Wednesday, 15 March 2017

As others saw us, Eltham in 1831

Now whenever I want to get a sense of somewhere in England in the 19th century I turn to Samuel Lewis’s Topographical dictionaries.

Eltham Hill, from an engraving, 1778
First published in 1831 it  provided a description of all English localities as they existed at the time of first publication.

It showed exactly where a particular civil parish was located in relation to the nearest town or towns, the barony, county, and province in which it was situated, its principal landowners, and the diocese in which it was situated.

It also and this was new, named the Catholic district in which the parish was located along with  the names of corresponding Catholic parishes.

There were six subsequent editions, the last of which (1848-9) was in four volumes and an atlas.

“The village [of Eltham] is irregularly built, but contains many handsome houses, and the environs abound with noble mansions and elegant seats; Shooter’s hill so name from its having been anciently used for the practise of archery, and on which a singular triangular tower has been erected, by his lady, to the memory of Sir William Daines, Bart., is celebrated for the beauty of its situation and the extent and variety of its prospects; on its summit has been erected one of the telegraphs communicating between London and Dover.


The parish is within the jurisdiction of the court of requests held weekly at Greenwich, under an act passed in the 47th of George III [1808] for the recovery of debts not exceeding £5.

The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Rochester, rated in the books at £3.2.6., endowed with £400 royal bounty, and in the patronage of Sir Gregory Page Turner, Bart.

The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist, is a plain edifice, with a spire.

On the summit of a hill south by east from the town, are the remains of a Roman camp.

Dr William Sherard the celebrated botanist resided here in the early 18th and cultivated a botanical garden.”*

And for those who want to read more the volumes are available on line

*A Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, Vol 2 1831

Picture; A view near Eltham in Kent, printed in London by R.Sayer & J.Bennett, December 1778, courtesy of Jean Gammons

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