Sunday, 6 November 2011

Alternative vision is launched

Last weekend the Deptford is... campaign launched its alternative vision of the future for the massive Convoys Wharf redevelopment.

This community-led alternative has been put together in response to a planning application, submitted by Hutchison Whampoa, which fails to adequately address the substantial heritage of the site.

More than 100 people visited the exhibition during the two open-house events, including local MP Joan Ruddock, Lewisham councillors, representatives of local residents associations, colleges and institutions, business owners, SE London bloggers, historians, architects and many residents of Deptford.

Visitors on Friday night heard a presentation by shipbuilding historian Richard Endsor and Deptford shipbuilder Julian Kingston on the proposal to bring shipbuilding back to Deptford's former royal dockyard. They propose to build a full-scale replica of the Lenox, one of Charles II's warships which was originally built at the King's Yard in 1678.

Apart from reconnecting Deptford to its maritime history, this project would offer training in traditional crafts and skills, apprenticeships, educational and employment opportunities for local people, as well as creating a tourist attraction to complement neighbouring Royal Greenwich.

The Hermione project, in Rochefort, France, attracts a quarter of a million visitors per year who each pay €15 to see the ship under construction, demonstrating that such a heritage project could be self-sustaining, as well as bringing increased footfall to Deptford town centre, having a hugely beneficial impact on the local economy. 

Archaeologist and researcher Karen Liljenberg and landscape architect Roo Angell spoke about the practicalities and benefits of bringing John Evelyn's influential Sayes Court Gardens back to life on the site, and the significance of this proposal for local and national heritage.

This project has potential as a source of skilled employment, a training facility for apprenticeships and an educational resource for local schools, but also a meaningful focus for socially cohesive activities and events.

Moreover the garden would be a place of delight and beauty for everyone to enjoy, a challenge to the trend which sees access to our exceptional heritage reserved for the wealthier boroughs. Planting the numerous trees and medicinal herbs would bring sorely needed and ever-increasing advantages to health and the local environment, and the garden could become once again the setting for experiments and research.

(Model of Sayes Court Gardens on show at the launch)

Deptford is... also proposes that the reopening of the riverfront walkway should take the opportunity to acknowledge the history of the site by recreating the seven bridges that would originally have crossed the seven openings connecting the dockyard basins and slipways to the river.

This plan, with the Tudor storehouse in the centre and the double dry dock to the left, shows the position of three of the former bridges. Where the docks, basin and mast pond entrances are proven to be of granite and brick construction, sensitive restoration could allow them to be reopened. As well as acknowledging the heritage of the site, these would provide marginal habitat for the River Thames.

Visitors to the exhibition were inspired and enthused by the ideas, with Joan Ruddock declaring publicly that she was totally behind the plans and criticising the current masterplan as having 'no vision'. She called for a select committee at which the proposals could be presented, and at which experts could offer their comments on the ideas, in an attempt to "elevate this in front of those who have the power to make a difference".

Members of Deptford is... spoke to most of the visitors during the exhibition, answering questions and gathering responses to the proposals. Many of those representing businesses and organisations in Deptford strongly supported the ideas, and many had suggestions of how they would be able to contribute to, and benefit from, these schemes. These include giving local students experience in construction and horticultural skills; creating skilled apprenticeships for disadvantaged youth; providing therapeutic and health benefits to the elderly or those with mental health problems; and offering public spaces where communities can connect and grow through formal and informal events.  

In the coming days we'll be publishing greater detail about our ideas, the people behind them and the way that we see them contributing to the success of Convoys Wharf.


  1. sorry i couldn't be there on either day, good luck!

  2. the Panels identifying and outlining the basic ideas for the projects will be appearing soon elsewhere around Deptford. We'll keep you posted.

  3. fingers crossed for deptford!

  4. Hello, I am a reporter from the local news website East London Lines. We are interested in doing a story on the Convoy Wharf development and I was hoping to speak with somebody who is involved in the campaign. We would be very grateful for any time you can spare. You can contact me either by email: michael.pooler (at) or by phone, 07795 325 970. I hope to hear from you soon