BLACKHEATH, a village, in the parishes of Greenwich, Lewisham, and Lee, hundred of Blackheath, lathe of Sutton-At-Hone, W. division of Kent, 5 miles (S. E.) from London, on the road to Dovor. This place, which takes its name either from the colour of the soil, or from the bleakness of its situation, was, prior to the erection of the numerous villas with which it now abounds, the scene of many important political transactions. In 1011, the Danes, having landed at Greenwich, encamped on the heath, and, among other barbarities, put to death Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had refused to sanction their extortions, and who was afterwards canonized. In the reign of Richard II., the insurgents under Wat Tyler, amounting to 100,000 men, took up their station here, whence they marched to London. In 1400, Henry IV. held an interview at the place with the Emperor of Constantinople, who came to solicit aid against Bajazet, Emperor of the Turks; and in 1415, the lord mayor and aldermen of London, in their robes of state, attended by 400 of the principal citizens, clothed in scarlet, came hither in procession to meet Henry V., on his triumphant return after the battle of Agincourt. In 1451, Henry VI. met many of the followers of Jack Cade, who submitted to his authority, and on their knees implored and obtained his pardon; and here, the following year, that monarch assembled his forces to oppose Richard, Duke of York, who aspired to the throne. In 1497, the Cornish rebels, headed by Lord Audley, who had advanced into Kent, encamped near Eltham, and awaited the approach of Henry VII., on whose arrival a battle ensued, on the 22nd of July, in which the insurgents were defeated, and their leader, together with two of his associates, taken and executed. In 1519, Campejo, the pope's legate, was received here in great state by the Duke of Norfolk, with a numerous retinue of bishops, knights, and gentlemen, who conducted him to a magnificent tent of cloth of gold, whence, after having arrayed himself in his cardinal's robes, he proceeded to London; and at this place, in 1540, Henry VIII. appointed an interview with Ann of Cleves, previously to their marriage, which was celebrated with great pomp at Greenwich.
Blackheath is pleasantly situated on elevated ground, commanding diversified and extensive views of the surrounding country, which is richly cultivated, and abounds with fine scenery, in which Greenwich hospital and park, and the river Thames, are prominent objects. There are many elegant villas, among which the Paragon, a handsome range of building, is eminently conspicuous: on the west, and within the park, is the residence occupied by the late Princess Sophia of Gloucester. Wricklemarsh House, once the noblest ornament of the heath, erected early in the last century by Sir Gregory Page, was razed to the ground in 1787, by the different purchasers to whom it had been sold in lots by public auction; its site, now called Blackheath Park, is occupied by handsome villas. There are two episcopal chapels on that part of the heath in the parish of Lewisham. Another at Kidbrooke, an extra-parochial district on the north side of the heath, was built by the late Dr. Greenlaw; and on the declivity of the hill opposite Kentplace, is the church of the Holy Trinity, in the early English style, with two towers surmounted by spires at its east end. St. Peter's church, Blackheath Park, is an elegant structure of stone, of decorated and later English architecture, with a slender pinnacled tower, above which rises a beautiful spire; it forms a conspicuous and interesting object in the surrounding landscape, and was erected in 1829 by John Cator, Esq., at an expense of £15,000.
The Blackheath proprietary school, in connexion with King's College, London, is a neat building, situated on the rise of the hill near Blackheath Park. In Lee Park, also, is a handsome building after the model of the Propylæum at Athens, erected as a proprietary school for classical and general literature. Morden College, a noble institution for the support of decayed merchants, was founded in 1695, by Sir John Morden, Bart., an opulent Turkey merchant, who endowed it with the manor of Old Court: the establishment consists of 40 brethren (each of whom receives £60 per annum, with attendance), a chaplain, and a treasurer; and the management is vested in seven trustees, who must be either Turkey merchants, or directors of the East India Company. The premises, which occupy a spacious quadrangle, are handsomely built of brick, with quoins and cornices of stone, and are surrounded with a piazza: over the entrance are statues of the founder and his lady, whose portraits are in the hall; and in the chapel are the arms of Sir John, who was interred here in 1708. The Watling-street, or Roman road from London to Dovor, which passed over the heath, may still be traced: in 1710, several Roman urns were dug up, two of which were of fine red clay, one of a spherical, and the other of a cylindrical, form; and in 1803, several urns were discovered in the gardens of the Earl of Dartmouth, about a foot below the surface of the ground, which were presented by his lordship to the British Museum.See Lewisham.