Blackheath was so called because it appeared a darker colour than the green fields beside the Thames which it overlooked - the soil was dark and so were the plants which grew there. (Contrary to local belief, the name has nothing to do with the plague or Black Death.) The soil was poor and was not cultivated, but chalk, gravel and larger pebbles for ballast were dug out of it. This left the deep pits all over the Heath. Some are now ponds and some were filled in with rubble from bomb sites in the Second World War.

In both the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and Jack Cade's rebellion of 1450, the rebels camped on the Heath (a convenient high point overlooking London). The Cornish rebellion of 1497 was defeated in a battle on Blackheath. 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. Fairs were (and are) held here, and many sports were played. In recent years it has been the starting point for the London Marathon.

^ ^ Click on photo of Blackheath to take a Virtual walk around Blackheath ^ ^