Reasons for Designation
Shrewsbury House is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
- Architectural interest: a handsome and substantial early C20 country house with varied and well-articulated external elevations and interiors in a Jacobean, early C18 and Adam style.
- Materials: constructed of good quality brick and stone.
- Craftsmanship: fine plastered ceilings, good quality joinery including staircase, panelling, doors and wooden or marble fireplaces. Two bathrooms retain decorative ceramic tiles.
- Intactness: an unaltered exterior and the interior is intact except for one plastered ceiling.
- Subsidiary features: the attached pergola, terrace walling, gazebo and boundary walls with cast iron gates and railings survive intact and contribute to the building’s interest;
- Historical interest.
This house is a link to the demolished C18 house of the same name and associated with the Prince Regent and Princess Charlotte and also had a significant local wartime and cold war role as a civil defence control centre.
Shrewsbury House was built in 1923, replacing a house of the same name situated further up the hill to the north-east. The earlier Shrewsbury House had been built in 1789 for the Earl of Shrewsbury, a descendant of Bess of Hardwick.
In 1799 the house and grounds came into the ownership of the Prince Regent, later George IV, and his daughter Princess Charlotte stayed there in that year. Subsequently the house went through a series of private ownerships.
The First Edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey maps for Kent (1864) and London (1869) show Shrewsbury House surrounded by gardens including a pond, conservatory and walled gardens. By the Second Edition map of 1896 (London) and 1897 (Kent) Shrewsbury House had become a convalescent home for children.
In 1908 nine acres of the grounds at the top of Shooters Hill was purchased by the London County Council (LCC) as a public park. By the Third Edition map of 1909 (Kent) and 1916 (London) the property was still in use as a convalescent home for children.
In 1916 Shrewsbury House and the southern part of the grounds was bought by Fred Halse, a former mayor and Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent between 1926-1934 and, according to an advertisement in the Kentish Independent of 8 May 1935 for Halse and Sons, an established builder.
In 1923 Fred Halse demolished the old Shrewsbury House and built a large house to the south-west on the southern part of the grounds for his own occupation. On 19 April 1930 ‘The London Gazette’ reported the firm of Douglass Halse and Co. Ltd. going into voluntary liquidation.
In 1933 Shrewsbury House and an acre of gardens were sold to Woolwich Council for £9000 for a library and museum, although the museum was never realised. The remaining part of the grounds was developed as a Laing estate of suburban houses between 1935-39.
Strangely the Fourth Edition 6 inch Ordnance Survey map of 1938 does not include Shrewsbury House even though the surrounding suburban houses of the Laing estate are shown.
The house was used as a Civil Defence Control Centre during the Second World War and into the Cold War until 1968. Shrewsbury House is currently (2012) in use as a community centre.
The house is mainly constructed of red brick in stretcher bond with stone dressings and porticos and has a hipped roof with projecting wooden modillion cornice and three tall moulded brick chimney stacks with round-headed panels.
Windows are mainly wooden multi-pane mullioned and transomed casements with rubbed brick voussoirs.
This is a symmetrical house of two storeys and attics aligned north-east to south-west with a single-storey south-east service end.
The north-west or entrance front is of eleven-bays, the central five-bays recessed and the end three-bays on each side projecting. The five central bays have three hipped dormers, five casement windows to the first floor, taller casement windows on the ground floor and a central door case with round-headed fanlight and double doors.
In front of the central three bays is a large Ionic portico with balustraded parapet above and a black and white marble floor. The projecting end three-bays on each side have rusticated stone quoins. Attached at the south end is the single-storey service end which has three mullioned and transomed casements.
The north-east end elevation has four unevenly spaced casements on the first floor; the ground floor has two larger similar windows to the centre, end curved bays with moulded stone cornices and central French windows with rectangular fanlights with intersecting glazing bars above, flanked by narrow side-lights.
The south-east or garden front has eleven bays to the main house. The recessed central five bays have three hipped dormers, casement windows to the first floor and a central curved bay to the ground floor with French windows with a rectangular fanlight, flanked by two narrower doors on each side. The returns to the projecting end bays have round-headed niches. There is a curved stone Ionic portico with a balustraded parapet to the first floor and a black and white stone marble floor. The projecting end three bays on each side have mullioned and transomed casements which are taller on the ground floor. The single-storey service end has two windows and two doors.
Linked to the house on the south-east side is a path of York stone paving and a brick pergola with a low wall with tiled capping and piers with some tiles-on-edge and wooden cross beams. This is attached to brick terrace walling in English bond with terracotta capping, incorporating square piers and circular stone steps. This leads in a northerly direction, terminating in a brick gazebo with a hipped tiled roof, round-headed multi-pane windows and a round-headed entrance on the north-west side.
Also linked to the pergola and terrace walling is the brick perimeter wall which is about six feet high in English garden wall bond with a splayed base, pilasters at regular intervals. Three rusticated brick gate piers on the south side enclose a double vehicular and a single pedestrian gate of cast and wrought iron with elaborate scrollwork to the upper panels and overthrows. There are similar boundary walls on the east and west sides and on the north side is a low brick wall surmounted by iron railings.
The main entrance into the house from the north-west leads directly into a panelled entrance hall with a marble fireplace and a plastered ceiling with a circular high relief carving of fruit and paterae.
The northern large reception room, probably a drawing room but used as a library from the 1930s, has plank and muntin oak panelling, two four-centred arched stone fireplaces and a plastered strapwork design ceiling, moulded cornice and wall panels above the panelling.
The central south-east facing room, probably a morning room, has an Adam style plastered ceiling, panelled walls with a dado rail and a wooden fireplace with a central panel with urn and scroll work, end sheep’s heads and pilasters over a marble grate.
The adjoining room to the south, probably originally the dining room, has early C18 style oak panelling with a dado rail and a marble fireplace with eared architraves.
A further room on the south side of the north-west front has a wooden fireplace and over mantel with Ionic columns, plastered cornice and a ceiling with high relief circular moulding, and was probably originally a study.
The main staircase, of oak with a central well, turned balusters, square newel posts and dado panelling, leads to the upper floors.
The first floor rooms retain wooden fireplaces mainly with marble interiors (although a small room adjoining the staircase has a painted tiled interior), cornices, picture rails and skirting boards. A former bathroom has tiling decorated with ribbons and grape garlands and another has two-tone green tiles with embossed swags. The attic floor rooms retain smaller wooden fireplaces with blue or beige tiles.
Panelled doors and wooden parquet floors survive throughout the building.