Monday, 4 November 2019

Deptford Shipbuilding in the 17th century

DEPTFORD SHIPBUILDING IN THE 17TH CENTURY                              
 further extracts from Christopher Philpott’s study

In 1788 the lease on an area of Deptford riverside once used by the East India Company was taken on by William Barnard. It became known as  Deptford Dry Dock.Late in the eighteenth century Barnard extended the dry dock to the north and the south and demolished houses on the south side of Anchor Smith Alley, replacing them with an oval garden and a plank yard.  Anchor Smith  Alley is shown in the wrong orientation on Roque’s map of 1741-5.  Here the Barnard’s built naval warships and East Indiamen until c.1834.    On Deptford Green the family had a three storey mansion house. The property was still in their hands in the 1840s, but by the 1850s was in a ruinous condition. The trenches of an archaeological  SOA 96 evaluation in the central north side of the Power Station site found the timber revetments of two seventeenth or eighteenth century docks at 2.2.mOD and 3.19 MOD, surviving evidence for this dockyard. 

A dock was re-built to the west of this dockyard at Deptford Green in 1781; it was occupied by Mr. Wells. Gordon and Co. built ships there early in the nineteenth-century. Another firm of ship builders called Colsons, worked at Stowage Yard from the early eighteenth century until 1835.
The Stowage had a wharf 104 feet ling beside Deptford Creek in 1737. Joseph Carter, ship-breaker and timber merchant, was based at the Stowage in 1790.

To the east of this dockyard there was a ropeyard operating in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, stretching  northwards from the Stowage to the Thames bank.  Other ropeyards were established to the west of the study area. An acre of land, called Ropemakersfield had formerly been part of the Skinners’ Place property in 1608.  This is probably to be identified with the 530 foot ropewalk which lay to the west of the Flaggon Row burial ground in 1733.  Another ropewalk stretching north from Flaggon Row in 1705 was 99 feet long, with various attached sheds and tar houses.

By the early sixteenth century the Skinners Place property contained a dock, a wooden wharf and a shipwright’s yard .  There were wharves in Deptford Strand, to the west of the study area in 1553, 1567 and 1608. From the seventeenth century onwards other shipbuilders operated in this area, including Edward Snelgrove late in the century, John West from early in the eighteenth century to the 1750s, Stacey from 1719 to 1734; John Buxton Junior from 1739 to 1757, and Adams and Co., from 1773 ro 1785. Off Grove Street, Bronsden and Wells had their shipyard from the early eighteenth century to the 1780s, and John Winter built Dudman’s Dock in 1704. William Barnard was based here in the 1770s and it continued working into the nineteenth century.

Shipbuilding also took place in the Norway Wharf area on the Thames frontage to the east of Deptford Creek. There was a ship building shed and slipway at Wood Wharf at the north east corner of the study area in 1777.  Eighteenth century  redware sherds and a fragment of Spanish amphora have been recovered from the foreshore in this area.

This article was in the March 2000 GIHS Newsletter

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