Sorry to do a little self-promotion but Roger Marshall and I thought your followers would like to know that our Walking the Heath book is now published. There was a delay but that is all over now and copies (£7.50) can be had from the Blackheath Society , 10 Blackheath Village, SE3 9LE, or the usual outlets. Also this Saturday 21 December, from 11am to 1pm at the Age Exchange shop. Members of the Society or those who join on the spot can get a copy (only one, mind you) for a Fiver. For those slightly fed up with Rhind on Blackheath history topics might like to know they can rest until mid summer when Volume III of the Blackheath serial should be available.
It’s also in The Bookshop on the Heath (see photo).
Massively sad to hear that yet another independent shop in the village is selling up. The Bookshop on the Heath is a fantastic place. I really hope they find a buyer to continue the shop as a going concern.
Their press release is below. If anyone has any good examples of how local communities have managed to stem the exit of local businesses from their high streets, please place them in the comments.
Richard and Jasmine Platt, founding owners of the Bookshop on the Heath Ltd in Blackheath, South East London, have announced that they are selling the business in order to pursue other interests in the leisure industry.
During the past ten years, the business has won awards for excellent customer service and it has been independently rated as one of the country’s finest bookshops. From day one, it has posted excellent year-on-year profits.
There has been a bookshop in this location since 1949, making it one of the longest continually running bookshops in South London. The bookshop has become a real fixture in Blackheath Village and it has generated a tremendous local goodwill. More recently it was the setting for part of an episode of the BBC1 drama “Spooks”.
Richard says, “After a very happy and successful ten years here, we feel that the time has come for us to step back and pass on the legacy and reputation of the business to someone else. We hope that they can now also realise their dream like I did ten years ago by taking over and further developing a super little shop in a marvellous trading position. It would be lovely to think that the long tradition of bookselling could be continued by someone who shares our passion for offering fine books, maps & posters with friendly, personal service. Trade has been exceptionally good and there is also the opportunity for the new owner to develop web sales and sales of new books (children’s in particular) – areas which we have barely touched upon.”
The bookshop continues to open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and by appointment at all other times. If you are searching for a quantity of specific quality stock or you are interested in buying the whole of this successful and profitable turn-key business, please contact Richard Platt for more details on 01526 352267 or email email@example.com
Speaking of Turkey, Blackheath’s dabbling with Turkish food has come to a close. Not a huge surprise given some of the competition nearby. It was never a great place, as many of the reviews here have mentioned. Will Cote be any better?
Here are a few suggestions for books that are either about or inspired by the local area. For each one that you buy, I get a few pennies from Amazon that might go towards a lump of coal for Mrs Bugle…
Seriously though, please go and check The Bookshop on the Heath for these books first – the links below should be a last resort! If there are others books that I don’t know about, drop me a note in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.
All the Neil Rhind books
They’re the best source of historical information about Blackheath bar none. There are 2 large volumes – Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 1 covers the village and Blackheath Vale. Volume Two is almost impossible to find cheaply as it is out of print. I found it in Blackheath’s Cancer Research shop for a few pounds, but this was a miraculous discovery – it’s usually £50 or so.
There’s also a third volume, called The Heath, which unfortunately I don’t possess (yet).
Going back into time, and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a series of sketches about living as an American in England. Called Our Old Home, it contains reminiscences of his time living in Blackheath. His novel The Scarlet Letter (although not about Blackheath) was the inspiration for the (very funny) movie Easy A from last year.
Thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can look through its dusty pages for nothing, by going to this Internet Archive page. They have a great PDF version – complete with pen and ink illustrations, or the text only version (with dubious character recognition) is here.
The illustrations are brilliant, as are the footnotes – little pieces of local history, like this one (page 40): Continue reading →
Clare emailed a while back, asking if there were any reading groups in Blackheath. I knew that there was one based at the library, but couldn’t remember the details. As I went to renew a book a few days ago, sure enough on the counter was all the information that you would need –
There’s a book club held at the library on the first Thursday of each month, between 6.30pm-7.30pm. Last month they were reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
This contradicts what is written on Greenwich council’s page about reading groups – they claim that it is held at 7pm on the occasional Monday. Lewisham’s effort mentions a reading group, but doesn’t say when it is… At least it doesn’t send you there on the wrong day!
So, if you do go along, please let me know how it is, how many people are there, and whether the first Thursday of the month is the right date!
Just before Christmas, I was contacted by author Isabel Wolff, to tell me that her new novel “A Vintage Affair” was set in Blackheath. She asked if I would like to receive a copy to review. I said I’d love to, but have only just got around to reading it. I should start by saying that the Bugle is a man, a bit of a geek, who usually loves sci-fi, so possibly not the target audience, judging from the cover. However, I didn’t let that put me off, and I’m glad (although I will admit to hiding the cover behind a copy of The Metro whilst sitting on the train from Blackheath to Charing Cross). Why can’t books have neutral covers? I hate the fact that I am directed to a book on the basis of machismo, or equally supposed to discount it as it has a picture of a pink frock on the front!
Anyway, onto the book – the blurb sums it up well:
It is about a textiles expert, Phoebe Swift, who opens a vintage dress shop, ‘Village Vintage’, in Blackheath. One day she goes to visit an elderly French woman, Therese, who lives in The Paragon, and who has a collection of lovely clothes that she wishes to sell to Phoebe. But there is one garment that she won’t part with – a child’s blue winter coat from the 1940s. As Phoebe uncovers the mystery surrounding this little coat, and the child for whom it was destined, she realises that her own life is is to be changed forever.
It is certainly romantic fiction, but is written in a very readable and enjoyable style, almost like a thriller, except that the primary aim is not to guess “whodunnit”, but “whichmanisprincecharming”, and “willtherebeahappyending?” It’s the sort of book that you can virtually swallow whole – definitely a page-turner, and doesn’t require much effort on the part of the reader.
The book feels as though it has been written by someone who is very intelligent, and has researched their subjects thoroughly, but is now writing about those subjects to appeal to a wide audience.
Nearly all of the female relationships in the book are firm and honest – and the friendships are struck up quickly and easily. It also contains that soap-opera fantasy whereby friends and neighbours’ doors are always ajar, and people always pop in – think Ambridge rather than London.
The vintage clothes are used as a metaphor for previously lived lives, the main sentiment in the book is that these possessions are somehow endowed with the emotions of their owners. The book made me feel as though I should pay more attention to the clothes I wear, and not just stagger around in any old thing. I’ve always been slightly suspicious of fashion as an extension of greed, rather than an expression of yourself or of art, but this book definitely puts a positive spin on how clothes can improve a person.
The characters are easy to grasp, and enjoyable, possibly with the exception of the bizarre shop assistant Annie, who, when she’s not auditioning for local rep, is making strange comments about “souks” (p193) and “Grace Jones” (p210)… But apart from this, the more emotional scenes dealing with loss, melancholy, and regret are warm and effective.
The book is crammed full of Blackheath. Many of the books mentioned on this blog previously have only made passing mention of the place, whereas virtually all of the action in “A Vintage Affair” takes place squarely within the village, with occasional soujourns to Greenwich (the view from the Picturehouse bar becomes far more picturesque than the usual view of the barbers that I recall). Everybody seems well-off enough not to worry too much about money – and Blackheath feels a little like a fantasy land from a bygone era. Of course there are also a couple of trips to some vineyards, some romping in grand houses, and up the OXO tower, but those are par for the course, yes?
A few notes about the locations:
Village Vintage – the shop at the centre of the novel. From the description, I imagine it being where Raffles the clothes shop is (opposite the church, see above left). However, “Sisters & Daughters” near the station seems quite a nice fit too (see above right).
Cafe Amici – I couldn’t help noticing in the author’s bio that she used to be a BBC World Service producer… Which made the inclusion of Cafe Amici (right opposite Bush House in real life) an amusing easter-egg.
Costcutters p243-244- schoolgirls, going to the same high-school prom, being held at the Natural History Museum, as the millionaire’s daughter, dreaming about buying a £245 pound dress, currently working in CostCutters on a Saturday for £45 a shift.
Clarendon Hotel p223- Does not get a very flattering write-up (perhaps justifiably) – Phoebe’s non-wedding reception, probably a lucky escape?
Bennett Street– Clearly based upon Bennett Park, next to the station
All Saints Church – mostly walked past, or bonging in the background
The Paragon – where Mrs Bell lives.
Moon Daisy Cafe – frequent meeting place – possibly based upon Montpelier Coffee Shop?
Chapters All Day Dining p377 – Dan and Phoebe go there to toast Dan’s success.
Blackheath Concert Halls – Possible location for a fashion show? p382
Black & Green – Nice name for the local freesheet newspaper that Dan works for… Not sure that any local papers around here quite manage to cover the Social Whirl so effectively though! Poetic license, I guess. p206
Author Isabel Wolff interviewed about the book here: