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