The flat plain of Stoke Newington is the last place anyone would expect to find a castle.
The strange-looking folly at the junction of Green Lanes and Manor Road was built as a water-supply pumping station in 1852-6 by William Chadwell Mylne (1781-1863), the Surveyor of the New River Company from 1810 to 1861, at a cost of £81,500.
The elaborate architectural treatment by Robert William Billings (1813-1874) is said to have been a response to the complaints of local residents in what was then an entirely rural area.
Though the cluster of turrets and buttresses is picturesque, every feature has a function: the taller of the two towers, 150 feet high, was the boiler-house chimney; the other tower contained the water-tank and the smaller turret provided staircase access to the roof. The buttresses housed the three flywheels of the two engines, Lion and Lioness.
The steam engines were replaced by 1936 by a combination of diesel engines and electric pumps, which operated until 1971.
Demolition proposals led to a local outcry, and the building was listed Grade II* but remained unused until 1994 when planning permission was given to turn it into the Castle Climbing Centre [http://www.castle-climbing.co.uk/the-castle-history], which opened the following year.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals: past views of English architecture, please click here.