Eltham, London

From Academic Kids

OS Grid Reference:Template:Gbmappingsmall
County:Greater London
Region:Greater London
Ceremonial County:Greater London
Traditional County:Kent
Post Office and Telephone
Post town:LONDON
Dialling Code:020

Eltham is a place in south-east London in the London Borough of Greenwich. It originally developed along part of the road from London to Maidstone and lies three miles almost due south of Woolwich (Mottingham, to the south, was originally part of the parish - explaining why Eltham College is not actually in Eltham anymore).


Development of the area

Early development

Eltham lies on a high, sandy plateau which gave it a strategic significance. That, and the fact of its position on 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.

Missing image
Eltham High Street

The nearby manor of Well Hall was home to Sir John Pulteney, four times Lord Mayor of London, and later to wealthy Catholic William Roper and his wife Margaret (daughter of Sir 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 was also later home to Hubert Bland and E. Nesbit. The site is now a public park: Well Hall Pleasaunce. An attractive 16th century former barn, known as the The Tudor Barn, is now a prominent public house.

Also of note is Avery Hill Park and its former mansion, accessed from Bexley Road and at various points along the three miles 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 Carribean plantations. 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 built the Progress Estate and large estates of temporary hutments in 1915, to house the vastly increased numbers of workers in the Woolwich Arsenal.

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.


Eltham, like 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. Unfortunately, Eltham High street, the commercial centre situated on its elevated plateau, was not on an obvious route for the railway, so it is distant (and uphill) from both lines. Bus connections are adequate between these locations.


The Bexleyheath Line

Originally opened on 1 May 1895 by a private company, it was taken over by the South Eastern Railway after suffering bankruptcy. There were originally two stations in Eltham - Eltham (Well Hall) (originally simply "Well Hall"); and Eltham Park ("Shooters Hill" originally) opened 1 July 1908 [1] (

On 11 June 1972, a London-bound train came off the track at Well Hall, killing 6 and injuring 126. Both stations in Eltham were closed in 1985 when major work was carried out on the A2 motorway. The new Eltham station opened in Glenlea Road the same year, combining bus and rail links in one complex, high above the A2. The new station is constructed in concrete, and the position of the platforms above the ticket office (with long ramps and stairs, denying a view of approaching trains), combined with its modernist feel, has led to negative comparisons with the two stations it replaced. picture (

The Dartford Loop

This line, about 1km south of Eltham High St, was opened by the South Eastern Railway on September 1 1866. It is commonly known by locals as the 'Sidcup line to Dartford' (Sidcup is a suburb situated south-east of Eltham). There are two stations on this line that best serve the population living to the south of Eltham: Mottingham (given the name "Eltham" until the Bexleyheath line opened), and New Eltham (formerly "Pope Street"). Both date from the early 20th century and have been sgnificantly upgraded.

Given the lack of Tube access, the two suburban rail lines work at, or above, their capacity during peak-hour commuting to central London. Both before and after rail privatisation, dissatisfaction with the punctuality and crowding of the service has been a constant feature of life in this sector of the city.


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 always-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 are moderately free of traffic noise and congestion, and many have been traffic-calmed by the local Council. 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.

Culture and identity

Eltham appears to be similar to many of the surrounding suburbs of south East London, but its location and history has made it predominantly white (unlike areas further towards central London, but similar to Welling and Blackfen, to the East). In many respects it is at the furthest edge of the continuously built-up London urban area, since there is much more green space and Green Belt land to its East and south east. Thus it is both 'suburban' and 'urban', and it forms part of the inner-London Borough of Greenwich.

Its historical fame as 'royal' Eltham has not really endured - many pre and post-war housing estates were bland redevelopments, and visually unappealing (the Progress Estate is an exception). The town centre has lost several of its anchor stores and its Cinema since the 1980s, and some attractive back streets were replaced by a supermarket and a car park at that time. It does support a loyal core of shoppers, diners, and drinkers, but the nightlife is modest. House prices in this part of London, even during the booms of the 1980s and late 1990s, were significantly below the averages for other sectors of London, reflecting its disconnection from London's 'global' image and the finance capital of the City. Inmigrants to London tend to head to other sectors - Eltham's relatively homogenous racial and ethnic makeup is in stark contrast to the multi-ethnic areas situated a similar distance from the centre in North West or West London, like Harrow or Ealing. Eltham still has large areas of Council housing, and the historically white, working class population of these eststes and apartment blocks have given a certain notoriety to the town's name, particularly after the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1993. The "lower middle class" dominate Eltham as a whole. Outside the estates, 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. Only two roads, North Park and Court Road, contain million pound homes, although some of the older Victorian buildings have been subdivided into apartments. The school system, and the commercial hub, are really a reflection of Eltham's population and recent history - a functional centre, but increasingly under threat from out of town shopping and increased vehicle ownership.

Famous residents

Nearest places

Natural areas



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