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Tuesday 7 February 2012

Dickens (Jnr) on Deptford

http://shipwrightspalace.blogspot.com/2010/10/bed-time-reading-from-mrdickens-jnrs.html Follow the link to a wonderful write up on Deptford, including an account of the closing of the yard, by Charles Dickens (Jnr). Click on the pages to enlarge for readable size.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

HMS Diptford


Tuesday 1 November 2011

Kiss the Past Hello-Deptford 2021

The restoration of Sayes Court Garden has proved to be an international success.

For local people especially,

since it had been decided that it made no sense whatsoever to provide a primary school on site when there was an empty one at Charlotte Turner Gardens a few minutes away, sheltered accommodation has been provided surrounding the restored garden. This means of course that the elderly people spend time outdoors and act as guardians for the garden at the same time. Many of them are also involved in maintenance and planting which adds to their quality of life.

But it isn't just the elderly who benefit, the garden provides training and jobs for local youth who often stay around even after the working day is over.

Some of the young trainees add touches of their own to John Evelyn's original plan that are highly regarded in the world of garden design.

The garden offers so much beyond a place to be. It's a source of learning as well. Evelyn had collected and planted many specimen trees.

that prove to delight so many people interested in their origins.

As the garden had been laid out in the 17th century, 19th century, again in the 20th century and after the restoration in the 21st century, with contemporary additions, this means that Deptford is able to boast four centuries of English landscape gardening which excited the heritage agencies who poured money into such a unique project which in turn attracts visitors from all over the world, as many visitors as there are leaves on a tree,

in all seasons,

Space for everyone.

Visitors are also impressed by the sunken garden in the site of the basin. Whatever the weather it's a popular place to meet and spend time.
The residents though seem to prefer the smaller more intimate garden in the old mast dock.
Of course, it's not surprising that so many visitors come to Deptford now, something that at one time was almost unimaginable for some people. It took a while to convince people of the benefits but it soon became clear that there were once in a lifetime opportunities not to be missed and the powers that be soon came to realise the economic benefits for the area, the health, employment and training opportunities that could be derived from a development that focused on the intrinsic historic character of the place.
But Deptford was never going to be a place where the magnificent history alone dominated the scene, the whole purpose of starting from the historical fabric was in order to generate world class places for the future, somewhere that locals, Lewisham borough and London as a whole could be proud of. The Seven Bridges across the historic openings in the river wall have certainly done that. People come from all over the world now, especially from Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada to acknowledge the origin of their ancestors.
They do this by placing padlocks on the bridges.
They tend to do this on the bridge that was sponsored by their nation to recognise and celebrate the historic links with Deptford.

One of the most stunning bridges is of course is the bridge of light that recognises that not all of Deptford's history is glorious. Its role in the slave trade is acknowledged by the bridge of light where candles are permanently lit to witness the suffering that is also part of Deptford's history.

Finally i just wanted to mention the success of the opening of the dry dock. Doesn't it look fantastic. There were so many opportunities for green spaces elsewhere in the site, that it really made no sense to lose the chance to repair whatever was necessary and open the dry dock. There had been a dry dock in the same place since at least 1517 so it was pretty significant for the whole of London that this was effectively demonstrated. Thank goodness the little landscaped area first proposed was shelved in favour of a much mor e dynamic solution.

The dock is protected for most of the year by an ephemeral structure that echoes the original dry dock cover. Now the dock can be used for all kinds of events throughout the year. An ice-skating rink is installed in the winter from Nov to Feb, there are two periods of art installations one in the spring from March to May which is the international event, we've had Richard Serra and Jeff Koons recently and another in September and October that is a showcase for local artists. During the summer the dock is used as a performance space for National Youth Theatre and visiting international companies. Last year there was an incredible performance of a Japanese Romeo and Juliet.

Let's just go to the floating cafe in the 18th century mast dock,
its where the Lenox is now moored that has just returned from a visit to the royal dockyards in Malta, Bermuda and Antigua.

Coming back to the present, if you want to see some of these opportunities realised then please visit www.deptfordis.org.uk and consider signing the petition for a richer future for Deptford's history and Kiss the Past Hello.......

Sunday 30 October 2011

All Hands on Deck! Deptford- Centre of Maritime Industries

We have all heard of the Golden Hind. Currently the replica ship is moored further up river at St. Mary Ovaries, another Golden Hind lies in the harbour at Brixham, Devon.

Then there is the Endeavour, Cook's famous ship that left the dockyard's Great Basin in 1768.

We have all heard of the Bounty, famous for the on board mutiny,


but have you heard of the Sultana?

or the Lady Nelson?

All of these ships were originally built or refitted in Deptford.

All of these ships have been rebuilt. What are we waiting for? The time for Deptford to build its own ship is now. Where? Slipway No.5 looked like a good place to start, the repaired dry dock another, the slipways off the basin?
If there are more replica ships with Deptford connections currently riding the oceans I'd be glad to hear about them. Deptford as a centre of maritime industries? Where's the problem?

Hutchison Whampoa

How the Olympia shed will not

be seen from the river according to Hutchison Whampoa

Saturday 22 October 2011

Heart of Deptford: a site of collaborative genius

Developer Hutchison Whampoa have boldly declared their thorough disregard for the nation's maritime history in their proposals for the site of the former King's Yard at Deptford. Even before archaeology has begun on the John Rennie works to the basin
Hutchison Whampoa's recently submitted master plan to Lewisham Council shows their intention to destroy the opportunity of reintegrating the listed Olympia building with the area of the dockyard's great basin, also preventing the river related building from even being seen from the river.

Hutchison Whampoa have completely disregarded English Heritage guidelines on Maritime and Naval Buildings (2011) that marks out works by John Rennie for a high grade of protection and describes sites such as the basin, basin slipways, basin slipway covers and caisson gate infrastructure, all works by eminent Georgian and early Victorian engineers, as "sites of collaborative genius." The developer's design team have also ignored English Heritage London Area Committee comments from 2003 and 2005 requesting that the Olympia building be viewable for the river.
The basin is where the Mary Rose was harboured in 1517.

Deptford is the first of the royal naval dockyards to have a wet dock or basin. This technology was exported to the outlying dockyards such as Chatham c.1650. Under the administration of Sir George Carteret, Deptford's skilled workmen and naval dockyard officers built the wet dock at Chatham.

The basin is also where John Evelyn carried out the first diving bell experiments,

where Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in 1768,

where Bentham built the dry dock in 1802 with Edward Holl,

where in 1814 John Rennie rebuilt the basin entrance with the latest technology of a caisson gate,

where Capt. Sir William Denison built the slipways to the basin

and George Baker &Sons built the slipway covers (Olympia Building)

and George Biddel Airey tested the effects of ships magnetism on navigation instruments.

where in WWI and WWII supplies were sent out to troops stationed across the world.
thanks to War Relics Forum for use of the image

The basin is the heart of the dockyard, the dockyard is the heart of Deptford. It is most likely the reason that Henry VIII established the dockyard here in 1513 as the basin provided shelter for his ships from the tides and dangers of the river.

Hutchison Whampoa would rather you didn't even know it was there. The proposed buildings cut right across this most important of London's maritime heritage assets. If you don't like the l

ook and the sound of this attempt to erase the nation's maritime history and would prefer to see Deptford's history treated with more respect then you can write to Lewisham Planning emma.talbot@lewisham.gov.uk malcolm.woods@english-heritage .org.uk and mark.stevenson@english-heritage.org.uk and visit the blog deptfordis.org.uk to sign the petition for a better future for Deptford, for London and for the nation's maritime history.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Sold Down The River

Deptford Master Plans……they come and go!

For centuries Deptford has been the subject of over ambitious master plans
Following the opening of London’s first railway from Deptford to London Bridge in 1836, the Deptford Pier Company proposed a rail spur from the Deptford station to a Thames-side steam boat terminal for disembarking passengers who could then be whisked into the city in fifteen minutes avoiding the densly packed Pool of London. (Yes, even in 1836 there were four trains an hour.) The bold plan was to demolish several Thames waterfront buildings and houses along the High Street and King Street (now Watergate Street) and several buildings that formed the courts adjacent to King Street.

The project failed due to local resistance based on the detrimental effect on scores of people’s homes and partly due to it being pipped to the post by Brunswick Wharf a short distance down river on the north bank of the Thames. The legacy we are left with today are the grand arches of Paynes Wharf reminiscent of Cubitt’s King’s Cross station, and a detailed plan and description of the use and occupation of every building along the west side of the High Street and the buildings along and either side of the former King Street.

A final legacy worth mentioning is the rare survival of a c.1838 cast-iron wharf wall in front of Payne’s Wharf.

Another ambitious master plan to colonise vast swathes of Deptford was proposed by the Great Steam Dock Company. Their proposal was to build a 55-acre dock that required the wholesale demolition of all the buildings from the Creek, back towards what is now Albury Street (formerly Union Street, up to what is now Watergate Street and back towards the river. The most extraordinary aspect of this doomed proposal was that St. Nicholas Church tower would sit marooned on an island in the middle of the dock.

Have you ever wondered why Deptford Church Street is a dual carriageway?
Late nineteenth century plans proposed a road tunnel under the Thames from the top of Deptford Church Street where it meets Creek Road tunneling under Deptford Green (Charlotte Turner Gardens) This proposal like the others, ran aground.

Another monolithic master plan that hits the buffers and never sees the light of day is by the famous late eighteenth century architect George Dance and was sited at Crossfield Street. A grand terrace stretching from the High Street to Deptford Church was proposed, but failed to get off the ground.

Master plans come and go. The most recent from Hutchison Whampoa is entirely unsuited to a site that holds Lewisham’s and Deptford’s greatest concentration of heritage assets of international significance.

The developer proposes preservation in situ for the monumental naval dockyard infrastructure, however buried more deeply in the proposals is the data that the development will have severe adverse impacts on the areas water table that risks drying out both the vertical timber piling supporting the foundations of the docks, slipways basin and mast ponds and the horizontal timber ties impairing the structural integrity of the walls of the dockyard’s defining structures. On one hand we are told by the archaeologist that the monumental engineering structures are too delicate to work with in some form of presentation or exposure and yet on the other hand we are asked to believe that the sheer density and extensive piling required to support this development can be achieved without any further harm coming to the heritage assets. It has also been indicated that the entire stretch of river wall that testifies to the entrances to the docks, slips, basin, mast pond and landing place stairs, itself not a buried structure but visible from the foreshore, and currently structurally sound, will require wholesale rebuilding, thereby erasing from view any trace of its historic fabric. It is simply the case that this development is wholly unsuited to a site of unparalleled national historic importance on the London Thames. Let's not be sold down the river by accepting these current development proposals to the detriment of the future enjoyment of one of London's most internationally historically significant sites.