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The Deptford site has many pressures on it and a planning application that was to be determined last Christmas has been withdrawn mainly due to heritage issues.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

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