A “castle” built over 200 years ago in South Dulwich has been under conservation work for the past few years, and will open to the public next weekend with free tours of the building.

(c) Kingswood Arts

Kingswood House was built in 1811, but its most famous owner was John Johnston who bought it in 1891 and added the stone facade and castle battlements that now make it so distinctive. As Johnston was also the inventor of Bovril, the house gained the nickname locally of Bovril Castle.

The home was later owned by Sir William Vestey, but was compulsorily purchased in 1956 by the Borough of Camberwell, later Southwark Council, to use as a community centre and library. Later also used for conferences and weddings, but it has been empty for several years after the library closed. Until now — as it has been taken on by Kingswood Arts to run the building as a community arts centre.

(c) Kingswood Arts

The newly restored building will be opening its doors to the public for the first time in many years next weekend — with a weekend of opening events.

On Saturday 8th April they will be opening the doors and grounds for everyone to come and see the new look Kingswood, find out more about their plans for the building and enjoy some easter family fun.

On Sunday 9th April they will be launching a new social history project alongside the Friends of Kingswood House and the Social Change Agency. This will be a deep dive into local history, unveiling the secrets of Kingswood’s history.

They will be conducting free tours on the Sunday at 10am, noon and 2pm – which need to be booked in advance from here. (now sold out)

The rest of the events will take place on both days from 10am to 5pm – with details here.

The building is in the Kingswood Estate, about half way between Sydenham Hill and Gypsy Hill stations.


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  1. Tina Smith says:

    Thanks for the information on Brovil Castle. Just recently I attend a meeting held at the tenants hall on the estate, I was so amazed by the building itself, exceptional beautiful and to see the estate built around it very nice, adequate green open space nice view. It is great that the castle has been restored and made useful for local residents,community and social events. Having historical buildings restored is
    a good thing for the environment, re-use refurbished.
    The reinstatements benefit local people, and offers a part of history on your door step. I looking forward to the tour over the weekend.

  2. tracey goodwin says:

    I had my wedding reception at Kingswood House in 1981

  3. Brenda Mansworth says:

    Please could you tell me how to get tickets to see Kingswood House as the link on here doesn’t appear to be working.

    Thank you.

    • ianVisits says:

      The form says it’s no longer accepting responses – so they’ve run out of tickets.

  4. Joanne Spindler says:

    I had my wedding reception here in 1981 having lived on the Estate my whole life.
    We had my mother’s funeral wake here in April 2015. Her name was Joan Stewart and she was part of the women’s group who created the tapestry showing Kingswood House with portraits of owners in the foreground through it’s history.
    Was this tapestry saved? It was installed in the main vestibule above the wood panelling opposite the toilets.

  5. Pamela Farley nee edmonds says:

    I had my wedding reception in the Vestey Room in 1967 and my brother had his in the same room in 1969

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