News from the frontier

There have been dramatic changes to Deptford’s historic waterfront along the Creekside and the frontages to the River Thames – once derelict wharves and areas of wasteland.

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A far sighted West End property agent, Len Wallis, realised the potential of such a water side frontage. Upon a visit to his office amidst the remains of the Deptford Power Station, fronting historic Stowage, I was lucky to be shown what he had in mind – now one can see the reality of his dreams.

The award winning Laban Centre for Dance fronts the creek in a dramatic way – I was invited to provide presentation sketches for a press visit – alas the piles of scrap and waste obscured the site – this is where the Borough had one of its waste disposal yards where one could dump old beds and the like!!  I highly recommend a visit to the Swiss designed theatre and studios – they make very good coffee so you can admire the dramatic architecture and the youthful dancers!!

Back next door a set of high rise apartments – stylish as well – have attracted new residents to this once forlorn area which was once a chemical dye fixing plant using copperas shipped in from Whitstable of all places!!

Further down the creek development looms over Faircharm Estate once full of artists and such – Cockpit Arts however still thrives – their periodic open days are a must!!

The Creekside Education Centre alongside the Halfpenny Hatch footbridge supplies a  ‘hands on’ Creekside experience.

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Brewery Wharf still supplies Essex mined aggregates for the adjacent cement making plant which was handy for the adjoining development sites at New Capital Wharf and at Paynes & Borthwick  – I take great pleasure in watching the Prior fleet of little ships bearing the golden sand from my boyhood River Colne where I used to cycle at speed through puddles and up the mountains of excavated sand with great glee.

Creek Road has seen a mini boom of cafes, pubs and of course a bicycle shop!!  The heart of Deptford has changed dramatically – the smart new flats at Paynes & Borthwick  Wharf are now on the market and worth an inspection – blessed with great cross river views and the interesting Twinkle Park. While visiting take note of the great Dockyard Wall which obscures the historic Master Shipwright’s Palace which featured in most historic paintings of the King’s Yard – the birth place of the Royal Navy.

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It is not surprising that John Penn’s shipyard next door fitted the newly invented steam power into existing wind powered frigates, which enabled men of war to go when and where they were required. The family run marine engineering works was located just off Blackheath Hill and many of the family lived close by in substantial houses reflecting their success in all things maritime.

Deptford’s innovations included the Trinity House depot for lightships and buoyage –  funded by the collection and sale of aggregates for ballast, essential for outward bound empty vessels.  P&O and General Steam Navigation had depots just here as well.  Ferranti’s giant power station had a long jetty ( which still remains) to offload Newcastle coal needed for the generation of electric power – which was distributed by cables using the newly built railway up to the City and into the West End’s theatre world – all dramatic stuff!!

The opening of the University of Greenwich campus required student accommodation and, here again, I was asked to provide drawings to illustrate the site and location in Creek Road.  Goldsmiths College, Trinity College and Laban enjoy this nearby facility adding new life to this part of Deptford.

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