Friday 14 December 2012

Sayes Court Garden on Gardener's Question Time


Karen Liljenberg, local resident and expert on John Evelyn's Sayes Court Garden, spoke to Matthew Wilson today on BBC Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time about the garden and how it looked in its 17th century heyday – and what might happen in the future. The programme will be repeated on Sunday at 2pm or listen now on i-Player.

See Karen's blog Sayes Court – London's Lost Garden

Sayes Court Garden workshops in pictures

Some pictures taken at the schools workshops held in Sayes Court Garden on 22nd November. The model of the garden was there to inspire the children, and the team built a small tower to enable the kids to look over the boundary wall at the Convoys Wharf site. Various games ensured fun was had by all.

Monday 19 November 2012

Sayes Court Garden Schools Workshop

Thursday 22 November 2012, 1.30-4.30pm
Sayes Court Park, Deptford SE8 3LN

The Sayes Court Garden project and Outdoor Children are excited to annouce the commencement of the first of their workshops engaging children in the fantastic Sayes Court Garden Project.

On Thursday, 22nd November, children and teachers from Grinling Gibbons Primary School and Sir Francis Drake Primary School will visit Sayes Court Park to participate in an afternoon of educational workshops designed to engage and stimulate whilst most importantly of all – having fun!

"Exploring, wondering, clambering, rummaging – there is so much for children to enjoy in our outdoor heritage, be it park, garden, countryside or urban scene. So why do we instead too often rely on a soulless prescription of plastic equipment, well-meant fact sheets and gift shop bribes?" LINDEN GROVES, OUTDOOR CHILDREN 

John Evelyn’s garden at Sayes Court was one of the most famous and revolutionary gardens of its time. This was the site of not only his innovative designs and experiments, but also where he wrote his many forward-thinking texts on horticulture including Sylva, Fumifugium and the copious notes for his master work, the Elysium Britannicum.

Evelyn’s many visitors included his friends Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren and even King Charles II himself. Towards the end of his life the house and gardens were let, and subsequently trashed(!) by Czar Peter the Great of Russia, who reportedly rode on a wheelbarrow through John Evelyn’s prize Holly Hedge, causing many hundreds of pounds worth of damage.

John Evelyn was constantly inquiring and ingenious, fascinated by the world in which he lived. We think he is a brilliant role model for children facing the exciting challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Outdoor Children – Children in the Historic Environment

"We need to stop using Health & Safety, budgets and asset protection as an excuse. Let’s shake our youngest stakeholders by the hand, engage our child visitors in our landscapes, and empower them to … enjoy!” LINDEN GROVES, OUTDOOR CHILDREN

Outdoor Children is managed by Linden Groves, a qualified landscape historian and mum-of-three with a determination to give the historic outdoors a small place in every child’s heart. Having worked for over a decade as a mainstream landscape historian, dealing with conservation issues and writing books, Linden’s experiences visiting parks and gardens with children have given her a passion for engaging the young with their outdoor environment.
Sayes Court Garden CIC

The Sayes Court Garden Community Interest Company’s aspiration is to create a public garden and research centre on the site of John Evelyn’s 17th Century garden in Deptford, SE London.

Sayes Court Garden fell into sad neglect shortly after Evelyn’s death in 1706, and through the vicissitudes of fate has come down to us today as a corner of the parcel of Convoys Wharf, where the current owners, Hutchison Whampoa, intend to build directly where the most innovative and influential parts of the garden lay.

Sayes Court Garden CIC is founded on the belief that this crucial piece of our national heritage is not only a once-beautiful historic garden, but also has a vital role to play in the success of the new development for the community at large.

Alongside their work with Outdoor Children on a series of fun but educational workshops for local primary school children, they will be seeking funding to roll out into a package of online resources, ongoing workshops, and celebratory events for the younger generation. 

Monday 15 October 2012

Deptford is.. reviewing recent progress

After something of a hiatus over the summer, this week members of the Deptford Is.. team got together to discuss progress since their last meeting.

At the Convoys Wharf public exhibition in July, the architects were confident that they would be holding another open day in September to show us the final masterplan that they intend to submit to the council as a planning application. With no contact from them at time of writing, we assume that progress has been rather slower than predicted.

Renderings from the previous scheme - little change was seen on the latest masterplan
The Build the Lenox team shared the exciting news that they have acquired two patrons for their Community Interest Company (CIC) - local MP Dame Joan Ruddock, and historian and broadcaster Dan Snow - lending the campaign additional gravitas and respectability that will no doubt stand it in good stead for the months ahead.

Having stepped up the marketing campaign by producing new postcard flyers to distribute in Deptford and environs, and having been featured in the South London Press and News Shopper newspapers, the campaign is starting to attract attention from a wider audience and the team is recruiting new volunteers and continuing to seek donations towards the costs.

They have also launched a Facebook page for the campaign and invite you to 'like' it if you have a Facebook account!

Meanwhile Sayes Court Garden has constituted itself as a CIC and is forging exciting links with high-profile charities and organisations which have similar interests and aspirations. The project also has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed through which they can keep in touch with supporters.

An invitation to meet Tim Smit, the founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall, has led to a continuing dialogue and consolidation of the aims of the Sayes Court Garden project, and this has been given additional impetus by a new collaboration with the National Trust.

The founder of the National Trust, Octavia Hill, has links to Deptford and Sayes Court Garden, and it was discussions over how the gardens could be preserved in perpetuity for the people of Deptford that prompted the creation of the National Trust.

The Sayes Court Garden project is in the process of developing a series of workshops with local schools as part of its long-term aim to get young children interested in gardening, food growing and using and exploring the urban green spaces that are often overlooked. These workshops will be held in November.

On a more general level, the team is working with leading landscape academics and design professionals, moving towards presenting developed proposals for the Sayes Court Garden site and manor house.

Friday 14 September 2012

Lenox Project in South London Press

The Lenox Project was featured on the front page of the South London Press today. The project was also covered in more detail this week in a great piece by Laurence Dodds for East London Lines

Londonist and local blog Transpontine also featured the project. Nick Rutherford wrote in the SLP:
Enthusiasts in Deptford hope to build a life-size replica of a 17th century warship to attract visitors and regenerate the area.

The Lenox was built in the royal dockyard at Deptford between 1677 and 1678 as centrepiece of Charles II's fleet.

The Build The Lenox group has drawn up plans to create a 52m replica of the ship from around 1,900 oak trees and "a substantial amount" of other trees including ash, which will be "sourced sustainably".

The Lenox Project was featured on the front page of the South London Press, Friday 14th September. The project was also covered this week by Londonist and local blog Transpontine. Nick Rutherford wrote in the SLP:

Enthusiasts in Deptford hope to build a life-size replica of a 17th century warship to attract visitors and regenerate the area.

The Lenox was built in the royal dockyard at Deptford between 1677 and 1678 as centrepiece of Charles II's fleet.

The Build The Lenox group has drawn up plans to create a 52m replica of the ship from around 1,900 oak trees and "a substantial amount" of other trees including ash, which will be "sourced sustainably".

Project director Julian Kingston said: "Around one million tourists visit Greenwich each year but don't realise that Deptford has an equally important maritime history.

"It was the first royal dockyard and some of the greatest ships from the 16th to 19th centuries were built or refitted here.

"It was the Cape Kennedy of its day, at the centre of things.

"Even all the biscuits eaten on ships all over the world were sent out from Deptford."

Mr Kingston, 60, who is a boat builder, came up with the idea two years ago and there are now eight members in the group – including a maritime historian, bridge builder, graphic designer and architect – and around 400 supporters on the mailing list.

If building goes ahead, the Lenox will be the centrepiece of the redevelopment of the 42-acre Convoys Wharf, which is seeking to build 2,500 new homes, a school and cultural spaces along the riverside.

Mr Kingston said the project would bring employment and education opportunities, and that visitors would be able to watch the construction in progress over an estimated eight-year period.

He said: "We are in the early stages now and looking for funding (he estimates costs of about £23m). If this goes ahead, it will bring focus, identity and pride back to Deptford.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Build The Lenox announces new patrons

In August, MP for Deptford Dame Joan Ruddock offered her services as the first patron of the Lenox project. And this week, Build The Lenox is proud and honoured that historian and broadcaster Dan Snow has kindly agreed to be their second patron.

Dame Joan Ruddock peruses the truncated model at the Convoys Wharf exhibition in July.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Convoys Wharf public exhibition: Deptford Is.. responds

Last weekend developer Hutchison Whampoa and its masterplanners Terry Farrell & Partners held a public exhibition at the Deptford Lounge to present ideas and proposals for the new planning application it intends to submit for Convoys Wharf later this year.

Many members of Deptford Is.. attended the event and talked to representatives from Hutchison Whampoa, Terry Farrell & Partners, Alan Baxter & Associates, Grontmij and SKM Colin Buchanan, all members of the team that is submitting the masterplan.

Our collated comments are presented here.

Deceptive presentation 

The main materials used to present the architect’s new ideas for the masterplan were a large, detailed ‘groundscape’ model and a series of six very small polystyrene models used to explain the process that the architects had gone through to develop the height and massing of building parcels for the development. No representation of final building height or density was given on the main model, which we feel was misleading and confusing in the extreme.

Few of the people attending the exhibition would be familiar with the concept of a groundscape model, and we question the motivation for using such a means by which to communicate the main message of the exhibition. A two-dimensional plan would have been sufficient to show the proposed layout of the site. Using a groundscape model had the potential to mislead visitors into thinking that the new proposal was for building heights similar to those in the surrounding estates.

The six polystyrene models were devoid of interpretative material, which meant that the only way to understand them was to ask one of the staff who were present. We were also concerned at the way existing parks and green spaces had been flagged up on the groundscape model, even though they do not fall within the boundaries of the development.

We felt that this was disingenuous of the masterplanners, suggesting they are seeking to present their proposals as adding a significant amount of green space to the area, when in fact this is not the case.

Designing from the ground up? 

One of the main messages that came out of Sir Terry Farrell’s presentation in March this year was his commitment that the new masterplan would be created ‘from the ground up’. But this very welcome vision has not been translated into the ideas we saw at the public exhibition.

Aside from some changes to the road layouts, the proposals presented last weekend, in our opinion, offered nothing more than tweaks to the original masterplan which was proposed by Aedas, and which is shown below.

Aedas masterplan
In our opinion, the commitment to design from the ground up should result in a development which fully respects and recognises the former heritage of the site. In this regard, Farrell’s groundscape plan offered only minor changes to the Aedas proposal.

The new plan showed a representation of the former great basin in front of the Olympia building, but it was a trimmed and scaled back water feature with no access to the river and no prospect of any practical use. Views of the Olympia building from the river would be only slightly improved with this change, a minor change considering that the previous arrangement was notable for its severely restricted vista.

The locations of a couple of the dockyard’s slipways were marked as public areas by the addition of labels; the presence of the double dry dock as a landscaped public area remained, as in the former plans, and the edge of Sayes Court Gardens had been extended slightly into the site, with a scaled-back version of John Evelyn’s grove created next to it (see more info below).

Density and massing 

Staff at the exhibition, when questioned, were still referring to the development involving the creation of 3,500 new residential units. They also claimed that final building heights have not yet been established, that this information will be made available in September.

When asked why so many units, the standard answer given (by several representatives) was that this was the figure demanded by Lewisham Council and set out in its Core Strategy. We are advised by Lewisham’s planning department that this is not the case. While the figure does exist in the Core Strategy, the council’s planners are adamant that the site cannot sustainably support such a high density development.

Secondly it is worth noting that the situation has changed markedly since the core strategy was published in 2005. At that time, very little was known about the archaeology of the site – don’t forget it was covered in warehouses and storage units – and it is only in the last two years that the extent of heritage assets remaining has been explored in any detail.

What’s more, the full extent has yet to be confirmed – archaeological excavations only took place at the locations on which the developers intend to build. The extent and condition of the double dry dock has not been confirmed, neither has the full extent of the mast ponds at the west end of the site, under the proposed working wharf.


We were disappointed to note that transport proposals remained identical to those in the previous application. These included a new bus route through the site, ‘enhancements’ to existing bus routes, and the installation of a waterbus jetty.

Improvements to some road junctions are proposed but in all respects, these suggestions are pitiful in relation to the density of the development. With such a high number of properties on the site, even providing parking spaces for just over half these units (1800) will create an unacceptable amount of traffic for local roads.

A representative for the transport consultant said that this was ‘the best that we can do’ for the site.

The Lenox Project 

Our proposal to build a replica of the restoration warship Lenox was represented on the groundscape plan by a little wooden boat and flag. However the masterplanners have suggested that the project should be housed on the working wharf at the west end of the site.

There are several major problems with this. 

Firstly the fact that if the ship were built in this location it could not be launched in any straightforward or technically-proven manner. This part of the site has no slipway or dock and any boat built here would have to be lifted into the water. In order to do this, the structure of the vessel would have to be adapted to incorporate special lifting points or have extra strengthening built in to allow this to be done safely. It would entail additional analysis and the services of a marine architect, and it would create extra risk for the project as a whole.

If the boat were to be built in a dry dock (such as the one at the east end of the site) or on a slipway (such as the two in the Olympia building) it could be launched in the traditional tried and tested manner, which its original design allowed for.

Secondly the project needs to attract sufficient visitors to be financially viable. We believe that the presence of the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark in Greenwich will aid us greatly in doing so, but we feel strongly that the project needs to be as close to Greenwich as possible in order to make it successful.

Thirdly, we strongly support the creation of a proper working wharf which we believe could offer genuine additional employment opportunities for the area. It would also be appropriate to consider creating a marine enterprise zone on this land, to encourage the establishment of businesses that could not only support the Lenox project, but could benefit from its high profile.

Previous arguments that the remaining dockyard structures were not able to be uncovered because they were at risk of degradation have been dispelled by the archaeological investigations. Duncan Hawkins, who led the archaeological excavation, had no objection to the reopening of the great basin, if it were to be lined.

Several weeks ago, the Lenox Project supplied additional information to Farrell's on request, highlighting these points and also a number of other benefits and considerations material to the project and its proposed site. You can download and read this document here.

Sayes Court Gardens and John Evelyn’s Grove

Landscape architect Grontmij proposed some changes to the previous masterplan with the intention of recognising the significance of John Evelyn and his gardens in the heritage of the site. Apart from a dedicted ‘John Evelyn Centre’ in front of the Olympia building, the focus seems to have been on re-working the existing park (which is outside the boundary of the site).

This park does of course need a little tlc, and the boundary edge will need to be appropriately adapted to feed into the site, but we feel the proposed treatment of the site is facile and not in keeping with the heritage and context.

There were two aspects of the ‘history’ boards which glaringly under-sold the garden: firstly was the claim that although Evelyn's experimental approach and writings on horticulture were influential, the actual layout and design of the gardens was of little significance. Secondly, the importance of the 19th century incarnation of the park was scarcely acknowledged, with no mention of the National Trust or the part the park played in the development of our open spaces on a national scale.

The effects of this mis-information can be seen in the masterplan, which destroys the 19th century layout and creates a nominal ‘grove’, at only two thirds the size of Evelyn's on a different site and orientation to that of the original.

Also of concern was the proposal to relocate some of the residential buildings at the west end of the site; in particular the suggestion that one of the towers may be moved back from the river front to take advantage of views of the park as well as the river. As a consequence, the developer is now planning to build residential blocks on the site of Evelyn’s manor house and over the most important parts of the garden, which is what led to the re-positioning and shrinking of the grove.

Duncan Hawkins confirmed that the manor house represented the most well-preserved remains of domestic architecture on the site, and that it would be desirable to have them exposed - albeit under the protection of a building. We suggest that this would be the most obvious location for the proposed John Evelyn Centre. 

The groundscape plan capitalised on the existing Sayes Court Park, drawing it into the site and extending it up to the Olympia building. Once again we felt that this was potentially deceptive, and made the masterplan seem as though it has a ‘green heart’. However it must be recognised that, at a rough estimate, this masterplan contains negligibly more greenspace than the last, if any. The site of John Evelyn's garden has again been ignored, and this time it has been more extensively built up than before.

Although it did not translate to the plan, in general we believe that the architects support the idea that the development would benefit from ongoing and focused activity. Our various suggestions - the presence of a ship-building project, possible moorings for London’s tall ships in a re-opened great basin, a garden museum and recreated grove, a horticulture school, a sculpture park on the jetty – were acknowledged would be a vital component which would prevent the development becoming a residential ghetto. 

As before, the only employment prospects proposed by the developer were retail and service industries. The working wharf was unoccupied on the plan.

Poor publicity 
We note that the exhibition was very poorly publicised in Deptford itself. There were no posters visible on the high street, and only two members of Deptford Is.. (most of whom live in the target area) received letters or flyers.

Second Wave Youth Arts, the local group which gave a presentation at the open day, received no notification of the public exhibition.

A final wish

We respectfully urge the custodian of the site, Mr Li Ka Shing, to further apply the sentiment on his charitable foundation's website; "Every country possesses a unique history and culture formed over thousands of years. We believe that the preservation of historical monuments and cultural relics helps us define the past and points the way to the future."

This sentiment is very much at the heart of our proposals for the Convoys Wharf site.

Further information 

A series of videos made by PR company Hard Hat were shown at the event, you can see them online here.

Visit the Convoys Wharf website.

Submit your comments

The developers have said that they will be holding a second public exhibition in September, at which they will present their proposed masterplan before submitting it for planning permission.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Lenox study day: booking now!

The study day will be held at the Master Shipwrights House

Deptford Is.. in collaboration with Build the Lenox is now inviting bookings for the Lenox Study Day on Wednesday 11 July.

The former Deptford Royal Dockyard played a leading role in the development of naval ship-building technology. This role was particularly significant in the Restoration period, when Deptford was the focus of the thirty-ship programme launched by Samuel Pepys in 1677. Lenox was the first of these ships to be built; by 1700, these magnificent vessels were held responsible for elevating the Royal Navy to its position as the world’s leading maritime power.

Build the Lenox and Deptford Is.. have put together a special study day focusing on Deptford's dockyard in the Restoration period, and in particular on the early naval history and ship-building technology which the Lenox represents.

Speakers include the country's leading academics and experts on the naval history of the time; a line-up of the most prominent experts in this field including Peter LeFevre, David Davies, Richard Endsor, Peter Goodwin and Brian Lavery.

We will also present an update on the progress of the Hermione Project in France, which inspired the idea behind Build the Lenox.

The study day will take place at the Master Shipwrights House in Deptford: the former home of John Shish, the king's master shipwright who was responsible for designing and building the Lenox and her sister ships.

Full details of the study day and how to book can be found on the Build the Lenox site. Please note that only 40 tickets are available so early booking is recommended.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Build The Lenox skipper in Thames Pageant

Cathia cruises past large lifeboat crew at Tower Bridge (from BBC TV coverage)

Cathia spotted heading home as weather worsens (picture taken from Surrey Docks Farm)

Julian Kingston, the brains behind The Lenox Project, took part in the Thames Jubilee Pageant today. His boat, Cathia, processed in the Lifeboat Section within the larger category of "Historic & Service" in the middle of the 1000-strong flotilla (and terrible weather!).

Twelve years ago, Julian – a boat builder by trade – rescued the Cathia from destruction and brought it back to his moorings in Deptford Creek. With the hull in fine condition, Julian set about rebuilding the main cabin and cockpit, and most recently he has been restoring the fore cabin and galley area to get her into shape for the pageant.

Cathia, with Julian's wife, Jeannie, being made ready this week

The boat was originally a lifeboat, and like many boats of its age (it was built in 1924), it was converted to a motor cruiser in the 40s. "Adam Hart-Davies wrote a book on how to convert working boats into motor cruisers and leisure boats," says Julian. "Standard conversions of ships like lifeboats were very cheap to do". Quite a few working boats were rehabilitated at around that time by amateur enthusiasts for whom sailing and motor cruising would otherwise have been financially prohibitive. But there are very few boats like this remaining, which makes Cathia special enough to be included in the flotilla.

Cathia left Deptford Creek on Friday morning to muster at West India Quay, where they spent the night before progressing to the main mustering area upstream of Hammersmith on Saturday. Later this month, Julian will be travelling to France, eventually to Rochefort where the town will be celebrating the launch of the hull of the replica warship Hermione in early July.

Cathia arrives back in Deptford Creek. Thanks to Tina Oregan for the photo.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Video of Convoys Wharf Consultation Day

Public Open Day - March 2012 from HardHat on Vimeo.

This short video made by Hard Hat, Hutchison Whampoa's communications team, gives a flavour of the consultation day held in March 2012. You can also read our report of the event here.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Meanwhile, in Deptford Docks...

SALON, the Society of Antiquaries of London, has covered Convoys Wharf in its latest online newsletter (14 May 2012).

Meanwhile, in Deptford Docks...

The Council for British Archaeology is engaged in another campaign with a maritime flavour down in Deptford Dockyard, in the East End of London, where developer Hutchinson Whampoa have plans to build 3,500 new homes, plus hotels, offices and a cultural centre on a huge site called Convoy’s Wharf. Local people, while welcoming the investment, do not feel that the current master plan for Convoy’s Wharf pays sufficient heed to the heritage of England’s first Royal Dockyard, founded by Henry VIII in 1513, and visited by Peter the Great in 1698 when the Tsar came on a three-month fact-finding visit prior to establishing the Russian navy.

The target of heavy bombardment during World War II, the historic docks were levelled after the war, but recent archaeological work carried out by MOLA has revealed that far more archaeology survives than was thought, including impressive eighteenth-century dockyard walls and slipways and the ground floor and cellars of Sayes Court, home to the diarist and horticulturalist John Evelyn (it was here that Tsar Peter lived during his three-month visit as a guest of the English government, leaving such a trail of destruction that the Treasury eventually agreed to pay £350 to Evelyn in compensation).

Such is the strength of local feeling in favour of retaining and restoring evidence of the site’s past use that Lewisham Council has sent back the initial planning application for further thought, saying that the master plan was not ‘sensitive enough to the unique heritage assets of the dockyard’. As a consequence, the developers, Hutchinson Whampoa, have called in Sir Terry Farrell to look at redrawing the master plan.

The Council for British Archaeology has offered a helping hand and has convened a panel of independent experts from the Naval Dockyards Society, the Garden History Society, the Panel for Historic Engineering Works and the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society. Hand in hand with the local campaign group ‘Deptford Is’, the CBA has offered to ‘assist the developers and English Heritage in their understanding and enhancement of the dockyard and its remarkable history … with the aim of achieving a better, heritage-led scheme that delivers wider public benefit and a more sophisticated approach to this internationally important site’.

The events that Deptford witnessed included the refitting of the Mary Rose, the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hind in 1581, the refitting of HMS Bounty in 1787, the rebuilding of Cook’s Endeavour in 1768 and the construction of several of the warships that served under Nelson at Trafalgar. Just as importantly, lying beneath the site’s concrete are the avenues, orchards and trial beds of John Evelyn’s garden, where he experimented with the new plants brought back by Deptford ships from all corners of the globe, thus having a enormous influence on garden design and planting in England in the seventeenth century; a re-creation of that garden is certainly one possibility that the group would like the developers to consider.

Thanks to Jon Wright from the Council for British Archaeology for forwarding.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Lenox study day - save the date!

Deptford Is.. and Build the Lenox are working together to organise a study day which will be held at the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford.

There will be a series of talks given by experts on naval dockyards and the history of the Lenox and her sister ships, and we also hope to be able to bring you the latest news from the dockyard at Rochefort in France where the Hermione will just have taken to the water for the first time!

The Hermione under construction

If there is enough interest from delegates, we will investigate the possibility of visiting the Royal River exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich after the presentations.

The date for your diary is Wednesday 11 July.

There will be a charge for the event will include lunch and refreshments, with any surplus going to the funds for the Lenox project.

The full programme and booking details will be announced on this site and on Build the Lenox before the end of May.

We hope to see you in July!

Friday 11 May 2012

Build the Lenox forms a CIC

The proposal to build a replica of the Restoration warship the Lenox in the restored King's Yard is one of the projects that comes under the Deptford Is.. umbrella organisation, so we are pleased to announce that Build the Lenox has now been constituted as a Community Interest Company and is starting the process of raising funds and applying for grants.

Build the Lenox already has a project website where you can get more details about this exciting community-led proposal, and has just added a funding page with information about what costs are involved in running the campaign and how they are being met so far.

A Paypal donate button has been included for anyone wanting to support the project, and the team will be announcing specific fundraising efforts in the near future.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Thank you for signing our petition

Things have moved on considerably since we began our campaign in September 2011. Our online petition to Lewisham Planning, Hands Off Our Heritage, hopefully aided their resolve to work with Hutchison Whampoa to find a better solution for the site. Deptford Is... would like to thank all those who signed and recommended it.

Saturday 5 May 2012

John Evelyn study day

The John Evelyn study day organised by members of Deptford Is... in collaboration with the Garden History Museum and the London Parks & Gardens Trust was a great success, despite poor weather.

A report of the event was posted on London's Lost Garden blog.
The Mulberry Tree in Sayes Court Gardens

Wednesday 25 April 2012

King's Yard archaeology 'insufficient' evidence for statutory protection

Efforts made to extend the statutory protection to the docks and other underground structures remaining at Deptford's former Royal Dockyard have been dismissed by English Heritage, despite the fact that archaeological investigations at the site are not yet complete.

Excavations are due to continue until May

The body responsible for deciding whether to schedule or list heritage structures and ancient monuments has concluded that the four elements of the site that were submitted for consideration – the Great Dock, the Great Basin, the 17th Century Mast Pond and the Officer's Terrace – are not worthy of protection because 'insufficient evidence of the survival of nationally important archaeological remains'.

Deptford Is… in receipt of the EH report, released last month, which was furnished by the Heritage Protection Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The deadline for a formal request for it to be reviewed – with grounds – is 16 May 2012.

Deptford Is… disappointed and puzzled that EH has decided there is insufficient evidence of survival of national importance. The report does not take account of currently available data and admits "we are aware of on-going archaeological excavation…but the results of these investigations have not yet been collated."

English Heritage was asked to review its previous decision made in 2010 not to schedule the site, in the light of new archaeological information and because the decision was believed to based on erroneous assumptions and incomplete information. And although this review has concluded once again that the main elements of the site do not qualify for statutory protection, it does acknowledge that the river wall, which had previously been dismissed, is in fact worthy of assessment for listing after all.

Part of the river wall which is to be assessed for protection

EH also admits that some of the information on which it based its previous decision not to schedule was incorrect. It is our belief this 2012 review of the 2010 decision contains yet more errors.

The report conclusion states: "Based on present evidence we do not believe that the site meets the criteria for scheduling. However, further attention ought to be given to the river wall as mentioned above."
Reasons for Designation Decision:
Four elements of Convoys Wharf – the Great Dock, the Great Basin, the C17 mast pond and the site of the Officer’s Terrace – are not recommended for scheduling for the following principal reasons:
• Survival: insufficient evidence of the survival of nationally important archaeological remains;
• Potential: because of insufficient archaeological evidence of survival at present it is not possible to assign firm archaeological potential to these elements at Convoys Wharf.
• Documentation (archaeological): existing investigations are keyhole in nature and inconclusive. Good below ground survival cannot be assumed, nor can the extent of these elements of the dockyard be defined without much better archaeological evidence.
You can download the 10-page document here.

Deptford Is… intending to discuss the report with all interested groups in order to make a joint response, but in the meantime, readers and supporters can do their bit in the coming week or so by writing to MP Dame Joan Ruddock to request that she herself makes representation (by 16 May 2012) to the DCMS to get this decision reviewed yet again. We will endeavour to apprise Ms Ruddock of the relevant details with which to provide sufficient grounds.

Monday 23 April 2012

Rediscovering John Evelyn's Garden - study day to visit Sayes Court Gardens

The significance of John Evelyn's former garden at Sayes Court, part of which lies beneath the Convoys Wharf development site, is to be explored during a study day organised by The Garden History Society in association with The London Parks & Gardens Trust.

Historians, academics and specialists in garden archaeology will attend a series of lectures at the Linnean Society in Piccadilly before a tour of the site at Grove Street in Deptford. The event will finish with a chance to view a small exhibition and the model of the gardens at the Master Shipwrights House in Watergate Street.

The event, Rediscovering Elysium: John Evelyn’s Garden at Sayes Court will begin with lectures at the Linnean Society (from 11am to 3.30pm) covering the significance, plan and planting of the garden; Evelyn’s scientific interests as a founder member of the Royal Society; the subsequent history of the garden; and current threats and opportunities.

Speakers include: Roo Angell, Robert Bagley, Gillian Darley, Dr Frances Harris, Professor Michael Hunter, Professor Mark Laird, Jonathan Lovie and Dr Jan Woudstra.

At Deptford there will be a tour of the site and a summary of the day from Tim Richardson (gardens correspondent of The Daily Telegraph) at the Master Shipwright’s House, followed by a discussion and drinks. A small exhibition about the garden, with a model, will be on view.

The event will take place on Wednesday 25 April from 11am till 7pm and can be booked for a cost of £48; download the form here or visit the Garden History Society website.

The evening session at the Master Shipwright's House is open to all, with a suggested donation of £3 to cover the cost of refreshments; to attend, please RSVP to Roo Angell. Meet at Sayes Court Gardens at 5.30pm to attend the evening event, or later at the Master Shipwright's House in Watergate Street.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

What the experts are saying: Council for British Archaeology

The Council for British Archaeology issued the following press release on 13th April; it was picked up by the Newshopper (see previous post). We look forward to seeing its contents reported in other publications.

CBA forms expert panel for Deptford Dockyard

The Council for British Archaeology has convened a panel of independent experts to discuss an alternative future for the former site of England’s first Royal Dockyard at Deptford, founded by Henry VIII in 1513.

Calling on the expertise of the Naval Dockyards Society, the Garden History Society, the Panel for Historic Engineering Works and the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, the CBA are hoping to inform a better, heritage-led scheme that delivers wider public benefit and a more sophisticated approach to this internationally important site – one that served this country for nearly 400 years, harboured the Mary Rose and saw the knighting of Sir Francis Drake on the Golden Hind.

Lewisham Council have sent back the planning application for Convoy’s Wharf, which is for over 3,500 new homes, for revisions, claiming rightly that, it was not sensitive enough to unique heritage assets of the dockyard. As a consequence, the developers, Hutchinson Whampoa, have called in Sir Terry Farrell to look at redrawing the masterplan. Meanwhile, DCMS have asked English Heritage to look again at the heritage status of the site, which along with the adjacent Sayes Court Garden currently has no overall designation.

Working with local group Deptford Is, the CBA and its expert panel are looking to assist the developers and English Heritage in their understanding and enhancement of the dockyard and its remarkable history. There is immense potential here, for a scheme to be delivered that benefits the local community, in our Olympic year and with the 500th anniversary of the founding of the site to follow in 2013, surely our first Royal dockyard deserves both protection and respect.
The dockyard at Deptford was founded by Henry VII IN 1513 to build vessels for the Royal Navy. As the dockyard closest to the Navy Board, Deptford grew to be the most important of all the royal dockyards, at its height it was known as the ‘Cradle of the Navy’ and the docks, slipways and wharves constituted 600 feet of river frontage. Buildings that survive on site include the Master Shipwright’s House of 1708, the first purpose-built dockyard offices of 1720 and Victorian slipway covers of 1846. However, what survive below the ground is more impressive. The Great Dock, slipways, mast ponds and the huge basin, along with Sayes Court Garden, constitute an enormous site – one that has had a pivotal role in England’s history.

Other facts -

 - Elizabeth 1 knights Sir Francis Drake aboard the Golden Hind at Deptford in 1581
 - HMS Bounty re-fitted in 1787
 - The rebuilding of Cook’s Endeavour in 1768
 - Several of the warships that served under Nelson at Trafalgar, designed and built at Deptford

Sayes Court Gardens, which was a key site in the formation of the National Trust, was the creation of Seventeenth century diarist, John Evelyn. Made up of an elaborate parterre, long avenues and a great orchard of three-hundred fruit trees, a lake with an island and a large grove of trees of many different species the garden was tremendously influential at the time. Now, unfortunately, it is now almost completely buried under concrete. The Garden History Society has a study day at the site on the 25th April and has recently stated: “The influence of the garden at Sayes Court on garden design and development in England in the 17th century is well documented and its location beside Deptford Docks was fundamental to John Evelyn's science of experimentation with new plants"

The Council for British Archaeology was established in 1944 and is the national amenity society concerned with protection of the archaeological interest in heritage assets. Heritage assets with archaeological interest are the primary source of evidence about the substance and evolution of places and the people and cultures that made them. Local authorities have a duty to notify the CBA of applications for listed building consent involving partial or total demolition.

Deptford Is.. are "a group of local residents who want to ensure that the redeveloped Convoys Wharf offers the best for Deptford and its future". They have proposed a number of alternative projects for the site; a recent consultation allowed them and other local groups to give their visions of the site. A report on the event can be found here.

Hutchison Whampoa Properties and its architect Aedas has submitted an application for more than 3,000 new homes, with a range of tenures, new public squares and the opening of Deptford's Riverside, details of which can be found here.

Deptford the news again

The News Shopper has reported on the Council for British Archaeology's support for our proposals, and has also stated that English Heritage has been requested to re-examine the status of the site by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

ALTERNATIVES to a controversial £1bn high-rise development at a former royal dockyard will be put forward by archaeology experts.

The Council for British Archaeology has convened a panel of independent experts to discuss Convoys Wharf in Deptford, saying the current plans do not respect its history.

Deptford's dockyard was founded by Henry VIII in 1513 as the first royal dockyard, later harbouring the Mary Rose and the Golden Hind when Sir Francis Drake was knighted.

The panel will work with a group of concerned people in the area who have formed the Deptford Is campaign group.

Hutchinson Whampoa's application for 3,500 new homes at the site is currently undergoing revisions with the help of top British architect Sir Terry Farrell.

And the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has requested English Heritage re-examine the site's status, particularly Sayes Court Garden - created by 17th century diarist John Evelyn.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Convoys archaeology on satellite mapping

Despite a time lag of six months or more, the first aerial views of the excavations at Convoys Wharf have appeared on Bing maps.

The status of the excavations on the aerial view, shown below, suggests it dates from about the time of the first public archaeological tours of the site last October.

Copyright: Bing Maps

Below you can see a picture of part of the 1774 Deptford Dockyard model, which has been annotated to show the locations of the docks and buildings that are revealed in the satellite photo. (Click on either of these photos to make them bigger and read the annotation).

With this photo and the evidence we have seen in more recent excavations - plus of course the many areas of the site that have not yet been fully excavated, including the double dry dock, it is clear that the extent of archaeology on the site is immense, and the case for proper listing and protection of the dockyard structures is overwhelming.
Copyright: National Maritime Museum

Sunday 25 March 2012

Open day at Convoys Wharf

The Convoys Wharf community consultation day attracted a large number of people from the local area and beyond, with tours of the site and presentations from local community groups.

It was fascinating to see how much of the original docks are still there, only just below the surface of the ground. Many of the stone and brick structures seem to be in pretty good condition where they have not been damaged by later construction, although the archaeologist Duncan Hawkins, whose company CgMs is working for developer Hutchison Whampoa, would not be drawn on the structural soundness or otherwise of the dock walls.

The turnout was impressive, and quite a few people were unable to find seats in the marquee, which had been set up with tables and chairs, but still remained standing throughout the presentations, demonstrating that they were keen to hear about the alternatives.

The head of the European arm of developer Hutchison Whampoa, Edmund Ho (below), welcomed everyone to the event during the introductions, along with Joan Ruddock, who attended the launch of our alternative vision last year, and declared herself to be in full support of our plans. 

Deptford Is.. member William Richards (below) introduced the three projects that we are proposing, and urged the audience to consider the future of the site very carefully.

"It must be said that anyone here should count themselves as crazy if they were to resist inevitable and necessary regeneration of this site, which has the assets of place, location, scale and heritage to make it remarkable in London.
"It is with a desire to achieve that the community offers its ideas. Some of the specific ideas are relatively new, some are the result of ten years of actively engaging with and researching the site; all the ideas are almost beyond imagination - but the challenge for everyone in this room is to elevate the future of the site beyond the banal, beyond the expedient and reflect the values of the site into the future. It must be excellent.
"It must work, for those who live here today and for those who will come to Deptford in the future."

William introduced other members of the group to talk about our three proposals - the Lenox project, Sayes Court Gardens, and the Seven Bridges, all of which were also presented at our alternative vision launch last year.

Other presentations included inspiring contributions from members of the Second Wave Youth Arts group in Deptford, who urged the planners to consult and engage with the young people of the area. It was not simply a plea to be consulted, it was a confident statement that the young people of Deptford have a lot to offer that the masterplanners can benefit from.

Architect Sir Terry Farrell, whose firm has been employed by Hutchison Whampoa to review the masterplan for the site, rounded off proceedings by explaining that he and his team would go away and consider all the comments and ideas, before starting on the next phase of the consultation process which would inform the masterplan review.

The Deptford Dame has also published a report on the event, which you can read here.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Come to the community consultation day!

The community consultation day which is being hosted by developer Hutchison Whampoa on Saturday 24 March is probably the best opportunity yet to make the strength of feeling in the local community heard by those responsible for the masterplan.

With its existing masterplan attracting strong criticism for riding roughshod over the significant heritage of site, Hutchison Whampoa has asked Sir Terry Farrell's practice to consult with the local community before carrying out a review of the masterplan. He will be attending the open day on Saturday, at which there will be short presentations about some of the ideas being put forward by local groups, including Deptford Is and its proposals.

If you want to show your support for these ideas, in front of the people who have the power to make them happen, you should make every effort to attend. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions of the developers, the architects and the local groups. To take part in the presentations and question-and-answer sessions you must arrive promptly by noon.

You can also join a tour of the site and see the archaeological dig which is underway - tours are either at 11.15am or at 2.15pm and take about an hour.

Full details are listed below - the event will take place on the Convoys Wharf site:

11.00 Exhibition opens

11.15 – 12.15 Site and archaeological tour opportunity 1

12.15 –14.15
Welcome from Hutchison Whampoa, followed by speeches and presentations, including Joan Ruddock MP, Sir Terry Farrell and colleagues, and local community groups.

The presentations will be followed by question and answer opportunities and refreshments will be provided during the two-hour period.

PLEASE NOTE: If you want to take a full part in these sessions, please arrive promptly at noon. Register for one of the site tours on arrival.

14.15-15.15: Site and archaeological tour opportunity 2
16.00 Exhibition closes

You must bring appropriate footwear and clothing for the site tour, bearing in mind that the site can be dusty and muddy depending on the weather.

For further information and to confirm attendance please call 0845 460 6011 or email

Saturday 10 March 2012

New date for community consultation event

Hutchison Whampoa, the developer of Convoys Wharf, has invited members of the local community to attend an open day on Saturday 24th March from 11am to 4pm.

The event is slated as 'presentations and discussions about future plans for the site'.

The poster says that the presenations start at 11am and there will be an opportunity to tour the site. You should meet at the entrance to Convoys Wharf, which is at the top of New King Street.

According to the poster you should email to confirm attendance, or call 0845 460 6011.

Sunday 4 March 2012

The significance of Deptford's dockyard basin

Museum of London Archaeology has published brief information on its website about the continuing excavations at Convoys Wharf. The latest post focuses on the Dockyard Basin, one of the most important below-ground structures on the site which lacks any kind of statutory protection.

MOLA says:

"The excavations... have unearthed several phases of the Dockyard Basin. This large pool probably began as a natural pond at the confluence of the River Thames with the small stream identified earlier in the excavation. Historical sources suggest that the basin was adapted to moor several of the King’s ships in the early 16th century and later used to season masts. By 1688, the Dockyard Basin (or ‘Wett Dock’) was hexagonal in plan, with slipways on the west side and a canal connecting it to the river. Once the ships were largely complete, they were launched into the basin to be fitted out.

"Excavations have identified a timber revetment wall that probably dates to the 18th century when the basin was remodelled. The revetment was held in place by large horizontal timber beams, called land ties, on the landward side.

(copyright MOLA)
The east wall to the canal linking the basin to the river, built in 1814 to John Rennie’s design. The recess to the right of the depth gauge would have housed an iron and timber gate. The wall replaced an earlier timber version, seen in the background of the image.

"The early 19th century saw a dramatic increase in the size of warships and the four slipways at the edge of the basin shown in the c1774 model had been replaced by two much larger stone slips by 1868. These stone slipways were protected from the weather by an open-sided cover building, now known as the Olympia building (listed Grade II). The cover building is one of only two structures visible above ground that date to the Dockyard period (the other being the Shipwright’s House outside the boundary of the site).

(copyright MOLA)
The same canal wall looking west from the landwards side; this side of the wall would not have been visible when the basin was in use as it was below ground level.

"The excavation has revealed the evidence for two phases of canal walls linking the basin with the river. The later phase, built in brick and stone in 1814 to a design by John Rennie, is shown in the first of these images with the earlier timber version, just beyond, to the east. Depth gauges were identified in both phases of walls – Roman numerals cut out of copper plate and nailed to the timber wall and carved into stone in the later phase."

But the extent of the excavations being carried out on this enormous site, which has huge significance for the nation's maritime heritage, are woefully inadequate. While the condition of the underground structures that have been uncovered has been found to be variable, it is impossible to state conclusively – as developer Hutchison Whampoa is doing – that these heritage structures cannot be saved. Only a tiny percentage of the dockyard has been excavated, yet the developer is dismissing any suggestion that these major structures be incorporated into the masterplan, instead proposing 'preservation in situ' which essentially means that no foundations will theoretically be allowed to damage the remains, but they will still be buried below a permanent building.

The current masterplan for Convoys Wharf completely disregards English Heritage guidelines on maritime & naval buildings (2011), which highlight works by John Rennie as worthy of a high grade of protection and describe sites such as the basin, basin slipways, basin slipway covers and caisson gate infrastructure as 'sites of collaborative genius'.

In the case of Convoys Wharf, these below-ground structures are all works by eminent Georgian and early Victorian engineers.

Deptford was the first of the royal naval dockyards to have a wet dock or basin and this technology was exported to outlying dockyards such as Chatham in about 1650. Under the administration of Sir George Carteret, Deptford's skilled workmen and naval dockyard officers built the wet dock at Chatham.

The basin is also where John Evelyn carried out the first diving bell experiments, where Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in 1768, where Bentham built the dry dock in 1802 with Edward Holl, where in 1814 John Rennie rebuilt the basin entrance with the latest caisson gate technology, where Capt. Sir William Denison built the slipways to the basin with slipway covers built by George Baker &Sons, where George Biddel Airey tested the effect of a ship's magnetism on navigation instruments, and from where in WWI and WWII, supplies were sent out to troops stationed around the world.

The developer's design team has also ignored English Heritage London area committee comments from 2003 and 2005 which requested that the Olympia building be visible from the river. Hutchison Whampoa has dispensed with the Richard Rogers proposal, which was to create a public plaza on the site of the basin – the current masterplan all but cuts the Olympia building off from the river, preventing the building and its importance to the site and the former dockyard from being properly understood, and making a mockery of PPS5 guidelines on planning for the historic environment.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Maritime heritage in the spotlight

Interest in ships and Britain's maritime history is booming at the moment, with the Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant higher on most people's summer plans than the 2012 Olympics.

Image: Josh Knowles

At high water in the afternoon of Sunday 3 June 2012, up to a thousand boats muster on the River Thames in preparation for Her Majesty The Queen to lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. It will be one of the largest flotillas ever assembled on the river. Rowed boats and working boats and pleasure vessels of all shapes and sizes will be beautifully dressed with streamers and Union Jacks, their crews and passengers turned out in their finest rigs. The armed forces, fire, police, rescue and other services are all afloat and there are an exuberance of historic boats, wooden launches, steam vessels and other boats of note.  

Meanwhile those looking for a quirky hotel room in London can stay in this 'beautifully crafted timber object' – a boat-shaped hideaway perched on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, overlooking the Thames.

Closer to home, the National Maritime Museum is campaigning to raise the funds to have Yinka Shonibare's sculpture Nelson's ship in a bottle brought to Greenwich for permanent display. 

With interest in maritime heritage so high, it's a shame that the Queen's pageant route does not include a nod to the country's original Royal Dockyard at Deptford, but in 2012 there is little to see on the site. In future years, however, we very much intend that this will not be the case and believe that a restored dockyard could contribute to celebrating our heritage in a much wider context than just the construction of the Lenox.

Around the country, numerous boat restoration and rebuilding projects are springing up and many of the ships around which these projects are based have links to, or could be constructed at, the King's Yard.

The HMS Beagle Project includes a proposal to build a replica of the HMS Beagle, the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed in 1831 on the voyage of discovery which led to him developing his theory of natural selection. The project is 'A global initiative launching a modern rebuild of HMS Beagle to inspire and motivate global audiences through unique public engagement and learning programmes and original scientific research.'

Ship and land-based science and learning programmes are planned to link students and scientists with peers around the world – and even in space. Once rebuilt, the boat will follow the route of the original voyage around the world, this time in company with a modern research vessel designed and built in Chile.

Finally we have recent news that responsibility for the wreck of the first HMS Victory has been handed over to the Maritime Heritage Foundation, and they plan to raise it. The ship's connection to Deptford is that it was built by Joseph Allin Jr in his role as surveyor of the Navy. He was the son of the Master Shipwright of the King's Yard, who was also called Joseph Allin.