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Eltham ( ) is a district in the London Borough of Greenwichmarker. It is a suburban development situated east south-east of Charing Crossmarker. According to the 2001 Census, the population of the Eltham parliament constituencymarker was 87,579. Eltham forms one of the three major urban centres in Greenwichmarker, and is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.


Eltham was originally developed along part of the road from London to Maidstonemarker (Pilgrims' Waymarker) and lies almost due south of Woolwich. Mottinghammarker, to the south, was originally part of the parish, explaining why Eltham Collegemarker is not actually in Eltham any more.

Eltham was a civil parish of Kentmarker until 1889 when it became part of the County of London and from 1900 formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwichmarker. The metropolitan borough was abolished in 1965 and Eltham then became part of the present-day 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 on the main route to the English Channelmarker ports in Kent, led to the creation of the moated Plantagenet Eltham Palacemarker, 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 Greenwichmarker, 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 Arsenalmarker at Woolwichmarker. 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 Woodmarker 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 Becktonmarker to Falconwood and perhaps - if objectors' fears are to be believed - been a first stage of a wider orbital road through Catfordmarker (a revival of a Greater London Council-backed Ringway Two). In 2005, proposals to replace both the Andrew Carnegie-funded library on Eltham High Street and the newer public swimming pool were announced by the London Borough of Greenwichmarker Council, the local authority.

Notable events

Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black sixth former of Jamaicanmarker origin, was fatally stabbed at a bus stop in Eltham on 24 April 1993. Five white youths were arrested on suspicion of Mr Lawrence's murder and two of them charged, but the case collapsed due to a lack of evidence. However, an inquest at Southwarkmarker Crown Court on 14 February 1997 concluded that Mr Lawrence's death was the result of an "unprovoked racist attack by five white youths" and that he was murdered "just because he was black". A public inquiry a year later condemned British policing for its "institutional racism". To date, nobody has been convicted of the murder.


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 Londonmarker. Eltham Hill offers the steepest descent from the plateau to sea-level, starting at Eltham High Street and ending due west at the Yorkshire Grey. The land to the north of Eltham rises to form the southern slope of Shooter's Hillmarker, one of the highest points in London.

Eltham is devoid of any major water features, although the River Thames is approximately away from Eltham's northern limits. The most prominent body of water is the River Quaggymarker 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 Woolwichmarker, Kidbrookemarker, Wellingmarker, Lee Greenmarker, Mottinghammarker, Shooter's Hillmarker, New Elthammarker and Falconwoodmarker.

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 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 Castlemarker, built in 1784 as a memorial to William James of the East India Company, stands in Castle Wood.
  • Sutcliffe Park is a park situated at the westernmost point of Eltham. Previously known as Harrow Meadow, the parkland was reclaimed from the River Quaggymarker 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 Estatemarker, 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 course, situated to the south of Eltham, is the oldest golf club in the world outside Scotlandmarker.
  • Well Hall Pleasaunce - formal gardens, ponds and woodland, originally the site of a manor house.
  • Eltham Park North and Eltham Park South 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 constituencymarker was 87,579, although this figure includes the wards of Coldharbour and New Eltham, Kidbrooke with Hornfair and Shooter's Hill. 60,482 people live in the SE9marker postcode district. 47.7% of Eltham's population is male, with 52.3% of the population female. Under 18s comprise of 23% of Eltham's total population, with senior citizens making up 20.7%.

Migration and ethnicity

In Eltham, 12.3% of people were born outside the United Kingdommarker. The largest minority group in Eltham are Black-African and Black-Caribbean people, who compose 5.8% of the total population. Asians are 3.7% of Eltham's population. The white population of Eltham is 86.7%, which is below the national average of 92.2%. Furthermore, the population of Black and Asian origin are both respectively higher than the national average.

Eltham's population by ward in 2001 is as follows:
Eltham West
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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%)

Culture and identity

Eltham appears to be similar to many of the surrounding suburbs of South East Londonmarker. Its relatively national-average racial and ethnic makeup is similar to other areas situated a similar distance from the centre in North West or West London, like Harrowmarker or Ealingmarker.

It has an unusually high quotient of green space, with large areas of woodland to the north and east, including the historic woodland of Shooters Hillmarker 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 London Borough of Greenwichmarker, an Inner London borough.

The town centre supports a loyal core of shoppers, diners, and drinkers, but the nightlife is modest. 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.


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

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

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



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 Crossmarker, London Cannon Streetmarker or London Victoriamarker in a westerly direction, and Crayfordmarker, Dartfordmarker, Slade Greenmarker, Gravesendmarker, Gillinghammarker or Rochestermarker 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 suffering bankruptcy. There were originally two stations in Eltham: Eltham 'Well Hall' and Eltham Park station. The line and both stations opened on 1 July 1908. On 11 June 1972, a London-bound train came off the trackmarker 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 dual carriageway. The new Eltham stationmarker opened in Glenlea Road the same year, combining bus and rail links in one complex, high above the A2. The new station has a modernist feel.

Dartford Loop

The Dartford Loop line, about south of Eltham High Street, was opened by the South Eastern Railway on 1 September 1866. It is commonly known by locals as the 'Dartfordmarker line via Sidcupmarker'. There are two stations on this line that serve the population living to the south of Eltham: Mottingham stationmarker, originally named 'Eltham Station' until 'Eltham Well Hall' opened, and New Eltham stationmarker. 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 Maidstonemarker 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 Tunnelmarker under the Thames, and thus into East londonmarker, all on dual carriageway. Driving eastwards allows access to the Dartford Tunnelmarker, and the Kentmarker 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 as a token measure, but the efforts have been unsuccessful with white-van-men and commuters continuing to use residential streets as "rat runs" and the council turning a blind eye to this. 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 Pimlicomarker and Victoriamarker in central London and to several destinations on the Kent coast via Bluewatermarker (a retail-based development on a grand scale situated in Dartford borough) and Canterburymarker. 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:

Famous residents


  1. » Eltham
  3. Well Hall Pleasaunce Well Hall Pleasaunce
  4. Greenwich Council - Eltham Park North Eltham Park North
  5. Greenwich Council - Eltham Park South Eltham Park South
  6. South East London House Prices and Local Property Market Statistics
  11. Subterranea Britannica: SB-Sites: Eltham Park Station
  12. picture

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