Pages

Monday, 20 May 2019

Time Team, Shooters Hill, and Shrewsbury House

Later this morning Sue and I will be walking the short distance to Shrewsbury House, our local community centre. From 10.30am to 12.30pm Andy Brockman (a local archaeologist) will be talking about the making of the TIME TEAM episode that was filmed on Shooters Hill during the Summer of 2007. During the excavations, the team of archaeologists, historians, researchers, geo-mappers, and artists from the TV programme searched for (and found) the remains of World War Two defences that we quickly built during the early months of the war, as well as what looked like the communications centre for members of the GHQ Auxiliary Units.

The latter were specially trained and highly secret units that were recruited by the United Kingdom government to wage irregular warfare against the occupying forces should the possible German invasion take place.

I understand that Andy Brockman was closely involved in making the programme, and will talk about how the programme came to be made, what it got right, and what it got wrong.

I actually visited the excavations, and heard Tony Robinson (the programme's presenter) ask one of the archaeologists if he had found the 'lost' anchor point for a barrage balloon. The reply was classic.

'Sorry Tony, we haven't. It's just the remains of another neolithic hearth.'

Shrewsbury House has an interesting history. The original building was constructed in 1789 for the Earl of Shrewsbury, but ten years later it was bought by the Prince Regent, later George IV, as a home for his daughter, Princess Charlotte. She lived in the house for a year, and it was subsequently owned by a number of wealthy people.


From 1908 until 1929, the grounds of Shrewsbury House were used as an Open Air School for delicate children with heart or lung problems, or those suffering from malnourishment. The school had three classes and the teaching staff was made up of a headteacher and three assistants. The non-teaching staff included a nurse, a cook, a helper and a school-keeper. The school was housed in a number of open-sided structures that were located in the gardens, and they were known as 'Doecker sheds'. They were canvas-sided and were impervious to rain. One side of each 'shed' was removable, while the others had windows.

The original building was demolished in 1923 (this did not affect the Open Air School, which continued to operate in the gardens), and a new building was erected on the same site. It eventually passed into local government ownership, and played an important part during the Second World War and the Cold War as a Civil Defence Control Centre. It has since become a local community centre, and is run by a Board of Trustees.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Bob, an interesting read as usual, I recall the Time Team episode very well, must have watched it at least three times over the years! Lovely to see the image of Shrewsbury House as my late Father in Law was the caretaker there as a retirement job. My eldest daughters attended after school classes there and used to love running around the building and the gardens, they also had disco birthday parties there so great memories of the place, areal local community asset. When I was a young teenager I used to pinch the used/lost golf balls from the course up there, got caught by the police and taken home to our house in Welling for a roasting by my parents!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Lee,

      It was interesting to hear about why TIME TEAM chose to dig on Shooters Hill, and to discover what happened after the filming. For example, the 'the communications centre for members of the GHQ Auxiliary Units' turned out to be a pair of purpose built air raid shelters for the two homes in whose garden it is situated.

      Shrewsbury House is a very useful community asset, even though it is the least well funded of all of the community centres in the Borough. My wife and I support it as much as well can, and like many locals, will fight any attempts to close it.

      You pinched golf balls off the course at Shooters Hill? You couldn't do that nowadays as the foxes seem to have a monopoly of taking them, even off the fairway!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  2. Should read "wonderful local community asset".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Lee,

      I guessed you meant something like that.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete