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The northern part of Blackheath, next to Greenwich Park is in the Borough of Greenwich; the southern part in Lewisham. Blackheath is former common land; the name probably arising from the colour of the soil. Although managed for public use only since 1871, it has long been used for public recreation, as well as an important place for a multitude of events from fairs to actions of highwaymen, royal celebrations to rebellions, battles to religious gatherings.

There is evidence of pre-historic man here, with the discovery of Blackheath Cavern under The Point or Point Hill containing 7 chambers and a well, created by tools made of antlers; Celtic carving was found within the entrance. Once it was rediscovered, the Cavern was visited from the 1780s. It got damaged and was closed in 1854, and it collapsed in the 1880s.

The Roman Watling Street crossed Blackheath, and the Danes camped here between 1011-1014 having captured Alfege, Archbishop of Canterbury; the parish church of St Alfege is said to be built on the site of his murder.

The heath was the meeting point for Wat Tyler and Jack Straw's 1381 doomed peasants revolt protesting against taxes, with 100,000 rebels gathering here; Jack Cade's march to London began here on 1 June 1450, whose 40,000 followers protested among other things against the non-punishment of murderers. In 1497 the rebellion by the men of Cornwall led by Michael Joseph and James Tuchet, Lord Audley, was crushed by Henry VII. The bodies of slaughtered rebels were buried under mounds, one of which remains and was later re-named Whitefield's Mound, after the revivalist preacher George Whitefield who preached here. In 1554 the unsuccessful rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt against the Tudor Queen Mary's Spanish marriage camped on the heath. However, the heath also witnessed many celebratory events, such as Henry V's return from Agincourt in 1415 and Charles II's return to be King in in 1660.

Fairs have been held since the 1680s. Associations with sporting activities include its use as a golf course by the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, founded in 1608, until it amalgamated with the Eltham Golf Club and moved to Eltham in 1923. Cricket was played on the heath from the 1820s at least, by teams such as the West Kent Wanderers, founded in 1870. Blackheath Football Club, formed in 1862, played here until 1877, a club important in the establishment of the Rugby Football Union.

In the 18th and 19th centuries land was quarried for chalk, sand and gravel. After World War II all but one of the gravel pits, Vanbrugh Pit, were filled with rubble from bombed buildings. One of the four ponds on the heath was once a sizeable boating lake with an island in the middle. During the war barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns were sited on the heath and Nissen huts erected.

In 1871 the management of Blackheath passed by Act of Parliament to the Metropolitan Board of Works, passing in 1889 to the London County Council, then to the Greater London Council. When it closed in 1986 responsibility was given to the two boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, although the freehold remains with the Lords of the Manor, the Earl of Dartmouth in Lewisham, the Queen in Greenwich. A number of active groups are involved in the preservation and maintenance of Blackheath, combining as the Joint Blackheath Working Party.

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