Deptford

Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Deptford  was first recorded in 1293 as Depeford, meaning deep ford (across the River Ravensbourne, a tributary of the Thames).

The ford, and the trackway leading to and from it, had almost certainly been in existence in the pre-Roman period, and became incorporated into Watling Street in the Roman.

1-battle-of-deptford-bridge-plaque-blackheath

By Medieval times, a small village had sprung up here, on what had by then become part of the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury, and it was  referred to in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, published in 1400.  The Battle of Deptford Bridge was fought here in 1497 (see June 17th posting).

2-wall-of-former-east-india-company-dockyard-watergate-street

In later post-Medieval times, the former village  grew into a sizeable town, with strong and lasting links to the Royal Navy, and to maritime trade (including the iniquitous slave trade).  One of the Royal Naval Dockyards was built here in 1513, Trinity House in 1514 (the first master being Captain Thomas Spert of the “Mary Rose”), and the East India Company Yard in 1607.

In 1549, a mock naval battle was staged here for the entertainment of Edward VI (see June 19th posting); in 1581, Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake here aboard his ship the “Golden Hind(e)”, recently returned from its successful circumnavigation of the globe (see August 4th posting); and in 1698 the Russian Czar Peter the Great stayed in John Evelyn’s house here in order to study the shipyards (see February 2nd posting).

The area’s comparative prosperity began to decline in the eighteenth century, after the seventeenth-century rebuilding of Chatham Dockyard, which was more accessible to ocean-going shipping, being situated in the Thames estuary, some twenty-five miles further downriver.

7-goddards-pie-and-mash-shop

The decline continued into the nineteenth century, as evidenced by William Booth’s “Poverty Maps”, and was accelerated by the bombing of the Blitz of the Second World War in the twentieth, but is now in the process of being reversed by regeneration.

8-the-boundary-stone-marking-the-boundary-between-kent-and-surrey

Deptford was historically part of the county of Kent, but since 1965 has been officially part of Greater London.

Church of St Nicholas

general-view-of-church

memento-mori

The church of St Nicholas was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth or fifteenth century and again, partly through the benefaction of the East India Company,  in the late seventeenth,  around 1697, only to be badly damaged in the Blitz of the twentieth.  The fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower still stands.

marlowe-plaque

The poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe – he of the “mighty line” – is buried in the churchyard, having been murdered in a  nearby tavern in 1593  (see also May 30th posting).  There are also a number of surviving post-Medieval memorials in the interior, including those to Sir Richard Browne of Sayers Court (d. 1604), who was John Evelyn’s father-in-law, and to other members of both Browne’s and Evelyn’s families; and to Jonas Shish (d. 1680) and his sons  Michael (d. 1685) and John (d. 1686), all of them Master Shipwrights.  And a late seventeenth-century carved wooden panel of “Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones” that has been attributed to Grinling Gibbons, who is known to have once lived and worked nearby.

Nicholas is the patron saint not only of children but also of mariners and fishermen (and of those wrongly condemned).

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