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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.


  1. Not sure who wrote this article but would they be interested in giving a talk on the subject to Lewisham Local History Society in 2012?

    Andrew Milton


  2. It is the Restoration of Deptford's Naval
    Heritage that is Needed .

    Given Deptford Royal Dockyard's Sites Long
    and Illustrious Naval Heritage a Ceremonial
    Commission in the Royal Navy as HMS DEPTFORD
    would put this Naval Heritage under the White
    Ensign and with the Protection of Historic
    Foundations Allowing for Public Viewing and
    the Rebuilding of Historic Naval Buildings
    Deptford can have to Attract Visitors a
    Living History Naval Heritage Dockyard

    Better than being Just Asphalted Over and
    Completely Destroyed

  3. English Harbour is a Splendid Example of
    an Historic Naval Dockyard that has been
    Restored being Nelson's Base in the West

    A Deptford Royal Dockyard Heritage Site
    HMS DEPTFORD would be an Invaluable Asset
    to Deptford and make Amends for Previous Neglect of National Naval Heritage

  4. What a great idea HMS Deptford is. How does the Cerimonial Commission and the White Ensign actually work?

  5. There are plenty to choose from, resonating down the ages:
    Ark Royal
    According to the book (Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway, published 1971) my late father-in-law gave me HMS Deptford was built in 1732 at Deptford, so there is a precedent.

  6. Deptford Royal Dockyard Site Needs to be
    Properly Protected

    A Compulsory Purchase Order is in this Interest
    and it Appears that under the Ancient Monuments
    and Archaeological Areas Act the Secretary of
    State can Purchase a Site for Protection.

    A Place where between 1545 to 1869 350 Ships
    were Built for the Royal Navy is more than
    Worthy of This.

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