Shipyard Closure – Nothing new on the Thames
Reading the maritime journals is most upsetting for the Brits – as shipyards from afar scoop up ship building orders while the number of UK ship building yards diminish even more.
The closure of Portsmouth’s historic facilities has long been expected, but the reality is not easy to bear as, one by one, the long list of once Royal Dockyards shakes off its ship construction. This, no doubt, makes our lordships up in the Admiralty shake with fear as the RN becomes suddenly more reliant on Johnny Foreigner to supply the goods.
As recently described, London Thameside and the Medway shipyard facilities are now filled with Kentish chalk and concrete. A sorry example is to be found nearby at Convoys in Deptford, where most identifiable basins, shipway, docks and the like have been stripped down and filled with rubble. All are awaiting developers to move in to bring in thousands of newcomers, hastened by Mayor Johnson’s interference to speed things along.
Shipbuilding and Naval Yards and Ships on the Thames
I dug out a symposium held by the Greenwich Maritime Institute (part of the University of Greenwich) back in 2006 – the third of a series which attracted a wide range of participants. I will restrain from listing the individual speakers and subject matters, but I remember my astonishment at the number of enterprises that once lined the Thames and the Medway. Please remember that these were major shipyards producing vessels for not only the Royal Navy but also for the East India Company and many other international concerns. Extensive naval shipyards at Deptford, Woolwich, Chatham and Sheerness thrived with their wooden walls.
The introduction of larger vessels brought the iron sides and steam-driven propulsion into the competitive worldwide market, and demand from overseas navies would amaze us now. The present lack of ship repair yards along the Thames is frightening, and our local operators find it difficult to maintain their extensive fleets. The idea of establishing new skills and facilities on the existing docks at Deptford surely makes sense.
Meanwhile, the ship repair yard just downstream from Lovells Wharf is still accepting orders, although their purpose-built facility at Bay Wharf awaits their occupation. The famous local engine builders John Penn & Sons of world renown is having its Thameside works converted into studios and flats and is nearing completion down on the Deptford waterfront. It will make an interesting waterside venue and bring new life into this forgotten part of the historic riverfront.
Surprise surprise – work has actually started on the proposed cruise ship terminal down at Enderby Wharf. Do you remember that this was once a proposal closer to Greenwich Town Centre by the Deptford Creek development which is almost complete? Go and visit Waitrose, which has opened its ‘anchor’ store revealing a whole new world which will give one a foretaste of things to come on the Greenwich Peninsula. May I suggest you take a trip down there abouts, because you won’t be able to find your way as changes are rapidly upon us.