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