The 211 acres of Blackheath’s common tell the story of England over the last millennium. The Royal Hundred Hides, traditionally, a hide is enough land to house and feed a family, lead south to Greenwich Park and it’s history.
Over the centuries, Blackheath has been a gathering point for both celebrations and revolts: Henry V congratulated his archers after their victory at Agincourt in 1415. Henry Vlll was less jubilant having met his fourth bride, Anne of Cleves, deceived by Holbein’s flattering portrait of his future wife. “I like her not,” he bluntly told Thomas Cromwell.
Wat Tyler, rallied the Peasant Revolt of 1381 on the 211 acres of heathland and Henry Vll defeated a Cornish Rebellion in 1497.
First it was a medieval mansion and then it became a Tudor Palace. Back then, the Palace was an escape to the country for the royal monarchs though actually located in Greenwich. In the 1930s the palace’s interior design was given an Art Deco twist by its owners.
Today, the 19 acre site with its moat and gardens is cared for by English Heritage who run many events, such as jousting displays, to celebrate the site’s heritage.
The birthplace of English golf
When James V of Scotland came to London to became James 1 of England he missed his golf. The wide open spaces of Blackheath provided the perfect venue for him to hit the first golf ball ever struck in England in 1608.
Goffers Road, running through the heath, celebrates Blackheath’s golfing tradition. With prior arrangement the Golf Museum at Blackheath Golf Club can be visited.
The Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath
The elegant Georgian facade of The Clarendon Hotel represents another page of Blackheath’s history. The population grew rich on trade with a growing British Empire, that begun on the River Thames, and built themselves grand homes.
With uninterrupted views across Blackheath, the comfortable Clarendon Hotel provides an ideal base for exploring both Blackheath and Greenwich. The garden or Goffers’ Lounge, celebrating the golfing heritage, are restful places to recharge after a day exploring.
The Meridian Restaurant, celebrates its location on the longitude line between Eastern and Western hemispheres, and offers a wide-ranging menu. Post Covid -19, The Clarendon takes orders in the evening for breakfast, ensuring hot, fresh breakfasts are promptly served.
Having provided over 2,500 nights of accommodation for NHS staff from the neighbouring Blackheath Hospital, The Clarendon had to develop rigorous safety protocols, long before the government issued guidelines.
Exterior tables, with views across the heath, are highly prized. Zero Degrees, a micro-brewery, producing a remarkable Mango beer, has the most tables for its bar and restaurant.
Everest Inn, with a Nepalese inspired menu and an award-winning chef brings bold Asian flavours to Blackheath. Film of Nepal and the Himalayas momentarily distracts diners from Blackheath’s charms.
The Ivy Cafe brings The Ivy’s renowned brand to Blackheath with informal dining. A stylish setting, attentive service and a menu full of popular favourites means that booking well in advance is essential. Finally, The Copper & Ink Restaurant, run by Tony Rodd, former Masterchef finalist, demonstrates that Blackheath is becoming a destination for foodies.
As one of London’s lungs, the Royal Park is not just a place for locals to cycle, jog, take an exercise class or have afternoon tea. As well as carefully tended gardens it is a home to a variety of wildlife.
In the 18th and 19th century Greenwich, at the heart of the British Empire and global trade was a powerhouse. Looking down over the UNESCO heritage site, across the Thames and onto the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf is a spectacular view.
The Cutty Sark
Built for speed in 1869, this clipper, with 15 miles of rigging and 0.7 acres of sail, was designed to bring the first crop of tea from Shanghai to London. Demand for tea was growing in Victorian England and rewards were rich: in current values the Cutty Sark’s hold filled with tea was worth £18.5m.
Remarkably, with such wealth, the Cutty Sark was never attacked. The only time a shot was fired was when the crew threatened to mutiny, unsurprising given their exhausting work and cramped accommodation.
The Old Royal Navy School
This splendid building, stands on the site of the former royal Placentia Palace, where Henry Vlll was born and where Queen Elizabeth 1 honed her archery skills on the ice when the river was frozen over. Locals claim to be able to see, at low tide, the timber remains of the palace’s original pontoons.
Designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1696 and 1712, the Old Royal Naval College is the architectural masterpiece at the heart of Maritime Greenwich.
Artwork in The Painted Hall is often described as Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel. Artist James Thornhill took 19 years to complete the commission and was rewarded with payment of £6,685 – and a knighthood.
Thames Clippers and The Tide
Leaving from Greenwich Pier, the rapid Thames Clipper takes the short journey, past the O2 to Greenwich Peninsula.
Immediately visitors can take a high-level board walk that takes in sculptures by Anthony Gormley and Damien Hirst.
Another option is to buy a Roamer ticket for a day which allows you to ride west back into the heart of London passing iconic sights such as Tower Bridge, The Houses of Parliament and The Globe Theatre. Currently boats run every 30 minutes with frequent stops enabling voyagers to hop on off as they please.
Emirates Cable Car
At up to 90 metres above The Thames, the Emirates Cable Car gives views east towards the Thames Barrier and east to Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers and beyond.
Crossing two rivers, the Thames and the Lea, a commentary plays on the region’s history. It tells of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s historic Thames Tunnel opened in 1843 with 50,000 people paying one penny each to walk through the world’s first underwater tunnel. There are reminiscences from a pilot who could once navigate by the smells of the Thames and more recently of an athlete inspired by the crowds of the 2012 London Olympics.