Blackheath, London

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Coordinates: 51°28′12″N 0°00′32″E / 51.47°N 0.009°E / 51.47; 0.009

Blackheath is an inner suburban area of southeast London, England. It is named from the large open public grassland[1] which separates it from Greenwich to the north and Lewisham to the west. The area is predominantly in the London Borough of Lewisham with sections to the north and east in the London Borough of Greenwich.




The name is recorded in 1166 as Blachehedfeld and means the 'dark coloured heathland'.[1] It is formed from the Old English 'blæc' and 'hǣth' and refers to the open space that was the meeting place of the ancient hundred of Blackheath.[1] The name was later applied to the village that developed in the 19th century and was extended to the areas known as Blackheath Park and Blackheath Vale.[1]


The ancient road that later became known as Watling Street crosses the northern edge of Blackheath (almost in line with the A2), probably heading for the mouth of Deptford Creek (rather than Deptford Bridge like the modern A2). It passed the archaeologically excavated temple site in Greenwich Park where many Roman coins were found. Indeed, many small, conical Romano-British tumuli lie beside Watling Street in this area, and were opened towards the end of the 18th century to reveal artefacts including a lock of well-preserved auburn hair, spear-heads, knives, nails, glass beads, and woollen and linen cloth [2]. 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. Known locally as Jack Cade's Cavern,[3] underneath 'The Point', near summit of the hill, a cavern was (re)discovered in 1780 that extends several hundred feet underground and comprises four 'irregular apartments', one of which contains a water well - this cavern is presumed to have been used as a hiding place during the Saxon and Danish invasions[2]. Some vestiges of the Danish camps may be traced in the names of Eastcombe and Westcombe, on the borders of Blackheath, where 'coomb' refers to the Saxon for 'camp'.[4] 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. As reported in Walford's 'Old and New London' (1878), "In past times it was planted with gibbets, on which the bleaching bones of men who had dared to ask for some extension of liberty, or who doubted the infallibility of kings, were left year after year to dangle in the wind." [2] Many years later, Blackheath also had strong associations with the campaign for women's suffrage, the suffragette movement.

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