Inventory Site Record

Dulwich Old Burial Ground (Southwark)

Brief Description

The site for the burial ground was donated by Edward Alleyn who owned the Manor of Dulwich. His charitable foundation, Alleyn's College of God's Gift, led to the establishment of almshouses and schools in Dulwich, and continues to manage an estate of nearly 610 hectares. Prior to this the nearest place of worship was some 2 miles away and there was no parish burial ground. The cemetery was twice enlarged over the years but was full by 1856 and closed to burials. It contains some fine C18th and C19th tombs and a number of famous people were buried here.

Practical Information
Site location:
Court Lane/Dulwich Village
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
closed but visible
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: North Dulwich. Bus: P4.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.thedulwichestate.org.uk

Full Site Description

The site for the burial ground was donated to the villagers of Dulwich by Edward Alleyn in 1616, prior to which the nearest place of worship was Camberwell parish church of St Giles (q.v.) some 2 miles away and there was no parish burial ground nearby. The burial ground was consecrated on the same day as Christ's Chapel of God's Gift, where Alleyn was later buried. The chapel was the first building to be completed under Alleyn's charitable foundation, which was formally established under a grant of James I on 21 June 1619 as Alleyn's College of God's Gift. Edward Alleyn was a well-known Elizabethan actor-manager and impresario, also putting on bull- and bear-baiting, as a result of which he had been appointed Joint Master of the Royal Bears, Bulls and Mastiff Dogs in 1604. By now a wealthy man, he bought the Manor of Dulwich in 1605 although he continued to live in London until 1613, staying at Dulwich in the summer. He then decided to establish a charitable foundation in Dulwich to be endowed with his property at Dulwich and elsewhere. Following the foundation of Alleyn's College of God's Gift he 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 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, and in 1842 a grammar school was established. These schools later led to what are now Dulwich College, James Allen's Girls' School and Alleyn's School (q.q.v.). 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 includes management of Amenity Areas such as Dulwich Old Burial Ground. It also acts as Trustees of the Charity of Christ's Chapel of God's Gift at Dulwich. Boards of Governors were set up for Dulwich College, Alleyn's School and Dulwich Picture Gallery. A separate board of Trustees of the Dulwich Almshouse Charity still maintains links with the four parishes of the original foundation.

The Old Burial Ground was the burial place for 35 local people who died as a result of the plague in 1665, and among well-known people buried here were Old Bridget, Queen of the Norwood Gypsies (d.1768), the Dulwich Hermit Samuel Matthews who was murdered near Low Cross Wood Lane, Dulwich Woods in 1802, and the solicitor Richard Shawe (d.1816) who lived at Casina, now the site of Sunray Gardens (q.v.). The cemetery contains some fine C18th and C19th tombs including the tomb chest of Anne Burgess (d.1808); sarcophagus of Anne Flint (d.1807); tomb chest of Emily Kingsley (d.1823); tomb of Henry Atkinson and Elizabeth Vanderesch of 1780; tomb chests of James Thompson (d.1788), John Graham (d.1796), John Willis (d.1818), Lieut. Col. William Rankin (d.1831); sarcophagus of Louise Shroder, John and Elizabeth Bustard of 1824; and stone slab of Thomas Force (d.1827).

The cemetery was enlarged twice over the years. It is surrounded on two sides by railings and at the apex of the triangular site are ornamental wrought iron gates with an elaborate overthrow, dated 1728 and made by G Buncker. The burial ground was full by 1856 and was closed to burials, although by special dispensation Mrs Goodman of The Crown and Greyhound Pub in Dulwich Villas was buried here in 1898.

Sources consulted:

Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; John Wittich, 'London Villages', Shire Publications, 1992; Andrew Duncan, 'Walking Village London', New Holland, 1997; In and Around Dulwich: A Guide to South London's Green Oasis (no date); Southwark Listed Buildings data; Brian Green 'The Old Burial Ground, Dulwich Village' The Dulwich Society newsletter, summer 2006

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ331741 (533174,174099)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
The Dulwich Estate
Site management:
Managers of the Scheme of Management (Trustees of The Dulwich Estate Charity)
Listed structures:
LBII: Gates to cemetery; tombs: Anne Burgess, Anne Flint, Emily Kingsley, Henry Atkinson and Elizabeth Vanderesch, James Thompson, John Graham, John Willes, Lieut Col William Rankin, Louise Shroder, John & Elizabeth Bustard, Richard Shawe, Thomas Force stone slab, unidentified early C19th monument
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

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 Village
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation:

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