BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Things to do
People & Places
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near London

Beds Herts Bucks
Southern Counties

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Restoration 2004 - Severndroog Castle
Severndroog castle
Severndroog Castle

Severndroog Castle is a lasting monument to a courageous seafarer but it now lies derelict and abandoned....


Strawberry Hill

Audio: Listen to Griff Rhys Jones chatting to BBC London's Danny Baker
So You Want To Save An Historic Building?

Restoration campaign packs are available by calling 08700 100 150 or by logging on to the website.

The pack contains information about how to launch a campaign to save a historic building, where to get grants and who to contact for advice.

The pack also contains information and contact details for the 21 Restoration buildings.


Do you have fond memories or stories connected with Severndroog Castle?

Email us now

360 panorama of Severndroog Castle - click here


National Trust

English Heritage - Restoration

Severndroog Castle

(The BBC cannot be held responsible for the content of external websites.)


Listing: Grade II*
Date of building: 1784

Architect 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.

On 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.
There is a map and directions on our website

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle

The 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.

It 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!.

In 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 hasn’t been fogotten by the local community.

Last year the council tried to lease it to a private company on a 150 year lease.

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 tower.

Local schoolkids on a visit to Severndroog

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.

Once an elegant and refined property, the building is now in a sorry state.

Graffiti is a problem at Severndroog

Boarded 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 modern-day pirates?

Severndroog has seen various owners over the years and during the Second World War it housed radar equipment and was used for spotting planes.

It 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 safety risk.

Severndroog Castle,
Shooters Hill,

So, who was Sir William James? Click here>>

Your emails

I was born and raised at Shooters Hill though now retired and living in France.
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 those days.
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 of it.
The castle was built to commemorate a battle near Madagascar I forget the date.
many happy memories came back after hearing it mentioned this on BBC.

I have 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.
Carol Doust

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.

Sometimes, 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.

I have 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

Patricia McKinnon-Lower

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!
Madeleine Minto

I echo the memories of those that have written about Sevendroog but here's a couple more:

In 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.

Another 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.

I can't 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.
Chris Piller

I moved 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.
Bridget Carrington

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.

Nigel Fletcher
Shooters Hill, SE18

As 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)

I was 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.

Let's hope the castle can be saved for future generations to enjoy.
Roger Bullen

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 there!

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 Castle.

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.
Barry Gray
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!

Liz Wells

E-mail BBC London
  Make this my homepageMake this my Homepage
More Violent clashes at carnival finale
More Police stop-and-search code launched
More Rail commuters faced severe delays
  BBC London News
VideoView with Realplayer
  BBC London 94.9fm  
  Listen to 94.9fm live! Listen live
Latest Travel and News
Latest travel and news
  Local history including Nelson, Greenwich and the famous Crystal Palace  
  Tower of LondonClick through amazing shots of London from high up in a helicopter!  

Take a Thames Tour of Rotherhithe including the home of London's whaling and timber trades


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

  Over 100 panoramic views of London including Tower Bridge, Docklands and inside Concorde  

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy