Blue Plaques of Dulwich, East Dulwich & Herne Hill

We continue our series on the blue plaques of South London by talking about those commemorated in Dulwich, East Dulwich & Herne Hill. Though Dulwich and East Dulwich are firmly in the borough of Southwark, Herne Hill is in Lambeth or Southwark - depending on who you ask. Being in Southwark means that Dulwich and East Dulwich have a number of London Borough of Southwark plaques, as voted for the residents of Southwark, but there are good number of official plaques on this list. Some might find it slightly curious that East Dulwich has so many more plaques than its traditionally more fashionable neighbour Dulwich, however when you consider that a lot of the timelessly quaint Lordship Lane goes through East Dulwich, it's possibly not that surprising. That said, there are some rather interesting characters on this list of the blue plaques of Dulwich, East Dulwich & Herne Hiil, and they show off the varied range of individuals that have lived in the vicinity. 

John Ruskin - 26 Herne Hill

Art Critic

Though his house no longer stands here, and trying to find images of the current property is rather impossible, John Ruskin, the pre-eminent cultural thinker of the Victorian era, apparently lived in a house on this site - pictured on the left. Born in 1819, he spent his childhood at the house in Herne HIll, back when South London was undeveloped and nearby Camberwell was still a village. Having initially been home-schooled, he went to school in Peckham at the age of 15 in 1834, and then went onto study at King's College and Oxford. Something of a polymath, Ruskin wrote on numerous different topics, ranging from geology to political economy (and then some), whilst also using a wide variety of styles in said writings. His time in the area wasn't limited to his childhood, as later he moved to nearby address 30 Herne Hill with his wife Effie Gray. Not just a great thinker, Ruskin also assisted Octavia Hill - the saviour of Hilly Fields Park - in her housing projects by donating the large part of the inheritance he received in 1864, after the death of his father, to her and other philanthropic projects. Ruskin spent much of the 1860s lecturing, and his lectures were so popular he often had to give them twice. His influence wasn't limited to the UK - Tolstoy descibed him as "one of the most remarkable men not only of England and of our generation, but of all countries and times", while Gandhi was also known to be a fan. Clearly one of the most significant individuals to ever come from South London, he is commemorated by the the Ruskin College at the University of Oxford.

Enid Blyton - 354 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich

Writer (Southwark Plaque)

Though normally associated with Bromley, this plaque commemorates the birthplace of one of the most well-known children's author across the world - Enid Blyton. Blyton was born in East Dulwich in 1897, and spent the earliest part of her life at the house, before moving out to Beckenham before the birth of her two younger brothers after 1899. Best known for her 'Famous Five', 'Toyland' and her 'Secret Seven' series, Blyton was a pretty prolific writer known for writing about 10,000 words a day. Still a bestseller today, Blyton's books continue to be voraciously read the world over.

Boris Karloff - 36 Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich


It may come as a surprise to some, but underneath all that makeup there is a a real man, and that man's name was William Henry Pratt - better known as Boris Karloff. Born at 36 Forest Hill Road in 1887, Karloff had a stutter, a lisp and was bow-legged, but still managed to go onto have an immensely successful career in acting. Though born in East Dulwich (just Dulwich back then), Karloff spent his childhood in the dark reaches of Enfield. Having dropped out of King's College in 1909, Karloff moved to North America and began acting under the his later well-known stage name, while also working as a manual labourer. Having lived and worked in Canada for a number of years, Karloff arrived in Hollywood some point before 1918, when he made his first known screen appearance in a film serial called The Lightning Raider. After years of quite copious work supplemented by manual labour, Karloff's breakthrough role came in 1931 when he starred as The Monster in James Whale's Frankenstein, a role he would later reprise in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He would go on to enjoy a very successful film career, largely specialising in horror, but still appearing in a wide variety of films, and he is commemorated by two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - one for film and one for television.

Phyliss Pearsall - 3 Court Lane, Dulwich

Mapmaker (Southwark Plaque)

Commemorated at a house that is ironically difficult to find, Phyliss Pearsall is best known as the creator of the London A-Z. Born Phyliss Gross on Court Lane in 1906, she married Richard Pearsall, a friend of her brother, for eight years before leaving him. A talented portrait painter, the story goes that in 1935 she became lost while using a very out-of-date map to find the home of an individual she had been commissioned to paint, and saw a hole in the market. She employed some freelance draughtsmen, and set about trudging all the 23,000 streets of London, walking 3,000 miles, recording all the names of the streets and correctly listing the house numbers. The first edition was published in 1936, and millions of copies have been published since, covering every major city across the world.

C. S. Forester - 48 Underhill Road, East Dulwich


Though commemorated as C. S. Forester in East Duwlich, the man known as the author of the Horatio Hornblower series was actually born in Cairo as Cecil Louis Troughton Smith in 1899. After a family breakup, Forester initially grew up in nearby Peckham, and then moved to East Dulwich when he was 16 in 1915, while attending Alleyn's School and Dulwich College. Having finished school he went on to study medicine at Guy's Hospital, but left in 1921 without finishing his degree, and took up writing as a profession under the pen-name C. S. Forester. He continued to live in East Dulwich where his son John Forester was born in 1929, after which he moved to Sydenham. One of the more popular authors of his time, Forester also wrote The African Queen in 1935, while would later be made into a film by John Huston in 1951 starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart - for which Bogart would win his only Academy Award for Best Actor.

Edgar Kail - Edgar Kail Way, East Dulwich

Footballer (Southwark Plaque)

A man still sung about regularly on the terraces of Dulwich Hamlet's historic ground Champion Hill, some of you may not know who Edgar Kail is, but a sure sign of his legend is that not only has he a plaque, but that plaque is on a street named after him. Born in nearby Camberwell in 1900, Kail moved Dulwich in 1911. Having represented nearby Goodrich Road School and England Schoolboys, he signed for amateur side Dulwich Hamlet. Over a career of 18 years, Kail only played for Dulwich and scored 427 goals during that time while winning two FA Amateur Cups and also turning down numerous offers to play for top-flight professional clubs. He is the last man to represent England while playing for a non-league side, which he achieved during a continental tour of 1929. He gained three caps and scored twice. He also featured in our All-Time South London XI. We're pretty sure you'll recognise the bigger achievement.

Sax Rohmer - 51 Herne Hill


Born Arthur Henry Ward in Birmingham in 1883, Sax Rohmer was a prolific British novelist best known as the creator of the villainous character Dr. Fu Manchu. Having made a already made a decent living from writing, Rohmer was living on the Southwark side of Herne Hill when his first novel Pause! was published anonymously in 1910. He remained at the house while his Fu Manchu series brought him greater success, before moving with his wife to New York after the Second World War. 

Anne Shelton - 142 Court Lane, Dulwich

Singer (Southwark Plaque)

Another member of the prestigious Dulwich Change-Your-Name Society, Anne Shelton was born Patricia Sibley in Dulwich in 1928, and would live at 142 Court Lane from 1944 until her death in 1994. Largely remembered as a 'forces favourite' during the Second World War when she sun inspirational songs for the troops, Shelton's singing career began at the age of 12 when she was sang regularly on the radio show "Monday Night at Eight", and by the age of 15 she had a recording contract. She continued to have success after the war, and enjoyed a number 1 hit in 1956 with her song "Lay Down Your Arms".

Percy Lane Oliver - 5 Colyton Road, East Dulwich

Pioneer of Blood Donation

It was in 1921, while working as the honorary secretary for the local Camberwell Red Cross, that Percy Lane Oliver had the idea of setting up a system of voluntary blood donation. Working closely with the Red Cross, the system was organised and operated by Oliver and his wife from their home on Park Hall Road, and would grow into the National Blood Transfusion Service.

Alexander Parkes - 32 Park Hall Road, Dulwich

Scientist (Plastics Historical Society)

Alexander Parkes is commemorated by a group that needs no introduction, and we're pretty sure the vast, unquantifiable majority of you reading this will be members of - the Plastics Historical Society. The important question is though, who was Alexander Parkes? Well, though he was a metallurgist, Parkes dealt his own industry a serious blow by creating Parkesine in 1856, the first man-made plastic. He exhibited his creation at the 1862 London International Exhibition and set up the Parkesine Company at Hackney Wick in 1866. Though born in Birmingham, where he also commemorated, it was likely that he lived at 32 Park Hall Road in Dulwich during this time.

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