Belvedere, Bexley

A diverse industrial and residential district rising inland from the Thames north-west of Erith

Belvedere social club
Belvedere social club, pho­tographed in 2005

From the mid-17th cen­tu­ry three sub­stan­tial vil­las were suc­ces­sive­ly erect­ed beside a cross­roads at Blinks Hill on Less­ness Heath. The last of these was named Belvedere House, from the Ital­ian mean­ing ‘beau­ti­ful view’. Built in the 1770s, the house became home to a string of peers and knights, cul­mi­nat­ing with the phil­an­thropist and reformer Sir Culling Eard­ley.

In the mid-19th cen­tu­ry sev­er­al fac­tors com­bined to ren­der the area ripe for prof­itable growth: the estab­lish­ment of indus­tries beside the Thames, the arrival of the North Kent Rail­way and Eardley’s will­ing­ness to devel­op his estate with hous­ing for the mid­dle class­es. The vil­lage grad­u­al­ly expand­ed from a focal point near the present library. Mean­while, the river­side ham­let of Picardy became Low­er Belvedere, a set­tle­ment of ter­raced cot­tages for work­ers at the near­by fac­to­ries and wharves. Eard­ley sold up in 1864 and his house became a seamen’s mis­sion.

Apart from some devel­op­ment towards the south in the 1930s and some wartime bomb dam­age, Upper Belvedere remained unspoilt until the demo­li­tion of Belvedere House in 1959. There­after, many of the larg­er Vic­to­ri­an prop­er­ties were sub­di­vid­ed into flats or knocked down and replaced with maisonette blocks or oth­er com­pact dwellings. Despite the changes, the name of Upper Belvedere retains a cachet local­ly.

To the north, Belvedere’s indus­tri­al half is ear­marked for fur­ther growth, as part of schemes to boost employ­ment in the Thames Gate­way region.

In com­mon with much of out­er south-east Lon­don, the pop­u­la­tion is very large­ly white; a small minor­i­ty of res­i­dents are of Indi­an ori­gin, most­ly Sikhs.

Postcode area: Belvedere, DA17
Population: 11,890 (2011 census)
Station: Southeastern (Zone 5)
Further reading: John A Prichard, Belvedere and Bostall: A Brief History, Bexley Libraries, 2nd edition 1994
Website: Ideal Homes