Eltham is a suburban district of South East London, England, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It is centred east south-east of Charing Cross. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.
Eltham developed along part of the road from London to Maidstone and lies almost due south of Woolwich. Mottingham, to the south, became part of the parish on the abolition of all extra-parochial areas, which were rare anomalies in the parish system. Eltham College and other parts of Mottingham were even before the 1860s therefore not considered within Eltham's boundaries.
From the sixth century Eltham was in the ancient Lathe of Sutton at Hone. In the 1086 Domesday Book its hundred was named Gren[u/v]iz (Greenwich), which by the 1166 was renamed Blachehedfeld (Blackheath) because it had become the location of the annual or more frequent hundred gathering.
By the 1880s the lathes and hundreds of Kent had become obsolete, with the civil parishes and other districts assuming modern governmental functions.
Eltham was a civil parish of Kent until 1889 when it became part of the County of London and from 1900 formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich. The metropolitan borough was abolished in 1965 and Eltham then became part of the then London Borough of Greenwich.
Eltham today is one of the largest suburban developments in the borough with a population of almost 88,000 people.
Eltham lies on a high, sandy plateau which gave it a strategic significance. That, and the fact of its position close to 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. Daniel Lysons described its origins.
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 Greenwich, which has been a significant presence on two sites in the area. However in 2014 the University announced its intentions to withdraw from the site. 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.
Suburban 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 accelerated 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 Arsenal at Woolwich. In the early years it was called, rather pretentiously, "Well Hall Garden City".Its name was changed to "Progress Estate" when it was purchased by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in 1925. 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 is sub-divided by the South Circular Road and (until about 1988) by the even busier A2 Trunk Road. Progress Estate was made a Conservation Area in 2007.
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 o n Eltham Palace's former hunting parks. Coldharbour Estate was built in 1947. The small council estates of Pippenhall and Strongbow Crescent were completed about 1960. Since that time new house building has been limited to small private "infill developments" and replacements for demolished properties.
Eltham residents occupy a housing stock of mixed age, particularly towards Eltham Park and the multiple streets with 'Glen' in their names. An exciting development in the Eltham Park area is the recent opening of a Micropubby local resident Michael Wren, The Long Pond in December 2014. It is the first pub in Eltham Park for at least 115 years as Archibald Cameron Corbett would not give permission for pubs and put a restrictive covenant on the land. However since the Licensing Act 2003 was implemented in 2005 Premise Licences are now granted by the local authority (Greenwich London Borough Council) instead of Magistrates and JP's, and as long as the applicant satisfies the council and the "responsible authorities" e.g. Police, Environmental Health,Fire Service etc. that they will uphold the Four Licencing Objectives: 1) Prevention of crime and disorder 2) Public Safety 3) Prevention of Public Nuisance 4) Protection of children from harm, then a licence will be granted. Therefore historic restrictive covenants are no longer a consideration when granting a premises licence. There are a number of licensed premises in Eltham Park now offering "Off Sales". There are some fine houses scattered around Eltham. 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.