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A Glimpse Inside Severndroog Castle

July 5, 2014

These are tough times for our architectural heritage. The wrecking ball swinging through our streets is gaining a chilling momentum fuelled by the lure of filthy lucre. Local decision-makers have made some very bad ones and the Survey of London’s volume on Woolwich is strewn with those sad words: now demolished.

In this context, Severndroog Castle is a triumph. I went in search of it about three years ago, only to find a forlorn, boarded-up and graffiti-spattered pile on top of Shooters Hill. Closed to the public for more than 20 years, the old girl had fallen from grace and the pigeons had moved in. I found out, though, that a Building Preservation Trust was working hard to find the funds to restore the castle and save it from private developers. At last, they have succeeded.

In the late 18th century, a grieving widow built the castle in her husband’s memory. If Sir William and Lady James and the architect Richard Jupp could see it now, they would be chuffed. The restoration contractor Hilton Abbey has meticulously repaired, replaced, and enhanced the bits of the castle that had been left to rot, and has built a reassuringly safe and sturdy viewing platform at the top of it to allow the visitor to survey seven counties in one go. Inside, a café has been inserted into the ground floor and the rooms on the upper floors have been sensitively decorated in the style of the period. The castle’s fascinating history is told on information boards displayed throughout.

I visited on one of the castle’s recent soft-launch days. The view was the show-stopper, but for me it was much more than simply a stunning vista. Standing up there and seeing the land laid out all the way to Kent and Sussex and across Woolwich and Charlton to Blackheath and beyond to central London, my sense of southeast London pride welled up (as did my eyes briefly).

Being on top of your world, even for a moment, is a very fine feeling indeed.


Details: Severndroog is having a Grand Opening on July 20. After that, the tower’s summer hours will be Thursday, Friday, and Sunday 12:30pm to 4:30pm. The Castlewood Café is open every day except Mondays from 9am-5pm. See

Follow Severndroog on Twitter @Severndroog and the café @CastlewoodTea

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One Comment
  1. Deborah permalink

    Well done to all those who have reached this culmination of their efforts, against all odds, to save this wonderful building from private developers and to restore it to its former glory. The should be very proud. I wish them good luck for a successful and secure future.

    The preface to the latest volume of The Survey of London, written by Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, stresses the reason for choosing Woolwich at this time: “the decision to tackle Woolwich … were the urgings of colleagues in English Heritage and others outside the organization who feared the slighting of this special district’s past, understudied and undervalued, in a headlong rush to regeneration.” She goes on to describe the Survey as “some measure of elegy”. Sad, but unfortunately true.

    Whilst everyone welcomes measures to improve the economy of the area and the built environment, the “headlong rush to regeneration” in some parts of the borough could be reworded – “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

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