Vanbrugh Castle School

An ex-owner reminisces

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An Owner Reminisces

Susan says: December 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm

My husband was a teenager when his parents bought the detached portion of Vanbrugh Castle in the late 1970′s. I visited the home many times before they retired and sold their house in the late 1990′s.

When they bought it, it was still configured as a science lab left over from the school days, complete with bunsen burners and the building built out back was a classroom that they kept as a summer cabana. It was always referred to as the classroom. Since they were starting from scratch, they created a reverse floor plan with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms on the lower level. An wrought iron spiral staircase takes one upstairs through an oversized arched door into the formal living spaces which is a large open living dining room, very high ceilings and windows with lovely views. The kitchen and study are adjacent to the living/dining room.

My husband tells me that as a teenager, he did indeed go into the tunnels and while he never actually went the entire distance… his guess is that one of the tunnels ends near Maze Hill Station. Perhaps dug out as evacuation tunnels for the school during WWII?

He and his brothers also made use of what they called the “dungeon”. A large underground room which they and their mates decked out with music and cushions to hang out and be a loud as they pleased. In one instance, one of the lads had rather smelly socks and at the heckling of the mates, he took them off and set them on fire as they exited the dungeon to go to the local pub. As you can imagine, the inevitable smoke billowing out from the dungeon sent his father into an absolute panic (not knowing that the lads had already exited) What followed was the full scale comedic panic on the level of “Faulty Towers” A full fire brigade responded when they heard a fire at Vanbrugh Castle. As my husband and his mates made their way back from the pub, they noticed all the commotion and had no idea that it was the burning smelling socks that had created such a panic!

The gymnasium was in very good condition but not used much. In the mid 1980′s a few scenes from the movie “Mona Lisa” with Bob Hoskins was filmed in the front circular driveway of the Castle. With the proceeds obtained from Handmade Films for the use of the driveway, the driveway was gravelled. At the time my husband lived there, one of the neighbours was Jules Holland on the Westcombe Park Road side and Manfred Man lived on the Maze Hill side of the house. We live in America now, but when we visit London, we make a point of showing our children one of the most unique homes in London!