Date of building: 1784
Richard Jupp was by no means the most famous or interesting of architects
but he created an exciting building in Severndroog in memory of
sea-faring Sir William James.
DAY - SUNDAY 25th JULY
Sunday 25th July there will be an Open Day from 12 noon until
4pm at Severndroog Castle . The building will be partly opened,
(to first floor level), and you will be able to see parts of
the Castle not seen by the public since 1939. There will be
guided tours, live music, picnic areas and pirates! There will
also be fun for children. So, if you have memories of Severndroog
or are just intrigued and captivated by this wonderful, romantic
building why not come along.
is a map and directions on our website www.severndroogcastle.org.uk
tower has belonged to the local community since 1922, when the London
County Council bought it and has some of the most spectacular views
across London. On a clear day you can see across seven counties.
is very fondly remembered by many people (see emails below).
From the 20s until the mid-80s the tower and its beautiful woods
was a favourite destination for local families.
A tearoom on the ground floor would serve drinks and cakes or families
would picnic in the grounds.
For a treat people would pay the tower keeper and climb to the top
to view some of the most breathtaking views of London.
You can see seven counties on a clear day, as far afield as Bedfordshire!.
1986, the GLC was abolished and Severndroog passed to Greenwich
Council who closed it. Since then it has fallen into disrepair.
The beauitful tower has become something of an eyesore - boarded
up and derelict. A haven for pigeons and vandals. But it hasnt
been fogotten by the local community.
year the council tried to lease it to a private company on a 150
There was a public outcry. A 4,000 strong petition objecting to
this and calling for Severndroog to be made accessible to local
people was collected in a matter of weeks and submitted to the council.
Those plans are now on hold and the council has thrown its weight
behind the campaign to try and secure restoration funding for the
plan would be to restore it. The building is structurally sound.
Campaigners estimate £1m would get it back on its feet.
It would pay its way by being hired out for functions and weddings.
an elegant and refined property, the building is now in a sorry
is a problem at Severndroog
up for 20 years, it has fallen victim to vandalisation and a pirate
radio station has even attempted to put their antenna on the roof.
The question begs, what would Sir William James have done with these
has seen various owners over the years and during the Second World
War it housed radar equipment and was used for spotting planes.
was bought by the LCC (London County Council) in 1922, which later
became the GLC (Greater London Council), and from there went to
Greenwich Council, who have done little to preserve it.
Today, there is no public access and it is considered a health and
So, who was Sir William James? Click
I was born and raised at Shooters Hill though now retired and living
I well remember the castle and its little cafe tearoom on the ground
floor where as kids we could buy drinks and penny ice lollies. You
had to be a certain age to go to the top to look at the view,price
one penny, my big sister or my father would often take us up there.
also the woods around the castle abounded with red squirrels in
There was also a lovely putting green just before the castle as
you entered Castlewoods
The view was spectacular but as the trees grew they masked a lot
The castle was built to commemorate a battle near Madagascar I forget
many happy memories came back after hearing it mentioned this on
walked various pet dogs in Castlewood for more than 40 years and
have very fond memories of Severndroog Castle. There used to be
a cafe on the ground floor and many times I have stopped for a cup
of tea or an ice cream.
I have climbed to the top of the Castle many times as well to survey
the wonderful view, one of the best in south east London in my opinion.
They say that on a good day from the top of the Castle you can see
seven counties. It cost just three old pence to climb to the roof
of the Castle. I still walk in Castlewood frequently and would love
to see the Castle restored, possibly housing a museum devoted to
Oxleas Woods, of which Castlewood is part, and to Eltham. I hope
one day to be able to climb to the top again and renew my acquaintance
with the wonderful view. It has been so sad to see this building
deteriorating through lack of use.
Cold, bright, Sunday mornings. At one of the highest points
of one of the oldest and most beautiful stretches of ancient woodland
in London stands the peculiar, yet eminently noble, Sevendroog castle.
As a child, the thrill of seeing this strange, compelling, structure,
outlined against the blue sky and proudly peering above the treetops,
was too much to walk by without wanting to run to the top.
and it was impossible to predict when this would be, the small door
at the base of the tower would be open and we would, for the price
of 5 pence, be allowed to climb to the top where we could see the
entire world. Various landmarks could be identified by looking along
wooden grooves carved into the edge of the observation gallery,
each labeled with the landmark to which they pointed. This, coupled
with the spectacular view of the woodland, made Sevendroog Castle
one of the most magical places I have ever visited. I hope it survives.
lived in south-east
London all my life and when we were children my dad was very keen
on taking the four of us to "the country". As well as
our outings to places such as Downhan, Farnborough, etc. When we
did not have time to go so far afield our dad would take us on the
89 bus to Shooters Hill, where we had a huge expanse of woods to
play in. At the entrance to Jack Wood and Oxleas Wood was a shady
wooded path which after a few minutes led to a delightful open,
grassy area where to the right was a putting green and to the left
more wooded area.
The reason my mother used to accompany us on these particular walks
and not on others was the possibility that she may be able to have
a game of "putting" with us all. She did not particularly
enjoy long walks but after playing putting she would be happy to
sit outside the glorious Severndroog to await our return from playing
hide and seek in the woods A few hundred yards further on from the
putting green, lying directly ahead of us, stood the majestic if
somewhat shabby Severndroog Castle. It was open on the ground floor
to the public as a cafeteria, providing much needed refreshments
for walkers, hikers and putters alike.
I cannot remember if the other floors of this building were accessible
to the public but, nevertheless the very fact that we could enter
such a grand building filled us with a sense of mystery, and an
atmosphere of history was present at all times. The grounds around
the castle were always well maintained. The rose gardens which lay
directly beneath the caslte grounds were a delight to walk through.
These are still there.
Further down the steps before arriving at the woods level there
is a distinctive tree brought over from America and the ownly one
planted in these grounds - a Sequoia [ or Redwood. Everu time I
go back to these woods a part of my childhood leaps out to grab
me. We have fought so hard in later years to save Oxleas wood from
desecration. Developers wished to uproot some of the oldest trees
in existeence in order to build a road for the planned Thames river
crossing. We saved the area from that fate. Let's fight to save
this wonderful castle, too
Do I remember Severndroog Castle? It is a fantastic folly, the
stuff that dreams are made of.
I grew up in the early sixties on Shooters Hill. My mum would often
take me out to the parks and woods for the day Shrewsbury Park,
Eaglesfield (which the had a huge paddling pool) or to Oxleas Woods
but it was always a special treat to go up to Jack Woods and then
into Castle Woods.
You would approach the woods up atrack from Shooters Hill, half
hidden by the school and near my old Brownie Hut. Up past a beautiful
cottage - I always wondered who lived there and if they were nervous
about living in the woods - past the green, through the tress and
then there it was! A castle? No. A triangular tower where you'd
least expect a tower to be! And what a name! Full of mystery for
a young mind.
Not only was it a stupendous vision it also served a purpose. Through
the large double doors was a tearoom (always a joy in my mind!)
abley run by Mrs. Newman, a neighbour from our road, Moordown. Sadly
Mrs Newman died recently. On warm days table and chairs were put
outside, or just inside during less clement weather. Toilet facilities
were outside, were they triangular too? I can't remember that. Once
tea was done the fun began with a trip to the top of the tower.
Up the stairs, past the different floors to the very top. My child's
mind wondered who had lived there, what had been the purpose of
each floor, what had the people done there. Finally you would reach
the summit and you were on top of the world!
Spectacular views across Kent and London. You could practically
smell the sea all those miles away, you could breathe in the maritime
connections with the Thames. Sometimes you could even hear the boats
horns. Modern landmarks such as the trendy GPO Tower, Tower Bride
and the Nat West Tower dominated the London side and across the
countryside extensive views evoking thoughts of Dick Turpin and
the Roman army advancing up the A2.
All the parks had tearooms in those days but none as thrilling as
that in Castle Woods. I have returned but the viewing platform was
closed and the tearoom had long since been closed. Nevertheless
all the friends I have taken to see my secret castle in the woods
have been genuinely thrilled to have discovered it. And I always
had a dream that one day the council or who ever owned it would
let me go and live in my tower on the hill.
Let's hope it wins!
I echo the memories of those that have written about Sevendroog
but here's a couple more:
the mid-sixties the Country experimented with double summer time
- two hours forwards , not the one hour as is now. I remember a
magical evening with my family , Mum and Dad , Aunts and Uncles
- it was light until well after 11pm and the view from near the
castle (probably not the top) was a surrounded by a warm, red haze.
was a visit from some friends from deepest Somerset in the seventies.
We used to have a week's holiday with them but this time we had
them to stay instead. I think that they thought of London as a smelly
concrete jungle until we exhausted them climbing the steps of the
Castle and the staggering view from the top.
remember the last time that it was open but it must be the best
part of 15 years - just imagine the change in the London skyline
since then but what can be done with it to keep it safe and pay
for its upkeep in the future? What about the surrounding gardens
and masonry structures? - they're all pretty crumbly now.
to Donaldson Road, on the Woolwich side of Shooter's Hill, in 1948,
at just over a year old. Castlewood, and Severndroog Castle in particular,
were a regular weekend walk for us, climbing the tower and then
recovering with a cup of tea in the tearoom on the ground floor!
As a small child, to me it was always 'Lancelot's Castle', inhabited
by Lancelot the Giant, a character in my favourite storybook.
Later I discovered its considerable significance both architecturally
and historically, and when I moved away from London in 1968, I rashly
assumed that its future was secure, and that it would be preserved
with the care that the LCC and the GLC had given it.
When I returned in 2001 however, with my own family, to show them
this fascinating place from my childhood, I was appalled to see
its condition, boarded up, vandalized and inaccessible to the public.
It must be returned to its former glory, both as a significant folly
and as an asset for the community. By supporting the campaign highlighted
by the BBC Restoration programme, I fully intend to ensure that
my grandchildren, and their's, will be able to experience the magic
of Severndroog I remember from my childhood.
Living near to Severndroog castle, I have often thought how
sad it is that it was left to deteriorate into the state in which
we now see it. I first encountered it, as I am sure many people
do, by accident whilst on a walk in Oxleas Wood, and found it delightful.
I now know a little of its history, but have been fascinated to
learn more throught the Restoration coverage. Hopefully viewers
will agree that it is a worthy choice to be saved for the community.
Shooters Hill, SE18
a child in 1949 to1957 i lived in Rose Cottage about 100yds from
Sevendroog Castle. My father was a park keeper at the time,and at
the end of the day it was part of his duty to go to the top of the
castle,and take the flag down, he often took me up there with him,
it always seemed so exciting to go up the spiril stairs and run
round the the top and look at the wonderful views.My mother ran
the little teashop at the bottom of the castle,she has told me it
cost 1 penny to go to the top and tuppence for a cup of tea,i have
lovely memories of that time living in the woods,and i shall be
watching Restoration with great interest and hoping for a good outcome
for the lovely old castle.
Joan Smye (nee Stacey)
born a brought up in Plumstead, and can clearly recall visits to
Severndroog Castle in Castle Woods and the breathtaking views from
the top of the tower. If the shop was open there was always a chance
of an ice cream to enjoy on the walk home through nearby Shrewsbury
Park. What happy days they were.
hope the castle can be saved for future generations to enjoy.
As a child I lived on Shooters Hill (now in West Yorkshire!)
- I attended Christ Church Primary School during the nineteen fifties.
If the park-keeper who featured on the programme this evening ever
found piles of chocolate buttons in the room on the first floor
it was me! My brother used to take me to the cafe for a treat but
we had to buy a packet of chocolate buttons which, in turn, were
pushed under the door - supposedly for the 'teddy boys' who lived
During school time we were allowed to play on the field behind the
school and nature walks often took us up past the Castle.
My parents ran the Scout Troop attached to Christ Church so I also
remember many wide games with clues played out up by Severndroog
I returned about 5 years ago and was saddened to see the way in
which it had deteriorated - it would be great to see it restored.
Mary Anslow (nee Chapman)
To all who have contributed reminiscences, helped in a hundred
other ways, and voted for us, our heartfelt thanks. Thank you all
for doing all you can to restore this unique and wonderful building.
Chair, Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust
In the 1950/60's I lived on top of Shooters' Hill. I used to
look out for the Castle, from the bus running towards Woolwich Common.
I remembered that that part of the Greenbelt, used to be called
Castle Woods, with Jack Woods, next door, and then Oxleas Woods.
There were other remnants of the private ownership of these woods,
including a south facing arrangement of brick steps, on a steep
incline, which we called the "sun trap". I remember the
lightening strike that brought one side of this beautifully kept
garden area down.
I now live on the South Coast, and am delighted that Restoration
has provided me with the story behind Severndroog Castle, glimpsed
so often as something mysterious and romantic, from the top of a
London Bus, in my London childhood. Thank you. It's got my vote!