Blackheath – playground and breathing place for Londoners

Nathaniel Hawthorne between 1860 and 1864

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer who lived in Blackheath in 1856. There’s a blue plaque dedicated to him on Pond Road, and Gloria emailed me (ages ago) to suggest a post about him. I’d intended to read his novel “The Scarlet Letter”, as it was recommended, and is available for free at Project Gutenburg… But as usual, I haven’t managed to get around to it.. I will one day, (and read The Blackheath Poisonings too).

Here is his description of Blackheath from the Squashed Writers website:

One summer we found a particularly delightful abode in one of the oases that have grown up on the wide waste of Blackheath. A friend had given us pilgrims and dusty wayfarers his suburban residence, with all its conveniences, elegances, and snuggeries, its lawn and its cosy garden-nooks. I already knew London well, and I found the quiet of my temporary haven more attractive than anything that the great town could offer. Our domain was shut in by a brick wall, softened by shrubbery, and beyond our immediate precincts there was an abundance of foliage. The effect was wonderfully sylvan and rural; only we could hear the discordant screech of a railway-train as it reached Blackheath. It gave a deeper delight to my luxurious idleness that we could contrast it with the turmoil which I escaped.

Beyond our own gate I often went astray on the great, bare, dreary common, with a strange and unexpected sense of desert freedom. Once, about sunset, I had a view of immense London, four or five miles off, with the vast dome in the midst, and the towers of the Houses of Parliament rising up into the smoky canopy–a glorious and sombre picture, but irresistibly attractive.

The frequent trains and steamers to Greenwich have made Blackheath a playground and breathing-place for Londoners. Passing among these holiday people, we come to one of the gateways of Greenwich Park; it admits us from the bare heath into a scene of antique cultivation, traversed by avenues of trees. On the loftiest of the gentle hills which diversify the surface of the park is Greenwich Observatory. I used to regulate my watch by the broad dial-plate against the Observatory wall, and felt it pleasant to be standing at the very centre of time and space.

Lovely scratchy photo from wikipedia, or even more spectacular 20MB original scan can be found here.

1 Comment

Filed under blackheath, history

One response to “Blackheath – playground and breathing place for Londoners

  1. Pingback: A Vintage Affair « The Blackheath Bugle

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