Archaeology out there - Council for British Archaeology

Archaeology Matters

Deptford dockyard

The CBA is involved in an ongoing campaign to protect and enhance the heritage of the Tudor royal dockyard at Deptford and the historic space of John Evelyn's manor house and gardens at Sayes Court.

Slipway in front of Olympia Building
‘One of London's best kept secrets and also one of its greatest opportunities.’

Dame Joan Ruddock MP

Join the campaign to save the nation's heritage

The CBA are working with great local groups:

Deptford Is… will keep you up to date with the applications.

Build the Lennox is an exciting community project to build a restoration warship.

Sayes Court Garden is developing an international horticultural centre based on John Evelyn's work.

Boris Johnson was really enthusiastic about these two community projects.  See his reaction at the planning hearing for the site on the GLA Hearing webcast - it's the Convoy's Wharf representation hearing, and if you want to skip to the end, the decision is at 02:50:42.

The outline planning application for 3500 homes has been granted, but the two community projects still have a chance to celebrate the heritage of Deptford's royal dockyard.  There is also still much to be called for when the developers consider their main applications, so it's not too late to have your say.

The heritage at Deptford

Built in 1513 by Henry VIII, for the next 350 years, Deptford dockyard played a key role in our maritime affairs.  When England’s world power relied upon its navy, Deptford was at the heart of boat construction, exploration and royal might.  It was the site where Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and where Sir Walter Raleigh is reputed to have laid down his cloak to prevent the Queen muddying her shoes.  Tsar Peter the Great stayed at Sayes Court manor, adjacent to the dockyards in order to learn of the innovative shipbuilding of Great Britain.  Unfortunately, the site does not share the renown of these famous names and its international recognition has faded.

The archaeology of the site is extensive and significant.  Evidence of the dry docks, mast ponds, the basin and the slipways are all there to be referenced in above ground development.  The Tudor dock wall and parts of the perimeter wall are Grade II listed, as is the Olympia building, a great roofed space which was used to cover the slipways, keeping ships dry as they were worked on.

Sayes Court inspired has some of the most important innovations in the history of horticulture and landscape of the last 360 years.  John Evelyn set out his famous garden in 1653, using it to test experimental new designs and horticultural techniques in conjunction with his founding role at the Royal Society.  It was the attempt to secure this historic site as a public park in the late 19th Century which led to the formation of the National Trust.  Unfortunately the Trust did not acquire Sayes Court, and only a small portion of the park remains - the rest, including the site of the manor house, now falls within the boundary of Convoys Wharf (also known as Deptford dockyard).

CBA Casework Officer Claire Price explains why under the concrete there is a wealth of archaeological remains that tell the story of the Deptford Docks complex on the World Monuments Watch website.

Share this
Back to top

Speak up for archaeology now!

Help us to raise the profile of archaeology in the UK, guide policy and best practice and safeguard our unique heritage.

Join the CBA