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at the Derby the following year where Hastings bet heavily on the favourite Vauban which was beaten in a fi nal spurt by Hermit. Chaplin made a fortune but Hastings was ruined having lost £126,000 and within a year, aged 26, he was dead from over drinking. On his deathbed he whispered to one of his few remaining friends, ‘Hermit fairly broke my heart. But I didn’t show it, did I?’

In 1866, encouraged by his success with horse breeding, Blenkiron established the Middle Park Plate race for two year olds at Newmarket to which he added £1000 for the fi rst four years.

William Blenkiron died on 25 September 1871 aged 64. His funeral procession left his residence at Middle Park and consisted of a hearse drawn by four horses, six coaches and pairs surmounted by plumes of black ostrich feathers and draped in black velvet. The six coaches were followed by 36 servants dressed in black with silk hatbands followed by several private carriages. Most of the shops

the shape of an obelisk it is the tallest memorial in the churchyard and stands next to that of Colonel North of Avery Hill.

Following the death of William Blenkiron the Middle Park stud was broken up in 1872 and was bought for 124,620 guineas with Blair Athol sold for 12,500 guineas and Gladiateur for 7000 guineas. His son, also William, continued to live at Middle Park and on the 1881 census he is described as a ‘land proprietor and horse trader’ but the money must have run out as in 1884 he had passed an examination in bankruptcy and the remaining stock sold by Tattersalls; he died at a Hammersmith lodging house in 1908.

Traditional farming returned to Middle Park particularly in the form of dairying with houses in the Lee and Blackheath areas needing their daily supply of milk. The whole farm was sold to Woolwich Borough Council in 1930 for a housing development but the old farmhouse was retained for residential use and the front garden taken for a builder’s yard for maintenance of the estate houses. A Victorian addition to the farmhouse was demolished after aerial attack in the Second World War and not replaced but the house was divided as two fl ats. In the early 1970s Greenwich Council earmarked the site for housing

Hermit, winner of the Derby in 1867

were closed and hundreds of inhabitants assembled to witness the solemn ceremony with the servants arranged on each side of the path and between them the procession passed into the ancient edifi ce of Eltham church. After the service William Blenkiron was buried in the family vault in the churchyard of the village of Eltham. Other family members were later buried there including his wife Mary in 1893, and Thomas & Agnes Blenkiron of Horne Park, Lee, and their children. In

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The last resting place of the Blenkiron family at Eltham churchyard

and members of the Eltham Society, and other experts under the direction of a trained archaeologist, undertook an emergency dig to see if any archaeological evidence survived. Pieces of pottery, deer bones and other objects dating from the early Tudor period were found and are deposited at the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Moves were made to name the new development after Blenkiron but Greenwich Council opted to record local councillor Tommy Blann, hence Blann Close.

Although Blenkiron is not yet remembered by road name in Eltham ‘Newmarket Green’, on the estate, is the location of the race that he originally endowed and come the end of September the Middle Park Stakes will again be run at Newmarket – one of Eltham’s long sporting traditions!

The rear garden of the farmhouse, early 1900s All pictures are from the John Kennett collection 21

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