London parishes with which he was closely connected, St Botolph's Bishopsgate, St Saviour's Southwark and St Giles Cripplegate (q.q.v.), the latter replaced as nominating body by the new parish of St Luke's in 1773. The early name refers to the fact that entry depended on the successful young scholar drawing lots and getting the paper marked 'God's Gift'.

Alleyn had already built Christ's Chapel, which was consecrated in 1616 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, and the original buildings, albeit extended and re-modelled over the years, comprising the Old College, Almshouses and the Chapel, remain at the junction of Gallery Road and College Road, still partly used as almshouses. The gardens in front of the Old College, once part of the village green, have ornamental gates bearing Alleyn's coat of arms. Edward Alleyn died in 1626 and is buried in the chapel, as are other members of his family, Wardens and Masters of the College including the organist, Richard Dowell (d.1816). Alleyn left the majority of his estate to support the college he founded.

His charitable foundation underwent reorganisation over the years particularly as a result of the expansion of its educational provision by James Allen, who was Warden and Master of the College from 1712-1746. Rents from his properties in Kensington enabled 2 small schools to be set up in Dulwich after 1741, one for boys, and another for girls, the latter later becoming James Allen's Girls' School (q.v.). In 1842 the College set up a grammar school for 60 poor boys from Dulwich, who were joined by the earlier James Allen Foundation boys' school, later becoming the Lower College of God's Gift.

A new constitution was drawn up through the Dulwich College Act of 1857 and in 1870 the Old College, greatly enlarged, moved to new buildings further south down College Road, designed in Italianate style with terracotta detailing by Charles Barry Junior, who was architect to the Dulwich Estate for 28 years. It has been described as 'one of the most ambitious school rebuildings of the period' (Nikolaus Pevsner) and Barry's Gold Medal awarded by the RIBA in 1877 cited the New College at Dulwich among his notable works. The site was formerly part of Dulwich Common; money for the new building had been raised by the estate from the sale of some of its lands for building of new railway lines. In 1882 the Upper School became Dulwich College and the Lower School became Alleyn's School (q.v.), which moved to a new site in 1887. Numerous new school buildings have been added to Dulwich College since that time. A small strip of land of 0.5 hectares in front of Dulwich College remains commonland.

From 1882 2 separate boards of trustees were established, the Estates Governors who had responsibility for the Estate and Almshouses, and the College Governors who had responsibility for the schools, chapel and Dulwich Picture Gallery (q.v.), which had opened in 1814. In 1995 new arrangements came into being whereby the properties, investments and other estate activities now come under the Trustees of The Dulwich Estate, which today consists of nearly 608 hectares (1500 acres) and also acts as Trustees of the Charity of Christ's Chapel of God's Gift. Separate Boards of Governors were set up for Dulwich College, Alleyn's School and Dulwich Picture Gallery, with a separate board of Trustees of the Dulwich Almshouse Charity that still maintains links with the four parishes of the original foundation.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Andrew Duncan, 'Walking Village London', New Holland, 1997; Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; Southwark Listed Buildings data; J R Piggott 'Dulwich College: A brief history and guide to the buildings'; History of Alleyn's College of God's Gift on The Dulwich Estate website (

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Dulwich College Board of Governors
Site management:
Dulwich College
1619; 1866-70
Listed structures:
LBII*: Dulwich College Main Building. LBII: gates and piers to east of Main Building; Dulwich Old College; Old Library; Entrance gates/piers of Dulwich Old College, Dulwich Toll House, Drinking fountain outside entrance of Old College
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Yes: Common (CL133 land in front of college)
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Dulwich Wood/Dulwich Village
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Dulwich College Grounds, including Old College and Christ's Chapel of God's Gift

Dulwich College Grounds - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 23/07/20 13:24
Click photo to enlarge.


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