The following is based on an extract of the history of St Stephen’s entitled The story of St Stephen’s Church South Dulwich, a Beacon in Times of Peace and War (by Michael Goodman, 2007, available on sale from the parish office).
Not long after St Stephen’s was built, an event of subsequent significance occurred when Camille Pissarro, the renowned French Impressionist painter, brought his family to England to avoid the rigours of the Franco-Prussian war.
In a letter to his friend Wynford Dewhurst in 1902 he wrote: ‘In l870 I found myself in London with (Claude) Monet, and we met Daubigny and Bonvin. Monet and I were very enthusiastic over the London landscapes. Monet worked in the park’ – he in fact stayed at The Savoy Hotel – ‘whilst I, living in Lower Norwood, at that time a charming suburb, studied the effects of fog, snow and springtime.’
During the time he was here, Pissarro painted several scenes in the Dulwich area, including Dulwich College, Crystal Palace Parade and Lordship Lane station with a steam train very much in evidence, running past.
In particular, he painted St Stephen’s church from what is now College Road, looking up the hill with the church on the right and the Crystal Palace looming over the trees in the distance (now the site of the BBC Television Mast!). The wood remains one of the few areas untouched since Pissarro’s day by the spread of the city, save that the once tranquil scene is now disturbed by the rows of parked motor cars left there by commuters using Sydenham Hill Station.