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Eltham, London


Eltham, London

This article is about suburban town and district in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. For other uses, see Eltham (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 51°27′05″N 0°03′06″E / 51.451476°N 0.051773°E / 51.451476; 0.051773

Greater London
OS grid reference TQ425745
London borough Greenwich
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SE9, SE12
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament Eltham
London Assembly Greenwich and Lewisham
List of places

Eltham /ˈɛltəm/ is a district of South East London, England, located in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It is situated 8.6 miles (13.8 km) east south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.[1]


Eltham was originally developed along part of the road from London to Maidstone and lies 3 miles (4.8 km) almost due south of Woolwich. Mottingham, to the south, was originally part of the parish, explaining why Eltham College is not actually in Eltham any more.

Eltham was a civil parish of Kent until 1889 when it became part of the County of London and from 1900 formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich. The metropolitan borough was abolished in 1965 and Eltham then became part of the then London Borough of Greenwich.

Eltham today is one of the largest suburban developments in the borough with a population of almost 88,000 people.

Early development

Eltham lies on a high, sandy plateau which gave it a strategic significance. That, and the fact of its position close to the main route to the English Channel ports in Kent, led to the creation of the moated Plantagenet Eltham Palace, still its most notable landmark.

The nearby manor of Well Hall was home to Sir John Pulteney, four times Lord Mayor of the City of London, and later to wealthy Catholic William Roper and his wife Margaret (daughter of Sir Thomas More, known to Catholics as Saint Thomas More, Chancellor to King Henry VIII). In 1733 Sir Gregory Page bought this estate for £19,000 and demolished Roper House, building Page House – later known as Well Hall House – on the site. Until its demolition in 1931, Well Hall House variously served as a home to watchmaker John Arnold, and later to socialist Hubert Bland and author Edith Nesbit.

Also of note is Avery Hill Park and its former mansion, accessed from Bexley Road and at various points along the three miles (5 km) of other streets that surround the park. Today the mansion is part of the University of Greenwich, which has a significant presence on two sites in the area. Avery Hill was the home of Colonel North, who made his fortune working in the Chilean nitrate industry. A hothouse is still open to the public and contains temperate and tropical plants. There are also remnants of the formal gardens in the public park.

Development after 1900

The village streets adjacent to the Palace, and the surrounding land, remained rural until Archibald Cameron Corbett bought the Eltham Park Estate and developed it with well-built suburban housing between 1900 and 1914. The Bexley Heath Railway (see below) had opened what came to be known as the Bexleyheath Line in 1895. Suburban development of the district really began when the Government, through His Majesty's Office of Works, built the Progress Estate and large estates of temporary hutments in 1915, to house the vastly increased numbers of wartime workers in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. In the early years this was called, rather pretentiously, Well Hall Garden City, but it compares well with later groups of municipal housing in south London – which is surprising given the fact that it was constructed rapidly between February and December 1915 and its sub-division by the South Circular Road and, until about 1988, by the even busier A2 Trunk Road.

After World War I the building of housing estates continued unabated. By the beginning of World War II, three large estates were in existence: the Page Estate (1923), Middle Park (1931–36), and Horn Park (begun 1936, completed 1950s). The latter two were built on Eltham Palace's former hunting parks. Coldharbour Estate was built in 1947. In the 1990s the defence of Oxleas Wood to the east of the town became a focus for a pan-European campaign to resist high capacity urban roads. Significantly the European Court of Justice found the UK government at fault for not adequately assessing the environmental impact of the planned road, that would have joined Beckton to Falconwood and perhaps – if objectors' fears are to be believed – been a first stage of a wider orbital road through Catford (a revival of a Greater London Council-backed Ringway Two). In 2007, the new Eltham Centre opened just off the High Street including council offices and a new swimming pool and incorporating the early 20th century library.


Eltham is a town with a varied topography. The centre of Eltham is situated on a plateau, high enough to offer unrestricted views across South London. Eltham Hill offers the steepest descent from the plateau to sea-level, starting at Eltham High Street and ending 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) due west at the Yorkshire Grey (now a McDonald's outlet). The land to the north of Eltham rises to form the southern slope of Shooter's Hill, one of the highest points in London.

Eltham is devoid of any major water features, although the River Thames is approximately 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away from Eltham's northern limits. The most prominent body of water is the River Quaggy which runs to the south-west of Eltham. The only other bodies of water in Eltham can be located in its parks, such as the lakes at Sutcliffe Park and the Tarn.

Eltham is bordered by Woolwich, Kidbrooke, Welling, Lee Green, Mottingham, Shooter's Hill, New Eltham and Falconwood. It lies north of Chislehurst with Green Lane SE9 connecting Green Lane Chislehurst in the London Borough of Bromley.

Other Nearby Areas

Parks and open spaces

There is a large variety of open green space in Eltham, in the form of parkland, fields and woodland.

  • Avery Hill Park is large, open parkland, situated to the east of Eltham. It is most notable for its Winter Garden, a hothouse containing tropical trees and plants from around the world. The parkland was acquired by the London County Council in 1902.
  • Oxleas Woods, Castle Wood and Jack Wood, located to the north of Eltham, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Oxleas Wood covers 190.3 acres (0.8 km2) and is at least 8,000 years old. The wood is home to specimen of tree including oak, silver birch, hornbeam and coppice hazel. Severndroog Castle, built in 1784 as a memorial to William James of the East India Company, stands in Castle Wood.
  • Sutcliffe Park is a 35 acres (0.1 km2) park situated at the westernmost point of Eltham. Previously known as Harrow Meadow, the parkland was reclaimed from the River Quaggy in the 1930s. The Quaggy was diverted into culverts, and the park officially opened in 1937 as Sutcliffe Park, named after the Borough's engineer. On 26 June 1954, the athletics track in Sutcliffe Park was opened, and has since been home to the Cambridge Harriers. The park borders the Ferrier Estate, which was completed in 1970. In 2003, the park was re-landscaped as a wetland area. The River Quaggy was allowed to flow above-ground in the area, for the first time in 70 years.
  • The Royal Blackheath Golf Course and the adjoining Tarn date back to Tudor times. The golf club, founded in 1766 in nearby Blackheath and situated to the south of Eltham since its merger with Eltham Golf club in 1923, is the oldest golf club in the world outside Scotland.[2]
  • Well Hall Pleasaunce[3] – formal gardens, ponds and woodland, originally the site of a manor house.
  • Eltham Park North[4] and Eltham Park South[5] are the final major green areas in Eltham. The southern park is adjacent to the Eltham Warren Golf Course.


At the 2001 Census, the population of Eltham parliament constituency was 87,579,[6] although this figure includes the wards of Coldharbour and New Eltham, Kidbrooke with Hornfair and Shooter's Hill. 60,482 people live in the SE9 postcode district.[7] 47.7% of Eltham's population is male, with 52.3% of the population female. Under 18s comprise 23% of Eltham's total population, with senior citizens making up 20.7%.[6]

Migration and ethnicity

At the last census of 2001, the white population of Eltham was recorded at 86.7%, which was below the national average of 92.2%.[6] At the time of the census, the largest minority group in Eltham are Black-African and Black-Caribbean people, who composed 5.8% of the total population with Asians comprising 3.7% of Eltham's population.

Eltham's population by ward in 2001 is as follows:

Eltham West[8]

  • Total Population: 13,438
    • White British: 10,257 (76.33%)
    • Black African: 1,100 (8.19%)
    • Black Caribbean: 279 (2.08%)
    • White Irish: 240 (1.79%)
    • Chinese: 227 (1.69%)
    • Indian: 143 (1.06%)

Eltham North[9]

  • Total Population: 12,303
    • White British: 10,771 (87.55%)
    • White Irish: 322 (2.62%)
    • Indian: 196 (1.59%)
    • Black Caribbean: 127 (1.03%)
    • Black African: 110 (0.89%)

Eltham South[10]

  • Total Population: 11,629
    • White British: 9,858 (84.77%)
    • Indian: 235 (2.02%)
    • White Irish: 226 (1.94%)
    • Black African: 219 (1.88%)
    • Chinese: 91 (0.78%)

Middle Park & Sutcliffe[11]

  • Total Population: 12,832
    • White British: 10,499 (81.82%)
    • Black Caribbean: 333 (2.60%)
    • White Irish: 281 (2.19%)
    • Black African: 215 (1.68%)
    • Indian: 192 (1.50%)

In January 2012, however, black and minority ethnic people made up more than a third of its population of 78,380.[12]

Culture and identity

Eltham has an unusually high quotient of green space, with large areas of woodland to the north and east, including the historic woodland of Shooters Hill and Oxleas Wood, the Woodlands Farm community holding, Eltham Parks north and south and extensive parkland heading into Avery Hill park. Thus it is both 'suburban' and 'urban', and it forms part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, an Inner London borough.

The town centre supports a loyal core of shoppers, diners, and drinkers, but the nightlife is modest. In recent years there has been great effort by local town centre businesses and other important Eltham stakeholders, to drive business, community and tourism improvements, that will help sustain the town centre. These efforts have resulted in the formation of an Eltham town centre partnership (ETCP), chaired by an elected local stakeholder. Greenwich council have member and officer representatives and the University of Greenwich whose Avery Hill Campus borders the Town Centre is also represented. The ETCP have encouraged the development of A new town centre commerce Association – The Association of Commerce for Eltham (ACE). ACE has established a new Town Centre web portal, which, as well as providing a basic business directory also provides mechanisms for encouraging interaction between business and community groups. The ETCP is currently trying to encourage the University of Greenwich, to undertake research projects into business and community development, based on Eltham town centre.

Eltham residents occupy a housing stock of mixed age, particularly towards Eltham Park and the multiple streets with 'Glen' in their names, and there are some fine buildings scattered around the area. At least two roads, North Park and Court Road, contain million pound homes, and some of the older Victorian buildings have been subdivided into apartments.

On 24 April 1993, 18-year-old black student Stephen Lawrence was fatally stabbed on Well Hall Road. The crime quickly became one of the most high-profile racially motivated murders in modern Britain. Five teenagers were later accused of his murder but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.[13] In 2011 as a result of new evidence coming to light, Gary Dobson and David Norris stood trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. They were convicted on 3 January 2012.[14]

During the 2011 England riots, Eltham received national attention due to the fact that for three nights, a vigilante group of 200–300 people occupied the centre of Eltham, claiming to protect people and property from rioters. Extra police were sent to maintain order. The group gathered after rumours that Eltham would be the latest place to be hit by unrest. A small number claimed to be EDL members, others were supporters of local football clubs Charlton Athletic and Millwall. Police were forced to move the crowds on for fear of violence. Police were involved in minor clashes. Eltham did not have any riot damage.[15]


For education in Eltham, London see the main Royal Borough of Greenwich article

Primary schools located in Eltham include: Alderwood, Christ Church (Shooters Hill Rd), Deansfield, Gordon, Middle Park, Ealdham, Eltham C of E, Gordon, Haimo, Henwick, Holy Family, Kidbrooke Park, St Mary's, St Thomas More and Wingfield.

Secondary schools located in Eltham include Crown Woods College (built upon the land of King Henry VIII's hunting grounds), Eltham Hill School for Girls, Harris Academy Greenwich and St Thomas More Catholic School.

One campus of the University of Greenwich is situated in Avery Hill Park, on the borders of Eltham and New Eltham.

Sport and leisure

Eltham has a Non-League football club Cray Valley Paper Mills F.C., which plays at Badgers Sports Ground, and was formerly the home of Greenwich Borough FC until 2009. New Eltham is also home to the training ground of professional football club Charlton Athletic at Sparrows Lane. Once a year Cray Valley plays an annual charity match against their local non-league rivials Eltham Old Boys Football Club.



Eltham, along with most other suburbs in south east London, is not served by the London underground. Commuters rely on two rail lines to central London, and the road network. Trains through Eltham terminate at London Charing Cross, London Cannon Street or London Victoria in a westerly direction, and Crayford, Dartford, Slade Green, Gravesend, Gillingham or Rochester in an easterly direction. Given the lack of Tube access, the two suburban rail lines work at, or above, their capacity during peak-hour commuting to central London. Fast trains take as little as 20 minutes to get to London Charing Cross.

Bexleyheath line

Originally opened on 1 May 1895 by a private company, the Bexleyheath Line was taken over by the South Eastern Railway after it suffered bankruptcy. There were originally two stations in Eltham: Eltham Well Hall and Eltham Park. The line and both stations opened on 1 July 1908.[16] On 11 June 1972, a London-bound train came off the track at Well Hall, killing 6 and injuring 126. Both Eltham stations were closed in 1985 and replaced by a new ‘Eltham’ station; this coincided with the construction of the Rochester Way Relief Road part of which was built on the site of Eltham Well Hall station. Glenlea Road between Well Hall Road and Archery Road was replaced by the station forecourt and a bus station (this had previously been adjacent to Well Hall station). The new rail station was built above the new road at the point it travels through what is sometimes referred to as 'the Eltham tunnel'. The new station has a modernist feel.[17]

Dartford Loop

The Dartford Loop line, about 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) south of Eltham High Street, was opened by the South Eastern Railway on 1 September 1866. It is commonly known by locals as the 'Dartford line via Sidcup'. There are two stations on this line that serve the population living to the south of Eltham: Mottingham station, originally named 'Eltham Station' until 'Eltham Well Hall' opened, and New Eltham station. Neither station is as large as Eltham station, but both have been heavily upgraded since opening.


Eltham High Street lies on the A210, the original A20 London to Maidstone road. But the A20 has now been diverted southwards, passing through Mottingham, and it is a dual carriageway that connects to the M20 motorway in Kent. Similarly, to the north, the dual carriageway A2 has replaced the Rochester Road section, which was always very congested (the old road had dangerous readings of lead pollution, close to schools, before the advent of lead-free petrol).

The upgrading of these two arterial routes in and out of London means that Eltham is handily positioned between the A20 and A2. Driving on either of these roads into London soon results in congestion, although the A2 does connect through to the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames, and thus into east London, all on dual carriageway. Driving eastwards allows access to the Dartford Tunnel, and the Kent countryside, in as little as 20 minutes in off-peak hours.

Crossing the two from north to the south is the A205 South Circular road, a busy arterial route.

The back streets of Eltham have been largely traffic-calmed by the local Council, but there are chronic rat-runs[18] as many of the measures are ineffective or insufficient. Provision for cyclists is modest, while there are some interesting footpaths along ancient rights of way, for example in Oxleas Wood and Avery Hill Park.


Scheduled coaches, marketed as part of the National Express network, link Eltham Green to Pimlico and Victoria in central London and to several destinations on the Kent coast via Bluewater (a retail-based development on a grand scale situated in Dartford borough) and Canterbury. Eltham Green is one of the few places in south London served by National Express coaches.

Eltham is served by 15 Transport for London bus routes. Most pass through Eltham High Street, the only exceptions being the 122 and 178.

Buses that terminate in Eltham:

Buses that pass through Eltham en route to destination:

Notable residents


External links

  • Greenwich Council
  • Eltham Town Centre Web Portal
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