Other stations


Thriving home to the first royal naval dockyard from 1513, in decline when ships became larger and the Thames began to silt up, shattered during the Blitz, hit by the final closure of commercial docks in 2000  - Deptford certainly deserves a break Now smart new homes have risen on the derelict site of the world's first high voltage power station; the famously long railway viaduct arches have been cleared of scrap dealers;  the ancient dockyard is about to be redeveloped and the area round the railway has been regenerated. In spite of all these changes (some highly controversial), Deptford still has many reminders of its seagoing connections and, of course, great river views. An intriguing walk.

From the DLR turn right and cross Deptford Church Street at the lights into Deptford Broadway. (If you have taken the lift, you will need to go over the A2, as you will exit on the South side of the main road). Walk past Lewisham Southwark College and a handsome set of nineteenth-century buildings. This includes a former Montague Burton gents' outfitters which had the usual billiards hall on the first floor. Today it is the Chairbears Day Nursery, so-called because for many years the premises was a furniture store with an enormous chair that stood on the pavement to the delight of kids and adults alike. Happily, it's in place again (but not at weekends when the nursery is closed).

Turn into Deptford High Street. The anchor at the top was presented to the town by Chatham Dockyard in 1988 as a recognition of its maritime heritage. To the fury of local residents the symbol was removed in 2013 - allegedly because it had become the focal point for street drinkers which was not thought to sit well with the tidying-up of the area. After a long campaign for its return it was 'dropped' here once more in 2018.

The High Street is full of small shops, much as most shopping centres were before the advent of chain stores. However, originally this was not a wholly commercial area and some of the facades exhibit a faded grandeur from the time when it was more residential. It's a good place to buy exotic fruit and fish, especially on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays when there is a thriving market. As you wander along look out for:

No.1a Pretty door. (Odd numbers are on the left hand side)
Nos. 8-12 Ornate frieze with the name 'Tricketts & Co, 1889'. They were tea and coffee merchants.
Nos. 11/13 a late Georgian residence, Ionic columns and bow front
Over on the other side of the road
No. 18 has attractive arched windows.
No.34 has the doubtful distinction of being the scene of an 'orrible double murder in 1905 - the first in which fingerprint evidence led to the conviction and hanging of the culprits. Details here.
No. 41 Former Red Lion and Wheatsheaf (at present a cafe). Still has the ironwork for original sign.
No. 77 (Caxton House) was a finishing school for young ladies
Soon after Caxton House pop down Franklyn Street on the other side of the road. The 'S --> 50 yards' sign painted on the left-hand wall indicated the whereabouts of a WW2 air raid shelter (it was under the railway arches.) 

In the High Street again, walk as far as Giffin Street where you will discover a splendid mural, 'His and Hers' by Patricio Forrester of South London public art company Artmongers. Turn into Douglas Way to the west (another shelter sign) and down a cobbled alley on the left (Comet Place) to discover an old granary. Return and continue along Douglas Way to find the The Albany, a community and arts centre.  Go back to the High Street.  A few steps from the railway, is the early Victorian RC church of Our Lady of the Assumption, founded as a mission. Next door was the Mechanic's Institute, founded in 1825. It later became a cinema, then a billiard room. Redeveloped in the 1980s.

Ahead is Deptford station. It was built for the London and Greenwich Railway in 1836, being the first passenger railway in London. Rebuilt in 1927 and modernized in 2012. Note the ramp that runs at a  right angle to the viaduct at the station itself. This unusual feature enabled train carriages to be hauled up to the level of the actual railway line, having been kept under cover. The viaduct runs the whole distance (5.55km) to London Bridge, the longest run of arches in Britain. Railway buffs can read more here.  At first it was planned to use some of the arches as houses, but the idea was abandoned, though over the years many a homeless person has found them useful. As mentioned above, they were shelters during the Blitz. Some of the spaces have been filled in to create cafes etc and the ramp itself has been restored.  On market days there is a flea market at the Douglas Way end of the arches.

Continue up the High Street. 
No.146: a plaque records the fact that Peter the Great attended the Quaker Meeting House on this site during his stay in Deptford (more about him later).
No.152: currently a building firm - note the giant screw painted on the wall
. At what was the Royal Oak pub turn right and enter St. Paul's churchyard. St.Paul's (1730) is a Baroque church of great beauty, designed by Thomas Archer. and built on the site of a market garden. It is worth making a complete tour of the outside to enjoy the unusual design. Unfortunately, for security reasons, the church is normally locked outside the times of services (see church website) but I am informed that it is usually open after the Saturday 10am Mass until about midday. If you do visit, please remember that this is first and foremost a place of worship (in the anglo-catholic tradition). As with all old churches, a donation towards upkeep would be appreciated.The brick structure behind the church was once a charnel house (now used for storage) and the churchyard is laid out as a garden. However, many memorials remain, including one to Mydiddee, a Tahitian prince brought to Deptford in 1793 by Captain Bligh (famous for the mutiny on his ship HMS Bounty). The twentieth-century stone with epitaph written at the time of the ill-fated prince's death is in the grass just beyond the table tomb in the photo. It's a reminder that for centuries Deptford was involved with exploration of the high seas as well as being a naval base. At the East end of the churchyard is an exit on to a main road (Deptford Church Street). Walk left past a block of flats until a narrow path with iron railings which leads to Albury Street via an archway.

 Albury Street is a remarkable collection of early eighteenth century terraced houses. Among the first inhabitants were sea captains and shipwrights, but as activity in the docks slowed, the houses gradually fell into disrepair and several were lost, especially on the South side, now mainly filled with 1970's social housing. Some of the ornately carved door cases were taken into storage by the Greater London Council for safe keeping pending restoration of the street. Sadly, they were stolen, so some of the splendid woodwork you see today is not original.

Back in the High Street turn right.
Nos. 201-203: much older than they look. Behind the bland facade is a late 17th century timber frame.
No. 203 Goddards Pie and Mash. Almost opposite at No. 204 is there's a Manze's Both these well-known establishments serve traditional East London food.
The Swan pub on the corner of has a splendid model of its namesake high up at the corner of Edward Street.

At Creek Road cross by the lights towards the Deptford Methodist Church. Turn right along Creek Road, then left into McMillan Street. Where the road curves is the Rachel McMillan centre which celebrated its centenary in 2014 as the oldest open-air nursery in England. Go left to get to St. Nicholas church. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors - Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook worshipped here before their great expeditions. The skull and crossed bones carvings on top of seventeenth-century entrance gate piers are gruesome, and some think they may have been the origin of the flag flown by pirates. The church's foundations date to the 13th century but it has undergone a variety of alterations over the years. Most of the tower is medieval and survived the WW2 bombing which badly damaged the rest of the fabric and led to major reconstruction in 1958. If you want to visit the interior of the church (much fine wood carving) it's best to check when it's open - contact details on this website - before making a special journey. See also my remarks about visiting St. Paul's. In the churchyard (South side) is a 1701 charnel house built into the outer wall. It's grander than the one at St. Paul's, though it, too, has become just a store.

At the end of the churchyard (left-hand corner) is a plaque recording that the dramatist Christopher Marlowe is buried nearby. His colourful life ended abruptly in 1593 when he was stabbed to death in a Deptford house.
Pass through a gate that leads to a housing estate. Walk straight ahead a few steps, then diagonally left towards the gate in a hedge where there is a small garden and more new housing. Continue via the gap in another hedge. (I wonder if this a reference to Peter the Great. In 1698 the Tsar of Russia spent a few months in Deptford to learn about shipbuilding. He stayed at Sayes Court which belonged to John Evelyn, diarist and horticulturist. Unfortunately, the young royal ended up trashing the house, and famously ruining the garden by indulging in wheelbarrow races through Evelyn's manicured hedges.) Soon you are in Marlowe Path. Ahead is Ferranti Green and the curved sweep of Greenfell Mansions at Millenium Quay. Go up the steps to reach the Thames. (If you wish to avoid the steps, turn left). On the forecourt of the flats you will come across the somewhat peculiar set of statues commemorating Peter the Great. This was a gift from the people of Russia in 2001. The dwarf keeping the tsar company is a reminder that many high-ranking people in the eighteenth century tended to treat people of restricted growth as fashion accessories. To the right is a good view of Greenwich and the Old Royal Naval College, but you should make your way to the left along Thames Walk where you will pass the long, rotting wooden jetty that was used by boats bringing coal for Deptford Power Station. This closed in 1983 and was demolished in 1991 to make space for the residential accommodation you have passed.

At the Ahoy sailing centre you should follow the path inland, then left at Borthwick Street to Twinkle Park, a once-derelict open space, regenerated thanks to the efforts of local residents. Marlowe met his end in one of the houses that stood here. 

Turn right into the suitably named Watergate Street and you will find yourself in a cobbled alley which leads directly to the river. The tall brick wall on the left hides Convoys Wharf, site of the Royal Dockyard and subject of much discussion about what should become of it. The roof of the 1708 Master Shipwright's House is just visible. (The house is sometimes accessible on Open House London weekend.) Opposite, the wall of the converted Paynes Wharf buildings has been left open to allow a view of the new development with its landscaped court. Soon you will be at the Thames. If you have small children with you, please keep a tight hold of them. Go up the steps on the right to view the majestic arches of the former 1860 boiler factory. (To bypass the steps use Wharf Street on the other side of the block - keep to street level). Return to Borthwick Street and potter a little way down Watergate Street to see Rowley House (built by the old London County Council). Look closely at the railings - they are in fact WW2 stretchers! Retrace your steps to the Thames Walk, this time heading towards Greenwich. Just after Peter the Great comes the elegant 2015 pedestrian swing bridge (top photo) at the mouth of the River Ravensbourne/Deptford Creek.

Cross the bridge and keep parallel to Deptford Creek along Dowell Road. When the tide is out the creek is reduced to a trickle - but the patterns left in the mud are beautiful. At the end turn right into Creek Road. Don't worry if it moves slightly. At this point you are standing on a bridge which is raised from time to time to allow boats to navigate the creek. There's a green plaque on the bridge control station: 'This is the mouth of the River Ravensbourne, first bridged in 1804. The Domesday Book of 1086 noted many watermills nearby.' Cross over by the red and white barrier poles and walk back a little to see if any of the vessels belonging to JJ Prior & Co are moored at Brewery Wharf. It's fascinating to watch sand or gravel being loaded and unloaded from the big barges. It was once a common sight, but nowadays most heavy stuff is carried on lorries that clog up the roads.

Change direction towards a cluster of pale green buildings, Greenwich Creekside by Telford Homes. Go down Copperas Street until opposite the sign for Harmony Place, then look upwards for an amazing optical illusion. You will have the distinct impression that the apartment block is cut out of paper! (Incidentally, the name 'Copperas' refers to a strange chemical industry carried on in the vicinity).

At the end of the narrow road turn left into Creekside. The iridescent structure to the left is the Laban Dance Centre (Herzog & De Meuron 2002). This is an another piece of architecture which plays tricks with your eyes. Its huge windows reflect the undulating grass in front, so that children running over the mounds appear several times over and St. Paul's church is reflected in triplicate. The Centre never looks the same two days running, altering according to weather and angle of sun. Most extraordinary of all is the way the long run of glass to the right seems to merge with the foreground, giving the impression that the upper part of the Centre is hanging in mid air. A masterpiece. 

Returning to Creekside we come to the final section of the route. This area has changed dramatically over the last two years, with several blocks of flats appearing in rapid succession. Nonetheless, apart from being the quickest way to Greenwich DLR station, there are some industrial gems along the way- surely you fancy a walk over Ha'penny Hatch Bridge? So, turn left down a path that leads towards the creek by the side of the Kent Wharf development. After checking out the boat graveyard over the water, return to road via the other side of the flats and walk left, passing another new block.   Opposite is some social housing and a park. Soon you will catch sight of the railway viaduct, but don't miss the delightful mural on the left, 'Love Over Gold', the title of a 1980's Dire Straits song. Several members of the group lived in the Crossfield Estate opposite - Deptford was home to a number of rock musicians in the 1970's/80's. Turn left to follow the viaduct. The first few arches were filled in a long time ago and are decorated with art graffiti, however, further along, two or three were still part of breakers' yards as recently as 2015. The iron machinery over the railway dates from 1884, rebuilt 1963. This is lifting gear which allowed the railway lines to be raised for large vessels to progress along the Creek. The new machinery was not in use for long, being permanently sealed off in 1970. The small bridge alongside is the H'apenny Hatch Footbridge, so-called because there used to be a toll to use it. The present version dates from 2002 and unlike its huge neighbour does lift periodically to allow boats to reach the Thames. Through the adjacent arches you can catch another glimpse of the Laban Centre.

Continue along the alley until Norman Road. Right here, keeping a look out for the sewage pumping station (1864) by Joseph Bazalgette.The two main Italianate blocks housed steam-driven beam engines fed from the open coal sheds next to them.  How interested the great engineer would have been to know that the Thames Tideway sewerage project will run beneath them! Almost opposite is a pleasant modern street with varied frontages which leads to Greenwich DLR, where the route ends.

Click on images to enlarge them.
As this route is longer and with more photos than usual, I have made a print-friendly version.



Edith's Streets blog saved me hours of research into the history of the shops along Deptford High Street, while the Deptford Dame helped sort out the complexities of the Regeneration Plan.