Discover 400 years of The Dulwich Estate

Our neighbourhood has a fascinating history. Find out about The Dulwich Estate and how it has changed over the last four centuries.

1605: Edward Alleyn buys the Manor of Dulwich

In 1605, leading actor, director and theatrical impresario Edward Alleyn purchased the Manor of Dulwich. Some years later, he created a charitable foundation in Dulwich with the aims of educating the young and accommodating the elderly, endowing it with his estate and other property.

Edward Alleyn

Edward Alleyn, actor and founder of The Dulwich Estate

Picture credit: Dulwich Picture Gallery

1616: The Chapel is consecrated

In September 1616, Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift was consecrated. It was the first building to be funded by Alleyn’s foundation.  

Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift

Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift

1616: The Dulwich Almshouse opens

Later that same month, the first of the “poor brothers and sisters” was admitted to live in ground floor rooms of the Chapel. They were the first almspeople and came from four parishes with which Alleyn was closely associated: St Botolph’s Bishopsgate (where he was born); St Saviour’s Southwark (where he had lived and been Churchwarden); St Giles Cripplegate (where his Fortune Theatre was situated); and the parish of Camberwell, in which his Manor lay.

Picture credit: Dulwich College

 Dulwich College 1750

Dulwich College 1750

1619: The College is founded

Alleyn’s intention was “. . to found and establish a college in Dulwich to endure and remain for ever . .” and in 1619, that came to fruition when Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift opened. As promised, it provided education for twelve poor scholars, but also offered places to fee paying pupils.

A Victorian engraving of Dulwich College

A Victorian engraving of Dulwich College

1626: The death of Alleyn and his legacy 

Alleyn himself ran the College until his death in 1626, but secured its future by signing statutes that ensured the continued maintenance of the school and support for the poor scholars.