|Bostall Heath and Bostall Woods||Greenwich|
Bostall Heath was one of the wastes of the Manor of Plumstead; in 1866 it was enclosed by the Lords of the Manor, but this was later revoked as illegal. Much of this ancient woodland and heath was threatened by housing development in the late C19th but in 1877 some 155 acres of Bostall Heath were transferred to the MBW for public use by Act of Parliament. A keeper's lodge was built in 1880 and sports facilities added. Adjoining the heath is Bostall Woods, which was acquired for public use by the LCC in 1891/2 and the joint site was opened to the public on Whit Monday 1893. An area known as Clam Field was purchased in 1894 and added as a recreation ground.
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Bostall Heath, the name meaning 'woody heath' in Anglo-Saxon, was formerly one of the wastes of the Manor of Plumstead; in 1866 the heath was enclosed by the Trustees of Queen's College Oxford, who were Lords of the Manor following a bequest of 1736, but this was later revoked as illegal. Much of this ancient woodland and heath was threatened by housing development in the latter part of the C19th but in 1877/8 some 155 acres of Bostall Heath were transferred to the Metropolitan Board of Works for public use by Act of Parliament. The MBW paid Queen's College Oxford the sum of £5,500 under the Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act 1877. A keeper's lodge was built in 1880 and sports facilities were provided. The area became popular for day trippers in Edwardian times. Bostall Heath today is large open expanse of grass with areas of woodland.
Adjoining Bostall Heath is Bostall Woods, ancient woodland formerly called Old Park Wood; the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin was reported to have hidden in Bostall Woods to escape the King's troops. A pub on Wickham Street, named 'Fanny on the Hill' is so-called after a local barmaid who reputedly shone a lamp to alert Turpin when the coast was clear. Dick Turpin's Cave within the woods was probably a C19th tunnel rather than a hide-out for the highwayman. The wood was acquired from owner Sir Julian Goldsmith for public use by the London County Council in 1891/2; numerous Scots pine were planted but few survive today.
The joint site was opened to the public on Whit Monday 1893. An area known as Clam Field was purchased in 1894 and added to the Heath as a recreation ground. Lt Col J J Sexby, first chief officer of the newly formed LCC's Parks Department, described the Heath and adjoining Woods in the late 1890s as 'the most attractive of the Kentish commons. Indeed we may go so far as to say that every other common of the Metropolis, with the possible exception of Epping Forest, must yield to them the palm of beauty'.
The Heath retains some of this ambiance although it is abutted to north and west by housing development. Gates have been put in place to deter vehicle access, resulting in a number of parked cars being trapped in the Heath. The open areas include gorse, broom and heather, the latter a rarity in the borough, and the undulating ground is much used for cycling. At the corner of the woods near the junction of Bostall Hill with Longleigh Lane is a bowling green and pavilion, with a small toilet pavilion nearby. In 2006 the park secured a grant to re-establish an area of heathland.
Sue Swales, Meg Game, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Greenwich', Ecology Handbook 10 (London Ecology Unit), 1989; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); South East London's Green Chain Walk pack, 1998; The Parks Agency 'Commons, Heaths and Greens in Greater London. A short report for English Heritage', 2005