Monday, December 7, 2009


Saturday 5th December 2009 presented a rare opportunity to visit the Convoys Wharf site in Deptford and a small group of us took a stroll around this huge site. Site owners Hutchison Whampoa are intending to amend the current planning application in January 2010 and Saturday was a chance to see the new proposals. Contrary to what some people believe the previous proposals were never formally approved and no Planning Permission was ever granted.

Henry VII originally purchased the site in the late 15th century and his son Henry VIII opened his Royal Dockyard there in 1513. Construction of vessels for the Royal Navy continued until 1869 and then from 1871 until the First World War it was the location for the City Corporation's Foreign Cattle Market. Over 4 million live sheep and cattle were landed and slaughtered on site.

After the war the site lay unused until a director of the News of the World leased part of the site for importing newsprint in 1923. The entire site eventually came into the ownership of News International who continued to import paper until early 2000. News sold the site last year to Hutchison Whampoa for approximately half the price that had been agreed in 2005.

The exhibition and tours take place again on Tuesday 8th December between 2.00 - 8.00pm. Go to the north end of New King Street. Before or after the tour you can stop for a pint or two at the Dog and Bell in Prince Street near the corner with Watergate Street.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Allure of the East

Some fascinating London geography in Sunday's Brisbane Times.

Not only is Deptford just "around the corner" from Spitalfields and Whitechapel but violent crime is 20 times worse here than the oh so peaceful east end.

A note at the end of the article informs us that The writer was a guest of VisitBritain and British Airways.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Return of Beau Geste

At 3.00pm on Sunday 4th October 2009 BBC Radio 4 will broadcast the first of two hour long episodes of Graeme Fife's new audio adaption of Beau Geste. The broadcast will be available live online and on BBC iPlayer for seven days. As previously mentioned, here and elsewhere author Percival Christopher Wren was born in Deptford in 1875 as plain Percy Wren.

The new radio production was commissioned by the BBC from Art and Adventure. It was recorded on location in Tunisia and was directed by Deptford's very own Willi Richards.

Percy Wren was born in Warwick Street, Deptford and the family subsequently moved to Malpas Road. Wren married Alice Lucie Shovelier in 1899 and in 1901 their daughter Estelle Lenore was born while they were living at the house shown above in Ommaney Road.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jazz at the Herb Garden

Chill-out on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon with Lol Coxhill (above) and Friends including Steve Noble at the McMillan Herb Garden in Deptford. Gate opens 4.00pm and the music is about 4.30 - 6.00pm. A family afternoon of accessible jazz, bring your own refreshments but remember you can retire afterwards to the Dog and Bell or Bird's Nest. Free, but the hat will be passed round.

The McMillan Educational Herb Garden is on McMillan Street SE8 see map below:

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homeward Bound - Dog and Bell 2

The sea shanty below appears in various magazines and books from the 1870s to the present day. Many of those who have published the song seem to have assumed that the references to the Dog and Bell and 'old Archer' are to some sort of every-pub and every-pub landlord respectively. A long discussion of various versions of the song appear here. Notably the song appeared, complete with references to the Dog and Archer in American Sea Songs and Chanteys (Chay, Frank published Norton 1948). However, as we now know Mr David Archer was the landlord of the Dog and Bell in the 1820s. See my post here .

The version below is from here, where a score can be found for the music. All we need to do now is find somebody to sing it.

Homeward Bound

Now to Blackwall Docks we bid adieu,
To Suke and Sal and Kitty too;
Our anchor's weighed, our sails unfurled,
We are bound to plough the watery world.
Huzzah, we are homeward bound (2x)

Now the wind blows hard from the east-nor'-east,
Our ship will sail ten knots at least;
The purser will our wants supply,
And while we've grog we'll never say die.

And should we touch at Malabar
Or any other port as far
The purser he will tip the chink,
And just like fishes we will drink.

And now our three years it is out,
lt's very near time we backed about;
And when we're home and do get free,
Oh won't we have a jolly spree.

And now we haul into the docks
Where all those pretty girls come in flocks,
And one to the other they will say:
"Oh here comes Jack with his three years' pay"

And now we haul to the Dog and Bell
Where there's good liquor for to sell.
ln comes old Archer with a smile,
Saying: "Drink, my lads, it's worth your while."
For I see you are homeward bound,
I see you are homeward bound.

But when our money's all gone and spent,
And none to be borrowed nor none to be lent,
ln comes old Archer with a frown,
Saying: "Get up, Jack, let John sit down."
For I see you are homeward bound,
I see you are homeward bound.

This version originally From Oxford Book of Sea Songs, Palmer RG

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I might have to move to Clapton, o

Nothing to do with Deptford, but Bad Dalston Short Stories is a wonder to behold. William McGonagall meets the urban edge.

Try this Haiku or this one. Plenty more besides.

The Question is: Should we have a Deptford equivalent, or should we leave it to the national press to write rubbish about us?

Monday, August 10, 2009


Even by Lewisham Council's lax standards the current occupiers of 172 Deptford High Street seem to be allowed to get away with just about anything. An air-conditioning unit and cage has, between Friday afternoon and lunchtime today, been bolted to the footway in front of this shop unit. I telephoned the call centre number, published on Lewisham's website as a contact for Highways, to report the matter. After five minutes of inane tapes telling me that it was a time of heavy demand, or suchlike, I was eventually offered the call-back facility. When I was called back about 15 minutes later, I was, after I explained the situation, told that it was 'up to the shop' whatever that meant. When I asked to speak to someone who actually understood Highways matters they hung up. I then telephoned Lewisham Council's main switchboard and was put through to somebody, apparently at random, in Highways. I was told that somebody will make a visit to investigate, but I am not holding my breath.

172 is the unit of Favour UK Limited liveried as Western Union Money Transfer next to what used to be The Pilot Public House at 174. I am not able to find any record, on the Lewisham planning database, of planning permission being applied for, let alone granted, in regard of the 'Western Union' frontage. Despite complaints regarding the destruction of The Pilot's frontage Lewisham Planning have failed, and are apparently failing, to take any effective action.

Deptford High Street is supposed to be a Conservation Area, but that is an apprently an entirely meaningless designation to the paper shufflers in Catford.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Devonshire House Deptford Ball 1920

After the 1st World War Deptford was down on its luck, again. The Foreign Cattle Market, now Convoys Wharf, lay empty as live imports of cattle and sheep had been replaced by frozen and chilled meat. Thousands were out of work.

The Duchess of Albany had established the Deptford Fund in the 1890's to finance existing Deptford charities, but it soon provided services itself, the best known of which was the Albany Institute in Creek Road, forerunner of the Albany in Douglas Way. The Institute provided all manner of services for girls and young mothers and their children and a variety of clinics and kitchens. Early in 1920 the Duchess hit upon the idea of holding a fundraising fancy dress ball at Devonshire House, Piccadilly, which was about to be sold.

The Ball was announced in The Times in January. Pathe News recorded a short film entitled The Kiddies of Deptford to show in Cinema Newsreels. A fairly comprehensive list of other south east London Pathe newsreels has been researched and posted by 853.

The Ball caught the imagination of the aristocracy, diplomats and London Society in general. Fancy dress and powder, representing 1760 - 1790 was compulsory for Ladies. For those who did not have such clothes in the wardrobe Harrods designed and advertised two dresses - one of which you can see on the right . Gentlemen were given the choice of court dress with powdered wig, naval ball dress uniform, old military uniform or kilts, hunting coat with knee breeches.

Come the night of Wednesday 14th April 1920 carriages and cars arrived in Piccadilly before the doors were open. The Duchess welcomed guests by telling them how dear to her heart her Deptford charities were. Aristocratic ladies and the American Ambassador's wife organised displays of dancing, quadrilles to represent the great powers of the time, Britain, France and The United States. The following morning's papers eagerly described the guests, the dresses and the venue.

The Times
There were many beautiful women present and many historical dresses worn, and others bearing traces of having been worn at historical functions. If here and there old family lace did not effectively drape the seams worn a little by age, it was to the honour of the wearer, as it expressed the wish of the Duchess of Albany that gowns should be inexpensive.
Supper was served at 11.30pm but the ball continued until 3.00am in the morning. The Duchess was there till all the guests had left but returned that afternoon for a childrens fancy dress ball, also in aid of the Deptford Fund. None of the reports to hand mention anybody from Deptford attending but Lt Col Sir William Wayland, Mayor of Deptford 1914 - 20, and a trustee of the Deptford Fund would almost certainly have attended.

The events raised £3,711 5s 4d for the Deptford Fund.

The Duchess of Albany died suddenly in Austria on 1st September 1922.

The Duke of Devonshire vacated Devonshire House a few days after the ball. A few more events were held there but nothing on the scale of the Duchess of Albany's ball. The house was demolished in 1924 to make way for flats and offices.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tesco come to Deptford

Deptford Se8ker spotted the signs on Friday. A Tesco express store is opening on 30th September at 20-22 Deptford High Street (south end, east side). Opinions may differ as to whether or not this is a good thing for Deptford. Some shops will think that Tesco will bring more trade to the High Street and others will think that Tesco will take their customers. It is the first investment by a major national retail chain since Iceland arrived.

A quick rummage in the Creekside basement reveals that 20 Deptford High Street was, in the 1870s & 1880s, the home and shop of Brighton born bootmaker William Buckwell who also owned land in Bexleyheath. Widowed furniture dealer Ellen Cooper lived next door at 22 Deptford High Street with her daughter Elizabeth.

From at least 1913 up until 1920 funeral directors John Chappell and Sons occupied number 20.

Mitchell & Sons Furnishers were at number 20 from 1938 to 1950.

In more recent years the two shop units were computer training centre Esstech College, before planning permission was granted to extend and refurbish the flats above.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Mary Nichols was born in Deptford in about 1685.

In her twenties she married a butcher and she had children, but for whatever reason by 1713 her marriage had failed and she then took to stealing to provide for the children. She was caught and convicted several times. She was branded for the third time in December 1714.

On 22 July 1715 she committed her final crime. She was living in Whitechapel and went to the house of Christopher Hunt and stole two sheets worth 10 shillings and other unspecified goods. Not being a very competent thief she made too much noise and woke Mr Hunt. He chased her down the road and caught her.

She gave her name to the magistrates as Trolly Lolly, and was subsequently tried and sentenced in that name. Trolly Lolly is an old English song that dates back to at least the early 16th century and would still have been well known in 1715.

She was tried at the Old bailey on 7th September. The report of the trial briefly records: The Prisoner in her Defence said she was going a Hay-making, and saw the Door wide open; which being a very poor one, she was found Guilty of Felony and Burglary . Death was the all but inevitable sentence.

After the trial Mary was held at Newgate Prison where she was attended by Paul Lorrain the chaplain, or ordinary. The position of the Ordinary of Newgate was finacially lucrative as it carried the right to publish the last confessions of those executed. Mary told Lorrain her real name and place of birth and recounted that she had sold meat, but also occaisonally fish, eggs, butter or fruit on the streets around Southwark and elsewhere in London before turning her hand to crime.

Mary's execution did not take place until Wednesday 21st September when she and four other prisoners were taken in carts to Tyburn. Without being taken from the carts Lorrain first prayed and sang psalms with the prisoners and they were then given a few moments to compose themselves, before the nooses were placed round their necks. The prisoners delivered the expected warning to others not to sin and then the carts the carts drew away. No doubt the crowd roared and catcalled but Paul Lorrain was off to the printers.

That night in taverns and ale houses across London those who could read told the Ordinary's Account to those who could not. No doubt many drunken oafs danced a Tyburn Jig in crass imitaion of the prisoner's death throws. Perhaps more quitely, others pondered the fate of Mary's children.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In June Caroline posted Deptford and the Foreign Legion about Beau Geste author Percival Christopher Wren having been born in Deptford in 1875 as plain Percy Wren. He amended both his place and year of birth in later life. As Caroline outlined accurate details about Wren's life can be hard to pin down, but are by no means impossible.

In 1933 Philadelphia autograpgh collector Frank Tricker wrote to Wren requesting an autographed photograph. Wren sent the autographed photograph (detail on right) with a cigar band attached under cover of the letter below. Frank's son Barry Tricker has kindly agreed to my publishing both on this blog. On Wren's shoulder there is a crown denoting the rank of Major. When he was a headmaster in Karachi and subsequently Assistant Director of Education of the Bombay Presidency (region) of British India Wren was also a member of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, a position that may, or may not, have involved wearing a uniform. He resigned his commission on 1st November 1915 and was granted the honoury rank of Captain in 1918. It was only following the sucess of Beau Geste in the mid 1920s that Wren promoted himself to Major.

Wren's works of fiction sold in their millions and film adaptions were enjoyed by millions more. With copyright expiring in less than three years (he died 22nd November 1941) renewed interest in his work is quite probable. As well as his works of fiction he wrote a number of educational texts. As recently as 2003 Richard C Smith devoted 250 pages of an academic text to consideration of Wren's methods of teaching English as a Foreign Language. Wren's various embellishments of his personal history should not distract too deeply from his genuine talents.

Both the original photograph and the covering letter are for sale at STOWEVINTAGE.COM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Dog and Bell (1)

The June / July 2009 issue of the Campaign for Real Ale's London Drinker magazine carries an excellent article by Julian Stone outlining the History of The Dog and Bell. Julian has carried out extensive research in Lewisham Local History Library and suggests that William Boyes's 1749 victualling business in what was then Dog (or Dock) Street was the forerunner of the pub. Julian may well be right but we lack proof.

Currently the earliest documentary evidence we have for the existence of the Dog is an entry in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey for 30th November 1814. Landlord's daughter Miss Sarah Cooper gave evidence at the trial of Manuel John that she had changed a £20 note at the pub.

The next document is the 1820 will of Montgomeryshire widow Catherine Sturkey which refers to property in Dog Street, Deptford, Kent "known by the name & sign of the Dog and Bell". The will goes on to say that the property was then in the occupation of David Archer. When Catherine Sturkey died the auction of the freehold of the Dog and Bell was advertised in The Times on 5th December 1828, along with the long leasehold of a house in Flagon Row (subsequently Wellington Street and now McMillan Street). Trade directories suggest that David Archer survived the change in ownership and was still there in the early 1830s. More about David Archer in a future post.

Catherine Sturkey was the widow of Deptford surgeon Roger Sturkey who died in 1792 and was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard. Any trace of his garve or tomb is long gone but fortunately Daniel Lysons in vol 4 of The Environs of London (1796) lists the monuments in the churchyard. It is possible that Catherine bought the Dog after Roger's death but it is far more likely that both the pub and the house were bought by Roger when he was practising in Deptford. In a Welsh attic or a solictor's basement there may well be a 1780's conveyance that refers to the pub. The conveyance after the sale in 1828 may refer to, or even reproduce, a conveyance to a Sturkey. We can but hope that one or more of these documents turns up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


The Iyengar Yoga Institute, 470 New Cross Road, nestles between Addey and Stanhope School and one of the houses in front of the Zion Chapel.

The shield in the centre of the pediment bears the words ‘’Established 1866’’, but enter the front garden and you find a small plaque underneath the left hand window that tells you that it opened as the Yoga Institute on 14 December 1994.

What was established in 1866 was the New Cross Building Society but in the 1880s the house was the private residence of William George Fulcher who died on 11TH March 1887. The earliest mention as the building society’s headquarters is in 1901.

The society was there until 1984 when the Registrar of Friendly Societies closed it down. The society went to the High Court and won, but the Court of Appeal re-instated the Registrar’s decision. It had been a relatively small society until the mid 1970s but in 1977 the board had embarked on a plan to expand the society. The assets grew from £ 6 million in 1974 to £103 million in 1982, but the reserves failed to grow in proportion to the society’s business.

The Master of the Rolls Sir John (later Lord) Donaldson in the leading Appeal Court judgment commented:

“Another disturbing feature was the decision to raise £10m through the wholesale money market…”

By the middle of this decade the closure and judicial comment had been forgotten and rapid expansion and raising loans on the money markets had become the normal way of doing financial business in the UK.

By 1987 the buiding had become Deptford Seventh Day Adventist Church, but they subsequently moved to Devonshire Drive in Greenwich.