Once a year the Naval Dockyards Society comes to Greenwich and holds its AGM at the National Maritime Museum. This year to celebrate 500 years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards history their AGM was followed by a conference on that very subject.
The Conference was opened by Deptford MP, Joan Ruddock - with a speech expressing her support for the recognition of the Deptford Yard's history while various 'regeneration' schemes are considered. She recalled how she had explained to Chinese developers that in our eyes the dockyard has the same status as the Great Wall of China has for them. She mentioned two projects being put forward by local people - a project to restore John Evelyn's Sayes Court Garden, and the project to 'Build the Lenox' - a replica 17th century warship at Deptford. (speaker on that being booked for GIHS)
Chris Ellmers gave his paper in his usual erudite and lively style. This was on the private shipbuilding yards and ironworks which surrounded the Royal Dockyard and the interrelationships between them. We must get Chris along to GIHS to speak on this - as well as everything else he is so knowledgeable on.
Peter Cross-Rudkin spoke about the work of John Rennie in the Royal Dockyards - which was focussed on the dockyards nationwide and not just about Deptford and Woolwich, although they were mentioned of course. He was very interesting however on Rennie and his work.
Philip McDougall spoke about the Woolwich dockyard focussing his talk around a print of the launch of the 120 gun Nelson in 1814. This was all about the carnival atomosphere around the launch of this ship - the visitors - the flotilla coming down river from London, and so on. He also talked about the development and eventual demise of Woolwich Dockyard. Philip would love to come and talk to GIHS about this but it would need to be at a daytime meeting - something which perhaps we should attempt.
The next speaker, English Heritage's Mark Stephenson, has been to GIHS several times and also sends us helpful information on current work in the Borough. He was looking at how site investigation can be planned and executed along with the developers and the planners - and how strategies for this have been developed.
Duncan Hawkins has already spoken to us - and also led site visits - on the archaeology undertaken at Deptford Dockyard in 2011 and 2012. This work is ongoing and will eventually be published.
The final speakers - Chris Mazeika and Willi Richards - again need no local introductions. Since they bought what has become known as the Shipwrights Palace on the Deptford site they have worked unceasingly to publicise and promote this important site. Their paper continued to analyse some aspects of the site.
These papers will all be published by the Society in due course
The Conference raised some important issues - and clearly just one day on the two dockyards is going to leave lots of holes. The focus, rightly, was on Deptford. However I had a conversation with members of the GLIAS Committee only last week and was reminded that they were involved with a number of local people in the 1970s on an excavation and study of Woolwich Dockyard - involving I understand supervision on the late Beverley Burford - then assistant curator at Plumstead Museum. GLIAS holds a great deal of unpublished material on Woolwich Dockyards - as did other people involved at the time - and I was told they would welcome an opportunity to bring some of it to light.
................... ideas????? as to how this might be achieved?
anyway - thanks for the day, and the arrangments to the Naval Dockyards Society - and to their new Chair and Committee elected earlier today.