Blackheath

THE NORMANS

 

 

The last successful invasion of England was 955 years ago, in 1066.

On 28th September, William, Duke of Normandy – later known as William the Conqueror – landed at Pevensey Bay. Upon landing, he is said to have declared, ‘I have taken England with both my hands,’ although we’ve looked for a credible source for this and can’t find any (yet).


When Edward the Confessor, who had ruled England since 1042, died without children, Harold, his brother-in-law, thought he had rights to the throne. The problem for England was that William, who was a distant cousin of Edward, thought he had rights too. According to William, Edward had promised him the succession to the throne when they met in France in 1051.

The Bayeux Tapestry

We all know what came next – the invasion and the conquering. William arrived on the beach of Pevensey with 7,000 troops and a mission to battle us to the death – and he did. 

William and his men marched to Hastings, where they met Harold and his army on 14th October. King Harold was dead by the end of the battle – an arrow through his eye, apparently.

King Harold Arrow Through the Eye

Shortly afterwards, William marched on London and was crowned the first Norman king of England in Westminster Abbey (known as St Edward’s church and also the west minster – St Paul’s was known as east minster). William set the trend for coronations at Westminster because every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey, except for Edward V and Edward VIII, who were never crowned. The ancient Coronation Chair can still be seen in the church.

 

William I ruled until his death 20 years later, when his son, William II, came to the throne.

William the Conqueror Penny

THE NORMANS IN BLACKHEATH

London was the focal point of Anglo-Saxon resistance.[1] There are different opinions as to which route William and his troops took to get to London. Looking at the more common view, he would have bypassed Blackheath and Greenwich, as in the map below. Other historians suggest that he would have had to stick to the old Roman roads because of the speed he travelled, and the main one, Watling Street, passed through our area. 

 

‘As his advance was rapid, it is much more likely that he kept to the old Roman road.’[2]

Map of Route for Norman Invasion

William’s army arrived near London in November, but they had a problem. Our wonderful River Thames protected London, and the only access point was a fortified bridge, which would have been defended. Torching Southwark in his path, William routed around London (a bit like the M25 does), crossed at Wallingford, and attacked from the North. 

 

There is no evidence to suggest Blackheath was involved in the Norman invasion. Like many other parts of the country, it just became subsumed into the transition from Anglo-Saxon to Norman daily life. 

 

What changed for the area was that although it wasn’t recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 (falling under the Hundred of Grenviz), thanks to William’s administration of England, Blackheath was officially recorded in the 1166 Pipe rolls (financial records of the Crown) as Blachehedfeld.

With Blackheath now officially and formally recognised, it's history becomes much easier to trace and define – and a wonderful rich history it is!

Citations

[1] https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1318/william-the-conquerors-march-on-london/

[2] Turner, G. J. “William the Conqueror's March to London in 1066.” The English Historical Review, vol. 27, no. 106, 1912, pp. 209–225. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/550316. Accessed 12 June 2021.