Windswept Blackheath in south-east London catches many people by surprise. Drivers making their way up Blackheath Hill leave the dense urban sprawl of Deptford and New Cross behind them and arrive at a treeless common, complete with a church, a pub and a pond. The tips of the towers of Canary Wharf on the horizon are the only clue that you are still in London’s suburbs.
The heath, south of Greenwich Park, on the road to Canterbury and Dover, once had a sinister reputation as the haunt of highwaymen but today it enjoys the cachet of being open space bordered by majestic architecture. Look one way for the classical crescent of The Paragon, another for the 17th-century Morden College or the 18th-century Ranger’s House.
The quaint village centre is tucked away on the southern side of the heath, with smart shops, restaurants, a concert hall and music conservatoire, and is a comparatively modern location.
Property in Blackheath: there are Georgian houses close to the main roads and overlooking the heath, while The Paragon is an unusual classical terrace of houses linked by long colonnades. The Cator estate close to the village is entered through white painted gates and has early Victorian villas, Twenties houses and well-maintained Sixties terraces, plus blocks of flats built by Span.
On the north side of the heath, there are large semi-detached Victorian houses in the area known as Blackheath Standard.
According to estate agent Mark Epps, from Winkworth, Blackheath is popular with families who appreciate the village-like feel and open spaces. In recent years, the price of family houses has been buoyed up by City bonus money.
Staying power: families put down deep roots in Blackheath, which has a strong sense of civic pride with the Blackheath Society, one of the very first, if not the first, local civic societies.
Getting an education
John Ball in Southvale Road and All Saints’ CofE are the two state primary schools close to the centre of the village. Both are judged “outstanding” by the government education watchdog Ofsted. The two private prep schools are Heath House (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Wemyss Road and The Pointer School (also co-ed, ages three to 11) on Stratheden Road.
The local comprehensive school, Thomas Tallis in Kidbrooke Park Road is judged “good”, but the local state school which gets the best results is St Ursula’s Convent School, a Catholic girls’ school in Grooms Hill. Blackheath High (girls, ages two to 18) in Vanbrugh Park is private and gets good examination results, while for more experimental parents there is a Steiner school (co-ed, ages three to 12) in Mycenae Road.
Shops and restaurants
Blackheath village has a mix of high street chains and independent shops in and around the picturesquely named Tranquil Vale. Coquillage is a new fishmonger, Raffles is a men’s and women’s boutique, Sisters and Daughters is good for gifts and clothes, Hortus has flowers and lovely gardening items and John Charles is the local butcher.
There are also branches of women’s fashion chains Whistles and Noa Noa and for interiors a new branch of India Jane has recently opened. On the other side of the heath, there are local shops in the area around the Royal Standard pub which include an M&S Simply Food and Ottie and the Bea, a children’s toy and crafts shop. In the village there are chain restaurants such as Pizza Express, Café Rouge and Giraffe, but the best restaurant is Chapters, which has a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
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Kite-flying and dog walking are favourite activities on the heath, which is also the location for one of London’s best Bonfire Night fireworks displays. Greenwich Park offers long walks down the hill to Greenwich and the Thames past the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum.
Leisure and the arts: Blackheath Hall and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance are at the heart of Blackheath’s cultural life, with classical and popular music concerts, literary events, and comedy shows and dance and music classes for the young and old alike. The two nearest council-owned swimming pools are the Eltham Centre in Archery Road and the Arches Leisure Centre in Trafalgar Road, Greenwich. There is also a swimming pool at the David Lloyd sports club on Kidbrooke Park Road.
Travel: Blackheath is on the A2 offering a quick road route to Dover and the Channel Tunnel. The two stations, Blackheath and Kidbrooke (both in Zone 3 — an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,288) have services to Victoria, Charing Cross and Canon Street, with trains taking between 20 minutes and half an hour. The nearest DLR stations with trains to Canary Wharf are Lewisham, Elverson Road and Deptford Bridge (all are in Zone 2; annual travel card £1,104).
Council: Blackheath is divided between Greenwich (Labour controlled, band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year £1,290.73) and Lewisham (Labour-controlled, band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year £1,351.93).
Buying in Blackheath
One-bedroom flat £236,000
Two-bedroom flat £314,000
Two-bedroom house £292,000
Three-bedroom house £352,000
Four-bedroom house £781,000
Renting in Blackheath
One-bedroom flat £850 to £1,100 a month
Two-bedroom flat £950 to £1,500 a month
Two-bedroom house £1,000 to £2,000 a month
Three-bedroom house £1,300 to £2,500 a month
Four-bedroom house £1,700 to £3,500 a month
Photographs by Graham Hussey