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.

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