After decades of closure, South London’s very own castle is to be opened to the public again.
After several decades of neglect, and more than a decade of campaigning to raise funding, the castle restoration started last year, and will open to the public, along with the obligatory cafe, next month.
Severndroog Castle is in fact less a castle than a folly, albeit one that looks not unlike a small castle. Built in the middle of a wood near Eltham, in 1784 as a memorial to Sir William James by his wife.
She wanted to celebrate Sir William’s most famous exploit when he destroyed the fleet and stronghold of pirates on the island fortress Severn Droog on the west coast of Malabar, India in 1755.
She died herself in 1798, and over the years, the castle passed through a number of private owners, and was nearly demolished in 1847 by plans for a massive cemetery on the site.
In around 1850, public access to the tower was closed, and in 1922 it was sold to the public in the guise of the London County Council.
During WW2 it proved to be a useful watchpoint for the Royal Observer Corp, who watched out for enemy bombers. It’s the view from the top that is likely to be as awesome today as it was useful then.
Closed once again to the public in 1986, it has been derelict and rotting ever since.
I used to live nearby, and it is a significant local landmark, and I have often stood wistfully at the barred metal doors and occasionally pushed at them in the vain hope that the locks might have finally rusted away and would yield hidden delights within.
It has on at least one occasion been open before, on Open House Weekend, but a conspiracy of railway closures, bus delays, and a car crash prevented my arrival until after the castle closed for the day.
But now it will open on a more permanent basis — with the aforementioned cafe funding the running costs. As the castle is essentially in the middle of nowhere else interesting, the cafe is probably going to be a welcome break, although I do worry that it might take traffic away from the other cafe in the woods
Entry is a mere £2.50 [map link]