Everyone has a favourite London park, but when it comes to views, Greenwich is unrivalled. Rolling hills give way to the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, which eyes up the white-domed O2 Arena with its bright cranes like candles on a birthday cake. For 22 years, Dave and Barbara Edgar have invited friends and family to gaze at the exact same view, from the comfort of their roof terrace atop a Grade-I listed castle.
Perched on the eastern edge of Greenwich Park, Vanbrugh Castle is one of the most prestigious examples of early Georgian architecture in London. It takes its name from John Vanbrugh, a protegé of Sir Christopher Wren, who built the fortress for his family after he succeeded his mentor as Surveyor to the Royal Naval Hospital nearby. It has a distinctly medieval touch, taking cues from gothic architecture. Barbara has deep roots in Greenwich, as generations of her family have lived in the area. She flirted with moving away, with spells living in Putney and Hackney before returning to her ancestral borough.
“I didn’t want to live in Hackney, especially with a young child,” she says. “So we looked into a house in Greenwich and the prices were really good. It was kind of cut off at the time, it wasn’t the place it is now. I remember someone telling me there will be these new towers built across the river in Canary Wharf and saying, ‘No, never.’ When we moved here, it was a family area, but there are definitely more professionals moving in.”
While they were always aware of the big castle near the park, they didn’t expect to walk into a local estate agent and see it on the market. The four wings of the property have been divided up into houses – each with its own separate entrance – and the Edgars took a portion of it. A fair bit of work needed doing to it – including installing a new heating system – before it became the functional, five-bedroom family home it is today.
“The house has a real quirkiness to it, it’s got lots of character. I love the front room where we’ve had lots of parties and you can take people upstairs to look at this incredible view.” Barbara is also a keen gardener, tending to 2.5 acres of communal green space that boasts pergolas, trees, lawns and shrubs. But now her son has flown the nest, it’s time to downsize – although, the Edgars will still call Greenwich home. “A bit of me is glad to be moving into a smaller house,” says Barbara, “but then there’s a part of me that looks around and thinks, ‘oh god, what are we doing?’” The answer: offering another Londoner the extraordinary opportunity to live in a historic castle.