Saturday 12 October 2013

Deptford Royal Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden listed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch

The Deptford Is... team are very pleased to issue the following Press Release this week:

The announcement in New York on 8th October by the World Monuments Fund of their 2014 Watch marks a positive turning of the tide for Henry VIII’s Royal Naval Dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden in Deptford.

Both sites are under threat from Hong Kong based developer, Hutchison Whampoa, current owner of the majority of the land. HW has submitted plans for 3,500 new homes that will bury the historic landscape largely without trace. Both sites are of international historic significance. WMF Watch list status supports the Deptford Is campaign to build on rather than build over the rich history of the area.

Most people will know the name Deptford, many will know the stories of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Captain James Cook, the Mary Rose, the Golden Hinde, Trinity House, John Evelyn, the Gut-Girls, Erasmus, Samuel Pepys, Czar Peter the Great, Grinling Gibbons, Margaret and Rachel Macmillan, but few will have seen the monumental naval engineering dockyard structures that exist above and below ground or John Evelyn’s garden because since WWII Deptford has been shamelessly stripped of its history.

The royal naval dockyard was the Cape Canaveral of its day, leading the technology of ship building in England. The site of the dockyard served the nation as a military base through five centuries to WWI and WWII. Sayes Court Garden was also a place of innovation, attracting visitors from all over Europe, heralded as the greatest garden of the age. Efforts to save Sayes Court in the 19th Century by Octavia Hill led directly to the formation of the National Trust, based upon the principles of access to open space in our cities.

Deptford is London’s forgotten royal dockyard and Sayes Court is London’s lost garden. Like a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the evolution of London as a port city and England as a maritime power, Deptford is at last being recognised and with access to its heritage can lay claim to the most historic stretch of the London Thames. Hutchison Whampoa’s proposal for preservation in situ (buried beneath residential tower blocks) of both the dockyard and Sayes Court is a wholesale obliteration of the opportunity for access to this world-class heritage. WMF support is critical in helping to make what has remained invisible visible once more.

Today two key projects exist to connect Deptford’s history with the future. Both projects are locally generated and involve major national partners.

Sayes Court Garden envisages the reinterpretation of John Evelyn’s garden, together with an institute of urban horticulture. Sayes Court Garden has support from the National Trust and the Eden Project and has the potential to be both a world-class destination and a rich local resource.

Build the Lenox will provide training, tourism, business and foster local and national pride by constructing a 17th century wooden ship at the centre of a maritime enterprise zone. Build the Lenox already has the backing of London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and has as its patrons TV historian Dan Snow and local MP Dame Joan Ruddock.

The WMF watch-list status will assist the people of Deptford, the local decision makers at Lewisham Council, English Heritage and the GLA to enhance the future of the two sites by creative planning and truly start the master plan “from the ground up” as publicly promised by HW’s architect Sir Terry Farrell in the presence of Edmond Ho, HW’s UK director.

The announcement of WMF support is extremely important and exciting for the future of Deptford. The Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden are Deptford’s equivalent of The Mary Rose or Shakespeare’s Globe. Deptford has an unparalleled vivid history on the London Thames and the WMF watch-list status can help us celebrate a vibrant future. The historic landscape is the starting point. Once the site is formally protected, as all other royal naval dockyards are, the area including Sayes Court Garden will deliver visionary projects bringing jobs, tourism, business, pride in our community and an enhanced sense of place.

Other facts about Deptford Dockyard and Sayes Court Garden:

• Drake was knighted in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 on board the Golden Hinde where the ship became a tourist attraction.
• Deptford has built royal ships and royal yachts since the 1400s and put out ships for naval battles including Armada and Trafalgar.
• The first Ark Royal (Ark Raleigh) was built at Deptford. Its master shipwrights were pre-eminent in the royal navy.
• John Evelyn was a commissioner for the building of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich, he proposed an underground transport system for London and the planting of trees to scent and clear the London air.
• Czar Peter the Great of Russia learned shipbuilding at Deptford in 1698 in order to build the Russian navy.
• Captain James Cook hoisted the pennant on board the Endeavour in 1768 prior to his “discovery” of Australia. 

See the World Monument Fund's announcement on their website.

The Royal George at Deptford, showing the launch of the Cambridge by John Cleverley the Elder © NMM

Further comment from Deptford Is...

Just as there is to be no development over the Double Dry Dock, nor should there be development over the Basin, a contemporaneous structure with the dry dock, as well as being the very origin of the dockyard.

The Tudor Dry Dock at Deptford of 1517 is the ancient predecessor of its modern equivalent just as the Tudor Basin is also the very first of its kind in the country. Shipbuilding slipways are evidenced at Deptford as early as 1420 and the present slipways should not therefore be built over. The 17th and 18th century mast ponds complete the dockyard engineering structures, and until independent expert engineering assessment of the future viability of all the above mentioned structures has taken place no permissions should be given for preservation in situ and development over their sites.

Archaeological reports state that the impact of development on these structures of national importance is severe. To the primary dockyard infrastructure may be added the Navy Treasurers House, a former royal residence of the Duke of York, and the Officers Terrace, until the understanding of the evolution of this early palace front terrace is complete.

Deptford Is... also calls for the reinstatement of the pre-1913 Sayes Court Garden to link up with the site of Sayes Court Manor House.

Plan of Sayes Court House and Garden by John Evelyn, 1653 © British Library

1 comment:

  1. ???????? what is a "reinterpretation" of a garden? and why do we need it?

    Sayes Court Garden envisages the reinterpretation of John Evelyn’s garden, together with an institute of urban horticulture. Sayes Court Garden has support from the National Trust and the Eden Project and has the potential to be both a world-class destination and a rich local resource.