Blackheath has been described as a “true village in the heart of London”, and as “South-east London’s answer to Chelsea or Kensington”. The area has a fascinating history, most of which is well documented by local historians. Unsurprisingly, Blackheath is a hugely popular place to live; Frank Smith of The Blackheath Society explains why.
"Blackheath has benefited enormously from London’s move east in the last 25 years. With the development of Canary Wharf, the extensions to the DLR and Jubilee Line and the growing range of flights from City Airport, South-east London generally has been put on the map. This, coupled with the area’s historic past, fine architecture and open spaces, make it a very desirable proposition for anyone wanting, or needing, to live in London.
Blackheath, in particular, has much going for it. The Village is one of the few real villages left in London and its charming setting, on the southern corner of the Heath itself, along with its proximity to Greenwich Park and the A2, leads thousand of visitors to the area every year. It is also a social, commercial and transport centre for a sizeable suburb.
At the same time, it retains a community atmosphere, with a number of useful amenities and shops within easy walking distance. A well stocked mini supermarket open all hours, a couple of delis, a traditional butcher, a bakery and a Farmers’ Market provide the groceries while a few traditional pubs and a selection of cafes and restaurants make it easy to socialise. A post office, flower shops and general hardware store – all contribute to a useful and lively bustle. The Village is also home to the Mary Evans Picture Library, an enterprise started in 1964 by two local residents which has grown into a nationally known institution supplying historic images to the media.
Houses come in all shapes and sizes, with dignified Georgian and Regency facades lining the Heath and Blackheath Park. The Cator Estate, with its own Board of Directors who rigorously maintain standards, ranges from the impressive mansion to the several Span developments – post war compact modern architecture of a high standard and beautifully landscaped - which continue to attract young families to the area.
This eclectic housing encourages an interesting mix of local residents – professionals alongside artists alongside teachers and journalists, with everyone making use of the local Conservatoire of Music and the Blackheath Halls, two distinctive Edwardian buildings now restored, which provide a focus to the cultural life of the area.
Primary education is well catered for with both state and private schools, but secondary provision is further afield. There are Victorian churches aplenty with a modern Quaker Meeting House but, above all, there is the Heath. This marvellous open, somewhat unkempt, area provides all those living in Blackheath with space to walk the dog, fly a kite, play a game of football, or just sunbathe but, no matter what the weather, it offers up endless, wonderful sky-scapes.
The raison d’être of the Blackheath Society (established in 1937, so making it one of the oldest such societies) is to try and ensure that this London suburb remains the attractive place it is. Its membership numbers some 900 households, its management committee deals with planning and licensing issues, transport and traffic headaches and the Heath, to name but a few of its concerns - and it always needs new and active members! "
The Blackheath Society