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Gothic Water Tower

Gothic Water Tower

There was a time when the well off moved away from the river unlike now when a riverside apartment is de rigueur. Back in the C19th Shooters Hill was the place for the factory owners, shipbuilders and landed gentry to build their mansions. It’s one of the highest points( 129 metres) in London and has magnificent views over to the city.

Sitting on the crest of the hill is a Victorian Gothic water tower which dominates the landscape. Opposite is the entrance to Oxleas woods: an ancient woodland thought to be one of the most important areas for wildlife in the whole of London. This wooded area dates back thousands of years so, its no surprise to know that it was a favourite haunt of highwaymen. Before entering the woods there is a wooden covered seat which looks like it has become detached from Christ Church but it is in fact a memorial to Samuel Edmund Philips (1848-1893) who had a large electrical cable factory on the Thames at Charlton. Hidden amongst the tall oak trees is an underground reservoir, the remains of Castle Wood House and Severndroog Castle.

Memorial Shooters Hill

Severndroog Castle is in fact a folly built by Lady James to commemorate her husband, Sir William James’ conquest of Severn Droog on the coast of Malabar 2nd April 1755. Now managed by the Severndroog Trust it is in the process of a complete restoration.

Severndroog Castle

Severndroog Castle


In the C17th this land belonged to Sir John Morden, who also built The College named after him in Blackheath. In 1869 Mr Barlow a ship owner leased the land and built Castle Wood House. It was demolished in 1922 a period when the gentry were on their uppers and struggling to keep their big piles going. Its shadow can still be seen in the landscape.

Castle House

Castle Wood House

Castle House

Castle Wood House

The walk through the woods is interrupted by open spaces. Look closely and you can see that they were once the gardens of Castle Wood House and they become more formal and symmetrical as you ascend. The terraces and stairs remain and from the top of these are spectacular views of London. Pieces of the original architecture provide interest with hidden arches and lichen encrusted walls.

Remains of Castle House

Remains of Castle Wood House

The underground reservoir is quite difficult to find. It’s in the area known as Oxleas Meadow.

Underground reservoir

Underground reservoir

Refreshments are available in the Oxleas Wood Cafe or The Bull. This ancient inn dates back to 1749 and was once a manor house and religious services were held there before Christ Church was built in 1854. Thankfully, it’s still a traditional boozer.

Greemwich Cemetery

If you’re a fan of Gothic there’s no better place to admire it than a Victorian cemetery. Greenwich cemetery is situated on the corner of Shooters Hill and Well Hall Road, so it’s actually Eltham. It may not be as famous as Highgate but its one of the largest cemeteries in London, with striking views across London and has two Gothic chapels. There’s even a connection with Russia. The Russian poet, political activist and exile, Nikolai Platonovich Ogarev (1813-1877) was buried here. In 1966 his remains were exhumed, cremated and his ashes taken back to Russia by two of the Soviet Writers’ Union. They were buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Greenwich Cemetery

There are some impressive examples of urns, obelisks and statues which have, sadly, become obscured by dense ivy and brambles. One obelisk commemorates Ellen Amelia (Nellie) aged 7 and her sister Olive Madeline aged 4, followed shortly afterwards by their parents Robert and Amelia Abbot Moore who both died on 19th August 1889. The imagined tragedy still heart-rending;the memorial set up for eternity now shrouded in vegetation.

Greenwich Cemetery

The cemetery is close to the Royal Herbert Hospital and the Royal Military Academy so, as you might guess, there’s some notable military personnel buried here. The grave of General Sir Arthur Holland, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy is confusing as it had the surname Holland and Butcher. Apparently he changed his name. James Jameson was a Surgeon General and Director of the Army Medical Services. On the noticeboard you will see an intriguing pink section which is the Norwegian area. Here are buried about thirty Norwegian refugees killed in the 2nd World War.

Greenwich Cemetery

A large white memorial to the dead of the First World War dominates the far end of the site. The view from this vantage point follows the Thames from Greenwich to Canary Wharf and the City. The inscription is: Their Name Liveth for Evermore. Scattered though the grounds are distinctive white huts with red roofs. All but one are boarded up. I’ve heard that prospective parents visit cemeteries to get ideas about names, you can do that here and there’s more to see.

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