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 (or 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