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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.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Entrenched Positions: An Archaeological Dig to Reveal?

Entrenched Positions: An Archaeological Dig to Reveal?
Chris Mazeika October 2011

Whilst archaeological explorations serve a number of varied and sometimes opposing interests I pose the question, “Is the developer led and developer funded exploration taking place at the former King’s Yard at Deptford, Henry VIII’s royal dockyard, 1513 and the site of John Evelyn’s house and garden at Sayes Court achieving its declared goals, namely that the archaeology will assist in the formation of the Hutchison Whampoa Masterplan?

In 2010 the writer of Londonslostgarden claimed that trenches targeted on the area of John Evelyn’s house and garden at Sayes Court appeared to miss some of the most significant areas that would yield data. The writer, a qualified archaeologist, demonstrates her claim using overlays of a series of maps from the sequence of changes to the site. The site visit of October 8th 2011 followed by on-site debate with the lead archaeologist Duncan Hawkins was inconclusive in assuaging the conviction that trenches are not well placed to encounter the most significant data. This work has been re-considered by a landscape architect who also raises questions regarding the intention of the trial trenching. It is not yet clear what garden archaeology expertise was applied to this site of international interest. If there are published reports of expert garden archaeology taking place at the site of Sayes Court, such as is demanded by PPS5, or expert evaluation even, of the works carried out by CgMs, we have been unable to source these important documents. If Lewisham has a nominated specialist garden archaeologist we are not aware of any published results of that expert’s evaluation of the CgMs excavations. We are aware that during and after the completion of trial trenching on the Sayes Court site that English heritage nominated garden archaeology expert when contacted to determine his opinion of the published results was entirely unaware of the excavations that had taken place.

i. Trial trench plan and overlay of modern warehousing
ii. Trial trench plan and overlay of modern warehousing and Evelyn’s garden plan of 1653
(Courtesy Londonslostgarden)

Given the questions posed above concerning the trial trenching of Sayes Court, I decided to examine the trench plan targeting the dockyard Officers’ Terrace. This terrace may be the earliest palace front terrace in England, and therefore a major contribution in the development of European architecture, data that would be significant in helping to identify the site of the former dockyard as a whole of international importance.

In relation to the development of royal dockyard officers’ housing, Lake and Douet for English Heritage depending on Jonathan Coad’s work The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (1989), claim “The earliest (palace front terrace) was the former Devonport Officer's Terrace, (now part of South Yard and largely destroyed by bombing), which was built between 1692 and 1696 under the direction of the Surveyor, Edward Dummer.” However, had Lake and Douet fully consulted King’s MS 43, Dummer’s renowned survey of the royal dockyards of 1698, the plans of Deptford would have shown that the principal Officers’ Terrace there was in place by 1688.

Dummer’s Survey of the dockyard at Deptford 1688 plan from Kings Ms. 43 1698
Showing the Officers’ Terrace to the upper far eastern boundary of the site (courtesy of the British Library)

The modest palace front terrace at Deptford is clearly evidenced as being built prior to Devonport and as such Deptford not Devonport, as Lake and Douet have claimed, “shows the earliest instance in Britain of a palace front terrace.”

The terrace at Deptford accommodated the Master Attendant, Clerk of the Survey, Clerk of the Cheque, Builder’s Assistant, Storekeeper, and Surgeon. The total value ascribed to the terrace by Dummer in 1698 was £3,662. The most expensive house was the corner house occupied by the Clerk of the Cheque valued at more than £950.

Dummer’s survey of the Officers’ Terrace at Deptford shown here in the 1698 Kings Ms. 43 (Courtesy of the British Library)

In relation to the Devonport terrace Lake and Douet continue, “Furthermore it predates Mansart's Place Vendome in Paris, finished in 1698 and usually credited as the first full development of the palace front in Europe.” (Lake and Douet 1998:82) This accolade too must be credited to Deptford where the regular fenestration pattern and rhythm of the terrace together with centralized and rhythmical door placement form the simple but clear palace front on the west elevation particularly. Lake and Douet state “the development of palace-front terraces within the dockyards is of considerable significance in the evolution of English architecture. This form of unified planning was widely used during the eighteenth century and in the first half of the nineteenth century, and is considered one the country's particular contributions to European architectural history.” (Lake and Douet 1998:87) I suggest that it is therefore Deptford dockyard that makes the contribution of considerable significance as the earliest palace front terrace in England.

Given that Dummer became the Surveyor of the Navy in 1692 having joined the navy in 1668, unless sufficient scrutiny is given to the similarities and differences of the Deptford and Plymouth terraces such as to support the possibility of a Dummer authorship at Deptford even prior to his role as surveyor, (since as an extra clerk in the office of the Surveyor from 1678 he had responsibility for drawing), we must look elsewhere to ascribe authorship of Deptford’s early palatial terrace. Celia Fox’s 2007 paper for the British Library, “The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England” also misses the Deptford officers’ terrace.

From Coad in 1989, Lake and Douet in 1998, to Celia Fox in 2007 the plan, elevations and valuations of the Deptford terrace found in Dummer’s 1698 survey were not included in the authors’ deliberations on early dockyard officers’ housing. This makes the opportunity that the archaeological explorations presents all the more

Thorough archaeological investigations the earlier Deptford terrace may offer further data, such as brick and mortar dating, timber dating and chimney design and positioning to establish the architectural authorship and date. The Deptford Officer’s terrace may well be one of England’s earliest examples of uniform palatial terracing in the country. The Plymouth and Deptford terraces are related in period design to the Navy Board Office at Seething Lane, Crutched Friars, arguably a Wren and Hooke collaboration and dated to c.1674. (Fox 2007:51) Deptford Master Shipwright Jonas Shish writes to the Navy Commissioner’s on June 22nd 1665 on account of repairs needed to the Clerk of the Survey’s House amounting to £12. (ADM 106/ 28- June 22nd 1665) Further archive based research alongside archaeological data are therefore required to establish beyond doubt the history of the Officers’ Terrace at Deptford, here proposed as dated to c.1660.

In the archaeological reports the stated aim of trenches 43, 44 and 46 was to determine the level of survival of the former officers’ quarters, their form and fabric. No archaeological structures were identified in Trench 46. Trench 40 was targeted on horticultural land, the aim to identify the nature of land use. A modern building occupied the trench.

Trench 46 was placed in the road between the great dock and a green space in front of the terrace. Trench 43 was placed in a parcel of land that was never within the dockyard and only became part of the site during the tenure of the Foreign Cattle market. Trench 44 was placed in the garden of the Officers’ Terrace. Only trench 42 is situated in the area of the Officers’ terrace.

This trench reveals very detailed and interesting data. Suggesting the three phases of building from the terrace shown in the Evelyn map 1623, the terrace shown in Edmund Dummer’s survey of 1688-98 and the known 18th century re-facing of the Dummer surveyed terrace.

Concluding the 2010 report archaeological report that accompanies the planning submission documents (relied on by Lewisham Planners to determine their recommendations to committee) it is stated,
“4.3 Significance
Some of the archaeological remains are nationally important – for example the
scheduled Tudor storehouse. Most of the remains uncovered in the evaluation are of
local or regional significance, however.”

This attempt to disaggregate the dockyard infrastructure is in direct opposition to stated English Heritage guidelines that states, “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.”
(Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007:05)

The Deptford dockyard site is made up of its constituent parts as an interrelated whole. The history of the development of the yard begins with the double dock, slips, Great Storehouse and basin, forming the earliest foundation of the yard, c.1513-1517. There is record of royal ships being built, repaired and stored at the Deptford site prior to 1513, when the Thomas de la Tour is brought to Deptford for repairs in 1420.

English Heritage has determined that the site is of national importance. It therefore seems illogical and disingenuous on the part of the lead archaeologist to disaggregate the constituent elements of the site in a way that diminishes the significance of the whole. There is a cumulative value that is determined by the setting and by the context of the intimate interrelated functions of the yard, such as the interrelationship between a dock, its saw pits, capstan housings, penstocks and bridge infrastructure that is harmed by such attempts at disaggregation.

Where trenches have not been well targeted, where the desk based surveys are not well aligned with site based surveys and where permissions are sought prior to a good understanding of the archaeology and a thorough understanding of the impacts of development upon that archaeology there are serious causes for concern. As late as May 2011 Lewisham’s Design Panel advised the Developer’s Design Team that the archaeology was not yet adequately understood. English Heritage has recommended that development proposals should not be adopted by Planning Departments until PPS5 legislation is well articulated. PPS5 is referred to as a consulted source by the Developer’s Design Team but I can find no articulation or direct application or reference to it in their submission. This may be a serious omission.

There clearly has been an oversight in relation to the adoption of this current submission. Whilst archaeological explorations continue (and continue to be questioned based on well-researched accounts), is it not underhand on the part of the developer to submit 2010 archaeological reports that are often absolute in their conclusions such as “there will be no upstanding remains of the Basin” or determinations that the dry dock is structurally unsound when little more than trial trenching has occurred on these buildings of monumental naval dockyard infrastructure?

For an area that is likely to be determined as of international significance the submission of reports based on trial-trenching alone that provide only partial data is an insufficient method to establish a good understanding of the archaeology. To ensure that PPS5 is articulated in the developer’s submissions and to ensure no further damage is wrought by the proposed development, to rely solely on the SARM is a highly questionable and a high risk strategy.

The opportunity exists to delay the determination of the application until the archaeology is complete as English Heritage have advised at Old Gun Wharf in Chatham. This is a far more secure way forward in order to satisfy PPS5.

Coad, J.G., The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (1989)
Fox, Celia “The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England” Bl(2007)
Lake, J. and Douet, J., The Naval Dockyards: A Thematic Survey (1998 English Heritage, unpublished report)
Liljenberg, Karen http://londonslostgarden.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/dig-manages-to-miss-elysium/ Acessed Oct 9th 2011
Heritage Protection Department, English Heritage, Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide (March 2007)