The Point, on the edge of Blackheath,offers a fantastic panoramic view over London; the vista is edged by Battersea Power Station and Orbit, the red sculpture at the Olympic Park, with a horizon made up of Alexandra Palace, Hampstead Heath and, on a really clear day, the north-west suburbs beyond the Wembley arch. This all frames one of the best views of the cities of London and Westminster.
The height and views over the city give a strategic importance to Blackheath as a gathering point for rebels marching on London; this has been well documented in relation to the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. But much less well known was a gathering of Cornishmen on 16 June 1497. Led by a blacksmith from the Lizard Peninsula, Michael An Gof, and Thomas Flamank, a Bodmin lawyer, the Cornish had taken exception to a u turn on taxation that related to the tin industry by Henry VII to fund the a war against the still separate Scots.
15,000 Cornishmen had marched from the south west and had hoped to get support from Kentish Men; there had been rebellion from that county led by John Cade nearly 50 years before. There was no support forthcoming and the rebels returned initially westwards and after a skirmish outside Guildford headed back towards London ready to march on the City, hemorrhaging numbers as they went.
There were probably only 10,000 remaining by the time they camped at The Point, with some archers protecting the strategically important bridge over the Ravensbourne at Deptford a kilometre away.
The armies of Henry VII stormed the bridge at dawn the following day, and without any support the bridge was taken and the rebels routed on The Heath over the succeeding few hours – with estimates of between 200 and 2000 dead.
Whilst the Henry VII’s General, Lord Daubeney, was captured and then released by the rebels on the Heath; the same was not the case for Michael An Gof, and Thomas Flamank who were hanged, drawn and quartered and their heads displayed on London Bridge, although they were offered a degree of leniency as the drawing and quartering was allowed to happen after their deaths. An Gof’s last words were said to have been that he would have “a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal” – sadly his name and cause have been largely forgotten by history.
There is little remaining evidence of the Battle of Deptford Bridge, there is a plaque near the entrance to Greenwich Park which was erected on the quincentennary in 1997, and Daubeney Tower – one of the blocks on the Pepys Estate.
The actual location of the initial battle is not that certain as the Ravensbourne has been ‘channelised’ at this point and the exact location of the battle could have some distance from the current bridge.