Blackheath, London

Blackheath, London

infobox UK place

static_image_caption= All Saints' Church
country = England
map_type = Greater London
region= London
official_name= Blackheath
latitude= 51.47
longitude= 0.009
os_grid_reference= TQ395765
london_borough= Greenwich
london_borough3= Lewisham
post_town= LONDON
constituency_westminster= Lewisham East and Greenwich and Woolwich

Blackheath is an area in southeast London, centred around a section of open public grassland ('the Heath') and straddling the boundary of the London Borough of Lewisham and the London Borough of Greenwich. The focal point of Blackheath is its centre which is known as the Village. The borough boundary runs across the middle of the heath; much of Blackheath Village on the south side of the Heath lies in Lewisham, while the Blackheath Standard area and that part of the Village around Blackheath Halls lie on the north and eastern side respectively, in Greenwich. Blackheath was the centre of the ancient "Hundred of Blackheath".Mills, A., "Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names", (2001)]



Blackheath was so called because it appeared a much darker colour than the green fields beside the Thames which it overlooked - the soil was dark and so were the plants which grew there. Contrary to local belief that in 1665 many of the London-based victims of the plague were buried on the Heath, the name has nothing to do with the plague or Black Death. Certain sources tell us that a combination of the words "bleak" and "heath" lead to the area's name. The soil was of poor quality and was not cultivated, but chalk, gravel and larger pebbles for ballast were dug out of it. This left the deep pits all over the Heath. Some are now ponds and some were filled in with rubble from bomb sites in the Second World War.


Blackheath was settled by Romans as a stopping point on Watling Street. In the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Danish fleet anchored in the river Thames off Greenwich for over three years, with the army being encamped on the hill above and from here they attacked Kent. Some vestiges of the Danish camps may be traced in the names of Eastcombe and Westcombe, on the borders of Blackheath. [ 'Greenwich', The Environs of London: volume 4: Counties of Herts, Essex & Kent (1796), pp. 426-93] accessed: 26 May 2007] Blackheath was later a rallying point for Wat Tyler's Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and for Jack Cade's Kentish rebellion in 1450. Wat Tyler is remembered by Wat Tyler Road on the heath. After pitching camp on Blackheath, Cornish rebels were defeated in the Battle of Deptford Bridge (sometimes called the Battle of Blackheath), just to the west, on 17 June 1497. With Watling Street crossing the heath carrying stagecoaches en route to north Kent and the Channel ports, it was also a notorious haunt of highwaymen during the 17th century. Many years later, Blackheath also had strong associations with the campaign for women's suffrage, the suffragette movement.


The sizeable prestigious private estate of Blackheath Park, created by John Cator and known as the Cator Estate, is situated east of Blackheath village. Built in the late 1700s and early 1800s, it contains many fine examples of substantial Georgian and Victorian houses - most notably Michael Searles' The Paragon crescent - as well as some 1930s and 1960s additions. St Michael and All Angels Church, designed by local architect George Smith and completed in 1830, was dubbed the "Needle of Kent" in honour of its tall, thin spire (it is also nicknamed the "Devil's Pick" or "The Devil's Toothpick"). All Saints Church, situated on the Heath, dates from 1857 and was designed by the architect Benjamin Ferrey. The Cator Estate was built on part of the estate formerly owned by Sir John Morden, whose Morden College (1695) is another notable building to the south-east of the Heath. The Cator Estate also contains innovative 1960s 'Span' houses and flats by the renowned Span Developments (architect Eric Lyons).

ocial life

The main centre of Blackheath - 'the village' - lies to the south side of the heath in the vicinity of Blackheath railway station, and is home to numerous shops, restaurants and pubs. All Saints' parish church stands on the heath itself, apart from the other buildings of the village. Approximately one mile to the north-east, Blackheath Standard is another shopping area, taking its name from the 'Royal Standard' pub.

Just south of the railway station, on the edge of the Blackheath Park estate, is the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Arts. Next door is Blackheath Halls, a concert venue today owned and managed by Trinity College of Music (based in nearby Greenwich). The heath is host to a free annual fireworks display on the Saturday in November closest to Guy Fawkes Night, jointly organised and now financed by the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham. The show has become one of the UK's most popular and largest fireworks displays with over forty thousand spectators [ [ "Blackheath Fireworks 2006: safe and spectacular"] accessed 11 Jul 2007] .

porting associations

In 1608, according to tradition, Blackheath was the place where golf was introduced to England - the Royal Blackheath Golf Club (based in nearby Eltham since 1923) was one of the first golf associations established (1766) outside Scotland. Blackheath also gave its name to the first hockey club, established during the mid 19th century.

However, Blackheath is perhaps most famous as the home of the Blackheath Rugby Club, founded in 1858, which is the oldest documented rugby club in England. The Blackheath club also organised the world's first rugby international (between England and Scotland in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871) and hosted the first international between England and Wales ten years later — the players meeting and getting changed at the Princess of Wales public house. Blackheath were one of the 12 founding members of the Football Association in 1863, as well as Blackheath Proprietary School and Percival House, from Blackheath too.Cricket has been played on the 'Heath' itself since the 1820s. By 1890, London County Council was maintaining 36 pitches. [ Blackheath Cricket Club] has been part of the sporting fabric of the area, joining forces with Blackheath Rugby Club in 1883 to purchase and develop the Rectory Field as a home ground. As well as hosting quality club cricket for getting on for 150 years, Blackheath CC hosted 84 first class Kent County matches between 1887 and 1971. For a list of these see: []

There is also a long history of kite flying on the heath. Growing popularity of the sport in recent years has attracted many kite flyers and kitebuggying is also a common sight on the heath.

With neighbouring Greenwich Park, Blackheath is also well-known as the start point of the London Marathon. This maintains a connection with athletics dating back to the establishment of the Blackheath Harriers (now Blackheath and Bromley Harriers) in 1869.

Notable residents

(in alphabetical order)
*Sophie Aldred, actress and television presenter, was raised in Blackheath and attended Blackheath High School.
*John Julius Angerstein, whose art collection formed the basis of the National Gallery, London in 1824, built Woodlands House, Mycenae Road, Westcombe Park.
*Danny Baker, BBC London radio presenter and television personality
*Blade, British hip hop artist, was raised and schooled in Blackheath.
*Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur, was born in Blackheath.
*Captain Samuel Brown, naval officer, engineer and inventor, died at Vanbrugh Lodge, Vanbrugh Fields, Blackheath in 1852.
*Caroline of Brunswick, married to the Prince Regent, was banished in 1799 to a private residence ('The Pagoda' - attributed to architect Sir William Chambers) in Blackheath.
*James Callaghan, British Prime Minister 1976-1979, lived in Blackheath in the 1950s and 1960s, and his daughter Margaret went to Blackheath High School.
*Fanny Cradock lived at 134 Shooters Hill Road
*Emily Davison, Suffragette, was born in Blackheath.
*Clemence Dane, Playwright and novelist was born in Blackheath.
*Francis Dodd (1874-1949), artist, lived at Arundel House, 51 Blackheath Park.
*Montague John Druitt, for many years a popular suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders, lived in Blackheath, at 9 Eliot Place, during the 1880s.
*Peter Martin Duncan (1824-1891), palaeontologist and doctor, practised in Blackheath during 1860s.
*Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson lived at 6 Vanbrugh Hill, SE3 between 1894 and 1906 (blue plaque).
*Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), mathematician & astrophysicist, lived at 4 Bennett Park (blue plaque).
*Nick Ferrari LBC 97.3 radio presenter.
*James Glaisher (1809-1903), who pioneered modern weather forecasting techniques, lived at 22 Dartmouth Hill (blue plaque).
*composer Charles Gounod lived at 4 Morden Road in 1870 (blue plaque).
*Malcolm Hardee, anarchic comedian lived briefly at 33 Glenluce Road in the late 1990s.
*Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), American author, lived at 4 Pond Road in 1856 (blue plaque).
*Jools Holland OBE, musician with the band Squeeze as well as a solo artist, lives in Westcombe Park.
*John Hughes, The Very Reverend, lived as a child on Mycenae Road, Black Heath.
*Glenda Jackson, former actress and now MP for Hampstead lives in Blackheath
*Jude Law, Actor, attending 'John Ball' primary school.
*Albert Lee, guitarist, composer and singer.
*David Lindsay (1897-1945), novelist, born and raised in Blackheath.
*Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (Designer) lived in Blackheath
*Elisabeth Lutyens, composer, lived in Pond Road.
*Donald McGill (1875-1962), postcard cartoonist lived at 5 Bennett Park (blue plaque).
*John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher and political economist.
*Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, chess player and codebreaker, lived in Blackheath Park.
*Ray Moore (1942-1989), broadcaster and supporter of BBC Children In Need, lived in Blackheath.
*Edith Nesbit, author and Fabian, moved to 16 Dartmouth Row in 1879.
*Sir Gregory Page, landowner, had houses in Westcombe Park and Wricklemarsh, near Lee.
*Jack Peñate, singer/songwriter
*Sir James Clark Ross, who in 1831 located the magnetic North Pole, and whom after the Ross Island and Ross sea are named, lived on Eliot Place.
*Lee Ryan, singer, songwriter and actor, former the member of the band Blue
*Ignatius Sancho (18th century Black writer, composer, businessman and freed slave)
*Axel Scheffler, book illustrator, lives in Blackheath
*Boris Starling, novelist, was born and brought up in Blackheath.
*Walter Napleton Stone (1891-1917), recipient of the Victoria Cross, was born in Blackheath.
*Terry Waite, humanitarian and hostage in Lebanon (1987-1991), lived in Blackheath.
*Sir Willard White, opera singer.
*Sir Alfred Yarrow, shipbuilder, lived at Woodlands, Mycenae Road, Westcombe Park from 1896.


Transport and locale

Nearest stations

* Blackheath railway station
* Deptford Bridge DLR station
* Greenwich station
* Hither Green railway station
* Kidbrooke railway station
* Lee railway station
* Lewisham station
* Maze Hill railway station
* Westcombe Park railway station

Nearest places

* Charlton
* Deptford
* Greenwich
* Hither Green
* Kidbrooke
* Lee
* Lewisham
* Shooter's Hill

External links

* [ Blackheath Photographs]
* [ An animated comparison of Blackheath High Street in 1900 and now]
* [ The Blackheath Society]
* [ All Saints'Church, Blackheath]
* [ Blackheath Halls website]
* [ Blackheath Hockey Club]
* [ Blackheath Conservatoire website]
* [ Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC website]
* [ Cator Estate History]
* [,+Greater+London,+SE3,+UK&ll=51.467590,0.008326&spn=0.020725,0.072814&hl=en Blackheath at Google Maps]
* [ Lewisham News]
* [ Blackheath Cricket Club]
* [ Blackheath Bugle - website about Blackheath]

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