Lyncombe Old Photo

Above: View of the house, probably in the 1930s. It shows the side of the house facing onto the garden and the side facing onto Crescent Wood Road.

The old house is quite attractive when seen from almost any angle. Photographs of the house are very rare and the person who took the side of the house facing onto Crescent Wood Road is not known. It is possible that it was taken by one of Lily Payling’s daughters.

The view reveals several features that have changed over the years. When the picture was taken, the old Coach House was still in its original state – with doors facing the road. The side facing the house was a solid wall, with trees and shrubs growing close to it.

Most interesting of all was the large porch with ascending steps from the curved drive to the portico with rounded arches. At the foot of the steps can be seen the two lion-figures that are now randomly positioned near the drive. The large porch gave importance to the entrance doorway. Although the doorway is still in the same position, from the outside it looks more like a ‘side door’ to the house, rather than the ‘front door’. The outline of the large porch can be seen around the doorway by observing the discolouration of the brickwork on the wall.



Lyncombe at 150

Above: The cake in three sections, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the house.

On the south wall of the house is the date ‘1868’ clearly shown. The question has to be asked as to whether that date was when they started building the house or the date when it was completed. It has to be assumed that it was the date when it was completed but there are no records to confirm it. What we do know is that the original lease, granted in respect of the property, was dated 27 July 1869 which means that the first resident moved into the property around that time. It may be that the date to celebrate should be 2019 – marking 150 years since 1869.

Having said all that, the date on the wall, set in stone is 1868 and so the residents are perfectly justified in having their ‘150th-anniversary celebrations’ in 2018. As it happens the date chosen was Saturday 10 July 2018 when the residents from all four apartments invited their friends to a party on the large lawn beside the house.

Above: Carl Gilbey-McKenzie cutting the cake.

To celebrate the occasion, three large cakes were made – to form the number ‘150’. The residents today live in the four flats that were created in 1952 when the house was converted by the Estates Governors’ contractors Messrs Falkus Bros Ltd into four self-contained apartments, one to each floor, with the work being completed at the end of 1953. No resident has lived there for all those years. Carl Gilbey-McKenzie and Peter Finn moved into the top flat on 31 January 1986 and, as such, are the longest serving residents. Carl was, therefore, given the honour of cutting the cake.

Above: The date ‘1868’ on the wall of the house.

As we met on the lawn, enjoying the surrounding trees and the splendour of the red brick on the house, your mind was drawn to consider whether any of the previous residents also enjoyed tea on the lawn. They might have used it for recreational purposes, possibly playing croquet on it. The lawn is certainly large enough and also level which would be most suitable for a game often enjoyed by Victorian and Edwardian families. One notable feature, growing in the lawn, is the large cedar tree. It is the deodar (Cedrus deodara) which is almost as tall as the house itself. It is just possible that the tree was planted by an early resident which means that the tree could also be around 150 years old.

For the residents of the house, one also wonders if one of the attractions of the house was that it was conveniently close to a railway station. Over the years, three stations have served Lyncombe. Firstly, when the house was built, the owner could be driven by horse and carriage to Sydenham Station which opened in 1839 on the London and Croydon Railway, with trains running into London Bridge Station – as they still do. The first resident, Henry Gover, had his solicitor’s offices at Adelaide House, which is just a short walk over London Bridge from London Bridge Station. Perhaps that is how he made his way to work.

Secondly, there was Sydenham Hill Station, which had opened in August 1863 – just five years before Lyncombe was built. Sydenham Hill Station was constructed on the original Chatham main-line into Victoria Station.

Thirdly, there was Upper Sydenham Station. The railway line was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway – running from Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level to serve the Crystal Palace after the building was moved to Sydenham Hill. The line opened in 1865 but the station at Upper Sydenham was not opened to the public until August 1884. From this station, conveniently situated a short walk down what is now called Wells Park Road, passengers could reach the old railway terminus at Holborn Viaduct, via Nunhead Station. That line closed during 1917-19 and again during 1944-46 and was permanently closed in 1954.


Payling, Lily

Above: Studio photograph of Lily in about 1921, approximately 44 years of age. 

Madame Lily Payling (1877-1967)

Australian Dramatic Contralto

“Endowed by nature with a voice of unusual range and power, rich timbre and deliberate style, there is no questioning the rare beauty of Madame Payling’s voice.” [Daily Telegraph]

Lily was born on her father’s trading ship in Manila, Philippine Islands, the first of eleven children born to William Burrow Haffenden, master mariner, and his second wife Rachel Louisa née Harrod. The family lived in London until 1885 when, following the birth of their fourth child, they relocated to Australia, settling in Sydney.

Lily had a musical upbringing: her mother was an accomplished pianist and taught her daughter to play and sing from an early age. She matured into a singer with a rich contralto voice capable of spanning three octaves. Aged 14, she composed and staged an operetta, and by age 23 she had given her first series of concerts at Sydney Town Hall.

In 1901 Lily married William Edmund Smith, adopting the surname Haffenden-Smith. They had two daughters, Laurie and Eileen, before tragedy struck in 1908 when William died of typhoid.  In 1910 she remarried to Leonard Payling, who came from a Nottinghamshire farming family. They had a daughter, Noelle.  Over the following years Leonard helped Lily with tours and publicity as she embarked on a professional singing career.  Her reputation blossomed and she was widely applauded.

The Paylings sailed to England with their family in 1919. They settled first in Sydenham, in a house called Florian in Lawrie Park Avenue. Later, in 1926, they moved to Lyncombe, 1 Crescent Wood Road, Sydenham Hill, a mansion of some thirty rooms.

Lily’s first concert, notably, was in London’s Royal Albert Hall. It was on 21st April l921, before a large audience and was so successful it cemented a musical career in England that was to last forty years. In the 1920s and 1930s she appeared quite frequently at both the Albert Hall and the smaller Queen’s Hall (which was in Langham Place, burned down by an incendiary bomb in 1941 and never rebuilt). Press notices were wide and appreciative. However, although she loved to perform, her driving force was to teach and to give up-and-coming artists a chance to perform before an audience.

Her teaching placed great emphasis on the importance of correct breathing; her students were forbidden to sing a note for weeks while she corrected their breathing and gave them exercises to strengthen the diaphragm. She maintained throughout her life that breathing control was a tremendous aid to good health. When mastery of this was achieved, the student would be advanced to scales, which were endlessly practised before graduation to songs.

There were three professional milestones in the years up to 1940. Firstly, in 1922, there was a significant event in the rapidly-growing industry of radio. Lily was invited by the Daily Mail to travel to The Hague to broadcast back to England (in fact, over a 1,000-mile radius) as part of an hour-long concert, the first of its kind.  This engendered huge public interest right across the country, and many big shops and offices erected giant loudspeakers so that people might gather to listen.  Reception turned out to be fragmented, mainly because of jamming by amateur radio operators trying to tune in. But some places reported good reception, and Lily Payling’s strong and confident renditions were clearly heard. She had chosen to sing ‘Una voce poco fa’ by Rossini and Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Some twelve years later in 1934, the event was recalled by a Daily Sketch editorial: Few people who remember the first broadcast concert by Madame Lily Payling from The Hague in July of 1922 would be willing to grant that such vast strides in broadcasting as a medium of entertainment could possibly have been foreseen. Judged by present-day standards, that broadcast was a fiasco, but the glamour of novelty which Madame Payling gave to it made it a very amazing achievement and the forerunner of present-day accomplishments.

In April 1923, the BBC set up a radio broadcast, when Lily, during an Albert Hall recital, was motored to studios in the Strand from where she broadcast back to the Hall, all the while accompanied by her pianist, still on stage. This was not an entire success as her voice was over-amplified from loudspeakers set up in the organ loft, which lost all nuance of tone and expression, but it was a further test in the radio story.

Secondly, in 1924, Lily introduced scholarships to help those who could not afford tuition fees. Press coverage and her by now celebrated voice brought literally thousands to her door, giving rise to audition days that became a permanent feature.

And thirdly, in 1925-26, Lily presented her first of many seasons of subscription concerts. A season ticket costing one guinea admitted the holder to eight separate concerts, comprising one season. She wanted to widen the concert-going public by offering a mix of music in the programme – orchestral, instrumental and vocal – with music that was more accessible to untrained ears than that of an exclusively classical content.

Early misgivings about the ‘Payling Pops’ gave way to widespread approval; the concept was a huge success and audiences at both the Queen’s Hall and later in the Albert Hall, were very enthusiastic. The press gave their blessing and announced that it was anticipated that they would continue into further seasons, which they did.  They gave Lily the opportunity to present new artists, while also appearing herself. Not for nothing had she been labelled ‘dynamic’.

These years were full-on with performing, teaching, auditioning, promoting, touring the provinces and giving concerts in aid of charities. But the onset of World War II brought it almost all to a close. Many students abandoned their singing lessons to join up or help the war effort. Then, in 1942, Leonard died, aged 55. In 1943, Lily surrendered the lease of Lyncombe and moved to Holland Park.

In 1946 and 1947, Lily gave two farewell concerts; the first at the Albert Hall, the final one at the Davis Theatre, Croydon.  And then, undaunted, she formed the Payling Musical Society and enjoyed another fourteen years of musical activity promoting concerts and artists and tapping into the mass of small amateur choirs who welcomed the chance to join together to perform in the Albert Hall.

The last concert was given on 19th October 1960.

• The Website is very grateful to Mary Rance, a granddaughter of Lily Payling, for writing this article.



The Rüffer Family

Above: The prestigious offices at 39 Cornhill, in the City of London, which still exist today. Built in the mid-1800s, they were general offices and the company of A Rüffer & Sons Ltd occupied part of the premises.

Moving into Lyncombe

On 29 Oct 1897, the lease for Lyncombe was assigned to Mr Pierre Maurice Rüffer (of 39 Lombard Street, EC), Banker. Pierre Maurice Rüffer died 20 Feb 1935. He had married Coraly Sophie Henriette Straehelin in 1883. She died on 13 Nov 1925 (two years after the family left Lyncombe).

The head of the family – Pierre Maurice Rüffer – was only about 40 years of age when he moved to Lyncombe.

Ten years earlier, in the ‘Personal Advertisements’ in the ‘Morning Post’ newspaper for Friday 4 November 1887 is the following entry.

‘In the Matter of the Companies Acts, 1862 and 1867, and in the Matter of the Astor Alliance Mines (Limited) – Notice is hereby given that a petition for the winding up of the above-named Company by the Court of Chancery was, on the 31st day of October 1897, presented to Mr Justice North by Alphonse Rüffer, Caroline Rüffer, Ernest Rüffer and Pierre Mauruce Rüffer, all of 39 Lombard Street, in the City of London, carrying on the business of bankers, under the style of firm of A Rüffer and Sons, Creditors of the said Company and that the said Petition is directed to be heard before the said Mr Justice North on the 12th day of November 1887 and any Creditor or COntributary of the said Company desirous to oppose the making of an Order for the winding up of the said Company, under the above Act, should appear at the time of hearing by himself or his Counsel for that purpose and a copy of the Petition will be furnished to any Creditor or Contributary of the said Company requiring the same by the undersigned on payment of yje regulated charge for the same.

‘William A Crump and Son, 10 Philpot Lane, London, EC. Solicitor for the Petitioners.’

London Suburban Directory for 1900

The ‘London Suburban Directory (Southern) for 1900’ shows his name. He is described as a ‘Merchant Foreign Banker’ and a partner at ‘A Rüffer & Sons, 39 Lombard Street, EC’. In 1915 the name in the directory changed to Ferdinand Rüffer for reasons that are not clear.

Census for 1901

According to the 1901 Census, the details were different which could mean that Peter (listed below) was living in a house owned his relative called Maurice. There were five family members living in the house, according to the 1901census. All the information has been reproduced from the census.

Peter M Rüffer (43) – ‘Head of the House’ – born 1858 in France.
Eraly S H Rüffer (39) – ‘wife’ – born 1862 in France, British subject.
Violet A Rüffer (13) – born 1888 in Sydenham, Kent.
Roland R Rüffer (5) – born 1896 in Sydenham, Kent.
Sophie A Stachelin (25) – born 1876 in Switzerland – Peter’s sister-in-law.

In addition to the family members living in the house, there were also six servants whose name also appear in the census.

Amy Callard (50) servant ‘nurse domestic’ – possibly a nurse for Roland – born 1851 in Warwick, Warwickshire.
Alexander Paterson (52) ‘servant Butler’ – born 1849 in Scotland.
Mary Watt (35) ‘servant Housekeeper’ – born 1806 in Warwick, Warwickshire.
Eliza M Langridge (32) ‘servant housemaid’ – born 1869 in Selhurst, Surrey.
Sarah Potter (34) ‘servant cook domestic’ – born 1867 in Guildford, Surrey.
Annie E Tunnicliffe (16) ‘housemaid domestic’ – born 1885 in Brixton, Surrey.

Listed below these names in the census was an entry for the ‘The Stable’ – occupied by Thomas Peck (listed as ‘gardner’) and his wife.

The Rüffer Family Leaves Lyncombe

The Rüffer family continued in residence at Lyncombe until 27 Feb 1923, when the lease passed to Francis Ellis of 26 & 27 Farringdon Street, EC, Merchant.

History of A Rüffer & Sons

A Rüffer & Sons Ltd (1872-1964), established in London, was a past constituent of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

A Ruffer & Sons, a City of London accepting house, was established as a private company in 1872 by Baron Joseph Ruffer whose family had been merchants at Leipzig and Lyons specialising in the silk trade. In London, it had a particular interest in finance for the Anglo-French and Belgian wool trade, but in September 1922 had to look to the Bank of England for a loan to clear its outstanding debt. By the time this was due it was clear that longer-term support was needed and A Ruffer & Sons, at that time a partnership, was incorporated as a limited company, the Bank of England taking £700,000 shares out of a total of just under £1 million in settlement of the firm’s debt. The Bank of England’s shares were held on account of Securities Trust Ltd in the names of certain directors of the firm.

The bank sustained losses in 1930 and 1931 arising from the credit collapse in Germany and Eastern Europe but, never heavily involved in the standstill countries, it managed to survive until the Second World War. Then, deteriorating conditions in France and Belgium and the call-up of some of the directors made winding-up inevitable.

In 1941 the company was liquidated voluntarily and the little banking business that remained was transferred to Glyn, Mills & Co, bankers of London, a major Securities Trust Ltd shareholder, in 1946. The company was finally dissolved in 1964.


Gover, Henry

Above: An advertisement in the Woolwich Gazette, relating to a talk by Henry Gover on Friday 30 October 1885. No photograph has been found for Henry Gover.

Henry Gover (c1835 – 25 March 1895), solicitor and educationist.

The site for the house called Lyncombe was acquired from the Dulwich Estate Governors in 1865 by Henry Gover. After the house was built, Gover lived there until his death in 1895

The youngest son of William Gover of Lee Park, Blackheath. He became a solicitor and in 1871 he was elected to Common Council of the City of London to represent Bridge Within Ward. The Ward formed a small part of the City around the north end of London Bridge. It was where the firm of ‘Messieurs Henry Gover and Son’ had their offices. The address was ‘No 3 Adelaide Place, London Bridge’ – an impressive address and, of course, within the Ward that he served.

Henry was a prominent member of the Methodist Church. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to find out what he was known for in that organisation or which place of worship he attended.

Henry Gover is remembered as ‘the father of the London School Board’. He was elected to the School Board of London at a by-election to fill a casual vacancy in the representation of Greenwich. He held the seat at eight subsequent elections. Henry was known for his opposition to the payment of school fees to denominational schools, although he was in favour of non-sectarian religious teaching in schools.

The School Board of London was established in 1870, the first in England. It was the most influential and one of the first truly democratically elected bodies in Britain, containing both men and women, including members of different social classes. Its members included five MPs, eleven clergymen, Thomas Huxley (the scientist), Emily Davies (suffragist and educationalist), Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon), Henry Gover, and Benjamin Lucraft (a famous craftsman and chair-carver in London and the only working-class man elected to the Board, where he campaigned for free education for all, among other issues). The Board’s politics were ambitious and progressive, passing a by-law compelling parents to send children to school as early as 1871 – when it was not compulsory nationally until 1880. However, while the stated intention was to keep children in school until the age of 13, the reality was that many left by the age of 10 to earn money to help keep their families. It wasn’t until 1900 that 13 became the compulsory school leaving age.

Henry Gover obtained Lyncombe, from the Dulwich Estate Governors in 1830 and lived there for the rest of his life. While living at Lyncombe he had the Pulhamite folly built in the large garden. He died at the house on 25 March 1895, aged 60. Where he was buried is not known but his brother William died a year earlier and was buried at Nunhead Cemetery, therefore it may be that Henry was also buried there.

Henry’s Brother

William Sutton Gover (17 November 1822 – 24 November 1894), a businessman and local politician.

He entered business as a brush-maker, later moving into the world of property. He subsequently became an actuary and managing director of the British Equitable Assurance Company and Chairman of the House Property & Investment Company and also of the Perpetual Investment Building Society.

William was elected to the Common Council of the City of London for Vintry Ward and served as one the City’s representatives on the London School Board from 1870-1873 and from 1876-1882. He was also a freemason and active High Church Anglican.

William was the author of ‘Facts and Figures about Life Assurance’, published in 1893. He was also a notable chess player.

William died at his residence at Casino House, Herne Hill in November 1894, aged 72. He was buried at Nunhead Cemetery.


Sydenham Hill in the Snow

Above: Heavy snow in 2009 creating a ‘winter wonderland’ around the Dulwich Wood House, with Lyncombe coach house barely visible in the distance.

It is only on a few occasions that deep snow falls in London, each one often separated by several years if not decades. The only problem is that, the deeper the snow, the harder it is a travel around and take photographs of this relatively rare event. In more recent times the council’s gritter lorries have been deployed to spread salt and grit on the roads which means that public transport – in the form of buses – usually maintains a regular service.

For those who lived at Lyncombe when it was first built in the 1860s, it must have really been a problem leaving the house under severe wintry conditions. There were almost no buses in the area. It is not likely that those who lived in the large house were too interested in such a mode of transport. They were wealthy residents who relied on their coachman, the horses and their private carriage to take them to their desired destination. Although Crescent Wood Road and Sydenham Hill are relatively flat, to venture any further meant negotiating steep hills – at the Forest Hill end, where the road drops down to the Horniman Museum; at the Crystal Palace Parade end, where some of those roads have even steeper gradients; or attempting to drive down to Sydenham, via Wells Park Road, which was little more than a country track before the 1900s.

Above: The entrance to Upper Sydenham Station, with its remaining ticket office now in use as a private house. The metal railings remain from the days of the railway which closed in the 1950s.

Of course, the residents could have travelled up to London by train. At one time there were two railway stations nearby. Sydenham Hill Station is still in existence. It can be reached on foot by negotiating the really steep footpath called Low Cross Wood. The other option was Upper Sydenham Station beside Wells Park Road. The line to Crystal Palace High-Level Station opened in 1865 but the station called Upper Sydenham did not open until 1884. It was closed in 1954 when the tracks on that line were removed. Access involved the hilly option of going down Wells Park Road. The residents of Lyncombe could have been driven to the station by their private coach but, in the snow, that would have been a perilous mission.

Above: The old pedestrian footpath for passengers walking on the north side of the Upper Sydenham Station is still in existence, although it leads to a housing estate today. The view gives the impression that the station was in the heart of the countryside, rather than a short walk from Crystal Palace Parade.

Those who lived at Lyncombe had several servants to look after them, one of which was the cook. This raises the question of how the food was brought to the house. It is likely that the staff used a particular grocer as well as other tradesmen, like bakers and fishmongers, who would have delivered the goods directly to the house. The mode of transport for the tradesmen would have been using a horse and covered cart, usually known as a van (being an abbreviation of ‘caravan’). There are no shops along Sydenham Hill. The two nearby rows of shops were, as they still are today, at Dulwich and at Sydenham. From either direction, the horse-drawn vehicle would have to ascend a steep gradient which, in deep snow, would be both difficult and dangerous. Sometimes, a tradesman who usually used one horse to pull the cart would attach an additional horse to assist in slippery conditions. Storing fresh food in Victorian times was not easy either because they did not have refrigerators and certainly no freezers. The humble larder had to be used to keep food cool and hope that it did not go rotten, or, in the case of milk, go sour or curdle.

Such Victorian conditions in London were still a reality in 1947. That year was very cold and probably more snow fell on London than any time since. The snow remained on the streets and pavements because very low temperatures continued for several weeks. Even in 1947, there were no mechanical gritter lorries like those the councils have today. A normal lorry was loaded with grit and men threw it onto the road as they stood on the back while it was slowly driven along the road. It was grit too, there was no salt to help break up the ice.

In 1947 our house was at the foot of a steep but quite short hill in Forest Hill. The baker still delivered bread in those days, probably once or twice each week. In the snow, he left his horse-drawn bread van in a side-road, at the foot of the hill and carried the bread in a large wicker basket to residents’ houses. The milkman delivered pint bottles of milk daily. The load on his horse-drawn milk-cart was heavier than the bread van because of the heavy milk bottles. Not only did he deliver the milk but he also collected the ’empties’. He came daily but he had a second horse to help with pulling the cart. The additional horse was attached by chains at each side to the shafts of the cart, in front of the first horse. If conditions were a little ‘primitive’ in the snow in 1947, one wonders what they were like on Sydenham Hill in say the 1880s.

Living at the top of steep hills is never easy in snowy conditions, even today. As we all know transport in London grinds to a halt when only a small amount of snow falls. Nevertheless, pictures taken under such conditions have their own charm, especially if you are viewing them in a house with good central heating.

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Residents at Lyncombe

Above: The date ‘1868’ shown above one of the windows that face onto the large lawn.

There is so much that one would like to know about the house and those who lived there. The early residents were wealthy Victorians and it would be fascinating to know more about them and the kind of lives they led. Sadly, their lives are only seen through the facts as recorded by the Dulwich College Archives and the rather unemotional data of the National Census and of Street Directories.

The following list is taken from various sources, including a document held in the Dulwich College Archives, showing the various residents and the dates when leases were assigned. Not all the known names of residents at Lyncombe are listed in the document, one notable early resident being Mr Gover. The typed document is claimed to be a transcript of the original documents which have ‘gone missing’ from the archives. It is to be hoped that the person who typed the transcript made an accurate copy of the original archives.

Mr Robert Palmer Harding of 8 Old Jewry, City of London, was the builder. Masonry on the house carries the date 1868.

27 July 1869 – The original lease was granted in respect of the property. Mr William Frederick James of 180 East Street, Walworth, purchased the property for £6,000.

9 Aug 1869 – lease assigned to Mrs M A Dover.

The site for the house was obtained from the Dulwich Estate Governors in 1865 by Henry Gover (c1835 – 1895), a well-known City solicitor and educationist. He and his large household at Lyncombe are on the 1871/1881/1891 census records. Gover died on 25 March 1895 at Lyncombe.

29 Oct 1897 – lease was assigned to Mr Pierre Maurice Rüffer (of 39 Lombard Street, EC), Banker. Pierre Maurice Rüffer died 20 Feb 1935.

27 Feb 1923 – lease passed to Francis Ellis of 26 & 27 Farringdon Street, EC, Merchant.

10 Dec 1924 – lease passed to Mr William Wilmott of 14 Richmond Road, Raynes Park, Merchant.

24 Jun 1926 – lease passed to Mr P M Ruffer to permit pupils for singing to be received at 1 Crescent Wood Road (Leonard Payling and Madame Lily Payling to give singing lessons to not more than two private pupils at a time).

13 Jul 1926 – assignment of the lease (dated 27 Feb 1923) – Francis Ellis to Leonard Payling and Madame Lily Payling.

29 Sep 1943 – surrender of the lease dated 27 Feb 1923 – Madame Lily Payling to Harold Read of 4 London Wall Buildings, the liquidator of A Ruffer and Sons Ltd.

Midsummer 1945 to 12 Jan 1951 – premises were let to Messrs Edwin Cook’s Depositories Ltd for storage of furniture taken from bomb damaged houses. Lyncombe suffered some minor bomb damage in the Second World War.

1952 – during the year this house was converted by the Estates Governors’ contractors Messrs Falkus Bros Ltd into four self-contained flats, one to each floor, with the work being completed at the end of 1953.