|Shooters Hill Woodlands (Oxleas Woodlands)||Greenwich|
Shooters Hill Woodlands include Oxleas Wood, Jack Wood and Castle Wood, as well as Sheperdleas Wood and Eltham Common. There are areas of ancient woodland at least 8000 years old and coppicing was practised from medieval times until the 1920s. Shooters Hill follows the old Roman Watling Street, and the area was notorious for highwaymen. Bodies of convicted highwaymen were hung on gibbets along the road as a deterrent. The woodlands came into local authority management in the C20th, some areas on the fringes having been in private ownership such as Castle Wood and Jack Wood, both acquired in the 1920s and have remnants of formal gardens. Oxleas and Sheperdleas Woods were purchased in 1936, as was Falconwood, a house initially used as hotel, later incorporated into Oxleas Woods. Oxleas Meadows to the east of Jackwood was originally the site of Wood Lodge.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/12/2006
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Shooters Hill Woodlands include Oxleas Wood, Jack Wood and Castle Wood, as well as Sheperdleas Wood now part of Eltham Park North (q.v.) and Eltham Common (q.v.) and incorporate areas of ancient woodland at least 8000 years old dating from the Ice Age. Coppicing was practised in Oxleas from medieval times until the 1920s. Timber from here was used in Woolwich and Deptford Dockyards for ship-building, and may have been used for ships that participated in the Battle of Trafalgar. Coppicing has recently been re-established in some areas in Oxleas Wood. The woodlands today are dominated by tall pedunculate oak standards, hazel and sweet chestnut coppice; ash and silver birch are also common, with some wild service trees, hornbeam and coppice hazel.
Shooters Hill follows the route of the old Roman Watling Street, a roadway important for almost 2,000 years. The area was notorious for highwaymen from at least the C14th up until C19th although Henry IV had the woods along the road of Shooters Hill cleared as protection for travellers. This notoriety may be the origin of the name Shooters Hill, although it may refer to its use for archery practice in Henry VIII's reign, or perhaps be derived from two Old English words, 'shaw' meaning a wood and 'tot' meaning a hill. Bodies of convicted highwaymen were hung on gibbets along the road to deter others, Samuel Pepys referring in a diary entry of 1661 to a journey when he encountered 'the man that hangs upon Shooters Hill and a filthy sight it was to see how his flesh is shrunk to the bones'.
The woodlands came into local authority management in the C20th, some areas on the fringes having been in private ownership. Castle Woods were owned by Mr Probyn Godson, part of which included landscaped terraces of the gardens of Castlewood (q.v.). After his death in 1920 the newly formed Shooters Hill Preservation Society invited subscriptions to buy Castle Woods, collecting £6,000 by 1921 with LCC contributing £10,000 to prepare the c.9 hectare site and maintain it; it opened to the public in 1925. Further east of Castlewood is Jackwoods, an area of c.18.2ha, purchased c.1925 with funding from the MPGA, Poulter Trust and Woolwich Borough Council. Part of the former garden of Jackwood House has been incorporated into the site, containing remnants of a formal garden with high red-brick walls, small water feature with an inscription dated 1873, rose gardens, and terraces opening onto the woodlands below with a number of fine exotic trees. Through ornamental gates at the west of the garden is a walled memorial garden where trees have been planted to commemorate various people including a former gardener of Castle Woods.
Oxleas and Sheperdleas Woods were purchased in 1936, the latter added to Eltham Park North. Falconwood was acquired in 1936 and the dilapidated house on the site was initially used as a hotel, now demolished. It was laid out in the 1950s and incorporated into Oxleas Woods. Oxleas Meadows to the east of Jackwood was originally the site of Wood Lodge, a large house demolished in the 1930s and where the current café is now. Under the meadows an underground reservoir was constructed.
E Jefferson 'The Woolwich Story 1890-1965', 1970; South East London's Green Chain pack, 1998.