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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Transpontine: Linkage

Transpontine: Linkage

Hortus Conclusus: The Garden of James Butler Morn, Clerk of the Cheque in His Majesty's Yard at Deptford

The Clerk of the Cheque, also called Clerk of the Prick and Cheque, maintained the muster roll of everybody who worked in the yard, looked after expenses and kept accounts of earnings. In 1776, the Clerk of the Cheque, was James Butler Morn. He earned £200 per annum.  

As a high ranking officer in the dockyard, the Clerk of the Cheque was handsomely accommodated. In 1698, the Clerk of the Cheque's house was the finest in the dockyard. From 1669, the Surveyor of the King's Works with the responsibility of signing off building projects was Sir Christopher Wren. The houses depicted in the image above are post-Restoration and likely to have been constructed in or around 1670. This terrace is identical to a terrace of dwellings for dockyard officers in Plymouth and thought by the late Giles Worsley to be by the hand of Robert Hooke, according to a superb article by Celina Fox, "The ingenious Mr Dummer : Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth Century England" for the British Library. According to Professor Doctor K.A.Ottenheym "English classical architecture was transformed in the 1670's and 1680's by taking inspiration from Dutch houses." Ottenheym also records that Hooke was inspired by French architecture. (Ottenheym 2007:137) The ground plan of the Deptford officers' terrace expresses the double and single cube rooms characteristic of the work of Inigo Jones and his nephew John Webb. The Clerk of the Cheque's house, situated in the corner of a fine uniform terrace, that would have been familiar to Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, was valued at £946.10. The imposing brick built house boasted eight bays and two staircases. Celina Fox writes about the corresponding terrace in the Plymouth yard stating, "The dwelling houses of the officers built to a French or Dutch influenced design as a single terrace, are the model of orderliness compared with those of other dockyards." (Fox 2007:43) However the Deptford Officer's terrace may be of an earlier date than Plymouth which dockyard historian Jonathan Coad dates to 1692. The Deptford terrace is shown as extant in 1688. The Navy Board Office at Seething Lane, Crutched Friars, is dated to 1674-5, arguably by Christopher Wren and/or Robert Hooke and of similar style. Whilst the individual houses comprising the Plymouth terrace are identical in scale and internal arrangement such as number of rooms, placing of chimneys and staircases and their number, the houses comprising the Deptford terrace share none of Plymouths's uniformity internally. No two staircases or their positions are identical, just as their is no parity to the number of rooms each officer enjoys. Archaeological investigations may reveal more information of interest not only to Deptford but to Plymouth and possibly to other yards. Further archive based research may established the time of build and even the architect and precisely when the buildings were altered in the eighteenth century. The greater part of the terrace at Deptford was demolished to make way for cattle lairs c.1900 for the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle Market, however the Tapp House a Tudor period building, the Pay Office and Clerk of the Cheque's office, clearly identified on Dummer's survey of 1698 as a building of the same period as the terrace, survived until the 1940's.  Below, Clarendon House, by Sir Roger Pratt for the Lord Chancellor 1664-1667.
Above internal arrangement of the Officers' Terrace, showing the Clerk of the Cheque's House in the corner.
Perhaps more than any other, the Officers' Terrace resembles the work of Sir Roger Pratt, great friend of John Evelyn who described Clarendon House as "the best contriv'd, the most useful, graceful and magnificent house in England". His work for the Lord Chancellor, Clarendon House 1664-1667 is at the very least influential in the design of the terrace. The Lord Chancellors's daughter married the Duke of York, then resident in the dockyard at the Navy Treasurer's House, adjacent to the Great Storehouse, and overlooking the Basin wherein rode the King's Ships. As little is known of the internal layout of Clarendon House, the archaeology of the Officers' Terrace becomes even more important than previously thought.

 At the time of Dummer's survey, the timber framed Tudor house of the Master Shipwright Fisher Harding was valued at a comparatively paltry sum of £100.11.11. Perhaps it was this discrepancy that prompted Master Shipwright Joseph Allin in 1705 to agitate for a new house of equivalent status. 

Since  Joseph Allin built his new house of eight bays with two staircases, to replace the one shown above in 1698, and overspent his Navy Board approved estimated  budget of £525 by some £300, questions were raised in Parliament and Hansard records mention of the "Shipwright's Palace". 

These high status dockyard houses would have been incomplete without the corresponding high status gardens. The gardens and their buildings which included privies, wash houses and banqueting houses are depicted in numerous plans of the dockyard throughout the centuries. The officers' stables and hen houses were located elsewhere in the yard. Perhaps the richest historic source of information for the dockyard gardens is found in the dockyard model series of 1774 made for George III. The depiction of the Clerk of the Cheque's garden in a plan of 1774 corresponds with that shown in the 40ft to 1inch scale model made at the same time. Research and archaeology carried out at Chatham dockyard concludes that the modellers drew "as accurate a representation of the gardens as of any other feature of the dockyard." Paths and beds depicted on the model have been rediscovered. A complete pond lined with waterproof cement- terraz or pozzolana, was also discovered. (Hall and Lear 1992:135-6)

 The image above shows the officers' gardens in Deptford Dockyard circa 1774. The houses which are  shown in Dummer's survey of 1698 are shown here in their mid eighteenth century guise. They were demolished in the early 1900's to make way for cattle lairs for the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle market. 
The houses are shown here in a photograph taken shortly before demolition.

The houses with their sash windows, door cases, raised parapets and lead rain goods could easily be mistaken for buildings of the early to mid-eighteenth century rather than 'updated' buildings of the mid-seventeenth century.
Remarkably the area that became the Clerk of the Cheques garden has survived without being substantially built on for nearly four hundred years. First seen in Evelyn's annotated map of 1623 the area of land, assigned to the Clerk of the Cheque as a garden, remains a green space through a series of plans dated consecutively 1698, 1740's, 1753, 1774, 1808, 1830, 1868, 1870, 1898, 1930's, 1960's. The Richard Rogers Partnership master plan designated this area as a public open space providing a green link with Twinkle Park. This plan leaves open the possibility of a re-instatement of the Clerk of the Cheques garden. On the officers' gardens in Chatham, Hall and Lear have stated that "the initial designer from within the Board of Works has not yet been identified but as the plans came from London he could have been associated with the group led by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor." (Hall and Lear 1992:150)
A glance at Chatham Dockyard on google earth reveals several of the officers' gardens have now been restored according to the historic plans and model of 1774. Todd Longstaffe-Gowan's article "Urban Gardening in England" shows several photographs of the Chatham gardens' derelict and overgrown condition. Based on the evidence present in historic maps and plans and the confirmed evidence of the correspondence
between the garden designs portrayed in the models of 1774 and archaeological surveys carried out in the
Chatham Officers' gardens, in Deptford we can be hopeful of finding sufficient archaeological evidence on the site of
the Clerk of the Cheque's garden to re-instate an important characteristic of the dockyard, as well as a rare
and exciting example of garden design of the eighteenth century. Assuming that the Richard Rogers
Partnership masterplan is adhered to by Hutchison Whampoa and that their current proposal to move the 
GLA designated safeguarded working wharf away from the riverfront 
to the area covering the Great Georgian Dock, TPO London Plane Trees and the site of the 
Clerk of the Cheque's garden is rejected by the GLA and Lewisham Planners
the opportunity for one of the most stimulating stretches of the Thames Path in London remains. 

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Crossing Bridges, Crossing Continents

Dry Dock at Chatham

Double Dry Building Dock/Great Georgian Dock/Head and Stern Dock at Deptford
This is the first in a series of blogs related to Convoy's Wharf, the former King's Yard at Deptford.

 In 1954 the oldest naval building in the country, Henry VIII's Great Storehouse of 1513, was demolished for "economic and strategic reasons". Fifty years later, in 2004, the foundations were scheduled as an ancient monument. Redevelopment of the site of the former dockyard, now Convoy's Wharf raises the question of how best to respond to the dockyard structures that remain albeit below ground. The dockyard at Deptford served the nation as a military establishment over a period of five hundred years. The history of this stretch of the Thames is unsurpassable, and written about extensively elsewhere. The opportunity now exists to maximize Deptford's most historic cultural assets. Over the coming weeks we will be posting our aspirations for the future of the site.

The photos above show the dry dock at Chatham. It's possible that the double dry building dock at Deptford is of similar construction yet twice as long as the one shown here. When we hear about "archaeological remains" at Convoy's Wharf, we may be talking about structures like this. We already know from previous archaeological test pits that "by far the greater part of the dockyard survives as buried structures filled in intact." Supposing the dry dock is a granite construction and simply filled in intact? It was filled in soon after 1869 for the construction of sheep and cattle pens for the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle Market. In the master plan proposed by Richard Rogers Partnership in 2005 for the redevelopment of Convoy's Wharf, the Great Georgian Dock, as it is called, was singled out for protection and the possibility of excavation. At the time in 2004, statements submitted to Lewisham Planning Authority earmarked the dock for a public open space, maintaining the opportunity for future aspirations to excavate if possible.
In the current proposal this public open space is eliminated and Hutchison Whampoa instead propose moving the GLA designated safeguarded working wharf inland away from the waterfront to include the area occupied by the Great Georgian Dock. This considerable alteration of the RRP master plan obliterates a number of significant opportunities for maximising Deptford's cultural heritage assets and their major contribution to a sense of place in the redevelopment of the former dockyard. The RRP proposals offered a green link with Twinkle Park with pedestrian and cycle access through the ancient dockyard gateway evident in the listed perimeter wall opposite Twinkle Park. This green link offers the further opportunity of a reinstatement of a historic dockyard garden of the 18th century which occupied that part of the site, being the high status garden of the Clerk of the Cheque of the dockyard. The potential green link area also incorporates several TPO protected London Plane trees, the only surviving trees of any considerable age (more than 100 years old) across the site of Convoy's.

Image showing Clerk of the Cheques garden circa 1774 and ancient entrances to the dockyard.

Maintaining the GLA designation for the safeguarded working wharf would maximize the potential of the Great Georgian Dock area. A  green link with Twinkle Park offering pedestrian and cyclist access close to the Thames Path to and from Greenwich would be created. This will bring visitors into a new green space of an historic garden within the listed perimeter wall of the dockyard adjacent to a group of established London Plane trees. The route would then lead to the dock and the river.
This second image above shows a plan of the dockyard during the early period of the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle Market. The ancient gateway to the dockyard is shown opposite the Red Lion public house. Imagine the possibility of entering through this gateway, encountering the former garden of the Clerk of the Cheque, with views of the Master Shipwright's House and Offices alongside the Great Dock. To the right of the Great Dock entrance are the Landing Place and Lookout ceremonial watergate stairs in front of the 1712 storehouse, also demolished in the 1950's. These steps to the river, shown in a number of paintings by John Cleveley, remained open until the 1930's. They were topped by an elaborate set of gates, two receiving houses and a flagpole. The stairs could be opened once more for public access to the foreshore.
The bridge  across the centre of the dock shown on the plan could also be re-instated. This bridge is one of a possible seven bridges which could potentially cross re-opened docks, slipways, basins and mast ponds, making this section of the Thames Path unique. Recent excavations of the entire peninsular land mass at the mouth of Deptford Creek for Galliard Homes and restoration of inland bodies of water at Canary Wharf suggest what is possible with new developments in relation to the river and inland bodies of water. Where the docks, basin and mast pond entrances are proven to be of granite and brick construction, sensitive restoration could allow for re-opening. The re-opening of these penetrations from the river could provide marginal habitat for Thames water birds marrying heritage and ecologial aspirations. For instance, mast ponds could be excavated and restored to create a London Thames swannery. The next image shows the pair of mast ponds with the stone-flagged slipways running down to the river's edge. These stone flagged slipways could provide direct access for bird-life. with bridges over for pedestrians and cyclists.

The seven bridges comprise, firstly, a bridge over the Great Georgian Dock, with two bridges across the mouths of the twin sister slipways, a fourth bridge crossing the mouth or casson of the John Rennie Basin, a fifth bridge crossing the single slipway, a sixth bridge crossing the early mast pond slipway and a seventh bridge, a re-instatement of the George Ledwell Taylor swing bridge crossing the canal to the eighteenth century mast pond. All of these bridges existed and some remained until the turn of the twentieth century. The seven bridges resonate with the seven continents with which Deptford has profound historic connections. It is up to interested parties now, whether individuals, or the PLA, the Environment Agency, Thames Estuary Partnership, English Heritage and Lewisham Planning not to succumb to the awful irony of fifty years ago, which saw the destruction of the Great Tudor Storehouse for short-term "economic and strategic" reasons only to schedule the remains fifty years years later.

The cultural capital held in Deptford's historic cultural assets belongs to a local and international interest group comprising families whose ancestors worked in the King's Yard, sailed on voyages of discovery, or were transported to the Colonies of America and Australia, to those who understand that the history of Deptford is the history of the making of a nation. It becomes a political matter of social exclusion if Deptford's historic cultural assets do not receive the statutory protection afforded to other Royal Dockyards so that the wealth inherent in the intellectual property of Historic Maritime Deptford can be exploited and enjoyed by a constituency which is global.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

King's Yard

Welcome to the Shipwright's Palace.

Proposal to List Features of King’s Yard (Convoy’s Wharf) at Deptford

December 2009


In 1999, Alan Howarth, then Culture Secretary, announced comprehensive statutory protection for Britain’s maritime heritage, principally covering the Royal Dockyards as a result of the Defences of Britain Study. Subsequently English Heritage has published its Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide in 2007.

The King’s Yard, established by Henry VIII in 1513 at Deptford, did not form part of this survey, however, archaeological surveys since carried out by CgMs and Pre-Construct Archaeology in 2000 (Hawkins) 2000 (Lowe), 2001 (Divers), at the former Royal Dockyard at Deptford established, “by far the greater part of the dockyard survives as buried structures filled in intact between 1869 and 1950.”

The structures of the yard proper, the docks, slips, basins, mast ponds landing places and stairs, constitute a substantial architectural fabric that is currently extant, though largely invisible, being covered by superficial accretion or infill. (David Divers. Jan 2001:12/ 3.5.14).

Docks are recognised as being the most significant structures in the operation of the yard as well as a dockyard’s defining characteristics.


Based on the new information established from the archaeological surveys and further archive based and site survey based research, the opportunity now exists to ensure that the historic cultural assets of the earliest Royal Naval Dockyard of 1513 benefits from the same statutory protection deployed and enjoyed elsewhere (Defences of Britain Study) and to comply with several English Heritage guideline and policy documents that have been delivered in the intervening period, namely, Sustaining the Historic Environment 1997, An Archaeological Research Framework for the Greater Thames Estuary 1999, Heritage Dividend 2002, A Sense of Place for a New Thames Gateway 2004, Naval Heritage: Managing Change in the Royal Dockyards. Conservation Bulletin 2005 Issue 48, Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide Heritage Protection Department March 2007 and The Tidal Thames Habitat Action Plan (TTHAP).

The opportunity now exists to consider the dockyard landscape with its definitive historic components within the above guidelines and policy. Deptford dockyard is an internationally significant historic site and deserves the opportunity for comparable assessment for listing that has been applied to dockyards elsewhere in the country. Indeed, not to apply such a comprehensive approach would constitute a form of social exclusion from such statutory protection deployed and enjoyed elsewhere.

“We cannot expect these important sites to remain unchanged, but we can expect change and development to occur within the context of informed conservation.

Maritime and Coastal Heritage. Conservation Bulletin Issue 48, Spring 2005.

The case for listing

The yard at Deptford witnessed the labours of Henry VIII’s Master Shipwrights Matthew and James Baker, laid up Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, put out ships for the Armada as well as Cook’s, Frobisher’s and Vancouver’s voyages of discovery, as well as for Nelson’s battles including Trafalgar and also served as a military base into the twentieth century as Army Supply Reserve Depot in WWI and WWII as married quarters and served as U.S. Advance Amphibious Vehicle Base for the D. Day landings, Operation Neptune. (On June 6, 1944, D-Day, LSTs brought 41,035 wounded soldiers back across the English Channel to hospital facilities. (PRO WORKS 43/614-6) 14 U.S. Marines lost their lives in a single V-1 bomb strike on the dockyard on July 8th 1944. The area of land in question, far from being a mere brown-field site, has served the Nation as a military installation over a period of five centuries.

New evidence and amendments

There are four important re-assessments and amendments to be made to the archaeological assessments carried out to date which impact on the heritage assessment of the value of Deptford’s historic cultural assets and therefore impact on the proposal to list.

1. The Great Georgian Dock

The Double Dry Building Dock, in use as early as 1517 and featured in the John Evelyn map of Deptford of 1623, underwent remodelling in the intermediate period between Samuel Bentham and John Rennie. (See new information, PRO ADM 1/3501-3503 May 18th 1815 and NMM ADM Q/3320-3323 9th Oct 1802, 23 Aug 1805) This work pre-dates work by John Rennie to the listed docks in Chatham, for example, and may constitute some of Rennie’s earliest works in Royal dockyards. Recent EH test site excavations have established that the walls are three metres thick, and coped in granite with articulated works in limestone. It is now widely acknowledged that docks from the earliest date, and the Double Dry Building Dock at Deptford may be one of, if not the earliest surviving dock, subsequently rebuilt, express advancements in the technology of shipbuilding and that these developments enhance rather than detract from the historic merit. In Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide, works by Bentham and Rennie are signalled for special consideration. Under subheading, Special Interest, it states, “Docks and harbour walls pre-dating 1840 generally form the most impressive engineering structures of their date and even where they have received alteration, as nearly all have, will normally merit designation, with those displaying technical innovation or association with major developments in shipbuilding, warranting a high grade. Examples would be key developments in modern dock construction such as those pioneered by Smeaton and Rennie or Samuel Bentham’s development c.1800 of caisson gates.” (2007:05) Also mentioned for special consideration is the use of Roman cement. Divers, writing on the Georgian Great Dock at Deptford, states, “Waterproof ‘Roman’ cement (patented 1796) was used towards the front of the wall.” (Divers, 2000:58/7.17.2 Trench 17 fig.29) For the reasons stated above, further investigation may bring to light that, as the sole surviving double dry building dock from the Tudor period, reworked by Rennie to proposals by Bentham, the structure is unique. These works are unlikely to have undergone alteration due to the closure of the yard in 1869. Indeed the outline of the Great Dock in George Ledwell-Taylor’s plan of 1820 is commensurate with that of the O.S map of1868.

2. The Great Basin

The Great Basin was also an early resource of the King’s Yard, mentioned in an Indenture of 1517 (BL Add.6555), as holding amongst other ships the Mary Rose. The Basin was also the site of testing early diving bells by John Evelyn, (Diary 19 July, 1661). In Charnock's "History of Marine Architecture" it is given "A note how many ships the King's Majesty (Henry VIII.) hath in harbour, on the 18th day of September, in the 13th year of his reign (1521); what portage they be of; what estate they be in the same day; also where they ride and be bestowed." From this we are enabled to see what use was made of Deptford as a naval station at that time:—"The Mary Rose, being of the portage of 600 tons, lying in the pond at Deptford beside the storehouse there, &c. The John Baptist, and Barbara, every of them being of the portage of 400 tons, do ryde together in a creke of Deptford Parish, &c. The Great Nicholas, being of portage 400 tons, lyeth in the east end of Deptford Strond, &c. … The Great Barke, being of portage 250 tons, lyeth in the pond at Deptford, &c. The Less Barke, being of the portage of 180 tons, lyeth in the same pond, &c. The twayne Row Barges, every of them of the portage of 60 tons, lye in the said pond, &c. The Great Galley, being of portage 800 tons, lyeth in the said pond, &c." (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45272)

Originally a naturally occurring pond in the 14th century, the Basin underwent several periods of re-modelling. New archive-based assessment has established that the final designs were by John Rennie, and re-workings of earlier proposals by Samuel Bentham. The works were carried out by Jolliffe and Banks. Banks was knighted in 1822 for his works to Southwark and Waterloo bridges on the Thames. Rennie was paid a sum of £4,500 to widen and deepen the Basin and move the Basin mouth to the east. In the Abstract of Contracts, related to works to the Basin, Rennie specifies coping the Basin with Craigie or Dundee stone. The mouth to the Basin is shown as open with an extant Swing bridge in the Thames Flood Defence Survey of 1898. (Metropolitan Archives, MBW 2787)

However no outline of Rennie’s 1814 modification is given in the recent archaeological surveys. It is possible therefore that the archaeological site survey placed its trenches, no.s 7 and 9, outside of the final Rennie works to the Basin, thereby determining that no upstanding remains could be found. (See Buro Happold, Summary of the Main Dock Features and Archaeological Trench Results 001.) The photograph, Plate 9, printed in the archaeological survey of 2000 (Hawkins), said to depict the Basin mouth, is also incorrect as it shows instead a blocked slipway. These errors are critical to the forming of an accurate assessment in line with URB20 point A. To properly assess..”

The Basin contributed to the earliest period of the dockyard and remained open until the advent of the twentieth century. Its final layout is commensurate with works proposed by Samuel Bentham as Inspector General of Naval Works and carried out by Joliffe and Banks under the direction of John Rennie. Listing of the Basin as a Group Value consideration even, offers the opportunity for further archaeological investigations in order to re-assess the outline of the Rennie, Joliffe and Banks works.

3. River wall

There was some discrepancy between the archaeological surveys regarding the age of the river wall, with one archaeological survey of 2000 stating that the river wall is post the life of the dockyard. Statement 0.6.4 “The bulk of the river wall appears to have been constructed in the period 1869 to 1916.” This claim has been subjected to a further detailed site and archive-based assessment. It can now be stated that Lowe (2000) was correct in stating, “The bulk of the river wall thought to date to the final re-modelling of the Dockyard during the 1830’s.” Lowe (2000:/3.2.4)

Moving west along the wall, we encounter the survival of George Ledwell-Taylor’s 1828 work creating the canal to the mid-eighteenth century mast pond (NMM ADM Y/D/11-D8 1828). Jonathan Coad refers to Ledwell-Taylor as one of the finest dockyard architects. Further west, to the left and right of the Basin mouth, already established as work by Rennie 1813-17, the presence of 150ft length of Craigie stone specified by Rennie during his works to the Basin mouth is extant and clearly visible. (PRO ADM 106/3185 WORK 41/594 signed John Rennie. NMM ADM Y/D/11-D7 16 Nov 1813. See also, A.W. Skempton A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland. 2002 and CgMs 3.2.4 / 3.2.1)

The Landing Place and Stairs, that feature in John Cleveley’s eighteenth century paintings of the launching of ship, blocked post-1930, formed the ceremonial and Royal entrance to the yard for more than two hundred years. (See Metropolitan Archives, Thames Flood Defence Survey MBW) The granite quoins to these Royal Stairs align with the granite quoins to the Double Dry Building Dock, as shown on George Ledwell-Taylor’s 1820 plan of the yard and correspond to the 1868 O.S. map. It is therefore established beyond doubt, through on site and archive based study that the harbour wall to the King’s yard is early to mid nineteenth century expressing the work of George Ledwell-Taylor and John Rennie following proposals by Samuel Bentham. (NMM ADM Q/3320-3323 9th Oct 1802, 23rd Aug 1805) Knight’s Mechanical Encyclopaedia of the nineteenth century states that cast-iron piling has been successfully used in quay walls at Deptford. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2001.05.0138:chapter=17&highlight=deptford accessed 22/12/09.

4. Small seventeenth century mast pond

The early small mast pond, c.1660, does not form part of the archaeological survey carried out in 2000. The mast pond featured in the surveys and referred to is that from the 1760’s only. This is a serious omission as the early small mast pond expresses the first departure from the extent of the Tudor and Stuart dockyard and marks a expansion of the dockyard into the Hanoverian period. This mast pond may be the earliest extant mast pond in a Royal Dockyard and was constructed in the seventeenth century on land purchased from Sir Denis Gauden, Victualler to the Navy. An early draught design of the mast pond is held in the Evelyn Papers at the British Library. It was in this early mast pond, during the tenure of Master Shipwright Joseph Allin, in the early eighteenth century, that the boat used to bring Charles II back from exile was discovered, refurbished and renamed the Royal Escape, eventually finding its way to Heligoland.


by far the greater part of the dockyard survives as buried structures”

The scope of Lowe’s preliminary archaeological assessment in 2000 of surviving historic fabric only covered the following; standing buildings, river wall, perimeter walls and ground surface sections. However, given the evidence established in the surveys carried out by Hawkins and Divers, and further newly uncovered evidence from archive and site based surveys, the comprehensive indication of the majority survival of the dockyard’s distinctive characteristics merits a comprehensive listing to ensure that Deptford’s historic cultural assets of local, national and international significance are not excluded from the statutory protection applied in all other cases of listing of the Royal Dockyards.

Extracts from the recent archaeological surveys carried out at Deptford Dockyard affirm, that “major dockyard features survive across much of the site and that later activities on the site have had relatively little impact on these remains.” (Divers 2001:69/9.1.4)

“The large features targeted by the evaluation trenches have been found in their anticipated locations, often at relatively shallow depths beyond the present ground surface.” (Divers 2001:70/9.1.6)

“The N.E wall of the Georgian Mast Pond was found to survive immediately below the modern concrete ground slab.” (Divers 2001:26/7.2 Trench 2, fig.9)

“The N.W. wall of the Georgian Dock was found just immediately below the modern tarmac surface.” (Divers 2001:58/7.17.1)

Divers concludes, “the evaluation has established that the major features of the dockyard have survived in their predicted locations with little evidence for widespread truncation by later activities on the site.” (Divers 2001:71/9.4.2)


Deptford was the Cape Canaveral of its day, leading the technology of shipbuilding. The position of Master Shipwright at Deptford was the highest and therefore most sought after of the Royal Dockyards. Deptford’s proximity to the Navy Board and Admiralty ensured that advancements in the technology of shipbuilding tended to be carried out there. Due to its closure in 1869 Deptford was not subject to the later remodelling that occurred in other Royal Dockyards. As such, The King’s Yard at Deptford, expresses the early Tudor plan comprising, Master Shipwright’s House and Offices (Grade II), Double Dry Building Dock (proposed) Storehouse (Undercroft, Scheduled Ancient Monument) Great Basin (proposed).

Following the guideline statement in the Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007:05, it is requested that “A holistic approach should be taken where several original or near contemporary associated structures survive together or where a group of structures displays the evolution of port facilities in one significant place.” Statutory recognition of these early manifestations of works by Bentham and Rennie, perhaps expressing some of their earliest works in Royal Dockyards. Such extraordinary conjunction intensifies the significance of each element, further enhancing the Group Value listing of the Master Shipwright’s House and Offices (overlooking the Double Dry Building Dock), the listed perimeter walls and the covered slipways of 1846 (Olympia Sheds).

This early Tudor Dockyard plan, expressed in Evelyn’s annotated map of Deptford of 1623, is altered little by the expansion and developments of the Hanoverian period. The King’s Yard at Deptford remains the sole Royal Dockyard to express its original Tudor and its subsequent expansion into the Hanoverian period. The earliest Master Shipwright’s House and the earliest purpose built naval office building in the country, with additions expressing Bentham’s centric organisational Panopticon principles (Pro Work 41585-6, NMM ADM/ Q 3323 28th Feb 1805), would be further enhanced by statutory protection of the Double Dry Building Dock, The Great Basin and Harbour Wall, mast ponds and slipways, thus bringing Deptford’s historic maritime heritage in alignment with every other Royal Dockyard in the country.

The Royal Dockyards are amongst the most long-lived, extensive and coherent monuments to the history of the United Kingdom. Many of the industrial, technological, military and social changes that occurred in the post-modern and modern periods are embedded within their surviving fabric. Anthony Firth, Wessex Archaeology 2004.

“The Royal Dock, or "King's Yard," as it was locally called in former times, was esteemed one of the most complete repositories for naval stores in Europe. It covered not less than thirty acres of ground, and contained every convenience for building, repairing, and fitting out ships-of-the-line—those veritable "wooden walls of Old England" with which we were familiar before the introduction of armour-plated vessels. Artificers in wood and in iron had here large ranges of workshops and storehouses; and here the hammer and the axe were scarcely ever idle, even in times of peace; but where, during the prevalence of war, they were plied incessantly "in the construction of those floating bulwarks for which England is, or rather was, renowned, and which carry a hundred and twenty guns and a thousand men to guard her shores from the invader, or to bear her fame with her victories to the remotest seas of the ocean”



Royal Dockyard at Deptford circa 1739 showing the Great Basin in the foreground.

http://www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/aboutdefence/whatwedo/defenceestateandenvironment/modartcollection/ministryofdefenceartcollectionlaunchofa60gunshipatdeptfordc1720.htm accessed 22/12/09

Publications Consulted

Hawkins, Duncan. BA MIFA. April 2000. CgMs Consulting. Archaeological Desk Based Assessment

Convoy’s Wharf, Deptford SE8

Divers, David. January 2001. CgMs Ltd.Archaeological Evaluation of Land at Convoy’s Wharf, Deptford.

Lowe, Jon. BA. June 2000. Preliminary Assessment of Surviving Historic Fabric Convoy’s Wharf, Deptford.

Archives Consulted

National Archives

National Maritime Museum

British Library

Metropolitan Archives Corporation of London



Chris Mazeika December 2009.