Tuesday 7 February 2012

Deptford Dockyard - letter re. English Heritage

GIHS has received the following letter about Deptford Dockyard from Chris Mazeika:

As you may know an application to ensure statutory designation of the Deptford Royal Naval Yard was made to English Heritage in December 2009. The process has been described by EH as “complex” and has resulted in over two years passing, with EH admitting that their previous understanding of the site requires them to review the advice they had given to the DCMS in 2010.
With national bodies and amenity societies also recognizing the importance of the site, may I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the unusual lengthy process of designation by writing to EH for your letter to be forwarded to DCMS, in support of the statutory designation of the Deptford yard. Also could you forward this message to interested parties.

Substantial new information has come to light following further research by members of local organisation, Deptford Is and other specialists, which will shortly be sent to EH/DCMS. Given adequate notice from EH of the next submission to the DCMS this new information should be included in EH's future recommendation to the DCMS.

Recent Case History of Designation
In 2010, following our request made to confer statutory protection in 2009, EH commissioned a report by Jonathan Clarke that resulted in a recommendation not to confer statutory protection. However the research documents compiled by us in response to that decision (attached), when submitted to EH, were sufficient cause for EH to re-appraise the application. An enlightened decision was then made by Veronica Fiorato to re-appraise the earlier decision countersigned by by Emily Gee and Julian Heath. This re-examination of the case should have provided the opportunity for EH to correct their errors and to include new information. We now understand that the new EH report and recommendation which we have not had sight of has been sent to the DCMS.

Your assistance is required to add weight to this application for protection at Deptford. The Deptford site has many pressures on it and a planning application that was to be determined last Christmas has been withdrawn mainly due to heritage issues.
However this important site of British history needs to have protection if the assets are to be preserved for the future.
Your letter to DCMS at this stage could be critical in ensuring they have the mass of informed opinion to recommend designation of the assets.

For your information the factual research attached/below successfully challenged the 2010 EH designation recommendation not to list and enabled them to reopen the case for further consideration.

Here are a few extracts from the new information that will be submitted to DCMS.

Condition is not a major factor in listing or scheduling. FOr instance, a filled in mastpond at Chatham is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, clearly condition could not be determined in this case. Even where condition is determined, examples such as the GI listed slipway covers at Chatham have received substantial restoration. Also, docks at Chatham that have been substantially altered through the centuries are all listed. The docks, slipways basin and mastpond at Deptford all predate those listed and scheduled structures at Chatham.

Recent on-going archaeological explorations have confirmed earlier archaeological reports that stated,

In respect of Divers 2001, Hawkins 2000 Lowe 2000,
The evaluation showed that major dockyard features survive below ground level across much of the site, specifically near the River Thames, and that later activities on the site have had relatively little impact on these remains.
Not only had later activities on the site had relatively little impact on surviving Post-medieval features, but there was no evidence to suggest that Medieval and earlier deposits and features were absent due to later truncation. In fact it would appear that earlier horizons had generally survived undisturbed and that medieval features, if present would have survived.
The documentary and cartographic sources for the dockyard have been shown to be relatively accurate, and that the large features targeted by the evaluation trenches have been found in their anticipated locations, often at relatively shallow depths below the present ground surface.
The evaluation has established that the major features of the dockyard have survived in their predicted locations with little evidence for widespread truncation by later activities on the site.
(Divers 2001:69-71).

Dry dock
The stone entrance to the double dry dock, the only major excavation of this structure to date, was shown to be almost pristine save for a course or two of coping stone that had been removed. The image linked immediately below shows the extent of the depth of the excavation. Clearly, a more extensive excavation will be needed to accurately assess the survival of the double dry dock.

High quality survival of the dockyard slipways dating in construction to c.1855 is now also established.

Basin (Wet Dock)
Since EH's earlier decision, drawings of the 1845 basin slipways have recently been unearthed in the archives establishing that Capt. Sir William Denison R.E. was the engineer. EH has cited sites such as this as "sites of collaborative genius" warranting a high grade of protection.
Evidence from the John Rennie drawings of 1814 determines that the majority of the river wall dating to pre-1840, and recent scholarly work published 2011 now asserts that Deptford was the first of the royal dockyards to have a wet dock (basin) and also the first to have a purpose built mast pond. Link to the academic article.

The John Rennie basin entrance (wet dock) has recently been determined to survive to coping level commensurate with the 1814 archive drawings, and whilst it was originally thought by EH that much of the basin wall had been robbed it and the John Rennie work destroyed, the coping level of the basin entrance now demonstrates that the ground level has actually risen by 4 to 5ft, indicating that only the uppermost courses of the basin wall or coping level may have been removed. That an example of the coping level exists and Rennie's specification and drawings can be consulted may make repair of the basin a more likely option than previously thought possible. This is important new information as the previous evidence cited as reason not to list the basin was the incorrect assertion that the John Rennie work was entirely destroyed c.1900 Whilst it may appear in photographs that their is partial survival it must be remembered that the majority of the basin structure is behind and beneath the visible stone and brick walling, with stone blocks of 7 cubic feet on beds of brickwalls and timber pilings.

EH Advice and Guidelines

“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.”

EH Guidelines on Assessing Heritage Significance

:40-.80 Consistency of judgement is crucial to the public acceptability and fairness of the process

New publications by EH since the 2010 decision should also impact positively on the consideration for designation, particularly the October 2011 guidance on the Setting of Heritage Assets and Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2011. The recent EH upgrading to GII* of the Master Shipwright's House and Dockyard Officers' Offices, the SAM of the Undercroft of the Tudor Storehouse and the GII listed Basin Slipway Covers will all be enhanced by the 'presence' of the primary dockyard infrastructure, its docks, slips, basin and mast ponds.
We can also be encouraged by the precedence set by the listing of in-filled structures at Chatham where "the Great Basin and its three associated dry docks have been covered over " are now SAM II* (EH Lake/Douet 1998:42) The comprehensive listing and scheduling of dockyard structures in the other royal yards where alterations and changes have occurred to the structures throughout the centuries is considered in a contributive light and now viewed thus, "Docks and harbour walls pre-dating 1840 generally form the most impressive structures and even where they have received alteration, as nearly all have, most will merit serious consideration for designation." (EH M+NBSG 2011:9-10)

Whilst the majority of secondary resource material on the royal dockyards used by EH (Coad 1989/Lake and Douet Thematic Listing Programme 1998 and Maritime and Naval Building Selection Guide 2011) is now known to be insufficient to determine the significance of Deptford because the Deptford yard has remained immured from published EH research agendas and more recent efforts by EH such as the Clarke report have fallen woefully short of accuracy, nonetheless the Lake and Douet Thematic Survey of English Naval Dockyards (whilst it repeats several now contested conclusions made by Coad 1989) and the more recent Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2011 are nonethelesss for their approach to the roayl naval yards in general they are important documents to take into consideration.

Historic events, persons, innovations, global connections
Whilst I have concentrated on the material structures of the dockyard, it is anticipated that EH will pursue their own assessment of the wealth of historic associations of the yard with national and international significant events and historic figures, consider advances in maritime and industrial technology, the development of European architecture, the global significance of the Deptford Yard to the Commonwealth Nations of Australia, Canada and the United States, the setting of the yard as the very raison d’ĂȘtre of Deptford, its immediate geographical context of the neighbouring GII listed Victualling Yard buildings, and steam era GII listed Payne's Wharf, the dockyard church of St. Nicholas GI (described as "the Westminster Abbey of the British Navy" the high grade GII* listed Albury Street 'Captain's Houses'. the geographical, intellectual and functional proximity of Maritime WHS of Greenwich, the Deptford yard as the most significant site on the London Thames to witness to centuries of London shipbuilding and the yard as the signifier of the national and internationally renowned and historically related The Corporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strand .

Once again, given the controversial history of designation in this case, it is vital that we all remain vigilant to a fair and equal access and application of national resources invested in the heritage agencies in order to ensure that Deptford does not suffer social exclusion from these resources and that further national funds are not risked through the lengthy and expensive legal process of judicial review.

Chris Mazeika

Thursday 2 February 2012


This article is by A.G.Linney - author of a couple of books about the port of London before the Great War.  It is taken from Co-partnership Journal which was the house magazine of  South Metropolitan Gas Co. - the local gas company and appeared in 1910.

Following along the riverside path from near Point Wharf to Greenwich-Pier one day I was surprised to find, just across the street from Union Wharf, a solid and rather imposing building below the eaves of which was lettered the inscription, "Harbour Master's Office."

I knew quite well that the only Harbour Master's Offices in the Port to-day are at Tower Pier and at Gravesend, with sub-offices at Woolwich, Erith, Greenhithe, and Leigh-on-Sea. I knew that since the Port of London Authority was created there had been no Harbour Master at Greenwich. What, then, was the history of this once official edifice, now having houseroom for two families of private persons?

A Greenwich and District Directory for 1843 gives the name of Captain Rowlands as Harbour Master, resident at Park Street, Greenwich—the building in question.  Clearly that was at the time during which the Corporation of the City of London had administered the Port, and a document referred to later shows that Charles Rowlands was First Harbour Master during 1851-52, having started as Fifth Harbour Master in 1821, so that while he was moving up in the service he was for a while at Greenwich.

In 1857 the Thames Conservancy was constituted, and three years later that, body took a 76 years' lease of the Greenwich property, the area leased including Union Wharf (which was definitely a Thames Conservancy wharf), the house and a garden behind it. Captain James, transferred by the Corporation of the City of London, was the first Chief Harbour Master of the Conservancy. In 1890 the Conservancy agreed to surrender the lease of the estate in part, including the Harbour Master's Office house. It has been suggested that the surrender came about, through the Conservancy, which had hitherto divided the River Thames below Kew into Upper, Central and Lower Controls, deciding to abandon the central district as a separate division. None the less, for a while, one of the Conservancy's Deputy Harbour Masters continued to live in the house.

A Greenwich directory for 1895 shows a Captain Bowen residing at the Harbour Master's Office, and there is definite evidence showing when he had entered the Thames Conservancy's service. I have been able to handle an old, tumbling-to-pieces handbook, which this Captain Bowen started to write in while he was Master of the steamer Edinburgh Castle on a voyage from London to Penang in 1879. His notes regarding this voyage conclude,  " July 8th, 9 a.m. Anchor'd in Penang Harbour all well." At sea he ceased to use this notebook, apparently, for it switches over a page or two to this unmistakable entry: " Appointed D.H. Master under Thames Conservancy, December 19th, 1881." Quite natural, then, that Captain Bowen should be living at the Greenwich Harbour Master's Office—seemingly used as a residence, but no longer owned by the Conservancy in 1895 ; I believe that, between times, he lived for a. while at the Harbour Master's Office, Limehouse (Narrow Street), which was demolished in 1925.

Captain Defrates, formerly one of the P.L.A. Assistant Harbour Masters, who retired from the service in 1927, has recollection of the time previous to the Authority taking over from the Conservancy when there were two Harbour Masters—Captain Fitzgerald and Captain Marsden—and Captain Bowen was deputy to the first of these. The pair above named retired in 1898, and Captain Bowen then became Chief Harbour Master, with deputies at. Woolwich and Gravesend. He remained in office for about five years, retiring early in the present century. From that time to the establishment of the Port Authority, the Harbour Service work was divided into two sections, one with its office in London (Temple Pier, Old Swan Pier, and now Tower Pier) and one with its office at Gravesend. The Harbour Masters then appointed were Captain R. S. Pasley (Upper District) and Captain A. W. Wilson (Lower District).

In the 1890's—the Thames Conservancy being in charge of river responsibilities—T.C. Head Office was at 41 Trinity Square, but the Harbour Master had his quarters on the hulk Marlborough, moored, off the Tower Gardens. Then when the Conservancy moved its head office to the Thames Embankment, the Harbour Master operated from Temple Pier and the Marlborough was sent away into exile and became storeship to the T.C. Survey Department.

From a " Return of the Names and Emoluments of the Harbour Service 1851-1852 " (Corporation of the City of London) which was shown to me at the Guildhall, I am permitted to extract these details: " The Principal Superintending Harbour Master, Chief office, St. Katharine's," received, in addition to his salary, a house, £5 for a servant, £2 for candles, £l for wood, 10 tons of coal, and £25 for travelling allowance. It is in this document that the name of Captain Rowlands occurs. He and each of his deputies received also a boat cloak, minor assistants getting simply a greatcoat. Boat cloaks were served out every two years and greatcoats every three years, distribution always being in October. An assistant employed in the Greenwich Office was given " a pair of water boots," but they had to last him four years! The Clerk of Stores received quarters in what is now Port of London Wharf, occupied by Messrs. Gregson & Company, Ltd.


Wednesday 1 February 2012


The March 2012 edition of the GLIAS newsletter just came through the door  - its most remarkable feature being seven and half pages of events.  These include - of Greenwich interest -

21st March - Deptford Dockyard, its history and archaeology. Duncan Hawkins - this is in the Willoughby Lecture Theatre, Charterhouse Square, Barts Medical School, EC1  18.30  02086928512

18th April  Maassey-Shaw Fireboat. Its History and Restoration. David Rogers. Willoughby Lecture Theatre, as above.

18th February Symposium on Thames Shipbuilding. Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, E14. £30 Booking necessary.  info@docklandshistorygroup.org.uk

21st February Ropemaking in Greenwich.  John Yeardley. GIHS Old Bakehouse, Blackheath Village, SE3 7.30

13th March Bricks and Brickmaking in Greenwich, David Cufley. GIHS (as above)

17th April. Sugar and Soap - Amylum site - Peter Luck. GIHS (as above)

Then there is a very considerable article about the Deptford Creek Railway Bridge:

The London and Greenwich railway and its locality is of great importance. As well as the threats to London Bridge station, the whole length of the original line will be upgraded in the near future. This swathe of South East London deserves special consideration. Although the present Deptford Creek railway bridge is not yet 50 years old it serves as a significant landmark for the Creek, proclaiming that the Creek is tidal and navigable. In a similar way Tower Bridge symbolises the Thames and even London itself. The Eiffel tower in Paris plays a similar role there.
At the National Maritime Museum to the east of the bridge in Greenwich, when a visitor was to come down by rail from London to the museum on business a tide table was consulted. Train services from London Bridge could be seriously disrupted around high tide and for whoever was meeting the traveller there might be a long wait on Maze Hill station before the important person finally made it.
The previous bridge of 1884 was replaced in December 1963, the present electric liftbridge being designed by A.H. Cantrell, chief civil engineer of BR Southern Region, and built by Sir William Arrol & Co of Glasgow. When the 1884 bridge was opened to allow a small ship to pass there was what now seems a ridiculous performance. Even the rails had to be completely removed and no less than twelve men were needed to do this.
Where the railway crosses, the Creek has a large tidal range with plenty of water at high tide. Nick Bertrand from the Creekside Centre still leads his ecological walks with everyone in waders to explore the bed of the Ravensbourne at low tide. It is well worth taking part in one of these Low Tide Walks if you get the chance. There is an important ecological aspect to this part of the creek which is also under threat. Bob Carr

AND not done yet.  Also there are little Greenwich notes:

- a note that Fieldwork on the Thames Foreshore is noted in the London Archaeologist as taking place in Greenwich.

-  a note to say 'Boris Johnson's cable car' is progressing 'at a fine pace'. 

- a note admonishing a previous writer on the Woolwich ferry for getting the date of the first London County Council wrong

- and in a book review on Psychogeography - a reference to a quotation about 'Greenwich not being the spirtual centre of the British Empire'.