Eaglesfield has a fascinating history and we are building an archive here to collect all the information we have uncovered.
If you have items to contribute please do get in touch via the Contact page as we would love to hear your memories, see photos and postcards and share them with the local community.
As part of Parksfest 2021 the Friends of Eaglesfield have been collecting some stories from local residents which you will find under Memories. You will also find images under Art of the Park (auction – coming soon) and History as well as in the Gallery (coming soon).
EAGLESFIELD PARK – A Park for All Times.
Eaglesfield Park (one of RBG’s Green Flag Award winning sites) sits on the top of Shooters Hill, an area of South East London within the Royal Borough of Greenwich. With a height of 132 metres it is the highest point in Greenwich and one of the highest points in Greater London. Some historians have suggested that the number of natural springs around the cap of the hill may have prompted the Romans to ‘take the water’ in the area.
Shooters Hill reputedly takes its name from the practice of archery during the Middle Ages but has also been linked to its reputation as a haunt for highwayman who took the opportunity to prey on horse drawn coaches following the old Roman Road of Watling Street linking London to Dover.
From the end of the 1700s and during the Napoleonic Wars there was a great fear of invasion from France. It seems likely that high points in Kent and Southeast London would have been used to position beacons that could give warning to the capital about imminent danger.
Charles Dickens mentions Shooters Hill in the opening pages of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and a reference to a public house at the top of the Hill (now the Bull pub) is made in ‘The Pickwick Papers’.
During the medieval period Shooters Hill was used as a woodland pasture and the summit of the hill is thought to have possibly become known as a roost for eagles. In the 18th century a large part of the area was owned by John Lidgebird (the High Sheriff of Kent in 1741) who had two eagles on his coat of arms. One or both of these may have contributed to the naming of Eaglesfield.
An excavation of Eaglesfield in 2008 by the Channel 4 Time Team revealed an Early Iron Age ditch and Iron Age material including iron working slag and Iron Age pottery dated between 400 – 700 BC. The report from the excavation suggests that the production of iron was a main activity in the Early Iron Age and that a hitherto unexpected method of smelting was being used. The work of the Time Team also suggested the likelihood of an extensive Anglo-Saxon occupation of the area.
At some point in the late 1700s the southern edge of Eaglesfield was an extensive pleasure garden and had started to be referred to as Eaglesfield Pleasure Ground, attracting visitors from Kent and London and is mentioned in the diary of a visiting American Quaker.
By the 18th Century it is likely that part of the current Park was in the grounds of one of the grand homes to be found at the top of the hill. Where the wildlife pond is now located is likely to have originally been the site of a clay pit in the grounds of a substantial house. This later became an ornamental pond.
Eaglesfield was purchased by Woolwich Metropolitan Borough Council in 1907 and opened as a park in 1908.
During the First World War there may have been a barrage balloon placement on Eaglesfield. It is known that during the Second World War the Shooters Hill area was the site for an array of anti-aircraft batteries, Home Guard run defence facilities, and barrage balloon units. Evidence of Second World War barrage balloon mooring was discovered by the Time Team project.
From the late 1940s along with the paddling pool, Eaglesfield had a Refreshment Hut, a Park Keeper’s Hut and a Public Toilet.
By the 2000’s all the water had been lost from the ornamental pond which fell into disuse and was taken over by large willow trees. Lottery funds were raised by Friends of Eaglesfield, and the new wildlife pond was installed along with new paths and signage in 2011.
The children’s playground, renovated in 2021, is thought to have originally been a ‘dew pond’ which later became a model boat sailing area then a children’s paddling pool and from 1996, a children’s playground.
Friends of Eaglesfield Park – September 2021