Blackheath: A middle class estate of the 18th and early 19th centuries

by Neil Rhind

The Eliot Developments

Eliot Place

There followed an enthusiasm by suburban landowners and builders to meet the huge demand for affordable middle class housing that was truly amazing, not just in Blackheath but in all the newly burgeoning suburbs on London’s fringe, particularly to the north and east. In Blackheath the Lord Eliot (his family were later the Earls of St Germans) adopted a “me too” policy, and encouraged by the Searles promotion on the neighbouring Cator Estate granted development leases to one of principal local contactors of the Searles scheme: Alexander Doull. This was to develop the long south fringe of the Heath in Eliot ownership – the Heath roads now designated Eliot Place, Eliot Vale and Eliot Hill and stretching west past Granville Park to Lewisham Hill.

Doull’s enterprise, like that of Searles, was seriously under-funded and his scheme of things failed to meet his expectations. There were a number of major detached dwellings – which mostly stand today: Nos 1 and 6 Eliot Place, Eliot Vale House and The Knoll and Old Knoll (one structure, split in 1903). But the careful composition of pairs of semi detached houses in London stock brick was not completed and the Eliot Place lots were developed in a haphazard fashion although the result in time acquired a patina of interest and, by today, provides architectural delight.

The ending of the French wars saw a diminution of activity although St Germans did approve the exploitation of the Heath frontage of the great Kidbrooke farmlands – over 1,000 acres and hugely profitable as mixed agricultural and horticultural land so close to London. Initially, Doull was the favoured party but he failed to proceed before his death in 1821 and another local land agent, William Dyer, took up the opportunity and found a sufficient number of professional men eager to buy substantial dwellings with space for carriage houses, a horse and servants’ rooms. The initial scheme was relatively low key but it set a precedent on the Shooters Hill Road and this great highway was fully developed on both sides by the 1860s.