A Deptford Walk

Additional Information


[Brookmill Park] [Carrington House] [Creekside Centre] [Deptford Bridge/Mills] [Deptford Creek] [Deptford Dockyard] [Ferranti Site] [Laban Dance Centre] [Mill site] [Peter the Great] [Railway] [Ravensbourne River] [Resources] [Shops] [St Alfege's Church] [St Nicholas Church]

The area occupied by Tescos car park is a historic mill site. Initially it was used for corn milling but by 1371 was grinding steel. During the Tudor period it became part of the Royal Armoury Mill founded in Greenwich and producing specialist armour. After 1637 the mill was largely abandonned until 1684 when ‘simple’ armour was being manufactured. In the 18th century a corn mill operated on the site in addition to that producing items for the Board of Ordnance. In 1807 the site was redeveloped to become a small arms factory. This operated until 1818 by which time all workers not transferred to Enfield were discharged. Around 1824 the mill was converted to produce silk thread and after 1860 gold & silver trimmings, including the first tinsel. The company went into liquidation in 1926 and receivership in 1931. Other firms operated on the site from 1926. Much of the mill building was demolished in 1937 and the site cleared for the DLR extension of 1997.

The Ravensbourne rises at Caesar’s Well in Keston and joined by the Beck, Pool, Spring Brook and Quaggy flows into the Thames at Deptford/Greenwich, a distance of nearly 11 miles. The river is culverted, channelled and covered along much of its course. However a section running through Brookmill Park has been naturalised offering new habitats for wildlife including kingfishers. In the 1840s the park was occupied by a reservoir surrounded by grassland and trees but by 1900 this was no longer in use. The park, opened in 1951 and re-designed in 1998, has a lake, ornamental garden, play area, nature reserve and ranger’s office. The Ravensbourne Water Company was founded on the site of the former Brook Mill in 1701 becoming Kent Waterworks in 1809, the Metropolitan Water Board in 1903 and then Thames Water. River water was used until 1862 but this was replaced by wells from 1849. Some buildings of the water works remain.

Deptford Bridge has been a major crossing point since Roman times when it was a fording place along Watling Street. In Medieval times a wooden bridge would have been used by pilgrims to Canterbury. Subsequent bridges would have carried stage and mail coaches and as the present A2 it is still of importance. To the south is the old gin distillery which operated 1770s – 1970s by Goodhews, Hollands and Seagers. The Domesday Book of 1086 records 11 mills on the Ravensbourne and Roque’s map of 1745 shows 5 between Lewisham and Deptford. The old tide mills were replaced by Robinson’s steam powered flour mill in the 1820s which was finally demolished in the 1970s. Some buildings of Mumfords Flour Mills (founded 1790) remain including a silo designed by Sir Aston Webb in 1897 which has been incorporated into a redevelopment as apartments.

Old properties including the Golden Fleece pub and cramped lodging houses were demolished for the construction in 1902-3 of this hostel and the adjacent Sylva Cottages. On the ground floor were common rooms and on the five upper storeys some 800 cubicles for homeless men. In 1940 the charge was 8d per night and a bath with towel was 2d. Lockers could be rented for a shilling a year, sixpence of which was returned when the key was surrendered. It was converted in 1995 and renamed Mereton Mansions. Its railings are made from wartime stretcher frames.

34 as G Chapman Oil & Colour Stores made legal history for the first use of fingerprint evidence in a murder case. The Stratton brothers were executed for killing Mr & Mrs Farrow who were minding the shop in 1905.
146 to the north of the Quaker Meeting House (both demolished in 1907) was Mannings Old Pudden Shop - 'where you get the best dinner in the world 6d'
121 William Henry Thomas - Timber & General Dealer
119 Neighbourhood Florist - 'why pay 5/- for a wreath which you can buy here for 3/-'
158/9 English Artificial Teeth - painless extraction 1/- Mr G Mistlin
65-69 Bland & Philips (later Marks & Spencer)
10-12 Tricketts (see terracotta frontage)
The Egg Shop
13 Liptons (in 1905)

The first passenger railway in London, designed by GT Landmann, was built in 1836 between Deptford (later Greenwich) and Spa Road (later London Bridge). The track was laid across four miles of mainly gardens and meadowland on a viaduct of 878 arches which utilised some 60 million bricks! It was intended to build houses within the arches but they proved unsuitable and many are now used for workshops/storage. A tree-lined boulevard run at ground level along the length of the track, of which only fragments remain. This crossed the Creek by means of a bridge for which a toll was charged. The Ha’penny Hatch has been re-instated - without the charge. The derelict lifting bridge would have enabled the track to be lifted clear of boats using the Creek. The line was lit by 200 gas lamps supplied by the the railway company’s own gasworks on the site now occupied by the Creekside Centre.

The Royal Naval Dockyard was established by Henry VIII in 1513 becoming the chief Thames dockyard and bringing a large population and prosperity to Deptford. However the silting up of the river and the change to iron ships led to its closure in 1869 at which time it covered 27 acres and employed 800 people. It had produced some 450 ships, the last being the Druid. The site served as a cattle market from 1871-1912 then a War Department supply depot before being purchased by Convoys (importers of newsprint) in 1984. Convoys have now left and mixed re-development is planned for the site. At the river end of Watergate Street is a view of the Master Shipwright’s House of 1708 with adjoining Naval Offices.

The site now occupied by Fairview Housing is a historic site having been used by Trinity House 1511-1660, the East India Company 1600-1782 and the General Steam Navigation Company 1825-1970. In 1889 the world’s first electric power station to generate at high tension was built by Sebastian De Ferranti. Extensions were added in 1926 (Deptford West) and 1948 (Deptford East). The buildings were finally demolished in 1992 and only the coaling jetty remains.

This is the original parish church of Deptford entered by skull & crossbone-topped gate piers with a charnel house to the right. The ragstone tower is possibly 14th century although the top was repaired after storm damage in 1903. The church was rebuilt in red brick by C Stanton in 1697 and following bomb damage was restored by T F Ford & Partners in 1958. There is a plaque on the exterior north wall to John Addey (shipwright and local benefactor)and one to Christopher Marlowe (who was murdered in a nearby tavern) in the north east of the churchyard. Marlowe's death is recorded in the church register for 1 June 1593. There are displays relating to the area's history inside the church. Contact the Vicarage on 020 8692 2749 to arrange access.
Peter the Great (aged 25) arrived in London in January 1698 as part of a European Tour to study western science and technology. He was keen to learn about ship building and design in Deptford and was granted the use of John Evelyn’s Sayes Court. In three months he and his party did 350 worth of damage which the Treasury repaid to Evelyn. There is a statue group to Peter on the Fairview Housing estate (pictured). The bronze pieces by Russian Mickhael Chemiakin stand on a polished granite plinth made in St Petersburg.

The Laban Dance Centre was designed by Herzog & De Meuron, architects of Bankside Power Station/Tate Modern. Constructed in 1997-2002 it won the Stirling Prize for Building of the Year in 2003. By day the centre’s activities are semi-visible through the colourful glass and translucent polycarbonate facade and by night it becomes a beacon for the area. The lime, magenta and turquoise colours are also featured in the internal ‘streetscape’ including a foyer mural by Michael Craig-Martin. Inside there is a 300 seat theatre, 13 studios of various sizes one of which can be made into a performance space plus lecture rooms, health facilities and a library. The garden has been landscaped into an amphitheatre and the building has a ‘brown’ roof. The cafe and some performances are open to the public. Tel 020 8691 8600.

Just north of Deptford Bridge the Ravensbourne becomes Deptford Creek, with a tidal difference of some 17’ making it a muddy channel at low tide. Mudflats, overgrown vegetation and the rotting wood of river frontages provide cover, food and nest sites for a variety of wildlife which Creekside Environment Project worked to maintain. It was also responsible for the Creekside Centre which organises school visits, holiday events, courses, walks (including low tide), leisure activities and projects. The building itself incorporates many ‘green’ features and a ‘brown’ roof. The covering of this and the area around the building with crushed rubble replicates the brownfield environment which is often lost to development but which is important ecologically. Tel 020 8692 9922.

On the opposite side of the Creek is the Greenwich Sewage Pumping Station, part of Bazalgette’s system of the 1860s. Two beam engine houses are joined by a boiler house supplied from open-sided coal sheds. Electric and diesel pumps replaced the original engines in 1934.

The roof of the old church collapsed during a storm in 1710 and the parishioners petitioned for funds as they were unable to finance a new church themselves. It was built to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor against a surviving tower to reduce costs. This was later encased and the steeple by John James added in 1730. It was virtually gutted by war damage in May 1941 but restored by Sir Albert Richardson in 1953. General James Wolfe, killed at Quebec in 1759 and composer Thomas Tallis who died in 1585 are buried under the church. It is open to visitors on a regular basis and has information panels and a small shop.

Turning the Tide by Jess Steele (a history of Deptford)
Darrell Spurgeon’s ‘Discover’ series Volume II (Greenwich) & Volume VII (Deptford)
The Lewisham Silk Mills & the History of an Ancient Site by Sylvia Macartney & John West

Information on the area is available at Lewisham Local Studies Library and the Greenwich Heritage Centre (in Woolwich)

The National Monuments Record has photographs, magazine articles and a copy of the survey made by RCHME of houses in Deptford. [more info]

Additional information including old photographs is available on the Portcities website

Deptford was covered in Charles Booth's survey and 'poverty' maps [website]

[Route & what to see] [walks list]


london-footprints.co.uk 2018