This article follows two extensive pieces of research carried out in response to a recent decision by English Heritage not to recommend statutory protection on the heritage assets at the former Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford. For the purposes of brevity I have not included all the data contained in those responses. As a result of the submission of the material to English Heritage demonstrating significant errors in their research, the decision that had been ratified by DCMS is currently being reviewed.
Heritage Assets At Risk: King’s Yard, Convoy’s Wharf Deptford
The Royal Dockyards are amongst the most long-lived, extensive and coherent monuments to the history of the United Kingdom. Many of the industrial, technological, military and social changes that occurred in the post-modern and modern periods are embedded within their surviving fabric.
Anthony Firth, Wessex Archaeology 2004.
The royal dockyard at Deptford is understudied in comparison with other royal dockyards leading to the oft-repeated statement that little of the dockyard at Deptford survives. However, in The Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology (Charles Orser 2002), David Divers writes,
“Trial excavations, prior to the redevelopment of the dockyard site, have revealed that most of the main features of the dockyard, the storehouses, dry docks, slipways, ponds and the basin still survive below ground level.”
Whilst more recent developer led archaeology seeks to diminish this statement, it does not contradict this summary view.
In the past, historic assets at Deptford have remained largely disregarded by the elite of heritage officials. In 1954, whilst the dry dock for the Cutty Sark was being constructed in Greenwich, Deptford was witnessing the demolition of Henry VIII’s Great Storehouse of 1513, the earliest naval building in the country. Thirty years later, in 1984, the last of the 1720’s storehouse with its fine early Georgian clock-tower and belfry were swept away. At the present time, some £40 million is being spent rebuilding the Cutty Sark after it was destroyed by fire. By the time Deptford dockyard approaches its quintentenary in 2013, it could remain buried under the development proposed by Hutchison Whampoa. None of the dockyard structures proper, its’ docks, slips, basins or mast ponds are yet to receive statutory heritage protection. This is a state of play that places Deptford outside of the resources expended on statutory protection and may amount to a form of social exclusion. The imminent development of the site of the dockyard seeks to leave no trace of the former dockyard other than the GII listed basin slipway covers, and landscaping over the Tudor double dry dock.
How has this deplorable neglect by the statutory agencies charged and publicly funded to protect heritage assets arisen?
In the 1999/2000 Alan Howarth review of heritage assets in royal dockyards Deptford was omitted form consideration.
Another serious problem lies in the resources that English Heritage has employed to determine the significance of Henry VIII’s royal dockyard at Deptford. To date the secondary source material depended on by English Heritage to assess the significance of Deptford dockyard consists of three sources. These are, Jonathan Coad’s The Royal Dockyards, 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (Scholar Press 1989), English HeritageThematic Survey of English Naval Dockyards. Summary Report: Thematic Listing Programme (Lake and Douet, 1998) and Heritage Protection Department, English Heritage, Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide (March 2007).
Whilst it is widely recognized that Jonathan Coad is the pre-eminent historian of architecture and engineering in the royal yards, data on Deptford dockyard did not substantially inform Coad’s study. To date, assessment of the significance of the royal dockyards has so far been achieved without the inclusion of data concerning the dockyard at Deptford. Therefore, the whole understanding of the sequential development in all of the yards requires review once data concerning Deptford royal dockyard is incorporated. The opportunity provided by secondary stage archaeology at Deptford may reveal insights to the development of the yards where such archaeology is not presently possible at the other royal dockyards.
Due to the omission of data on Deptford in the studies listed above several conclusions asserted by the authors are incorrect and have impacted negatively on a precise understanding of the heritage assets at Deptford.
This article is developed from a report sent to EH, following their recent decision not to confer statutory heritage protection on the surviving dockyard structures at Deptford. These consist of the double dry dock, the wet dock (basin) slipways deserve attention because, like the 1513 storehouse (SAM), they too have their origin in the Tudor period. The mast ponds, whilst later, dated to c.1650 and c.1765 also deserve further study. Perhaps more crucially, because Deptford has so far remained immured from research agendas, its further study through extensive archaeology will have implications for our understanding of the contribution it makes to the development of royal dockyards as a whole and for its contribution to developments in domestic architecture in Europe, as well of for its contributions to civil engineering in the early nineteenth century.
As one, if not the earliest of royal naval yards, the survival of its earliest plan illuminates the Tudor and Stuart organization of dockyards while its Restoration and Hanoverian expansions remain intact. The presence on the site of two essentially domestic examples of dockyard architecture, the Queen Anne, Master Shipwright’s House of 1708 and the Officers’ Offices of 1720 both testify to earlier eponymous structures built on the same sites. As the site of the first wet dock c.1517, this technology was later exported to the Medway and south coast yards.
The recent designation report relating to Deptford dockyard commissioned by EH in June 2010 and certified by the DCMS, contained several errors. This has been challenged by primary source research leading to the decision being reviewed. The review is currently underway. The detailed information here based on primary archive based research is intended as a positive contribution to the new assessment in November 2010.
Assessment of Secondary Resources
Coad, J.G., The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (1989)
Lake, J. and Douet, J., The Naval Dockyards: A Thematic Survey (1998 English Heritage, unpublished report)
Heritage Protection Department, English Heritage, Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide (March 2007)
Jonathan Coad’s seminal book, The Royal Dockyards, 1690-1850 did not substantially cover the upper Thames yards of Deptford and Woolwich. The omission of information on Deptford in particular means that many conclusions based on comparison of the yards reached by Coad in 1989 can and should now be revised. Lake and Douet’s 1998 survey in advance of the Alan Howarth review of the listing and scheduling of the royal yards in 2000 depended heavily on Coad’s work, “Jonathan Coad has been involved in the study of naval dockyard facilities for nearly thirty years, and the great bulk of information relating to specific buildings, within this report and in the list descriptions, is indebted to his research.” (Lake and Douet 1998:101) Further EH Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide Heritage Protection Department March 2007, repeats the errors and omissions made by Coad and those made by Lake and Douet.
Coad’s omissions are compounded in the Lake and Douet survey. Lake and Douet’s dependence on Coad’s work shows how errors of omission and definitions of significance have continued to ignore Deptford’s contribution as the earliest Naval dockyard proper. This assertion that Deptford is the earliest naval yard, described as “the cradle of the navy” continues to be a controversial claim due to the commissioning of a double dry dock for Henry VII at Portsmouth. However, the facilities at Portsmouth were not substantially developed until the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Whilst Woolwich can claim the building of Henry Grace a Dieu in 1512, it was at Deptford that Henry VIII chose to erect his cipher in 1513.
Current practice at EH singles out individual components of the dockyard for assessment of their heritage significance.
This approach is challenged based on EH’s own recommendations that,
“A holistic approach should be taken where several original or near contemporary associated structures survive together or where a group of structures displays the evolution of port facilities in one significant place.”
Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007:05
The Deptford site, as with any dockyard, is made up of its constituent parts as an interrelated whole. The history of the development of the yard begins with the double dock, slips, Great Storehouse and basin, together forming the earliest foundation of the yard, c.1513-1517. There is record of royal ships being built, repaired and stored at the Deptford site prior to 1513.
The areas occupied by the mast ponds are well-documented expansions of the yard in the 17th and 18th centuries. In terms of dockyard functions and the interdependence of the structures under consideration here, the Navy depended on all of these structures combined for the build, repair and maintenance of its fleet. Therefore to attempt to single out individual structures for historic significance lacks an intellectual rigor and is counter to English Heritage publicly stated policy and guidelines, since the double dry dock and the basin are all extant c.1517, together they form the earliest part of the yard. It seems to make no sense not to confer SAM status on the far greater material survival of the Basin and double dry dock which both also have their origin in the Tudor period.
Further, the royal naval dockyard at Deptford ought not to be reviewed in isolation from the royal naval victualling yard immediately adjacent to the west, the royal naval hospital at Greenwich to the east, St. Nicholas Church, Deptford the “Westminster Abbey of the British Navy” or the GII* listed Albury Street to the south. If a truly holistic approach is sought commensurate with EH Capitalising on the Historic Landscape (October 2009) then it is time to acknowledge and recognize all of the above when considering the listing and scheduling of Deptford dockyard. It is time to recognize that the existent of the World Heritage Site of Historic Maritime Greenwich depends on the royal dockyard at Deptford for its origins.
The 2009, 2010, first stage developer led archaeology by the Museum of London did not place its trenches to find the most significant remains on the site. When questioned on the apparent haphazardness of the placement of trenches, Duncan Hawkins, leading the work, has claimed that maps and plans that cover a period of 1688 to 1939 can be as much as three metres out and are therefore unreliable. However, given that these plans were often drawn up by the leading cartographers of their time and given the correspondence between such maps and plans and further considering the limited space available say between the Master Shipwright’s House and the Double Dry Dock, his response is highly questionable.
The following significant components have so far been omitted from archaeological investigations. These omissions seriously weaken present attempts to assess both heritage and archaeological significance.
1. Head dock and gates to head dock of the double dry dock
2. Gates to the mast pond of the 17th and another gate of the 18th century
3. 18th gates to basin and the John Rennie floating caisson of the 19th century
4. Stone Slipways to boathouses
5. Officers’ Palace front Terrace
6. River Steps 1720
Deptford’s significant contributions to the development of the royal dockyards requiring reassessment:
Double Dry Dock
Iron Slipway Covers
River wall and King’s Stairs
Specific Amendments and Corrections to Coad (1989) and to Lake and Douet (1998) Heritage Protection Department (2007)
Lake and Douet’s 1998 survey reads,
“At the smaller yards abandoned during the nineteenth century, Deptford, Woolwich and Harwich, no features of interest, apart from those already protected, have survived.” (Lake and Douet 1998:05)
Coad’s book covers the period 1690 -1850 by which time Deptford, as a royal dockyard, has been in existence for almost two hundred years. Henry VII commissioned the building of a double dock at Portsmouth in 1495, however before the middle of the seventeenth century this had fallen into disrepair and its use was discontinued. There is also evidence of a dock at Deptford as early as 1420 when the Katrine came from Greenwich to be put on the stocks in a “dook” at Deptford. (Hasted History of Kent: Maritime History :337)
Archaeology by CgMs and Pre-Construct Archaeology in 2000 (Hawkins) 2000 (Lowe), 2001 (Divers) disproves Lake and Douet’s 1998 assertion that at Deptford “no features of interest, apart from those already protected, have survived.”
Archaeology has proven that “by far the greater part of the dockyard survives as buried structures filled in intact between 1869 and 1950.” (Divers 2002)
At Rochefort dockyard on the river Charente in France, the
in-filling of docks with mud, that occurred after the closure of the yard, has been proven to have performed a conservation function for almost a hundred years permitting the excavation of the docks and basins providing for their present day re-use.
Archaeology reports of the Deptford site state, “The structures of the yard proper, the docks, slips, basins, mast ponds landing places and stairs, constitute a substantial architectural fabric that is currently extant, though largely invisible, being covered by superficial accretion or infill.” (David Divers. Jan 2001:12/ 3.5.14).
With regard to the impact of developments subsequent to infill Divers adds, “major dockyard features survive across much of the site and that later activities on the site have had relatively little impact on these remains.” (Divers 2001:69/9.1.4)
Divers concludes, “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 2001:71/9.4.2)
These statements above have not been contested by the 2010 archaeology reports. Where truncation has occurred even at depths of more than 3m, this truncation proves to be isolated given the vast expanse of the majority of structures under consideration.
The majority of above ground dockyard buildings survived into the post WWII period, as evidenced by a series of photographs of the Supply Reserve Depot c.1953. The large and small Smitheries, Joiner’s workshop, Account’s Office, Coach house and stable belonging to the dockyard, were taken down and sold off piece-meal in June 1872. The majority demolition of royal dockyard buildings at Deptford occurs in the thirty-year period 1954 to 1984. Construction phases therefore occur post 1954. Plans of building phases throughout this period in the National Archives and London Metropolitan Archives as well as Local Authority Archives allow for thorough analysis of potential truncation of historic structures by these mid to late twentieth century building phases.
As the majority of buildings constructed post-war were warehouse buildings, these ephemeral structures, as confirmed by archaeology, created little truncation and where this has occurred it is likely to have had minimal impact.
The pond at Deptford that becomes the wet dock or basin is a naturally occurring feature that may prove to be the logical reason, alongside established shipbuilding skills in the area, for Henry VIII’s decision to site the dockyard at Deptford in 1513. By 1517 we know that the King’s ships, including the Mary Rose ride safely in the pond there.
In relation to wet docks (basins) Coad credits Dummer with their development as a solution to the risk of damage to ships from storms “The solution, first adopted at the south coast yards in the 1690’s, was the construction of wet docks.’ (Coad1989:89) In Dummer’s survey of 1698 the wet dock is detailed in 1688. By 1690, the date given by Coad for the first provision of wet docks in royal yards, a wet dock had been in operation at Deptford for almost two hundred years. (BL Add.6555)
It is clear from the letter from Chatham to the Navy Commissioners, that the expertise in the construction of wet docks was transmitted from the Deptford Officers and artificers.
Chatham Hill House. Oct. 1, Sir John Mennes, Sir W. Batten and Peter Pett to the Navy Commissioners.
“The making the wet dock is of so great concernment that we desire you to send a warrant and a letter to Capt. Badily, master attendant at Deptford, and Jonas Shish, the assistant, Mr. Johnson, the shipwright at Blackwall, and Mr. Castle at Redruth to repair here by next Friday morning to join two or three able men of the Trinity House and such others as we shall appoint to view where it is to be made, resolve on the manner and estimate the charge, that so we may have full satisfaction while we are here and be better able to give the account when we come to London. We desire also that Mr. Randle, the house carpenter at Deptford that made the dock there, may come down.”
However, EH Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide Heritage Protection Department March 2007 repeats the error of claiming the origin of wet docks with the south coast yards,
“The first wet docks – where lock gates enclosed and maintained artificial expanses of water – were constructed for repairs by the Royal Navy at Portsmouth and Devonport (Plymouth) in the late seventeenth century.” By this time, Deptford’s wet dock had been holding ships for almost two hundred years when it was surveyed and valued by Dummer in 1698 at £2,659.2.7. The gates themselves were valued at £164.
As the first wet dock, the basin at Deptford offered a model of benefits free from tidal shifts, allowing ease of access to ships from the quay. In 1517, at Deptford, the basin held the Monarchs’ ships safe from harm. The Great Basin was an early resource of the King’s Yard, mentioned in an Indenture of 1517 (BL Add.6555), as holding amongst other ships the Mary Rose. The Basin was also the site of testing early diving bells by John Evelyn, (Diary 19 July, 1661). In Charnock's "History of Marine Architecture" it is given,
"A note how many ships the King's Majesty (Henry VIII.) hath in harbour, on the 18th day of September, in the 13th year of his reign (1521); what portage they be of; what estate they be in the same day; also where they ride and be bestowed." From this we are enabled to see what use was made of Deptford as a naval station at that time:—"The Mary Rose, being of the portage of 600 tons, lying in the pond at Deptford beside the storehouse there, &c. The John Baptist, and Barbara, every of them being of the portage of 400 tons, do ryde together in a creke of Deptford Parish, &c. The Great Nicholas, being of portage 400 tons, lyeth in the east end of Deptford Strond, &c. … The Great Barke, being of portage 250 tons, lyeth in the pond at Deptford, &c. The Less Barke, being of the portage of 180 tons, lyeth in the same pond, &c. The twayne Row Barges, every of them of the portage of 60 tons, lye in the said pond, &c. The Great Galley, being of portage 800 tons, lyeth in the said pond, &c." (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45272)
Also is found,
Oct. 12 Hen. VIII., wages of caulkers caulking the Mary Rose
in the pound at Deptford, 6d. a day. To 7 men who helped to
"plumpe" the Mary Rose for a day and a night, 2s. 8d. Total,
The Great Basin continued as the place for the safekeeping of the royal yachts and the royal barges were laid up at Deptford until its closure in 1869.
http://www.mod.uk/defenceinternet/aboutdefence/whatwedo/defenceestateandenvironment/modartcollection/ministryofdefenceartcollectionlaunchofa60gunshipatdeptfordc1720.htm (accessed 22/12/09)
Double Dry Dock
Coad, Lake and Douet omit the c.1517-1869 Double dry dock at Deptford from their studies. Yet nowhere else in England, other than at Deptford, can be witnessed a double dry dock with its origins in the Tudor period that testifies to the transition from timber to stone construction of docks. The unique status of the double dock at Deptford is enhanced by its history of construction and the development phases it expresses.
An account of the visit of the French national, Monsieur V. Chevallier, to the various yards in England published in1860, records that at Deptford in respect of the double dry dock, the head dock is constructed in stone whilst the stern dock is constructed from wood. This is new and vitally important information on the materiality of the double dry dock. The stone used to construct the dry dock may be that referred to in letters dated c.1756 detailing stone to be brought from Weymouth for the rebuilding of the dock.
Stone docks in-filled for almost a hundred years at Rochefort have since been excavated and found to be in good state of preservation. Within fifteen years, by 1875 the dock at Deptford was in-filled.
The double dock at Deptford, is the earliest sole surviving example of a Tudor double dry dock testifying to the transition from timber to stone construction.
Slips number five in total at Deptford, No.1 is to the west of the basin mouth, no.’s 2 and 3, are found off the basin under the iron sheds (Olympia listed GII) and no.’s 4&5 are located to the east of the basin mouth before the storehouse.
Building slip No.5 immediately to the west of the storehouse was lengthened in c.1858 at the cost of £54,000 to receive the 36 to 40 gun frigate Ariadne constructed on the model of the American Merrimak. (Chevallier 1860:11)
EH Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide 2007 recommends protection for,
“buildings that were innovative in design; are well preserved; or display alterations that illustrate the technology of accommodating larger ships.”
Given the date and cost of the new work, archaeology may discover that the slip was reformed in stone. Considering the closure of the yard within ten years and an imminent infill of the slip, there is a strong potential for high quality survival.
For a rigorous intellectual coherence in listing to be achieved, commensurate with the English Heritage call for “an holistic approach to be taken where several original or near contemporary associated structures survive together or where a group of structures displays the evolution of port facilities in one significant place”, it will be necessary to consider the origin, function and context of the iron slipway covers.
Slips are first shown off the wet dock in Dummer’s survey of 1688. The earliest slips may have been present in the 1500’s and those in the Dummer survey are the direct ancestors of today’s basin slips. The slips beneath the slipway covers are reformed at the time of building the slipway covers shown on a plan signed by George Baker. (NMM ADM/Y/D11 5th Oct 1844) The slips were designed by Royal Engineer Capt. George Denison. Construction drawings detailing the materials used survive.
This makes the present slipways contemporaneous structures integral to the slipway covers in time and in function and part of a series of developments to accommodate larger ships. At most this makes the slipways little more than twenty years old before they were in filled and therefore the likelihood of a good state of preservation is high, especially given that no building has taken place within the slipway covers.
The iron slipway covers at Deptford are the earliest surviving example of their kind. R.J.M Sutherland’s conjectural date of approximately 1846 for the surviving slipway covers at Deptford was made in 1989 and may now need to be reconsidered on further examination of the plan at the National Maritime Museum. The 1844 date of this plan showing the new slipways may suggest an even earlier date for the iron slipway covers than that of 1846 conjectured by Sutherland. Besides, following the demolition of the iron slipway covers at Pembroke and Portsmouth, Deptford maintains the earliest example of their kind.
As a complex of slipways, docks, basin and mast ponds, from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Deptford expresses a rich complex of dockyard structures that bear witness to the technological developments in shipbuilding from the age of sail to the iron-clads of the late nineteenth century.
The c.1846 George Baker slipway covers to the Basin Slipways though somewhat altered, still exhibit corrugated iron to their front and rear elevations. This is an original and early example of the use of corrugated iron and its presence and the fenestration pattern must therefore be recorded in the present listing of the covers to ensure future protection. Photographs c.1871 show the presence of this corrugated iron and the early fenestration pattern.
The 1846 George Baker slipway covers, the 1815 John Rennie basin mouth, The 1845 slipways by Denison are an example of what Lake and Douet, writing for English Heritage, refer to as “collaborative genius” between the private sector and royal engineers and the technological know-how found in the royal dockyards. As the earliest surviving example of iron slipway covers as a first technological advancement and the second technological advancement (considering John Rennie’s personal note indicating a change to his practice of building dock gates based on his collaboration on the Basin caisson-gate with William Stone, Master Shipwright at Deptford), the high potential for good survival of the twin slipways being contemporaneous with the innovative iron slipway covers, it is hoped that the English Heritage review will consider these constituent elements in the light of their own advice for “an holistic approach to be taken where several original or near contemporary associated structures survive together or where a group of structures displays the evolution of port facilities in one significant place”.
The restoration of the basin as an inland body of water allows for an enhancement of the legibility of one of the earliest functional structures of the yard, the basin c.1517. The iron slipway covers being the earliest surviving example of their kind contribute to the significance of the earliest wet dock complex in a royal yard in England recorded as functioning from the early 1500’s to the late nineteenth century, c.1895, indeed for some four centuries.
In his book, The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850, Coad states that the Plymouth terrace commences building in 1692 and is apparently finished by the end of 1696. (Coad 1989:53 ADM 106/2158 pt.1) Coad’s claim that the Plymouth terrace was “the earliest to be designed and built as a single unit” is challenged by the Deptford Terrace.
In relation to the development of royal dockyard officers’ housing, Lake and Douet claim,
“The earliest was the former Devonport Officer's Terrace, (now part of South Yard and largely destroyed by bombing), which was built between 1692 and 1696 under the direction of the Surveyor, Edward Dummer.”
However had the authors fully consulted King’s MS 43, Dummer’s renowned survey of the royal dockyards of 1698, the plans of Deptford show that the Deptford principal officers’ terrace was in place by 1688, and extraordinarily may even be the same terrace as shown in Evelyn’s annotated map of Deptford c.1623. Deptford Master Shipwright Jonas Shish writes to the Navy Commissioner’s on June 22nd 1665 on account of repairs needed to the Clerk of the Survey’s House amounting to £12. (ADM 106/ 28- June 22nd)
Therefore the modest Deptford palatial terrace is clearly evidenced as being built prior to Devonport and as such Deptford not Devonport as Lake and Douet have claimed “shows the earliest instance in Britain of a palace front terrace.”
The terrace at Deptford accommodated the Master Attendant, Clerk of the Survey, Clerk of the Cheque, Builder’s Assistant, Storekeeper, and Surgeon. The total value ascribed to the terrace by Dummer in 1698 was £3,662. The most expensive house was the corner house occupied by the Clerk of the Cheque valued at more than £950. The Master Shipwright was accommodated in the house alongside the double dry dock valued at a mere £111. In 1705 this causes Master Shipwright Joseph Allin to petition the Navy Board for a new house.
In relation to the Devonport terrace Lake and Douet continue, “Furthermore it predates Mansart's Place Vendome in Paris, finished in 1698 and usually credited as the first full development of the palace front in Europe.” (Lake and Douet 1998:82) This honour too must be credited to Deptford where a regular fenestration pattern and rhythm together with centralized and rhythmical door placement form the simple but clear palace front. Lake and Douet state “the development of palace-front terraces within the dockyards is of considerable significance in the evolution of English architecture. This form of unified planning was widely used during the eighteenth century and in the first half of the nineteenth century, and is considered one the country's particular contributions to European architectural history.” (Lake and Douet 1998:87) It is therefore Deptford dockyard that makes the particular contribution of considerable significance as the earliest palace front terrace in Europe.
Given that Dummer became the Surveyor of the Navy in 1692 having joined the navy in 1668, unless sufficient scrutiny is given to the similarities and differences of the Deptford and Plymouth terraces such as to support the possibility of a Dummer authorship at Deptford, prior to his role as surveyor, if this is possible since as an extra clerk in the office of the Surveyor from 1678 he had responsibility for drawing, we must look elsewhere to ascribe authorship of Deptford’s early palatial terrace. Celia Fox’s 2007 paper for the British Library, “The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England” also misses the Deptford officers’ terrace.
From Coad in 1989, Lake and Douet in 1998, to Celia Fox in 2007 the plan, elevations and valuations of the Deptford terrace found in Dummer’s 1698 survey were not included in any of the authors’ deliberations. For thirty years Deptford’s major contribution to the development of European architecture has been missed.
During the 2010 archaeological dig on the Deptford site a trial trench was placed in the area of the terrace however this was placed in the garden of one of the houses. Though it is claimed by Duncan Hawkins of CgMs Consulting that four archaeological test pits are targeted on the Officers’ Terrace three appear to miss the terrace entirely with just one to the rear of the Master Attendants House.
The significance of the terrace may have been missed for a number of reasons. Firstly, part of the terrace was demolished in 1806. This was the corner house for the Clerk of the Cheque. The demolition of the finest house in the yard was in fact carried out by the superior officers. This extraordinary act was performed in order to prevent a Commissioner taking up residence in the Deptford yard. The officers succeeded in their aims and the Commissioner was forced to take up residence at Woolwich. The east to west section of the terrace was re-faced and given sash windows in the mid-eighteenth century. This part was finally demolished c.1900 leaving the majority of the north to south range of the palatial terrace surviving until after WWII. (NA Works 43/614 no.1)
The foundations of the Deptford terrace should be excavated in order that as much information as possible can be determined about this most important contribution to the development of European architecture. This area of the terrace has subsequently received a single storey rudimentary workers’ rest and washroom and the 1951 London Ferro-Concrete warehouse.
Information on the largely forgotten Navy Treasurer’s house indicated on the 1623 Evelyn map in the yard to the west of the storehouse, once home to James, Duke of York might also be sought.
Lake and Douet follow Coad in claiming the earliest purpose built office at Chatham in 1750.
The Deptford Master Shipwright’s House of 1708, and Deptford Officers’ Offices of 1720 are, in fact, the earliest examples of their kind surviving in the country.
Letters sent to the Navy board in 1720 request a rebuilding of the offices indicate that the yard officers at Deptford were accommodated in the earlier building on the site,
A letter from the Deptford Officers of 27th June 1720 reads,
The Master Attendant, Master Shipwright, Clerk of the Survey and Master Shipwright’s Assistants Offices being very Rotten and Decay’d and the Storekeeper wanting an Office by the Water Gate being to be taken down, We humbly propose to take the Old Offices down, to Erect New Offices two storeys high in which the Store keeper may be accommodated, the Charge of which besides the Old Materialls will Amount to about £350, We humbly submit to your Hons.” (ADM 106/3466)
This request is followed by five sets of initials for the officers concerned. This letter is followed by another of 30th June confirming that the new offices will occupy the place of the old offices between the Master Shipwright’s House and the Porter’s Lodging. (ADM106/3466)
By 15th August 1720, a request is sent for stone to cope the near completed new offices. (ADM 106/3299) Later a map of c1740-50 describing the office building of 1720 on a key as ‘T, V, W’, the Master Attendant’s, Clerk of the Survey and Master Shipwright’s offices respectively. Therefore, in contrast to Lake and Douet’s claim that little is known about how these earliest dockyard offices were used, precise information does indeed tells us that were occupied by the yard’s high status officers. By 1805 we know a considerable amount more about the use of the offices from a twenty-three paged letter and two plans sent to the Navy Board by Samuel Bentham petitioning for his extension and re-organisation to the office building along the centralizing principle of the Panopticon. ((NA WORK 41/585-6 June 26th 1804/4th June 1805,
NMM ADM/ Q 3323 28th Feb 1805) It was in these offices at Deptford that Bentham gave the order for models to be constructed to demonstrate the possibilities for the introduction of iron into shipbuilding. (NMM Q/ADM 3322 15th March 1803)
Lake and Douet’s later assertion in relation to Deptford, “At the smaller yards within reach of the Navy Board in London, Woolwich and Deptford, much more limited accommodation was provided.” (Lake and Douet 1998:84) is entirely incorrect as is theirs and Coad’s assertion that Chatham has the earliest purpose built dockyard offices darting to c.1750. The existing office range at Deptford of 1720 is in fact the earliest purpose built range of Officers’ Offices. The Deptford Master Shipwright’s House of 1708, and Deptford Officers’ Offices of 1720 are now the earliest examples of their kind surviving in the country.
The listing case of the Deptford dockyard offices is detailed here in order to demonstrate that at the time of listing GII in 1993, little early material was thought to remain and the building therefore thought to be unremarkable. However following primary source archive based research, the date of build has been established as 1720 confirming that the building was the earliest surviving purpose built naval office building in the country, the authorship of the 1805 addition to be by Samuel Bentham (incorporating the centralizing principle of the Panopticon) and also the first place to be designated for the building of models to demonstrate the introduction of iron into shipbuilding.
Re-use of ships timbers and the earliest known example of Bentham’s method of timber marking has also been revealed extensively throughout the offices. The case of the re-use of ships’ timbers found in the Wheelwright’s Shop at Chatham has been described as of world significance. What had been officially considered to be of little interest, of local or regional importance only, now stands as the earliest series of buildings to testify to the domestic and office architecture of the Tudor, Stuart and early Georgian dockyards.
Together, omissions in the studies by Coad, by Lake and Douet and other English heritage authors, exacerbated by the lack of an authoritative comprehensive study of Deptford dockyard, have enabled the heritage assets at Deptford to be jeopardized by an over reliance on insubstantial secondary sources.
The information contained in this document is put forward in an effort to end the systematic disregard of Deptford’s historic cultural assets by the statutory agencies and to ensure the future enjoyment of a local and national, even international culturally significant environment, the former royal dockyard at Deptford.
It becomes a political matter of social exclusion from the fair and reasonable comparative application of statutory resources when Deptford's historic cultural assets systematically do not receive the statutory protection afforded to other royal dockyards. Heritage protection at this stage will enable the wealth inherent in the intellectual property of Historic Maritime Deptford to be exploited and enjoyed by its’ constituency which is global.
No part of this document may be cited without reference to the author.
Chris Mazeika 2010