Shooters Hill is indeed “steeped in history”
Casual passers-by will see the landmark water tower and woods to the left and right. But they are walking in the steps of ancient Britons, Romans, Saxons and, later, in particular William III, also of Ann of Cleves and Prince Albert on their way to their marriages. Indeed if the Battle of Britain had not succeeded it would have been the route of the German Army. The high ground above the City and the Thames gives the Hill a strong strategic military importance.
There is the history of the grand houses that adorned the Hill, and the fact that Shooters Hill had its Spa which provided medicinal waters with many coming to the Hill for a cure. The chance meeting of the son of Charles I and John Shaw in Amsterdam meant that, through a quirk of history, the south side of the hill remained undeveloped. It was this open space that was called the “lung of London ”.
On the Hill Princess Charlotte received her education, the young Enid Bagnold wrote her novels and the Duke of Wellington had rooms in the country’s finest hostelry, the old Bull Inn. Some of the first experiments in electricity were made on the Hill, and later experiments in the use of gas lighting.
On the darker side it was the haunt of highwaymen and footpads who preyed on the unsuspecting traveller. It was also here that they were hung and their bodies displayed in gibbets. Dick Turpin is said to have worked the Hill for a time.
Today the Hill’s history goes mainly unnoticed; the hidden spigot mortar from World War 2; Severndroog Castle, now hidden away in the woods but once the prominent building on the Hill (as the Water tower is now), the mounting stone by the Bull and possibly the oldest site, the ancient burial mound at Brinklow Crescent.
Near the burial mound is the Old (it is now flats) Fire Station, shown above, its centenary in 2012. Note how the doors were widened across the bow to the right.
The Shooters Hill Local History Group keeps all this alive, watching, protecting and educating.