High Performance Sports Limited (HPS) is a private company set up in 1993 to develop a new climbing wall at The Castle, a large, grade II* listed, Victorian water pumping station in Stoke Newington, North London. The Castle Climbing Centre opened to the public in October 1995 and has dominated the indoor climbing market in London ever since. As climbers ourselves, we are passionate about our sport and providing the highest quality facilities and services to climbers. We are also committed to long-term, sustainable development and have integrated sustainability into every aspect of our business.
1995: The Castle opens to the public. The climbing was all upstairs with Reception and Café combined where the Café is now. The Wave bouldering wall was where the top rope slabs are now. Downstairs there was only the shop which was run by Snow and Rock plus changing rooms and toilets in portacabins.
1996: The Wave wall moved downstairs to where the toothed arch is now. That made way for the slabby top roping walls (Lines 1-9).
1997: 30 degree training board built in the alcove where The Wave is now. First 7 lines of the Rockley featured top-roping wall are opened.
1998: Traverse wall built opposite Rockley Wall covering the whole width of the building.
2000: Snow and Rock move out of the shop to be replaced by Urban Rock.
2001: Development of The Stack plus Zawn wall. Portacabins removed and current women’s changing built as two units for men and women. The Wave moved (again) to its current location in the Cave with 20 and 30 degree training boards built in its place. Last two lines of Rockley Wall installed plus the campus board and Pannels bouldering. Reception desk installed downstairs and Café opens as a franchise of The Blue Legume.
2002: Catacomb built downstairs across from the Rockley Wall and behind the long traverse wall with openings from it.
2003: The Pen bouldering opens. Toothed Arch and slab roped walls built to replace the 20 and 30 degree training boards.
2005: The Mezzanine level is built (Training Rooms, Lust/Envy, Catacomb relocated, The Mezz and The Slab), The Quarry is built.
2008: We rebuilt The Panels and extended walls 0 to 3.
2009: The Castle launches its Environmental Policy at our first annual Garden Party and awards £29,500 to projects through the 2009 Environmental Awards. The twin roof cracks are replaced by walls 16 to 18 and we built walls 10, 10.5 and 11. Planning starts for our permaculture garden and the final phase of development of the Castle (Engine House). We build Training Room 3 for which we were awarded the Sustainable City Award for Sustainable Building.
2010: We build our new Office and refurbished some of the Mezz and Panels. The Castle takes over running The Castle Shop. We sign up to the Mayor of London’s Green Procurement Code and are awarded Gold Level. We have our first harvest from our organic garden and start the mini-plots community allotment scheme with a grant from Capital Growth.
2011: The Castle kitchen opens to prepare food from our organic Garden. We refurbish the shop to make it bigger, more comfortable and more energy efficient. We build The Gym and redevelop the Cave training area. We replace the featured top-out bouldering walls in the Mezz with new walls. We produce and sell our first batch of Castle balms in The Shop and give out the first two Eco-Grants.
2012: The Castle is granted permission to develop the Engine House and add boulders outside. Enabling works begin. The Castle wins Sustainable City Awards in Sustainable Building and Sustainable Procurement categories.
About the building
In a bid to improve the quality of drinking water in London, the Metropolis Water Act of 1852 prohibited drinking water being taken from the Thames below Teddington Lock and required water companies to filter their water. The New River Company had already built two reservoirs in Stoke Newington in the 1830s. To comply with this act, they added a pumping station and filter beds adjacent. William Chadwell Mylne, acting as Surveyor for the New River Company built The Castle between 1852 and 1856.
By 1936 the steam engines and boilers were replaced with diesel engines and electric pumps. The building was largely redundant by 1971 and the Metropolitan Water Board (who had taken over the New River Company) applied for permission to tear down the Castle and redevelop the site. With the support of local residents and historical associations, The Castle was given Grade II* listing, though it had no use. The site was under threat of development again in the late 80’s before permission was granted for the redevelopment of the building as a climbing centre in 1994.
The Castle Climbing Centre opened in 1995 and is now one of the leading climbing facilities in Europe. Starting in 2009, the site has undergone extensive landscaping with the development of an organic garden. Major changes will be taking place from 2012-2015 as The Castle enters the final phase of development which will include outdoor boulders, increased climbing capacity indoors and a number of energy efficiency measures to bring this much-loved Victorian building into the 21st century.
Quick Castle facts:
The tallest tower is 45.7m (150ft)
Original cost of building the Castle: £81,500
The two engines powering the enormous flywheels were called The Lion and Lioness.
Hackney Modern, Restored, Forgotten Ignored: 40 buildings to mark 40 years of the Hackney Society. Lisa Rigg (ed), The Hackney Society, 2009.
Stoke Newington Pumping Station, London N16: analysis of a building, author unknown. (PDF download available)