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Wednesday 17 August 2011

River Wall at Deptford Royal Naval Yard

River Wall at Deptford Royal Naval Yard

Information Presented on the River Wall in Response to the CgMs Archaeological Report Jan 2010 River Wall Section.

Archaeology reports in 2000 state, “ “The river wall in its entirety appears to be in relatively good condition and has retained key structural components to phases of construction associated with the 18th and 19th century dockyard. These features are the last in a complex development of slipways and dock entrances that date back to the dockyards initial construction in the early 16th century. The wall should be retained and incorporated in future proposals because of its historic features.” (Lowe 2000:13, 4.8)

It is indisputable that the river wall at Deptford is the point of origin for momentous historic events in the life of the nation. As well as the site of the launching of over three hundred ships many in the presence of the monarch, the river wall at Deptford bears witness as the point of departure for countless journeys of exploration, voyages of discovery and naval battles of immeasurable importance to the cultural life of the nation. The river wall is Deptford’s royal quayside. Henry VIII chose to emblazon the storehouse with his royal arms and cipher along the waterfront here in 1513. The site continued with a royal title until the end of the WWII when operations of His Majesty’s Supply Reserve Depot were concluded.

The site prior to the royal dockyard of 1513

As Geoffrey De Saye, 1135-1214, was Lord of West Greenwich we can safely assume that the parts of the dockyard site that once formed part of Sayes Court pre-date the dockyard by several centuries. Although Henry VIII established the royal dockyard here early in the sixteenth century, records testify to shipbuilding in the area for almost as long as records exist. William Page records that as early the reign of Edward I the men of Deptford were exempt certain taxes and granted fishing rights having out ships for the King.

Michael Oppenheim has stated,

there is some evidence that a pond with an inlet communicating with the river was in existence in the thirteenth century, in which case Hopton only adapted and improved it. The storehouse can be traced back to 1513, but it is possible that the building hired at 'Greenwich' in 1485 by Henry VII was in fact really at Deptford.

Dr. Christopher Phillpott’s writes,

The shipbuilding industry at Deptford Strand is known to have begun in 1420 with the rebuilding and refitting of royal ships, and the digging of a dock for one of them in a former garden belonging to William Ramessy (the precise location has not been traced). There had probably been earlier activity for which the evidence no longer survives. The Thomas had been waiting there on the stocks since 1418. The dock was retained to hold the dilapidated Katerine until March 1425, when she was sold for scrap. By the end of the fifteenth century this activity was well established at this settlement. In the 1460s Sir John Howard, Edward IV's commander at sea, laid up his ships at Deptford. In 1464 William Rose purchased timber from the Bridge House store at Southwark to build a ship at Deptford Strand. Ten years later a tenement was rented from the Bridge House estate there to repair a royal ship called the Antony Camfere. In 1487 Henry VII rented a storehouse for naval gear at Greenwich (possibly West Greenwich) and sent shipwrights and caulkers from Deptford to rig and repair his ships laid up in the Hampshire ports. A shipwright was buried at St. Nicholas church in 1494.

Among the many historic events associated with the site, perhaps the return of Drake, aboard the Golden Hind, his knighting here on board ship in the presence of Elizabeth I, and the laying up of the vessel in a makeshift dock, (most likely, I believe, the creek that became the canal to the mast pond) is the greatest moments of distinction for the dockyard. The wharf wall of Deptford royal naval yard is unparalleled along the London Thames for being closely associated with such a high number of nationally significant events. The occasions when monarchs are present at the waterside for the launching of their ships are too numerous to mention. The scale of these elaborate ceremonies sometimes attended by thousands of onlookers warrants a study of it’s own.

That the earliest plan of the dockyard survives intact from c.1517 marks this site as a rare and possibly unique survival of royal naval shipbuilding facilities on the London Thames.

Where the opportunity arises for the assessment of national heritage assets, in accordance with nationally published guidelines, following this process, a program of conservation and repair is a common response.
It is of course not unusual for heritage assets to be diminished in reports commissioned by developers. Spitalfields in the 1970’s and 1980’s is a good example. The silk weaver’s houses would have been swept away were it not for the perseverance of a handful of individuals determined to pursue a more enlightened approach. I wish to draw attention to a number of concerns regarding the factual accuracy of both English Heritage assessment and archaeology reports on the site.

We can no longer stand by waiting to hear in another ten years time, “If we knew then what we know now”. Thorough primary source research challenges claims made by English Heritage and developer led archaeology that seeks to diminish the historic importance of the Deptford yard. English Heritage first received a proposal to list the features of the yard in 2002, following the omission of the Deptford yard from the Alan Howard review of military establishments that was carried out in 1999. This first listing proposal was thoroughly updated in December 2009 with new information and highlighted the correspondence of this new information with publicly funded heritage policy published in 1998, 2005 and 2007 specifically aimed at maritime and naval sites. English Heritage has refused the invitation extended to the authors and counter signees of the now discredited English Heritage report. After a lengthy twenty-month process conducted by English Heritage, there is still no decision on the fate of the assets at Deptford.

The Problem with the Application of Archaeology Policy on purpose built below ground structures

In relation to the dockyard, where there are extant docks, slips, basins and mast ponds, it is simply neither accurate nor sufficient to speak of archaeology when these structures, such as the river wall, the massive stone construction of the double dry dock and John Rennie’s monumental basin mouth are extant structures, with evidence of their positions clearly visible from the foreshore. Since it is the nature of docks, slips, basins and mast ponds to be situated below ground, their presence below ground does not characterize the structures as archaeology nor warrant archaeological survey alone, but building survey also, in order to determine the full extent of survival and potential for conservation and repair, as is generally afforded to any structure of national and international historical significance.

A precedent for this has been established at Rochefort on the River Charente in France, where docks and basins silted up for a hundred years have been cleared and repaired for re-use. The English Heritage site at Sherborne Castle uses soil and turf as a conservation method.

Consideration of Historic Associations

The yard at Deptford witnessed the labours of Henry VIII’s Master Shipwrights Matthew and James Baker. In the period of Elizabeth I, Deptford laid up Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind and put out ships for the Armada. In the Hanoverian period, voyages of discovery by James Cook, Martin Frobisher and George Vancouver began at Deptford. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Deptford launched several ships for Nelson’s battles, including launching several ships for the Battle of Trafalgar. The yard also served as a military base during the twentieth century as His Majesty’s Army Supply Reserve Depot and Transport Depot in WWI and WWII. The site served as U.S. Advance Amphibious Vehicle Base during which time 14 U.S naval personnel lost their lives in a single V-1 rocket attack on the dockyard. The area of land in question, far from being a mere brown-field site, has served the Nation as a military installation through a period of five centuries. It would be difficult to propose a more historic stretch of the Thames in London.
The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of the cultural history of the nation.

Fair and Reasonable Application of Policy

The English Heritage document Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007, published more fully February 2011, states that works by Samuel Bentham and John Rennie warrant 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.”

The presently blocked penetrations to the docks, stairs, slipways and basin and the length of the extant river wall are the material evidence of their predecessors of the previous five centuries. The current penetrations were designed and constructed by the leading engineers of their day, including in the late Georgian period works by John Rennie and George Ledwell Taylor. These works predate the 1840 EH guideline by several decades, in one case by as much as twenty-five years.

The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of its association with the works of a person, or group of persons, of importance to the nation’s maritime engineering history.

Nowhere else on the Thames in London can a complex of docks, slips and basin entrances be found that directly relates to the nation’s greatest maritime journey’s, discoveries and battles through five centuries. It was, in part, this technology that gave rise to Britain’s centuries of maritime supremacy.

Composition of the River Wall

In respect of the river wall it would be intellectually incoherent not to include the penetrations of the wharf wall where the Thames has lapped against the walls of these various structures. The immediate landward structures are therefore proposed as part of the structure and character of the river wall per se. Indeed what marks this stretch of the Thames out from any other is the continued presence of these structures, albeit presently filled in intact. As a complex of maritime technology they are an unrivalled testament to the technological development of shipbuilding on the London Thames. The earliest plan of the dockyard is intact. The locations of the Double dry dock,
The Great Storehouse, The Great Basin, all present c.1517, remain in their ancient location.

The river wall has been repaired and altered as have each of the intrinsic structures of the dockyard. Such alterations elsewhere are acknowledged by English Heritage 2007/2011 as contributing to the historic value as expressions of development in naval technology.

The ‘dockyard wall’ can be understood as a single element of dockyard technology that contains all of the landward penetrations. The dockyard river wall is composed in part of the dockyard’s defining structures, its building facilities, the docks, slips, great basin and mast ponds.

The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

The penetrations under consideration are as follows: from the Upper Watergate moving upstream; the Great Dock c.1517, with its magnificent granite piers evident on the wharf wall and the recently excavated finely engineered massive stone stern dock entrance, most likely dating from the last decade of the eighteenth century to the first decade of the nineteenth century, possibly the only eighteenth century royal yard to survive; the Landing Place and Look out stairs dating from c.1720, in use for over two hundred years prior to being closed c.1930, these stairs maintain a fine early Georgian causeway still present in remarkable condition on the foreshore; Entrances to the pair of slipways depicted in John Cleveley’s several paintings of the yard in the mid eighteenth century such as Buckingham on the Stocks c.1750 ; John Rennie’s 1814 monumental stone worked entrance to the Great Basin evident as an extant penetration in the wharf wall and the Rennie designed wharf wall with its characteristic course of stone banding; According to the account written by M. Chevallier in 1860, the slipway immediately to the west of the storehouse was enlarged c.1858 at a cost of the sterling equivalent of 54,000 French francs in order to accommodate the building of the 26 gun screw frigate Ariadne in 1859. Ariadne was constructed on the model of the American Merrimak. (Chevallier 1860:11) In 1860 the “Ariadne,” commanded by Captain Edward Vanisttart, formed one of the escort to H.M.S. “Hero,” which vessel conveyed His Royal highness the Prince of Wales, afterwards His Majesty King Edward the Seventh, on his memorable visit to Canada and the United States of America.
The final extant penetration of the river wall is George Ledwell Taylor’s canal to the Mast pond constructed c.1828.

Misunderstandings, Errors and Confusions in Official Reports

Although the archaeological report has been revised three times since its publication in September 2009 with the latest revision at 2010, there remain several questions regarding the data contained in the report in the section reporting on the river wall.
Following the serious errors in the recent English Heritage report into the dockyard (Julian Heath/Emily Gee 2010), it is vital that claims made in the archaeological report are accurate as the publicly funded heritage agencies depend on these resources in order to make their own assessments. I have submitted documents earlier to demonstrate that Jonathan Coad’s work The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850 concentrates on a period when Deptford has already been in operation for 175 years. Coad forms conclusions without reference to Deptford’s contribution to the development of the royal yards and many of his claims are now disproved and whilst they have served an important role in the preservation and restoration of Chatham and Portsmouth yards, this work can no longer be relied on as a basis for understanding Deptford’s role and contribution to the development of the royal dockyards as a whole.

I address the queries as they arise in the section on the river wall and give substantive evidence to challenge the accuracy of the current archaeological report.

At 6.2.40 the CgMs archaeological report claims,

No part of the existing river wall predates 1796-1808.

Parts of the existing wall rest on the foundation of the earlier wall. This can be ascertained from low-tide examination of the colour and coursing of brickwork and from comparative examination of historic maps. In the exercise of determining the date for the wall, the plans of the dockyard I have consulted are Milton’s Plan 1753, Plan of the Kings Moorings c.1770’s, Plan of the yard, 1774 Plan of the yard c.1808, Plan of Deptford Dockyard 1870.

On river and dock walls, English Heritage Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007 specifically states,

:05 under Special Interest reads.
“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.”

Key elements of the dockyard structures used to determine the date of the the river wall include the 1720 steps, the mouth of the dry dock, the distance between the storehouse and wharf wall, the distance between the 17th century mast pond and wharf wall (the anchor wharf) and the c.1838 axonometric drawing showing the boat house slips and wharf wall.

The river wall at Deptford is most substantially altered at the dock mouth and at the basin mouth by John Rennie c.1814 in order to accommodate larger ships in the basin. The caisson gate developed in conjunction with the Master Shipwright was a sufficiently significant development in Rennie’s work for him to specifically record the development in his personal papers. Therefore on a number of counts according to English Heritage recently published documents the works at Deptford, the river wall and basin warrant a high designation. This would seem to be a straightforward affair where policy is satisfied by factual evidence. However this is one area where English Heritage’s own research was woefully inaccurate and its procedures of counter signing and quality assurance pitifully remiss.
According to the archaeological report, no part of the river wall predates 1796-1808. An apparent sleight of hand immediately declares, “that the wall post-dates the dockyard is most vividly illustrated by the fact”, however, what is most vividly illustrated is the sudden transition from 1796 to post date the dockyard i.e. 1870’s. This is both confused and confusing presentation.

The report claims that “the bulk of the river wall appears to have been constructed in the period 1896-1916”. The only evidence cited is that the wall cuts through “probably nineteenth century slipways on the foreshore. However, a more straightforward conclusion is surely that the blocked slipway entrances cut across the timber slipways. The remainder of the river wall is late 18th to early 19th century. This can simply be ascertained by a comparative analysis of the changes from the Milton plan of 1753 to the George Ledwell Taylor plan of 1830. The blocked entrances to the dry dock dates to 1875, the blocked entrance to the Great Basin to 1895. It is likely that the three slipways to the Thames were blocked at the same time as the dry dock. The boat-house slipways were open in 1838 as indicated in the axonometric drawing by W. J. Rivers.

Many of the lower ranges of bricks in front of the Master Shipwright’s House and the Storehouse are plum coloured stocks of the eighteenth century, and the presence of areas of pozzolano cement indicate a late eighteenth early nineteenth century construction. The distance from the north elevation of the storehouse to the river wall remains consistent from c.1750 to 1870 and beyond. This stretch forms approx a third of the river wall. The length of wall constructed by Jolliffe and Banks to Rennie’s design in 1814 and forms approximately another third of the of the river wall. Thus two thirds, therefore the bulk of the river wall is Georgian. As a work of Rennie’s according to English Heritage Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007/2011 the river wall warrants a high grade of protection.


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)
In summary it is highly unlikely that the presentation of data given in the report is sufficiently accurate as to present a correct picture of the river wall.
From the period c.1770 repairs will, of course, have taken place overtime, however, it appears that the length of wall from Upper Watergate at the east end of the yard heading west to the beginning of John Rennie’s works has not altered at least in position. John Rennie’s works are significant in themselves to warrant a high-grade listing. From the basin mouth East the wall is largely constructed of infill, to the most westerly slipway and infill to the early mast pond and infill to the boathouse slipways.


The river wall is dramatic site of the labours of the Navy’s foremost Master Shipwright’s, naval architects and artificers. As a single entity the river wall expresses the work of George Ledwell Taylor, John Rennie, the filled in Landing Place and Look out steps from 1720, and the granite piers to the double dock. The river wall is the site of countless launches in the presence of monarchs throughout the life of the dockyard, the putting out of ships for the Armada, the voyages of exploration and discovery of Raleigh and Drake and Frobisher in the Tudor period, the knighting of Drake aboard the Golden Hind, of Cook’s voyages of exploration and discovery in the 18th century, of Nelson’s battles including Trafalgar, and of the deaths of 11 U. S. Service men in WWII by VII Rocket. These events mark this stretch of river wall as an important historic elevation that has served the nation as a military base for six centuries, since the first records revealing ships put out for Edward I.
However, the now discredited English Heritage designation report in Overall Conclusions claimed that the river wall is, “a relatively common type of feature with similar examples found elsewhere along the Thames throughout London.” Appearing to blatantly ignore the early origin of this site as a royal dockyard, the English Heritage claim pays no attention whatsoever to the countless associations with historic events and individuals throughout the centuries.

The English Heritage report also claims, “The applicant cites Jon Lowe's report 'Preliminary Assessment of Surviving Historic Fabric Convoy's Wharf, Deptford' (June 2000) 3,2,4 as stating that the bulk of the river wall was thought to date to the re-modeling of the Dockyard during the 1830s, and because of its pre-1840 date should be designated.”

However, English Heritage’s own published documentation Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide Heritage Protection Department
March 2007:05 under Special Interest reads,
“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.”

The river wall from east to west is a structure containing the work of George Ledwell Taylor’s canal to the 18th century Mast Pond, the John Rennie basin mouth and river wall, the blocked Watergate steps of the Landing Place and Lookout c.1720 and granite piers to the c.1806-8 Georgian dry dock. (See George Ledwell Taylor’s 1831plan). The river wall expresses a unique collection of royal dockyard engineering structures on the London Thames and is far from being “relatively common” and “found elsewhere along the Thames” as the report claims, summarizing reasons not to confer statutory heritage protection (Heath 2010:07).

The now discredited English Heritage designation report goes on to claim, “John Rennie supervised a partial rebuilding in I8|6 on an occasional superintendence basis. However these works had to be replaced some twenty years later in the l840s £800 was spent on dismantling and rebuilding the wharf wall. Some of the 1840’s brickwork survives since a recent archaeological assessment by Jon Lowe and updated by Duncan Hawkins concluded that the 'fabric through out the length of the wall.....was probably constructed during the last major re-modeling of the dockyard in l846.” (Heath 2011:06)

John Lowe’s report for CgMs reads,
“The bulk of river wall thought to date to the final re-modeling of the Dockyard during the 1830’s with the blockings inserted 1869-1894. The Thames frontage of the site was surveyed in detail in both plan and section in 1832-38.” (Lowe 2001:3.2.4)
The survey referred to is the Hydrographic Survey commensurate with the George Ledwell-Taylor’s 1831 plan together indicating that the majority of the river wall predates c.1830 contrary to unsubstantiated claims made in the report. Indeed, Heath’s report appears to mis-quote Lowe who writes, at Lowe 3.2.6. “ The brick fabric throughout the length of the wall is unlikely to have a large date range as it was probably constructed during the last major re-modeling of the dockyard in the 1830’s. The similarity of material both above and below the stone features indicates initially one phase of build.” This detail is very important in determining the date of the wall. The stone feature referred to above is that described in 3.2.1 of Lowe’s report,
“The river wall is mainly brick with a large stone course incorporated intermittently along its length.” This feature is John Rennie’s specification of 1815. "There are to be two courses of stone through the wall, of fifteen inches thick each course; the facing is to be of Dundee or Craigleeth stone, and backing of Roach Portland, and they are to be of like sizes, and done in similar manner as the walls of the entrance; and the whole is to be coped with Dundee or Craigleeth stone, eighteen inches thick, four feet broad in the beds, and in lengths not less than five feet with stone joggles in the joints."
The archaeologists did not consult the Rennie archive at the Institute of Civil Engineers. (ICE REN Tracts Folio Vol.49.) It was therefore not known at the time of writing the reports that this stone feature was the 1814-1815 works by John Rennie. However the inclusion of this detail in these archaeological reports dispels claims that Rennie’s works were “destroyed” in the 20th century or that the bulk of the river wall is post 1840.

The sum of £800 referred to and the occasional superintendence by John Rennie refers solely to the 10ft, small stretch of wharf wall to the east of the Basin mouth and the slip which the Admiralty against John Rennie’s advice in 1814 chose not to replace. The horizontal stone banding and stone toggles are specified by Rennie and shown on his plans of May 8th 1815, 31st August 1814 (ADM 140/1170 Parts1- 2) are still in place.
(Specification of the Masonry, Brick Work, Piling, Planking, &c. of A New Entrance to the Basin at the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, and also for the Building of A River Wall From the said Entrance to the Second Slip on the South. ICE REN Tracts Folio Vol.49).

The length of extant river wall by John Rennie is 160ft, a further 400ft length of wall from the dockyard limit to the west (being the Upper Watergate steps), shown on George Ledwell Taylor’s 1831map, comprises the wall to the fore of the Master Shipwright’s House and the wall to the fore of the 1720’s storehouse, which other than receiving due repair is in line with that shown on the Ledwell-Taylor plan of c.1828. Other than infilling of dock, slipway and basin mouth closures, which according to archaeologists “are the last in a complex development of slipways and dock entrances that date back to the dockyards initial construction in the early 16th century.” The report offers no documentary evidence to substantiate its claims of majority post-1840 construction.

Conclusions reached by archaeologists in 2000 state, “ “The river wall in its entirety appears to be in relatively good condition and has retained key structural components to phases of construction associated with the 18th and 19th century dockyard. These features are the last in a complex development of slipways and dock entrances that date back to the dockyards initial construction in the early 16th century. The wall should be retained and incorporated in future proposals because of its historic features.” (Lowe 2000:13, 4.8)


Recommend assessments to ascertain the potential for the re-opening of the 1720 landing place stairs that were closed in the 1930’s, the re-opening of the stone entrance to the dry dock, the re-opening of John Rennie’s monumental basin entrance and the three slipway entrances in order to vividly express the uniqueness of this internationally historically significant Thames frontage and along with the extant opening of the George Ledwell Taylor canal to the 1760’s Mast Pond this will allow for the re-instatement of seven bridges along the dockyard river frontage creating a historically unrivalled section of the Thames Path in London.

In relation to the river wall and its component docks, slips, basin and mast ponds a no build-line proposal may be drawn from the wharf wall to the extent of the length of the Double dry dock approx 400ft to the far west of the site incorporating the slipways, the Olympia shed and small mast pond in order to avoid any further destruction of the substructures of the historic assets of the dockyard.

Whilst this may at first appear extreme, it is not yet known how the component structures of the yard are constructed and what may remain of earlier structures. In particular damage to timber land-ties, brick and stone ‘foundations’ to the sides of the structures must be avoided. Therefore observing the curtilige or ‘apron’ of the docks and slips where the main capstans and penstocks are housed will ensure the satisfaction of policy guidelines outlined in PPS5.

Until knowledge of the build of the docks, slips and basin is gained any outline permissions will be in contravention of PPS5. Such knowledge has not yet been established by the piecemeal test pits carried out so far. Aside from PPS5, URB20 determines that heritage assets are fully understood.


The river wall at Deptford is an outstanding and unique heritage resource. Among all the royal dockyards, only at Deptford is the early Tudor plan exhibited with the dock and basin still extant in their early locations and the current penetrations are the signifiers of their ancient predecessors. The Carolean and Hanoverian expansions of the yard to the west also remain intact.

The dockyard gave rise to the wider town of Deptford and local people take a pride in the history of the area. The Deptford foreshore as a place to walk and view the river wall is an important cultural resource for local people.
The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics valued by a community.

Where the construction of openings exist or traces remain, such as the vast granite piers to the dry dock, the visible fletton-blocked opening to the 1720 Landing Place and Lookout stairs with its fine stone causeway extant, the timber slipways on the foreshore marking the entrances to the slipways, where exact measurements of the openings can be read from numerous plan sources, the extant opening of the basin slipway, and the extant opening of the mast pond canal, the 1838 axonometric drawing of the boathouse slipways prior to their infill, all these elements could be re-instated.

Where one or more markings survive along the river wall to testify to the locations of dockyard structures this should be capitalized on to consolidate and contribute to the assets of the dockyard as a whole, in line with English Heritage policy that a holistic approach should be taken where several structures demonstrate the evolution of port facilities in one significant place over a period of time.

We await English Heritage’s recommendation and deliberations.


  1. An outstanding account, I can't pretend to be able to take it all in, the detail is too much for my comprehension, but I've been walking around the Pepys Estate a few times recently, I'm going to be there tomorrow morning in fact. Access to the foreshore seems restricted, I can't see a way down near the old rum stores. Once it was easy to descend to the foreshore all along the Thames, but most access points seemed to be padlocked or removed. I'd be interested to know of any stairs open near the Thames Path, so that the old dockyard walls can be viewed from the 'beach'.

  2. thanks Pudding.....enjoying your work.....have you found the mulberries yet?

  3. Interesting Historical Information
    abour the River Wall