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Deptford ( ) is an area on the south bank of the River Thames in south-east London. The area is named after a ford of the River Ravensbournemarker, and from the mid 16th century to the late 19th was home to Deptford Dockyardmarker, the first of the Royal Dockyard. This was a major shipbuilding dock and attracted Peter the Great to come and study shipbuilding. Deptford and the docks are associated with the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hind, the legend of Sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cape for Elizabeth, Captain James Cook's third voyage aboard Resolution, and the mysterious murder of Christopher Marlowe in a house along Deptford Strand.

Though Deptford began as two small communities, one at the ford, and the other a fishing village on The Thames, Deptford's history and population has been mainly associated with the docks established by Henry VIII. The two communities grew together and flourished while the docks were the main administrative centre of the British Navy, and a few grand houses like Sayes Courtmarker, home to diarist John Evelyn, and Stone House on Lewisham Way were erected. The area declined as first the Royal Navy moved out, and then the commercial docks themselves declined until the last dock, Convoy's Wharfmarker, closed in 2000.

The Metropolitan Borough of Deptfordmarker was formed in 1900, and became part of the London Borough of Lewishammarker created in 1965. In 1900, the parish of St Nicholas Deptford, in the north, around the Royal Dockyard became a part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwichmarker; but the dockyard itself was transferred to Lewisham in a 1994 boundary adjustment of about .


Deptford began life as a ford of the Ravensbournemarker near Deptford Bridge station along the route of the Celtic ancient trackway which developed into the modern Watling Streetmarker.A second settlement developed as a modest fishing village on the Thames until Henry VIII used that site for a royal dock repairing, building and supplying ships, after which it grew in size and importance — shipbuilding remaining in operation until March 1869. Deptford, Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 143-164. accessed: 19 September 2009 Originally separated by market gardens and fields, the two areas merged together over the years.

The Manor of Deptford or West Greenwich was bestowed by William the Conqueror upon Gilbert de Magminot or Maminot, bishop of Lisieux, one of the eight barons associated with John de Fiennes for the defense of Dover Castlemarker. Maminot held the head of his barony at Deptford and according to John Lyon writing in 1814, he built himself a castle, or castellated mansion at Deptford, of which all traces had by then long since been buried in their ruins, but from the remains of some ancient foundations which had been discovered the site was probably on the brow of Broomfield, near the Mast Dock and adjacent to Sayes Courtmarker.

The Battle of Deptford Bridge in 1497, had been the most notable event prior to the building of Henry's dock. Rebels from Cornwallmarker, led by Michael An Gof, had marched on London protesting against punitive taxes. Unable to muster support from people in Kent, they were soundly beaten by the King's forces.
Queen Elizabeth I visited the royal dockyard on 4 April 1581 to knight the adventurer Francis Drake. In 1514, Trinity Housemarker, the organisation concerned with the safety of navigation around the British Isles, was formed with its first Master Thomas Spert, captain of the Mary Rosemarker, and remained in Deptford, until 1618, then moving to Stepneymarker. The name derives from the local church of Holy Trinity and St Clement, which adjoined the dockyard.

Diarist John Evelyn lived in Deptford at Sayes Court from 1652. Evelyn inherited the house when he married the daughter of Sir Richard Browne in 1652. On his return to England at the Restoration, Evelyn had laid out meticulously planned gardens in the French style of hedges and parterres. In its grounds was a cottage at one time rented by master wood carver Grinling Gibbons. After Evelyn had moved to Surrey in 1694, Russian Tsar Peter the Great studied shipbuilding for three months in 1698. He and some of his fellow Russians stayed at Sayes Court, the manor house of Deptford. Evelyn was angered at the antics of the Tsar, who got drunk with his friends and, using a wheelbarrow with Peter in it succeeded in ramming their way through a fine holly hedge. Sayes Court was demolished in 1728-9 and a workhouse built on its site. Part of the estates around Sayes Court were purchased in 1742 for the building of the Admiralty Victualling Yard, renamed in 1858 after a visit by Queen Victoria as the Royal Victoria Yard. This massive facility included warehouses, a bakery, a cattleyard/abattoir and sugar stores, and closed in 1960. All that remains is the name in a public park called Sayes Court Park, accessed from Sayes Court Street off Evelyn Street, not far from Deptford High Street.

The Honourable East India Company had their own yard in Deptford from 1607 until late in the 17th century. From 1871 until the First World War the shipyard site was the City of London Corporation's Foreign Cattle Market. In 1912 The Times reported that over 4 million head of live cattle, and sheep, had been landed. In 1923 a director of the News of the World bought the site, now known as Convoy's Wharfmarker, and began to import newsprint. Eventually the site, as with the newspaper came into the ownership of News International. Although significant investment was made on the site in the mid 1990s restrictions on heavy lorries in Greenwich town centre made it uneconomic to continue using the site as a freight wharf.


McMillan Student Village from the intersection of Creek Road and Deptford Church Street
Deptford's population has been mainly associated with the docks since the establishment of the Royal Docks by Henry VIII, though there has also been some market gardening and potteries. When the docks were thriving as the main administrative centre of the British Navy, so the area prospered, and fine houses were built for the administrative staff and the skilled shipbuilders, and a few grand houses like Sayes Court and Stone House on Lewisham Way were erected. There was a start of a demographic shift downwards when the Royal Navy pulled out of Deptford, and the docks moved into storage and freight. The downward shift continued into the 20th century as the local population's dependency on the docks continued: as the docks themselves declined, so did the economic fortune of the inhabitants until the last dock, Convoy's Wharfmarker, closed in 2000.

Deptford's northern section nearest the old docks contains areas of desolate council housing and deprivation typical of inner city poverty, though the area, along with neighbouring New Crossmarker, has been touted as "the new Shoreditchmarker" by some journalists and estate agents - paying attention to a trendy arts and music scene that is popular with students and artists. To the south where Deptford rolls into the suburban spread of Brockleymarker, the previously multi-occupancy Victorian houses are being gentrified by young city workers and urban professionals.

Deptford plays host to a number of student populations, including those of Goldsmiths College, the University of Greenwichmarker and Laban Dance Centre. The Goldsmiths College Rachel McMillan "Rac Mac" hall of residence in Creek Road was sold in 2001 and was subsequently demolished and replaced with the McMillan Student Village which opened in 2003 and provides accommodation for approximately 970 students of the University of Greenwich, Trinity Laban and Bellerbys colleges.


Areas of Deptford are being gradually re-developed and gentrified. A large former industrial site by the Thames called Convoy's Wharfmarker is scheduled for redeveloping into mixed use buildings. This will involve the construction of around 3,500 new homes and an extension of the town centre northwards towards the river. Much of the area along Creek Road, close to Greenwich, has also been redeveloped, with the demolition of the old Deptford Power Station and Rose Bruford College buildings.

Deptford Marketmarker, a street market in Deptford High Street sells a range of goods, and is considered one of London's liveliest street markets. In February 2005, the High Street was described as “the capital's most diverse and vibrant high street” by Yellow Pages business directory, using a unique mathematical formula.

Culture and community

Deptford has the Albany Theatremarker, which has a lively community arts programme; while the Laban Dance Centre, opened in February 2003 and designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is an award-winning building next to Deptford Creek.

There are also a great many art studio complexes along Creekside in Deptford. These inlcude Cor Blimey Arts, Cockpit Arts, APT Gallerymarker and Frameworks Gallery.

Among musicians who started in the area are Jools Holland, Dire Straits, Athlete and The Shortwave Set.

The former Deptford Town Hall in New Cross Road, built in 1905 for the Metropolitan Borough of Deptfordmarker was purchased by Goldsmiths College in 2000. It includes decorative sculpture by Henry Poole RA. Lewisham Law Centre (one of the oldest law centres in the country, founded in 1974) is also based in the area.


View across Deptford from the Pepy's Estate.

The name Deptford — anciently written Depeford meaning "deep ford" (Latin vadum profundum) — is derived from the place where the road from London to Dovermarker, the ancient Watling Streetmarker crossed the River Ravensbournemarker at the site of what is now Deptford Bridge (not to be confused with Deptford Creek Bridge near the Thames). The tidal reach of the Ravensbourne is known as Deptford Creek.

Deptford was mostly located in the Blackheath Hundred of the county of Kentmarker, with the Hatchammarker part in Surreymarker. It was regarded as two parts and divided into the two parishes of St Nicholas and St Paul in 1730. The southern part by the ford was known as Deptford and the northern, riverside area was known as Deptford Strond It was variously known as Deptford Strand, Deptford Stroud and was also referred to as West Greenwich, with the modern town of Greenwichmarker being referred to as East Greenwich until this use declined in the 19th century. The whole of Deptford came within the Metropolitan Police District in 1830 and was included in the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. It was transferred to the County of London in 1889 and became part of Greater Londonmarker in 1965.

The southern part, the parish of St Paul Deptford, became the Metropolitan Borough of Deptfordmarker in 1900. The northern part, the much smaller parish of St Nicholas Deptford, instead became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwichmarker at this time. In 1965 the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich became part of the London Borough of Greenwich and the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford became part of the London Borough of Lewisham. In 1994 the former Royal Dockyard area was transferred to Lewisham from Greenwich. Now only the north eastern corner of Deptford lies in Greenwich; the boundary runs along Watergate Street, Creek Road, Deptford Church Street, Bronze Street, Creekside and Copperas Street to Deptford Creek. Deptford Town Hall and many other council buildings still remain, but are used for other purposes.

The pilgrimage route to Canterburymarker from London, followed by the pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, crosses the Ravensbourne at Deptford. The town is mentioned in the Prologue to the "Reeve's Tale".

As part of the urban sprawl of London, Deptford is contiguous with the neighbourhoods of New Crossmarker to the south, Bermondseymarker to the west and Rotherhithemarker to the north west. Deptford Creekmarker divides it from Greenwichmarker to the east and the River Thames separates the area from the Isle of Dogsmarker to the north east.


Grade II listed 18th century buildings on Tanners Hill

Deptford railway stationmarker is one of the oldest suburban stations in the world, being built (c.1836-38) as part of the first suburban service (the London and Greenwich Railway), between London Bridgemarker and Greenwichmarker. Close to Deptford Creek is a Victorian pumping station built in 1864, part of the massive London sewerage system designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The former Deptford Power Stationmarker, in use from 1891 to 1983, originated as a pioneering plant designed by Sebastian de Ferranti, which when built was the largest station in the world.

Deptford was the location of the foreign cattle markets - the notorious "gutting sheds" in which girls and women worked in squalor gutting animals until the early part of the 20th century. These were the subject of the play "The Gut Girls" by Sarah Daniels.

Lewisham Council recently granted permission for the last remnants of the Deptford Ragged School known as The Princess Louise Institute to be demolished and replaced by flats.Lewisham London Borough Council - Planning Committee - Princess Louise Institute

Tanners Hill in the St John's or New Deptford area to the south of New Cross Road, is part of an Area of Archaeological Priority due to the longevity of settlement and early industry, and contains a set of commercial buildings from numbers 21 to 31 which are survivors from a row of 31 which were built in the 1750s on the site of cottages dating from the 17th century. These timber-frame buildings have a Grade II listing from English Heritage and are home to established businesses such as bicycle maker Witcomb Cycles.


Side view of St. Paul's, Deptford
St Nicholas' Church, the original parish church, dates back to the 14th century but the current building is 17th century. The entrance to the churchyard features a set of skull-and-bones on top of the posts. A plaque on the north wall commemorates playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was murdered in a nearby house, and buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard on 1 June 1593.

In the 18th century St. Paul's, Deptfordmarker (1712-1730) was built, acclaimed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England as one of the finest Baroque churches in the country. John Betjeman is attributed as referring to the church as "a pearl at the heart of Deptford". It was designed by the architect Thomas Archer, who was a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, as part of the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches with the intention of instilling pride in Britain, and encouraging people to stay in London rather than immigrate to the New World. Adjacent to the church yard is Albury Street, which contains some fine 18th century houses which were popular with sea captains and shipbuilders.

Zion Chapel situated at 466-468 New Cross Road, slightly set back from the road, was first erected in 1846 and has had various additions and renovations. It is a grade II listed building owned by the congregation and is associated with the Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East). The church was planted by those of the Strict Baptist persuasion and is yet of Calvinistic belief. Among its Ministers was Ernest Kevan first principal of the London Baptist College.

Deptford Dockyard

Deptford Dockyard was established in 1513 by Henry VIII as the first Royal Dockyard, building vessels for the Royal Navy. In 1698 Peter the Great of Russia came to Deptford to learn about shipbuilding. It closed as a Dockyard in 1869. From 1871 until World War I it was the City of London Corporation's Foreign Cattle Market. In 1912 The Times reported that over 4 million head of live cattle, and sheep, had been landed.

In 1923 a director of the News of the World bought the site and began to import newsprint. Currently owned by News International, which used it to import newsprint and other paper products from Finland until early 2000 when restrictions on heavy lorries in Greenwich town centre made it uneconomic to continue using the site as a freight wharf. Outline planning approval was granted in May 2005 for mix use buildings including 3,500 new homes mainly in three tall towers, up to 40 storeys high.

Christopher Marlowe's murder

Christopher Marlowe was killed during an alleged drunken brawl in Eleanor Bull's house in Deptford Strand in May of 1593. Various versions of Marlowe's death were current at the time. Francis Meres says Marlowe was "stabbed to death by a bawdy serving-man, a rival of his in his lewd love" as punishment for his "epicurism and atheism". In 1917, in the Dictionary of National Biography, Sir Sidney Lee wrote that Marlowe was killed in a drunken fight. Modern theories are that he was assassinated. It is commonly assumed that the fight took place in a Deptford tavern.

The scholar Leslie Hotson discovered in 1925 the coroner's report on Marlowe's death in the Public Record Officemarker which gave fuller details. Marlowe had spent all day in a house rather than a tavern, owned by the widow Eleanor Bull, along with three men, Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley. Witnesses testified that Frizer and Marlowe had earlier argued over the bill, exchanging "divers malicious words." Later, while Frizer was sitting at a table between the other two and Marlowe was lying behind him on a couch, Marlowe snatched Frizer's dagger and began attacking him. In the ensuing struggle, according to the coroner's report, Marlowe was accidentally stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned. Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Deptford, on 1 June, 1593.


Deptford Station

Deptford is served by National Rail and Docklands Light Railway services. The National Rail service is operated by Southeastern on the suburban Greenwich Line at Deptford railway stationmarker, the oldest passenger only railway station in London, and St Johnsmarker, as well as nearby New Crossmarker. New Cross will also be served by London Overground services to Dalston Junctionmarker when the East London Line reopens as part of the National Rail network in 2010. The DLR stations are at Deptford Bridgemarker and Elverson Roadmarker.


For education in Deptford see the main London Borough of Lewisham article

Notable residents

Deptford also has some musical connections. Dire Straits, the successful British rock group, shared a council flat in Farrer House on Deptford's Crossfield Estate in the early days of their career. The band Squeeze lived in Deptford in the late 1970s and recorded on the Deptford Fun City label. Chris Difford (of Squeeze) briefly lived on the Crossfield Estate in Congers House. The bands Athlete, Bloc Party and Art Brut originated from 'Deptford Scene'. The Saudis and The Pepys often drink in the Little Crown.



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  2. Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado, pages 83 & 176, Marc Aronson, Clarion Books (April 17, 2000), ISBN 0-395-84827-X
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  18. Shoreditch is a former working class area of East London that has a number of contemporary art galleries and is home to a number of creative and media companies and those who work in them.[3]
  19. ViewLondon Deptford Project Cafe Review
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  39. List of churches built, The Commissions for building fifty new churches: The minute books, 1711-27, a calendar (1986), pp. XL. accessed: 19 September 2009
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  44. The Coroner's Inquisition (Translation)
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  • Nathan Dews, The History of Deptford (Deptford: J.D. Smith, 1883)
  • Jess Steele, Turning the Tide: The History of Everyday Deptford (New Cross: Deptford Forum Publishing Ltd, 1993), ISBN 1-898536-00-7
  • Ellen Chase, Tenant Friends in Old Deptford (London: Williams & Norgate, 1929)
  • Dan Colman, I Never Saw My Father Nude (London: Arthur Barker, 1981), ISBN 0-213-16791-2
  • George Glazebrook, Where No Flowers Grow. A child's eye-view of Deptford: 1921-1931 (Rainham: Meresborough Books, 1989), ISBN 0-948193-37-9
  • Jim Rice, Deptford Creek (Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications, 1993), ISBN 0-948797-77-0

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