Friday, 1 November 2019

Deptford Creek flooding



Evidence for post medieval flooding up to the 19th century in Deptford has been found in several excavations and evaluations in the vicinity. In 1514 the Thames was said to have flooded Church Marsh three times within the last eight years.  A breach in the riverwall at Crooked Acre in Stowage Marsh was caused by a flood of water from the land side in 1576. Flooding by the Thames in 1625 threatened the East India Company's gunpowder store, and in December 1626 broke open the gates of the Company's dock. Floods penetrated as far as Upper Deptford in 1651 and 1671.  The flood of 1824 came down the Ravensbourne and swept away many houses and warehouses on each side of Deptford Bridge, and also the Tide Mill.

The effort to protect the marshlands from the rising waters of the Thames and the Creek required frequent repairs to the river embankments in the sixteenth century, overseen by the Sewer Commissioners.  Often the owners were required to pile and plank their river walls, and level up the ground behind. According to William Lambard in 1576, the River Ravensbourne 'slippeth by this Towne into the Thamyse, carying continuall matter of a great Shelfe with it'.  Shoals of alluvium accumu lated in the Creek and the Sewer Commissioners ordered their removal.  In 1597 these were causing the river to shift its course off the Slaughterhouse and Walnuttree Acre.

In the sixteenth century river walls and wharves were established along the waterfront at about 3.5mOD and successively heightened. In the seventeenth century wharves along the Thames were increased in height to counteract the effects of the high tide. Between 1627 and 1636 Christopher Brown repaired the river walls in Deptford Strand at the expense of the royal household, in order to protect the pastures used to graze the king's cattle. From the late seventeenth century onwards a dock and a wharf at Half Lanch Wharf, on the West Side of the Creek - on the site of the waste depot - served the Copperas works and other adjacent industries.  A lease of land just downstream of this in 1759 forbade any development of the river wall or the land behind it.  Almost the whole length of both banks of the Creek was still lined with earthen embankments in the 1770s.

There were osier beds in several places along the Creek between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  There is evidence for them near the tide mill - on the site of the Skill Centre - in 1576; south across the Creek in 1588; near the Slaughterhouse and also in unspecified locations in 1608, around the peninsula on the east side of the Creek mouth and on the west bank in 1777; and surviving into the 1840s adjacent to the tide mill. The early modern Creek was sufficiently friend ly to wildlife to contain otters - one was shot here in 1684.

At the north end of Deptford Green the Skinners Place property was leased to Lord Howard of Effingham, Admiral of England, in the late sixteenth century, and this appears to be the origin of the Lord High Admiral's official residence on the Green in the seventeenth century.  It had two wharves with yards, several gardens enclosed with a brick wall, a barn and a stable, and a number, of houses held by sub-tenants.  The main house was rebuilt shortly before 1568. This building later became the Gun Tavern and in 1807 it was converted into dwellings and warehouses owned by Messrs Gordon, Biddulph and Stanley, anchorsmiths.  The property later passed to the General Steam Navigation Company.

The economy of Deptford was given its first great boost by Henry VIll's decision to found a royal Dockyard there for the construc tion of his ships.  Lambard wrote that "This towne was of none estimation at all until King Henrie the eight advised (for the better preservation of the Royall fleete) to erect a storehouse, and to create certaine officers there".  The Dock yard was built up around the nucleus of a storehouse for naval supplies built in 1513.

In 1517 the old pond at Deptford Strand was probably adapted as a basin to house several of the king's ships. Other moorings were used for the royal ships. In 1521 the John the Baptist and the Barbara lay together in Deptford Creek, and the Great Nicholas at the east end of Deptford Strand.  The Dockyard continued to expand throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, employing ever greater numbers of men, but was outstripped by other naval dockyards from the eighteenth century onwards because the silting of the Thames formed shoals in front of it  Nevertheless it was enlarged in 1765, 1780 and 1796. The Dockyard was closed for ship construc tion in 1830, although it continued to be used for ship-breaking,and it recommenced ship building in 1844.  Further extensions were proposed in the 1850s but the Dockyard finally closed in 1869. The ground was sold as the site for the Foreign Cattle Market and was redeveloped as the Pepys Estate in 1961. Its area lay some distance to the west of Deptford Strand.

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