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Ideal Home - Deptford - This eexcellite site has a brief history, as well as pictures and maps.  The site also has a special study of Deotford New Town: a working class suburb.

British Library - Deptford plans and drawings - One of the library'sonline exhibitions features a large collection of pictures and maps of Deptford.  A little treasure trove - I have used some here.

Kent Archaeological Society- a transcription of the Tithe Award Schedule for Deptford in the year 1847.

British History Online - an in-depth history of  Deptford from Old and New London published in 1878 by Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 

The Diary of Samuel Pepys - this page of the site lists all the references Pepys made to Deptford - you can click on the diary entry and see what he said.

Kent Online Parish Clerks - the Deptford page has a few links to records - e.g. 39th (Deptford) Divisional Artillery (1915-18)

Old Deptford History - a blog site that is interested in all things old Deptford.  Some photos, stories, a bit of history and so on

A Vision of Britain - maps, statistics, links, gazeteer entries and so on

Deptford Creek.jpg

Deptford, was perhaps, the first place that I began to take a historical interest in, as I started on this family history journey.  For I began with my grandmother, Maude Beatrice Magee, and as I followed her ancestry backwards I came quickly to Deptford, about which I knew little, even though I grew up just across the river.  So when I cam to write up her father, John James Magee, I grasped the opportunity to post some links, pictures and maps, as well as giving a very brief picture of the place.  I knew virtually nothing about it, other than that it was 'poor' - though where I got that from I do not know.  Further investigation, told me that it straddles Surrey and Kent via the Ravensbourne River, whose deep ford gave the settlement its name, the ford being replaced by a bridge.  Deptford is right up against Greenwhich - once the royal palace of course, and Woolwich, and righ on the river.  The map below, dated 1850, clearly shows the Ravensbourne and the settlement of Deptford - mostly to the left of the river,with Greenwich to the right.  The naval dockyard is on the river to the left of the Ravensbourne, and the main settlement is around the main road.

deptford cross map.png

The engraving on the left is dated around 1800 - not that you can see much of Deptford itself, it's more a view of the river itself.

There is no better way to discover Deptford's history than to read the entry from John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazeteer of England and Wales (1870-72).  It really tells you everything you need to know.  (I have edited it slightly.)  The full entry can be found in the Vision of Britain website.

"DEPTFORD a town and two parishes which are also sub-districts, in the district of Greenwich; part of one of the parishes in Surrey, the rest of that parish and whole of the other in Kent.  The town stands at the influx of the Ravensbourne rivulet to the Theames, and on the London and Greenwich railway, immediately W of Greenwich, and 3 miles SSE of London Bridge.  It is the Depeford of Chaucer, whose pilgrims went through it; and it took that name, of which the present one is a corruption, from a deep ford in the Ravensbourne, long ago superseded by a bridge.  It was at one time, a small fishing village; but it sprang into a town from the establishement of a royal dock at it, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII.  It was visited by Elizabeth in 1581, to see Drake in the ship with which he had just 'compassed' the world', and was the place where the Czar Peter studied the science and practice of shipbuilding.  It suffered desolation by fire in 1652; by Wyatt and his rabble in 1653; by the plague in 1665; and by a high tide, rising 10 feet in the lower streets, in 1671.  It presents a crowded, irregular disagreeable appearance; yet contains well-built streets and many good houses.  As castle was built at it, by Gilbert de Magnimot, soon after the Conquest, but has disappeared.  A mansion, called Sayes Court, succeeded the castle; was long held by the family of Say; passing, in 1651 to John Evelyn, author of the 'Sylvia', was then famous for its fine garden and a fine holly hedge; suffered great damage from temporary occupancy by the Czar Peter, figures graphically in Sir Walter Scott's novel of 'Kenilworth', and was at length swept away, and gave place to a workhouse.  The original bridge over the Ravensbourne was a wooden structure; was rebuilt of stone in 1628; and reconstructed of cast-iron in 1829.  The Trinity House, now the Trinity Board, was first established here by Henry VIII; held long its meetings in an old hall, taken down in 1787; and removed then to Water Lane, Thames Street, and afterwards to the present building on Tower Hill.  The royal dockyard became so enlarged as to occupy 31 acres, and to includ two wet docks, three building slips, two mast ponds, a mast house and other appurtenances; but is now no more than a third-rate establishment.  The original building for it forms part of a quadrangle, with additions made at different periods.  The victualling offices, a long range of brick buildings west of the docks, are still of considerable importance; and they include part of the ground of the quondam Sayes Court garden.

1840 Deptford Bridge.jpg
sayes court 2.jpg
Deptford Dockyard.jpg
sayes court.jpg

Deptford Dockyard in the late 18th century by Joseph Farington (above right).  There does not appear to be a lot else in Deptford!

Deptford dockyard 2.jpg
Deptford river front 1787.jpg

St. Nicholas church was rebuilt in 1697; remodelled in 1716; has a much older embattled tower, and contains monuments to Fenton, Pett, Shelvock, several Brownes, and others.  St.  Paul's church was built in the time of Queen Anne; has a west end spire; and contains a mural monument by Nollekens, to Admiral Sayer, and two grand monuments to the Finches.  St. John's church is a Gothic edifice of 1854.  Christ Church has a mission building of 1864.  Two independent chapels are structures of 1861 and 1862, the one Gothic, the other Italian; and there are four other dissenting chapels.  Two hospitals for pilots and ship masters, exist in connection with the Trinity Board, the one built toward the end of the 17th century, the other built in the time of Henry VIII, and rebuilt in 1788.  The Dreadnought, of guns, which captured a Spanish three decker at Trafalgar, now lies as a hulk adjacent to the town, and serves as an hospital ship.  Addey's school has £415 from endowment; Stanhope's or Gransden's School, £212; and other charities ¢260.  The town has a post office under London, S.E., a railway station with telegraph, and a banking office; is a seat of petty sessions, and is grouped with Greenwich, Woolwich, Chorlton and Plumstead, in sending two members to parliament.  A fair is held on Trini-Monday; and manufactures of earthenware and chemicals are carried on.  Waer works were constructed in 1699; passed by purchase, in 1808, to a company; took then the name of Kent Water Works; draw supply partly from the Ravensbourne rivulet; and deliver about 3,500,000 gallons daily to Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Chorlton and Blackheath ...

The two parishes are St. Nicholas and St. Paul.  St. Nicholas contains royal marine barracks; and St. Paul includes Hatcham hamlet, and St. John, Christchurch, St. Peter and Hatcham chapelries ...  Much of the land is fertile market garden, in the highest state of cultivation."

Flagon Row Deptford.jpg
st pauls deptford.jpg
st nicholas deptford.jpg

My Deptford ancestors definitely fall into the 'poor' category.  Later in life they may have migrated ever so slightly up the economic ladder, and away from Deptford proper to New Cross, Brockley, Peckham and Dulwich, but basically they were probably pretty representative of the later nineteenth centry Deptford populaltion, with one of them working in one of the mills.  And interesting that there is housing redevelopment there - yet another example of a previously poor area becoming trendy and desirable.

A few extra things I discovered are that there were initially two settlements - one at the bridge across the Ravensbouren River, the other, called Deptford Strand, a fishing village on the river.  There were still fields between the two into the nineteenth century.  Convict hulks were stationed offshore during the period of transportation.  The Dockyard proper closed in 1869, was briefly used as a cattle market, had various other uses and is now being redeveloped with houses - no doubt another trendy suburb - I think I saw a reference to tourism being a future Deptford industry.  Greenwich is right next door after all.  The Victuallying Yard, which had been established next to the Dockyard, continued to be used until 1961, but is now owned by the Pepys Estate. 


After the closure of the Dockyard which had brought parosperity, it became "a place of overcrowded housing and insufficient employmemnt.  Most of the men were unskilled labourers doing seasonal work at the dockyards.  Many unsavoury 'fragrances' lurked in the air, as the locality was home to glue works, gasworks, tar distilleries, breweries and manufacturers of artificial manure".  The picture of Flagon Row, at left is a pretty typical view of the place at that time.  The railway from London to Greenwich, mentioned in the Gazzette entry above, was the first to be built in London and dated from 1836.

1839 Deptford Broadway.jpg
Deptford Broadway.jpg

St. Nicholas Church, Deptford

Flagon Row, Deptford

1840 from New Cross Road.jpg
Deptford - Wyllie.jpg

Two views of Deptford Broadway - one by the artist C. Matthews, dated 1839, (above), the other a more recent photograph at left.

Deptford map 1865.jpg

St. Paul's Church, Deptford

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