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The pits are named after Sir John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, who had a house nearby, adjacent to Greenwich Park, now called Vanbrugh Castle.

'Mince Pie House' built for his family, survived until 1911. Built over in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it contains many fine examples of substantial Georgian and Victorian houses – most notably Michael Searles' crescent of semi-detached terrace houses linked by colonnades, The Paragon ( – as well as some 1930s and 1960s additions.

Unlike the commons of Hackney, Tooting Bec and Clapham, Blackheath came to the Metropolitan Board of Works at no expense, because the Earl of Dartmouth agreed to waive his manorial rights.

It is held in trust for public benefit under the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1886.

The heath itself is not common land, but manorial waste.

The freehold is retained mostly by the Manor of Lewisham (owned by the Earl of Dartmouth) and also the Royal Manor of Greenwich (owned by the Crown Estate).

After pitching camp on Blackheath, Cornish rebels were defeated in the Battle of Deptford Bridge (sometimes called the Battle of Blackheath), just to the west, on 17 June 1497.

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The Pagoda is a notable example of a beautiful property situated in Blackheath, built in 1760 by Sir William Chambers in the style of a traditional Chinese pagoda.The Roman road that later became known as Watling Street crosses the northern edge of Blackheath (almost in line with the A2), probably heading for the mouth of Deptford Creek, rather than for Deptford Bridge like the modern A2.Before the development of Greenwich palace by the Tudors, the Plantagenet palace was located at Eltham Palace to the southeast of the heath and Watling Street and used as a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century.Blackheath is within the historic boundaries of Kent.An urban myth is that Blackheath was associated with the 1665 Plague or the Black Death of the mid-14th century.The Cator Estate was built on part of the estate formerly owned by Sir John Morden, whose Morden College (1695) is another notable building to the south-east of the heath.The Cator Estate also contains innovative 1960s Span houses and flats, and the Blackheath High School buildings on Vanburgh Park include the Church Army Chapel.It was later leased to the Prince Regent, who would become King George IV, and used as a summer home by his wife Caroline, Princess of Wales.In 1871 the management of Blackheath passed by Act of Parliament to the Metropolitan Board of Works.Blackheath was a rallying point for Wat Tyler's Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and for Jack Cade's Kentish rebellion in 1450.Wat Tyler is remembered by Wat Tyler Road on the heath, and Jack Cade by Cade Road near the heath.