Category Archives: history

Footpads of Blackheath – bandits bold

Spectator article about Blackheath footpads 1877
The Spectator has just opened up its searchable archive of every issue. In June 1877 it seems the big issue was “footpads

Footpad is an archaic term for a robber or thief specializing in pedestrian victims. The term was used widely from the 16th century until the 19th century, but gradually fell out of common use. A footpad was considered a low criminal, as opposed to the mounted highwayman who in certain cases might gain fame as well as notoriety.

The Blackheath Bandits Bold:

Till Mrs. Potter’s carriage was attacked, the business looked serious. The footpads threatened Mr. Hodgson with death, and as he gave them what money he had, it remained uncertain whether they were in earnest or not, and the idea of a sudden revival of an old form of crime was not in itself absurd, but after the second affair there was no room for uncertainty. The highwaymen by no means belonged to the order of “bandits bold.” Dick Turpin would have been ashamed of them, and Claude Duval have cut off their ears. Mrs. Potter’s coachman whipped them, and they did nothing ; the coachman of the third carriage attacked only whipped on his horses and easily escaped ; and on the fourth occasion, when everything seemed propitious, the coachmen being old and the occupants of the carriage ladies only, they were put to ignominious flight by the advent of the familiar hansom cab.


They like silver spoons best, of course, but they will take anything, coats, clocks, gilt ornaments, walking-canes, kitchen utensils, and even, when they can command carts, household furniture. They are satisfied apparently with gains which can hardly be greater than they could earn by honest labour, and they have an ignominious fear of the police. A good deal of their work is done by day, it being a feature of these suburbs that the head of the house is usually absent in business hours ; but they also work at night, and then, in reporters’ parlance, “the neighbourhood of, say, Twickenham or Lee is thrown into alarm by a series of burglaries” of an insignificant, but still most annoying sort ; every servant has some story of her alarms to tell, and there is a sudden develop- ment of the passion for little dogs, always the best protectors. The police are placed on the alert, the robbers find too many observant persons are about ; the pursuit grows hot, and they decamp, to recommence their attempts in some other neighbour- hood, still within a short distance of London


A very slight reform, to be paid for by a moderate rate, would, we believe, remedy the whole evil, and dis- tinctly improve the value of suburban property. It is not that strict patrolling is required, such as protects the centre of London. The criminals to be defeated are not formidable, not numerous, and not daring, and strict patrolling is from physical circumstances not possible. But with a slightly increased staff, the police could obtain better information about suspicious characters, could re- ceive a complaint without a sense of overwork, and could keep up pursuit with something of the energy they show against more serious crimes. It is their knowledge that pursuit will not be serious or long continued which makes thieves so audacious, and which has tempted three or four of them to try whether highway robbery without murder might not be as easy a mode of gaining a living as burglary on the smaller scale. They have roused too much attention to succeed, but a very little money and no great amount of organising skill would make each of the great and wealthy villages round London as safe as Blackheath has recently been made.

That last paragraph could have come straight from a Safer Neighbourhoods report…

PS – If you enjoy stuff like this, you might like my post about Penny Dreadfuls, and the legend of Spring Heeled Jack, from a long time ago.

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Was Blackheath Cavern a chalk mine?

Blackheath Cavern Guide To Knowledge 1833 via Subterranean Greenwich and Kent
More from Subterranean Greenwich and Kent, on the exact nature of the Blackheath Cavern.

See previously:


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The chicken rustler and Conduit Lodge

alfred-jackman-great-great-grandfatherExcellent piece of investigation here, showing how a search for an ancestor lead to a discovery of chicken theft in the family! But does “Conduit Lodge, Blackheath Park” still exist?

There are some beautiful (copyrighted) photos from a scrapbook here and here, showing a Conduit Lodge, but with no more info.

This source suggests that it was in Eltham, not Blackheath, but perhaps Conduit House in Eltham is a different property? It doesn’t look the same as the flickr images in this photo.

If anyone can shed any light, please do! I’m off to rustle some chickens from CostCutter.


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An infographic from 1697…

A description of the army camp on Blackheath 1697
Nice find over on British Army Lineages – a description of the army camping on Blackheath from 1697:

Partial transcription from my squinting at the text (shout if you see mistakes, or manage to transcribe the rest!):

A description of the camp on Blackheath which begun on Thursday the 1st of July 1697.

On Tuesday the 1st day of July 1697, the 7 Regiments of Foot marcht to Black-heath in the County of Ken, about 6 Mile from London’ in order to Encamped, and having the Ground set out for the setting up their Tents’ and on Thursday and Friday the 1st and 2d Days of July, the 7 Regiments of Foot came all into the Camp, then the Camp was full, which consisteth of 7 Regiments. Lieutenant Colonel Withers Brigadier for this Camp, acteth as chief. The distance of each Regiment as they are Encamped on the Heath is 24 Paces; and between the Regiments they are xx Paces. The distance of the Foot Companies one from another, is about 4 Paces in the Front, and 12 Tents in File, two Foot between every Tent; in length 813 Paces from thence to the Brigadiers Tent.
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Past and Present

Holmes Plating Company War Workers Blackheath 1941 montage with present day
Here’s an interesting thing. In 1941 Reg Counsell worked for the Holmes Plating Company in Blackheath. He’s 85 now, and has sent in some photos of his time there. One in particular caught my eye – a group of the workers up on the heath. So I went to try and work out whereabouts it was taken. There are so many more trees on the heath now! And for some reason the three windows on the big white house are now blocked up. Maybe blacked out during the war? But if that was the case, surely they’d prefer to have a view of the heath now? Very odd… Anyway, I’ve made a montage above showing Reg’s photo, and some current images from the heath.

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Open House London 2011

Blackheath Society Vice-presidents Neil Rhind and Tony Aldous will be carrying out a guided walk (same route both days) looking at some of Blackheath’s best Georgian and early Victorian buildings on its south east corner. Meet outside the Princess of Wales’s pub. Walks approx. 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Maximum numbers 30. Tickets (free) available on a first-come first-served basis from 10.45 am (Saturday) and 2.45 pm (Sunday).
Saturday 17th September (tomorrow) – 11am
Sunday 18th September – 3pm

This should be excellent. Neil Rhind is always an interesting speaker, author of the excellent Blackheath Village & Environs series, and knows more than is healthy about the history of this area!

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Seventies bus and a forgotten hotel

Great photo from 1974 of a Number 54 bus passing the Heathview hotel in Montpelier Row by Lloyd Rich on Flickr. As one commenter pointed out “just about to be overtaken by Emma Peel too”. Sent in response to the perennially popular post Memories of Blackheath 1944-1958 by Bob Land.

Post here by the Phantom, about the Heathview as it was called.
Another photo here.


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