Olympia Slip Sheds

Olympia Slip Sheds

The World Monuments Fund announced 8th October that the Royal Naval Dockyard and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden in Deptford is on their heritage sites at risk list. This prompted me to re-post an account of my visit back in February this year.

The last time I visited Deptford river front was on a walk from London Bridge to Greenwich along the Thames Path. The Deptford section had been distinctive because of the poor signage and state of the water front. It seemed a poor relation to Greenwich and Rotherhithe. Yet, Deptford is an important heritage site along the south bank of the River Thames. Originally known as The King’s Yard the site of the dockyard is now Convoy’s Wharf.

Deptford Strand

Prompted by the consultation on its future I ventured there again this time approaching from the DLR station at Deptford Bridge. On this route you pass the Dog and Bell pub which is listed by CAMRA as one of the top 25 pubs in London. I followed the signs to the Thames Pathway which takes you through Sayes Court Park.

Sayes Court was created by John Evelyn the 17th Century diarist and visited by Czar Peter the Great who came to study shipbuilding at the Deptford Dockyard. Much of the garden is buried beneath Convoy’s Wharf but what remains is a small municipal park. It was depressing to see that there was no board to inform the public of this once celebrated garden. Later I looked on Lewisham’s website only to find that it gave scant details of the park’s history.

Perimeter Fence Convoy's Wharf

Perimeter Fence Convoy’s Wharf

The Convoy’s Wharf site is cordoned off and prevents a clear route along the Thames Path. The Olympia Slip Shed is visible through the railings. These are listed and will remain in the scheme. Much of the remains of the dockyard are in this area. The only accessible part of the river front is Deptford strand. The information boards here are desperately in need of replacement and are difficult to read as time has worn the text. One of the canons is pointed enviously towards the Greenwich World Heritage site. With limited access to the historic parts of the area I did think that more could be done to inform and celebrate those areas that were open to the public.

Deptford Dockyard

There has been a long and contentious process in developing this area. The development of the site goes back to 2002 when News International applied to LB Lewisham for outline planning permission to erect residential units. In 2005 the site was acquired by Hutchinson Whampoa. In 2010 a further planning application was made. It was not well received by local people, historians and most other interested parties. In their response The Naval Dockyard Society stated:

“ NDS deplores the project’s high denisity of buildings which will constitute an unattractive intrusion into vistas along the River Thames, an historic route and the cause of the town’s existence, linking royal Deptford and Royal Greenwich. A high quality design should celebrate 500 years of maritime history.”

2013 is Deptford Dockyard’s 500th anniversary and consultation is just beginning on a revised masterplan. Let’s hope that these revisions do celebrate Deptford’s proud maritime past.

It would seem that I was far too optimistic and the developer has not done enough to preserve this heritage site.

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