Entrenched Positions: An Archaeological Dig to Reveal?
Chris Mazeika October 2011
Whilst archaeological explorations serve a number of varied and sometimes opposing interests I pose the question, “Is the developer led and developer funded exploration taking place at the former King’s Yard at Deptford, Henry VIII’s royal dockyard, 1513 and the site of John Evelyn’s house and garden at Sayes Court achieving its declared goals, namely that the archaeology will assist in the formation of the Hutchison Whampoa Masterplan?
In 2010 the writer of Londonslostgarden claimed that trenches targeted on the area of John Evelyn’s house and garden at Sayes Court appeared to miss some of the most significant areas that would yield data. The writer, a qualified archaeologist, demonstrates her claim using overlays of a series of maps from the sequence of changes to the site. The site visit of October 8th 2011 followed by on-site debate with the lead archaeologist Duncan Hawkins was inconclusive in assuaging the conviction that trenches are not well placed to encounter the most significant data. This work has been re-considered by a landscape architect who also raises questions regarding the intention of the trial trenching. It is not yet clear what garden archaeology expertise was applied to this site of international interest. If there are published reports of expert garden archaeology taking place at the site of Sayes Court, such as is demanded by PPS5, or expert evaluation even, of the works carried out by CgMs, we have been unable to source these important documents. If Lewisham has a nominated specialist garden archaeologist we are not aware of any published results of that expert’s evaluation of the CgMs excavations. We are aware that during and after the completion of trial trenching on the Sayes Court site that English heritage nominated garden archaeology expert when contacted to determine his opinion of the published results was entirely unaware of the excavations that had taken place.
i. Trial trench plan and overlay of modern warehousing
ii. Trial trench plan and overlay of modern warehousing and Evelyn’s garden plan of 1653
Given the questions posed above concerning the trial trenching of Sayes Court, I decided to examine the trench plan targeting the dockyard Officers’ Terrace. This terrace may be the earliest palace front terrace in England, and therefore a major contribution in the development of European architecture, data that would be significant in helping to identify the site of the former dockyard as a whole of international importance.
In relation to the development of royal dockyard officers’ housing, Lake and Douet for English Heritage depending on Jonathan Coad’s work The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (1989), claim “The earliest (palace front terrace) 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 Lake and Douet fully consulted King’s MS 43, Dummer’s renowned survey of the royal dockyards of 1698, the plans of Deptford would have shown that the principal Officers’ Terrace there was in place by 1688.
Dummer’s Survey of the dockyard at Deptford 1688 plan from Kings Ms. 43 1698
Showing the Officers’ Terrace to the upper far eastern boundary of the site (courtesy of the British Library)
The modest palace front terrace at Deptford 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.
Dummer’s survey of the Officers’ Terrace at Deptford shown here in the 1698 Kings Ms. 43 (Courtesy of the British Library)
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 accolade too must be credited to Deptford where the regular fenestration pattern and rhythm of the terrace together with centralized and rhythmical door placement form the simple but clear palace front on the west elevation particularly. 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) I suggest that it is therefore Deptford dockyard that makes the contribution of considerable significance as the earliest palace front terrace in England.
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 even prior to his role as surveyor, (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 the authors’ deliberations on early dockyard officers’ housing. This makes the opportunity that the archaeological explorations presents all the more
Thorough archaeological investigations the earlier Deptford terrace may offer further data, such as brick and mortar dating, timber dating and chimney design and positioning to establish the architectural authorship and date. The Deptford Officer’s terrace may well be one of England’s earliest examples of uniform palatial terracing in the country. The Plymouth and Deptford terraces are related in period design to the Navy Board Office at Seething Lane, Crutched Friars, arguably a Wren and Hooke collaboration and dated to c.1674. (Fox 2007:51) 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 1665) Further archive based research alongside archaeological data are therefore required to establish beyond doubt the history of the Officers’ Terrace at Deptford, here proposed as dated to c.1660.
In the archaeological reports the stated aim of trenches 43, 44 and 46 was to determine the level of survival of the former officers’ quarters, their form and fabric. No archaeological structures were identified in Trench 46. Trench 40 was targeted on horticultural land, the aim to identify the nature of land use. A modern building occupied the trench.
Trench 46 was placed in the road between the great dock and a green space in front of the terrace. Trench 43 was placed in a parcel of land that was never within the dockyard and only became part of the site during the tenure of the Foreign Cattle market. Trench 44 was placed in the garden of the Officers’ Terrace. Only trench 42 is situated in the area of the Officers’ terrace.
This trench reveals very detailed and interesting data. Suggesting the three phases of building from the terrace shown in the Evelyn map 1623, the terrace shown in Edmund Dummer’s survey of 1688-98 and the known 18th century re-facing of the Dummer surveyed terrace.
Concluding the 2010 report archaeological report that accompanies the planning submission documents (relied on by Lewisham Planners to determine their recommendations to committee) it is stated,
Some of the archaeological remains are nationally important – for example the
scheduled Tudor storehouse. Most of the remains uncovered in the evaluation are of
local or regional significance, however.”
This attempt to disaggregate the dockyard infrastructure is in direct opposition to stated English Heritage guidelines that states, “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 dockyard site 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, 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, when the Thomas de la Tour is brought to Deptford for repairs in 1420.
English Heritage has determined that the site is of national importance. It therefore seems illogical and disingenuous on the part of the lead archaeologist to disaggregate the constituent elements of the site in a way that diminishes the significance of the whole. There is a cumulative value that is determined by the setting and by the context of the intimate interrelated functions of the yard, such as the interrelationship between a dock, its saw pits, capstan housings, penstocks and bridge infrastructure that is harmed by such attempts at disaggregation.
Where trenches have not been well targeted, where the desk based surveys are not well aligned with site based surveys and where permissions are sought prior to a good understanding of the archaeology and a thorough understanding of the impacts of development upon that archaeology there are serious causes for concern. As late as May 2011 Lewisham’s Design Panel advised the Developer’s Design Team that the archaeology was not yet adequately understood. English Heritage has recommended that development proposals should not be adopted by Planning Departments until PPS5 legislation is well articulated. PPS5 is referred to as a consulted source by the Developer’s Design Team but I can find no articulation or direct application or reference to it in their submission. This may be a serious omission.
There clearly has been an oversight in relation to the adoption of this current submission. Whilst archaeological explorations continue (and continue to be questioned based on well-researched accounts), is it not underhand on the part of the developer to submit 2010 archaeological reports that are often absolute in their conclusions such as “there will be no upstanding remains of the Basin” or determinations that the dry dock is structurally unsound when little more than trial trenching has occurred on these buildings of monumental naval dockyard infrastructure?
For an area that is likely to be determined as of international significance the submission of reports based on trial-trenching alone that provide only partial data is an insufficient method to establish a good understanding of the archaeology. To ensure that PPS5 is articulated in the developer’s submissions and to ensure no further damage is wrought by the proposed development, to rely solely on the SARM is a highly questionable and a high risk strategy.
The opportunity exists to delay the determination of the application until the archaeology is complete as English Heritage have advised at Old Gun Wharf in Chatham. This is a far more secure way forward in order to satisfy PPS5.
Coad, J.G., The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850: Architecture and Engineering Works of the Sailing Navy (1989)
Fox, Celia “The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England” Bl(2007)
Lake, J. and Douet, J., The Naval Dockyards: A Thematic Survey (1998 English Heritage, unpublished report)
Liljenberg, Karen http://londonslostgarden.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/dig-manages-to-miss-elysium/ Acessed Oct 9th 2011
Heritage Protection Department, English Heritage, Maritime and Naval Buildings Selection Guide (March 2007)