South East London
|| Both the history and
geography that outlines South East London begins at
London owes its important position to Southwark’s
early landscape. As the first crossing place on the
river, Roman Southwark grew rapidly,
covering up to 45 acres.
During Anglo Saxon times Southwark became the greatest
traffic and trading centre in the country. Such was
its importance by 1295 that it was the only town outside
of the City permitted to send two representatives to
The Southbank, which is now a bastion of art galleries
and cultural centres, was for many years a stretch of
wasteland sitting beside the River Thames. Difficult to
build on, it was largely untouched until the 18th century,
when drainage techniques had improved to the extent that
it became a viable site for development. This took the
form of industry and slum housing, and the
area soon became a place of ill repute. Thankfully
creative fractions began to appear and by the 1900s art
galleries and art traders began to use the
Southbank. The Southbank was again rejuvenated by the
staging of The Festival of Britain in the 1940s
to celebrate the end of World War II and many new buildings
sprang up around this time. The Royal Festival Hall still stands to this day as a monument to that festival.
Head to Lewisham for an equally fascinating
history that was ravished by the plague and the Black Death. Contrary to popular
belief Blackheath was so called because
it appeared a darker colour than the green fields beside
the Thames which it overlooked and is not, in this case,
connected to the Black Death.
By the 1500s the Heath was a lonely place where travellers
along the London to Dover road (now the A2) were in danger
from highwaymen. But it was also a place for recreation.
With a strong sporting past it comes as no surprise that The London Marathon now begins from this point.
The Heath became a public open space in 1871, and is now
administered by Lewisham and Greenwich councils since
it falls within both boroughs.
There were hardly any houses on the Heath until about
1700. A few were built in the 18th century, but the
main development of Blackheath Village took place after 1803 when John Cator began building the houses now called the Cator
Estate. Nowadays Blackheath Village is known
for high quality shops and restaurants, as well as an
ever-expanding range of cultural events and activities.