Castle Hill in Chessington is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a Local Nature Reserve, and Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation and Grade 1 listed! Have you heard of it? It’s an undiscovered gem in Chessington!
For many in Chessington the name “Castle Hill” is associated with Castle Hill Primary School, but what is Castle Hill?
The site is owned by Merton College, Oxford, leased by Kingston Council and maintained by Lower Mole Countryside Management Project. The land was claimed by Merton College in the 13th Century and they were granted ownership through a charter by Henry III.
The land is part of a chain of preserved green land called the Thames Down Link, which connects Kingston to Boxhill via Leatherhead, Ashtead Common, Epsom Common, Horton Country Park, follows the Bonesgate and Hogmill River linking in to the River Thames.
The site was once part of Chessington Park, a medieval deer park and is now a dense woodland which makes is past usage less obvious today. As you walk through the wood you will see a raised area, it’s not very high but it’s the “Hill” of Castle Hill.
To the east of the hill there is a double ditch, this ancient boundary marker is still a boundary today; forming the edge of London where it meets Surrey.
The historical use of Castle Hill is still unknown, and many historians and archaeologists have put forward suggestions, from a castle to prehistoric animal enclosure (no joke). It is now assumed that it was probably a medieval hunting lodge; this theory is backed up by similarity to other sites across England.
Castle Hill is at the North of of what was Chessington Park and the ground works suggest that this was also the site of an ancient watermill. If you walk through the woodland today you’ll see and unusual raised bank on main footpath, this is believed to the the remains of a dam, creating a mill pond. The site of the suggested mill pond is now meadowland.
Historical maps show the land as being woodland divided in to 4 sections, this was would indicate a maintained (coppiced) woodland as opposed to a wild woodland. In the 1800’s the land was totally cleared and the land was used for meadow grazing and arable farming. During this time only the raised earthworks of the mill pond and the site of the possible building were kept as woodland.
During the 19th Century the land was a plantation and as such the ancient trees were preserved and the plantlife shows it’s ancient heritage.
If you visit the site, you will see plenty of wildlife, hence the Local Nature Reserve status that the site has. Keep and eye open for…
- Forest anemones
- Maiden Oaks
- Hazel Trees
- Cow Parsley
- Wood avens (flowers)
- Roe Deer
- Speckled Wood Moths
- Great spotted woodpecker
- Song thrush
The images below are from the above websites.
Below is an extract from the sign as you enter Castle Hill, declaring the site’s status and contact details.