Welcome wine poured, complimentary chocolates opened, there’s a dilemma looking out of the windows of your spacious room at the Clarendon Hotel over the Royal Hundred Hides of Blackheath. Which episode from the rich history of a thousand years do you focus on? For Blackheath’s hides – a hide is sufficient land to house and feed a family – tell the story of the nation.
Do you imagine Henry V’s troops celebrating on their return from their famous victory at Agincourt? Or do you laugh at Henry Vlll’s official meeting with his fourth bride, Anne of Cleves, at Blackheath? When Holbein’s flattering portrait of “the Flanders mare”, the Renaissance equivalent of a heavily photoshopped Tinder pic, had lured Henry into a marriage that was never consummated. “I like her not” was Henry’s blunt aside to his minister Thomas Cromwell.
The Clarendon Hotel does its best to summarise a hectic millennium of Blackheath history on an A3 card. Still talking Tudors and Stuarts, James l played the first round of golf, on English soil, at Blackheath in 1608. Bizarrely, a blustery links course developed over the sandy soil that ran alongside the tidal Thames. Today, Blackheath Golf Club welcomes visitors to both its course and museum as long as you book both in advance.
The wide-open spaces of Blackheath have hosted both celebration and rebellion. In 1381, 100,000 people gathered for Wat Tyler’s Peasant Revolt against the Poll Tax and in 1497, Henry Vll, only newly established as the first Tudor, defeated a Cornish Rebellion.
The row of elegant Georgian houses that make up The Clarendon are a page of history in their own right. At the heart of a maritime empire, the River Thames brought wealth to London. Merchants and shipowners built themselves luxurious homes in Greenwich and Blackheath.
Similarly today, wealthy traders from Canary Wharf and The City choose to settle in the village of Blackheath. There is a pub by the pond, a church on the common and independent shops on the High Street. Foodies are flocking to Blackheath to visit Cooper and Ink run by Masterchef runner-up Tony Rudd, highly rated Everest Inn serving Nepalese cuisine plus the Ivy Cafe.
When in 1884, after over two centuries of scientific endeavour to accurately establish longitude, representatives of the world voted to establish a physical location for zero degrees, they placed the Meridian at Greenwich. So, at The Clarendon’s Meridian Restaurant, east meets west. Even Blackheath’s microbrewery, a two-minute walk from The Clarendon is called Zero Degrees: their mango beer has to be tried.
There is no better illustration of the area’s wealth than a tour of the Cutty Sark, a 30 minutes’ walk away over Blackheath and through Royal Greenwich Park – though you can take a bus. In 2020 values, the tea chests carried by the clipper from Shanghai to London, on any one of its voyages in the 1870s were worth £18.5 million.
Today, you can “go at a clip” on the Thames Clippers which take you east to the Greenwich Peninsula and the Emirates Cable Car flying high over the Thames. Commentary celebrates the world’s first underwater tunnel that opened in 1843 with 50,000 people paying a penny each to walk through. There are birds-eye views of City Airport, The Thames Barrier, Lea Valley and the Olympic village. The Tide, an elevated riverside trail, includes sculptures by Damian Hirst and Antony Gormley. Heading west, the Clipper takes passengers past the skyscrapers of the City, past Tower Bridge and onto a stop for both Shakespeare’s Globe and The Tate Modern.
History continues at The Clarendon Hotel. At the height of the COVID – 19 pandemic, the hotel hosted NHS staff for over 2,500 nights from nearby Blackheath Hospital. “We had to develop safety protocols long before the government produced guidelines,” says Ken Milton, General Manager, a lifelong local who sculls on the Thames and has twice run the London Marathon that begins on Blackheath.
For NHS staff dealing with the trauma of COVID – 19, The Clarendon Hotel, with wide rainfall showers, revitalising Elemis toiletries, pre-ordered breakfasts served in the Meridian Restaurant or your room, perhaps a drink in peaceful gardens that usually host wedding receptions must have been a blissful retreat from their long and hectic working days. Now, heading back to a form of normality, The Clarendon Hotel is a comfortable base for exploring the many attractions of Blackheath, Greenwich and beyond.
Tell Me More About The Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath
The Clarendon Hotel Montpelier Row, Blackheath, London SE3 0RW
T: 020 8318 4321
A deluxe room, with breakfast, from £160.