Blackheath is a place in London, divided between the London Borough of Lewisham and the London Borough of Greenwich (the borough boundary runs across the middle of the heath, with the Village in Lewisham and the Blackheath Standard area and Westcombe Park in Greenwich), whose name derives from the dark colour of the soil, and not, as was popularly believed for many years, from the burial of victims of the Black Death on the heath in the 14th century.
Settled by Romans as a stopping point on Watling Street, Blackheath was also 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 Blackheath Common. 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 therefore also known as the Cator Estate), sits at the top of the high street. 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) and a church, St Michael and All Angels (designed by local architect George Smith and completed in 1830), dubbed the Needle of Kent in honour of its tall, thin spire. 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.
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 was the first Rugby club in the world without restricted membership. 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.
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 1878. The heath frequently hosts kite-flying competitions.
(in alphabetical order)
John Julius Angerstein, whose art collection formed the basis of the National Gallery, London in 1824, built Woodlands, Mycenae Road, Westcombe Park.
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 at Blackheath in the 1950s and 1960s, and his daughter Margaret went to Blackheath High School.
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).
James Glaisher (1809-1903), who pioneered modern weather forecasting techniques, lived in Dartmouth Row.
- composer Charles Gounod lived at 15 Morden Road, SE3 in 1870 (blue plaque).
Malcolm Hardee, anarchic comedian lived briefly at 33 Glenluce Road, SE3 in the late 1990s.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), American author, lived at 4 Pond Road in 1856 (blue plaque).
Jools Holland, TV personality and musician lives in Westcombe Park.
E. Nesbit, author, moved to Blackheath (16 Dartmouth Row, SE3) in 1879.
- Donald McGill (1875-1962), postcard cartoonist lived at 5 Bennett Park, SE3 (blue plaque).
- Sir Gregory Page, landowner, had houses in Westcombe Park and Wricklemarsh, near Lee.
- 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.
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 Alfred Yarrow, shipbuilder, lived at Woodlands, Mycenae Road, Westcombe Park from 1896.
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