TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS
(STILL IN PROGRESS AND BEING RESEARCHED)
With the Ice Age finally over, the Mesolithic Period (or Middle Stone Age) begins and Britain experiences a flourish of forests.
These environmental changes brought new settlements, livestock, and farming systems. Our ancestors' clearance of woodland for settlements was thought to have been by a ‘slash and burn process.’ There is some speculation that Blackheath and Greenwich was once a forest destroyed by the fires of Anderida (Wealden, Kent) which cleared the way for settlements
More on this can be found here.
1st to 4th Centuries
During these centuries, Britain was occupied by the Romans. Artefacts have been found at Dartmouth Row and Greenwich Park.
More on this can be found here.
The Anglo-Saxons Arrive
When the Romans left Britain, the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes invaded. We know the Anglo- Saxons (as they became known), settled in and around Blackheath, and from them, we eventually (but not yet) get our name.
More on this can be found here.
5th and 6th Centuries
Alfred the Great
Alfred inherits Greenwich from his father Ethulwulf and gives it to his daughter Ælfthryth (Elstrudis) on her marriage to Baldwin II, Count of Flanders.
The lands are known as Lieuesham, Grenevic, and Uulwich. Although not named, these included Blackheath.
Alfred's great grandfather was Ealhmund, King of Kent.
The Abbey of St. Peter, Ghent
Baldwin dies and in his memory, Ælfthryth, gives Lieuesham, Grenevic, and Uulwich to the Abbey of St. Peter, in Ghent, Belgium.
The Danes & Norsemen
Danish fleets sailed up the Thames into Greenwich several times and the Danes moved inland, ransacking local villages like Blackheath (still not named as such yet).
The Danes had a camp in Greenwich and in 1012, they took Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hostage. They hoped for a ransom would but Alphege had left instructions that if he were taken prisoner, no ransom should be paid. In 1012 he was murdered at Greenwich and there is speculation that his murder took place on the site of St Alphege – built on the site of his martyrdom.
Blackheath is still not officially named yet and in the Domesday Book, the area falls under the Hundred of Greneviz. Elders of the Hundred (an administrative division) may potentially have met at the Mount (now called Whitfield's Mount), although this may just be historical speculation as they often met on open spaces.
Blackheath is officially (and finally) mentioned as Blachehedfeld in the Pipe Rolls (annual financial records).
There is more about Blackheath's name, here.
Murder Most Horrid
The groom to the Earl of Gloucester was murdered at a 'stone cross' in Blakehatfeuld.
All Hail Henry V
King Henry V returns from Agincourt victorious from one of his greatest battles and is welcomed by the citizens of Blackheath.
"And when the desired day of Saturday dawned, the citizens went out to meet the king at the brow of Blackheath, i.e. the mayor and 24 aldermen in scarlet, and the rest of the lesser citizens in red cloaks with red and white party-coloured hoods, to the number of about 20,000 horsemen…. And when the king came through the midst of them about ten o’clock, and the citizens had given glory and honour to God, and congratulations to the king…the citizens rode before him towards the city, and the king followed…."
Shakespeare wrote (in his Shakespearean way) that King Henry ignored all the pomp and ceremony but Shakespeare loved a bit (lot) of liberal and dramatic borrowing from both historical sources.
Blackheath is mentioned in the Hundreds of Kent Rolls as the Hundredum de Blakeheth(e).
More Ghent Connections
Grant by Ranulph to Sir John the Abbot, and the Convent of St. Peter's, Ghent, for rent from the land adjoining the heath called 'la Blakehethe,' and lying on the boundary of the high road from London to Dartford.
It's Just a Rumour – The Black Death
The Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, swept across the world killing millions.
Rumour has it that Blackheath was a purposely selected burial ground for plague victims but there's no evidence for this. That's not to say burials didn't happen on the Heath during these years – cemeteries across Britain were feeling the strain – but it wasn't an actual plague pit, and it's certainly not where its name comes from.
The Peasants' Revolt, led by Wat Tyler and Jack Straw.
Rebels from the south of the Thames, mainly from Kent, attacked Rochester Castle and Canterbury before setting off for Blackheath and camping out for the night. The revolt was triggered by years of social, political, and economic unrest, especially after the Black Death. Wat Tyler was killed during the fighting, and Jack Straw was executed without trial.
In 1385 there was a"Petition to the king and council from the commons in parliament requesting the posthumous conviction as rebels and felons of certain persons executed without due process of law during the 1381 revolt, such as Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, John Hanchach and Robert Phippe, since their heirs are claiming their lands and tenements."
John Ball, often considered to be the 'mad priest of Kent' by his enemies, gave a sermon on the Heath to the rebels. He was later taken prisoner, put on trial, found guilty, and suffered the vile death of being hung, drawn and quartered in St Albans while Richard II looked on. Ball's head was displayed on a spike on London Bridge. In 1953, John Ball Primary School in Blackheath was opened.
Jack Cade in Blake Heeth
Jack Cade and his followers camped out on the Heath during their revolt against Henry VI, the debt the Hundred Years War had caused, and generally inadequate living conditions. Over 2,000 rebels camped out before presenting the Blackheath Petition (or ‘The Complaint of the Poor Commons of Kent’).
1452 – 1497
Location, Location, Location – A Right Royal Carry On
Because of its location – an entry point into London from the Roman Road – and its wide-open space, Blackheath became quite the meeting place for royal activities.
In 1452, Henry VI pitched his tent on the Heath when he went up against his cousin, the Duke of York (father of Edward IV), who openly claimed the crown.
In 1471, Thomas Fauconberg (excuse out language but he was known as the Bastard of Fauconberg) camped on the Heath with his army when fighting for his king, Henry VI, against Edward (later Edward IV).
In 1474, Edward IV was welcomed home on the Heath after returning from France with a signed treaty from Louis XI. He is backed by an army of over 30,000 men.
The Battle of Blackheath / The Cornish Rebellion
In June 1497, a Cornish army rebelling against King Henry VII's taxes was demanding of them to pay for his Scottish wars arrived in Blackheath. They camped on the open space – an army of around 9,000-10,000 men.
Henry moved against the Cornish at dawn on Saturday 17 June 1497. The Cornish, lacking cavalry and artillery, placed archers at the bridge at Deptford Strand, with the rest of the army near the top of the hill on Blackheath. As a result, the Cornish army was pretty much slaughtered.
Estimates of the Cornish dead range from 200 to 2000.
The leaders were all captured and suffered a traitor's death. As punishment, Crown agents extracted severe monetary penalties against the county, causing some parts to be impoverished for many years.
There is a commemorative plaque in Cornish and English for Michael Joseph the Smith (An Gof) and Thomas Flamank (the leaders) mounted on the south entrance to Greenwich Park. This was to mark the 500th anniversary of the battle.
Henry VIII pitches tents on the east side of the heath to mark his first meeting of yet another wife, Anne of Cleves.
Being Henry, it wasn't just any old tents; it was a 'pavilion,' of tents made from rich cloths of gold, scented with perfumes and warmed by fires. Henry then had all the bushes cut down to create a path from the tents to the park gates so he could lead a procession to the Palace of Placentia.
Such a show of grandeur (similar to that of the Field of the Cloth of Gold when Henry met Francis I of France – a showy affair where the two kings tried to outdo each other with lavish tents of epicness) sealed the deal of marriage between Henry and Anne but not for very long! At least Anne's head didn't suffer the same fate as the Blackheath bushes.
London Showing Off
In 1585, over 5,000 London City Militia camped out on the heath to display their strength and loyalty to Elizabeth I, who was residing at the Palace.
They did this because England was verging on war with Spain.
There were many reasons why the Spanish Armada sailed from Spain in 1588 and why England and Spain didn't like each other. But just one of these reasons is the English pirates kept pilfering and looting the Spanish ships and ports. It's obviously more complicated than robbing pirates – religion, politics, corruption, and power greedy monarchs have been said to play a part!
James I decided to improve Greenwich Park so replaced the fencing around its perimeter with a more imposing 12-foot high brick wall.
Fancy a Pint?
Situated at the top of Blackheath Hill, the Green Man Hotel was the first recorded pub in Blackheath. It once stood on the site of Allison Close. The pub lasted quite some time before it was ripped down in 1970. Over the course of its life, it was rebuilt three times.
Being on one of the main routes into Londo, the pub was used for all sorts of interesting things. Rumour has it pagan ceremonies were undertaken in the caves beneath it. But more credible activities include a post office, a meeting place for traders and highwaymen, and even a local for some of the dukes. The pub once had a boxing area and was a cool place to hang out and listen to live jazz in the 1950s and 60s.
More being researched and confirmed – coming soon
Dr Nicola R. Bannister, The cultural heritage of woodlands in the South East, October 2007, Edited by Patrick McKernan, Forestry Commission
Duncan, Leland L. History of the Borough of Lewisham; with Supplement, Odds and Ends of Lewisham History. London: Lewisham Borough Council, 1963. Print. P20
Simon Dunelm in Decem Scriptores, p. 170, 171; and Roger Hoveden in Scriptores post Bedam. p. 432, 433.
Carroll, Jayne, Carroll, J., Reynolds, Andrew, Reynolds, A., Yorke, Barbara, and Yorke, B. Power and Place in Europe in the Early Middle Ages. British Academy, 2019. Web.
Petition to the king and council from the commons in parliament requesting the posthumous conviction as rebels and felons of certain persons executed without due process of law during the 1381 revolt, such as Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, John Hanchach and Robert Phippe, since their heirs are claiming their lands and tenements. (http://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:6378/AnaServer?PROME+0+start.anv+id=RICHARDII)
The Gesta Henrici Quinti (Latin for The Deeds of Henry the Fifth) is a medieval chronicle written by an anonymous author
Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge. Chronicles of London. Cambridge, 2015. Cambridge Library Collection. Web.
Fabyan, Robert, Henry Ellis, George Woodfall, Joseph Mawman, and Thomas Payne. The New Chronicles of England and France: In Two Parts. London:: Printed for F. C. & J. Rivington; T. Payne; Wilkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and; Cadell and Davies; J. Mawman; and J. Johnson, 1811. Print.
Ingram, Mike. “The Dark Side of Blackheath: England’s Forgotten Battles.” Medieval Warfare, vol. 3, no. 1, 2013, pp. 41–46. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/48579020.
Hume, Martin A. S. Chronicle of Henry VIII of England: Being a Contemporary Record of Some of the Principal Events of the Reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. London: Bell, 1889
Lambarde, William. A Perambulation of Kent [electronic Resource] : Conteining the Description, Hystorie, and Customes of That Shyre. London: By Edm. Bollifant, 1596.
Blackheath Conservation Area character appraisal and supplementary planning document, March 2007