Wednesday 25 January 2012

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a 'bloggers preview' of the new Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum.

There's nothing I like more than the chance to browse through archive books or read old journals so I jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple of hours snooping round the NMM's library.

The visit gave me chance to try out the new entrance to the museum through the Sammy Ofer Wing - past the huge cafe which looks out onto the obligatory (but extremely tasteful) water feature and to the park beyond. It's a much more pleasant route into the museum, and eliminates the need to dodge the traffic on Trafalgar Road, but does rather lack the grandeur of the northern entrance.

The library is due to open fully from next Monday - it opened its doors a couple of weeks ago but for limited hours to enable the staff to get used to the new archive retrieval system and not be totally overwhelmed by requests. Apparently if the item is on the Greenwich site, they can now have it available for study in a maximum of 40 minutes of it being ordered, which sounds pretty efficient to me.

They were kind enough to dig out a few old maps of the King's Yard in Deptford for us to have a look at, as well as some of the other treasures that they keep nicely filed in their new environment-controlled purpose-built stores upstairs from the reading room.

Anyone can use the library - you simply have to register on the Aeon system here and then bring ID into the library to get your readers card, which will be valid for three years. Apparently the National Maritime Museum is the first place in the UK to use the US-developed Aeon system, through which archive requests are also made.

The library holds about a million ship plans in its archive in Woolwich, which are slowly being digitised in exquisite detail - some 4,000 are currently digitised and can be viewed on the ship plan viewer at the library which calls up the plans and allows close examination of the documents by zooming, panning and so on.

If you want to get copies of material to take away for research, I'm delighted to announce that photocopiers are obsolete as far as the Caird Library is concerned. Not only is it difficult to manhandle large bound manuscripts onto a photocopier without causing physical damage to them, the heat and light of the copying process is also very damaging to such fragile items. The library has a special book scanner that can copy the pages you want and either print them or put the files onto your USB stick.

Even without having any specific research to carry out, I'd be quite happy browsing the shelves of books in the reading room for hours at a time. This book that I picked off the shelf was fascinating with its photos of the British coastline in the late 1890s.

Bathing machines on Margate beach:

Friday 20 January 2012

Thankfull Sturdee photos at the Deptford Lounge

An exhibition of photographs from the Thankfull Sturdee Collection is now on display at the new  Deptford Lounge. Apparently they are in Room 1, ask the staff if you can't find it. The pictures were intended to be up for just a week, but now be on show until the first week in March, in response to feedback from readers of this blog!
Copies of the photos have also been uploaded onto the Lewisham Heritage Picasa site here.

Attwood's toy shop on Evelyn Street

Thankfull Sturdee was born in 1852 at 209 Evelyn Street; in 1883 he married Catherine Sarah Bland, and at the time was living at 27 Albyn Road, St John's. By 1903 they had moved to 16 Bolden Street, not far from Albyn Road, but in 1910 they were in Brockley, London SE4, where they lived until Sturdee's death in 1934.

Deptford Broadway looking west - not a great deal different from today, except for the traffic!

In 1911 he joined the Daily Mirror as a press photographer. He was a keen photographer and local historian, and he recorded Deptford’s history in images. His negatives and two series of prints with his own notes were donated to Deptford Borough Library not long before he died. These are now held by Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre.

The Lewisham Heritage Picasa account also has quite a collection of other archive images, grouped either by area of Lewisham (New Cross, Brockley, Catford etc) or by subject matter such as 'Lewisham at war', or 'Shops & shopping', where I found this classic image of 119 Deptford High Street.

And if anyone knows whereabouts in Deptford Peter Pan's Pool used to be, please leave a comment!
Thanks to my commenters who pointed out that Peter Pan's Pool was actually in Downham, not Deptford (as the caption in the archive states!) and still endures outside the Homebase store.

New sewing & knitting group in Catford

(Like the crochet star bunting? Find out how to crochet your own stars here)

Being a bit of a crafter myself, I'm happy to announce that a new sewing and knitting group has been set up in Catford South and has its first meeting next Saturday 28 January.

Although it's not particularly local to Deptford, I'm sure I have readers in other parts of the borough who might be interested, and it's probably also worth the schlep if you want to ask advice about a project or get some help from other crafters.

The group is free to attend, and meets every Saturday except the third of the month. It's not a teaching group, it's intended as an informal 'drop-in' for people who already know how to pattern cut, sew, knit, crochet or embroider and are confident in completing projects on their own.

However in my experience, wherever crafters gather in number there's always a willingness to help out, offer advice or explain something that's not clear or obvious.

The group will meet from 11am - 5.30pm (6pm final close) in the Youth Room at St Laurence Hall, Bromley Road.

For more information send an email to and you will get an autoresponse email containing full details.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Betfred - the final push?

It's fairly likely that you are now bored of reading about Betfred's attempt to open a new betting shop on the high street; to be honest, I am bored of writing about it. But I'm not going to stop.

Deptford High Street is seemingly irresistible to bookmakers; we already have seven betting shops on this street and three others within a few minutes' walk; Betfred must be gutted it's not getting a slice of the action and will do whatever it can to get the former Halifax premises opened as a bookmakers. Once the fixed-odds betting terminals are up and running, they'll be coining it in just like Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, William Hill (x2), Betterbet, Coral and McDonnells.

With its initial planning application for change of use turned down first by the council, and then on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate, Betfred proceeded to submit a second planning application which was again turned down by the council.

Naturally Betfred also appealed against this decision, and the Planning Inspectorate is now considering the case for a second time.

I am objecting to this application because I feel we already have more than enough betting shops; not only does it reduce the diversity of the businesses on the high street, but this clustering encourages anti-social behaviour, street drinking and fights in a small, concentrated area, putting people off using the street at night and making them fear for their personal safety.

If you objected to the original application, you will have been sent details of the appeal, which the inspectorate intends to deal with 'by an exchange of written statements'. Now is the time - and your last chance - to reinforce or add to your original objection, if appropriate.

Details of the written appeals procedure can be found here and more information about the process here.

If you have not already objected, you can still make a representation to the inspector by writing in triplicate to:

Ms Vicky Williams
The Planning Inspectorate
3/14 Eagle Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6PN

The deadline for objections is 17 February 2012 and you should quote reference APP/C5690/A/11/2168006/NWF.

You can also comment online here by scrolling down to the bottom and clicking on 'comment on this case' (with thanks to the Blackheath Bugle for making me aware of this).

Be aware that any comments you submit will be made available to all parties, including the appellant (Done Brothers/aka Betfred).

Please pass this on to as many people as you can and urge their support; it will make a huge difference if the inspector gets an indication of the strength of feeling of the local community and will only take a few minutes of your time.

Deptford High Street wins funding

Thanks to Brockley Central for tipping us off to the fact that Lewisham Council's bid for part of the Mayor of London's Outer London Fund has been successful.

While I'm rather surprised to find myself in outer London all of a sudden, I'll happily accept the £2.2 million towards Deptford's 're-invigoration' thank you very much. Both Catford and Nunhead also won funding for street improvements and regeneration work.

Since I couldn't find any info on the council's website about the bid (or else it's buried somewhere silly) I will have to cut and paste shamelessly from Brockley Central, which has a mole in the Mayor's office.

Deptford High Street will benefit from an investment of over £2.2 million in order to re-invigorate the area. Specific activities include a market apprenticeship starter initiative and a market stall and forecourt appearance improvement project. The funding will also support the creation of a new public space at the southern end of the High Street. Other activities include a waste initiative, improved parking provisions and a feasibility study for Hamilton Street Car Park, and the Deptford Moving Art Scheme.  

I'm not sure what 'improved parking provisions' we need (unless it means they are finally going to replace the trees and cheap street furniture that has already been wrecked on Frankham Street's 'parking boulevard') and have no idea what the Deptford Moving Art Scheme is, but I'm guess it will all become clear when the council decides to spill the beans.

Friday 13 January 2012

Giffin Square/104 Deptford High Street

With the Deptford Lounge and Tidemill School now open, anticipation is high for the completion of the public realm works in Giffin Square. As we await the final paving blocks being laid and the seating being installed, we look forward to enjoying this new landscape in its final form.

But it seems these expectations are premature, with a new development about to begin construction on the north side of the square, bringing further disruption and mess to our newly-pristine square. Unfortunately, should the planning application that is currently being considered be approved, it will also create an uninspiring, mean and ugly facade to what should be one of the most impressive public spaces in Deptford.

The site of this development - a three-storey block with retail/restaurant units at ground level and one-bedroom and studio flats above - is the land at the back of the Deptford Seafood Centre at number 104 on the high street.

In theory I support the development of this site - having additional retail units on Giffin Square will potentially increase footfall on the square and along with the Deptford Lounge will give it a bit more life. Having residential units overlooking the square will also improve security for those using it at night, by however small an amount.

Brown and Pletts, the architect commissioned for the initial design, made a pretty good job of creating something interesting and lively on what's a rather difficult site.

Some thought did go into this design, as you can see from the original planning application here. The potential loss of light for the gardens of the adjacent high street properties (even though they are currently unused) was partially addressed by including a gap between the two main buildings to allow  light to penetrate and reduce the impact somewhat.

Windows on the rear of the building, which potentially overlook adjoining gardens and properties, were designed as narrow slots with frosted glass, to allow light into the flats but prevent overlooking and loss of privacy for neighbours. And with the main windows of the flats on a south-facing wall, consideration was given to the potential problem of solar gain. To minimise the problem for residents, balconies were designed to be inset, with wooden louvre screens for shading.

The rendering above shows a visually-interesting facade with different sized windows, louvred screens and recessed balconies. The height of the block fits nicely to the lower roof line of the existing building on the right - now part of Tidemill School.

In fact the initial planning application, which was made in 2008, was turned down by Lewisham Council on the grounds that they considered it represented over-development of the site, that it would harm the mature tree in Giffin Square, and that it would overshadow and enclose the rear gardens in the neighbouring properties.

But on appeal, permission was granted by the planning inspectorate. The inspector said that although the building would have an impact on the neighbouring properties, it would not be unacceptable, and the development would serve a wider public benefit in terms of improving Giffin Square. The design would be 'interesting, pleasing and ambitious', and 'would add to the vibrancy, character and visual qualities of this locality' the inspector said. 'The choice of materials, colour and fenestration would add visual excitement and I believe a local landmark, albeit of relatively modest scale in the wider scene, would be created'.

Had the developer then gone ahead and built the scheme as proposed, you might well not be reading this.

Unfortunately the developer decided to employ a different (dare I suggest cheaper?) architectural practice to 'value engineer' (translated as 'save money on') the original design, with a new planning application now submitted for the details of the development.

Out went the range of different windows, recessed balconies and wooden louvres, to be replaced by two rows of regimented, bog-standard aluminium-framed french windows with those ugly and pointless 'Juliet' balconies slapped on top of them like lipstick on a gorilla.

Just in case you can't imagine what this would look like, the architect has helpfully (surely not proudly?) include a picture in the application as an example. See, I told you it was vile.

In such a prominent location - and next to Deptford's most high-profile public building/new development - the council must surely insist on high quality detailing and finishes? With so much public money having been spent on building Tidemill School and the Deptford Lounge, and on improving the public realm in Giffin Square, high design standards must be maintained for this and future developments.

If you feel the same way, please do write to the planning department to tell them; quote application DC/11/78353/X and send it to as soon as you can.

Open studio at the Stephen Lawrence Centre

Every Friday from now until the end of May, the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Brookmill Road is holding an 'open studio' morning from 10am to 1pm.

The free initiative for adults over 25 is intended to offer an introduction to painting, drawing or ceramics, as well as some digital art work.

Different artists and tutors will be working with the group throughout the programme, as well as an art facilitator who will be with the group every week. Work produced during these sessions will be exhibited at the centre in May.

The group is kept to a maximum of 15 people, to ensure that everyone gets the right amount of help; support workers are also able to attend with group members as necessary. To book a place or enquire about the sessions, contact the centre's creative programme manager Hana Smeeth (HanaSmeeth at stephenlawrence dot org dot uk).

However the centre is struggling to survive financially; Doreen Lawrence this week admitted that the financial hardship it was enduring had now become acute. Despite the high profile of her son's name - in particular in recent weeks with two of his killers being finally brought to justice - it was becoming increasingly difficult for the charity to attract sufficient funding to continue its work.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Deptford Green School takes shape

Deptford Green School is set to move into its new building at the start of the new school year in September.

Unless you live in that direction it's unlikely you'll pass it, so I've taken a few photographs to show latest progress. Work started back in 2010, here's my post about the contract signing.

The main building is nothing to get excited about - it's a PFI school after all, so they don't spend a hell of a lot on design - but it's not a bad effort. I like the fact that the windows are not all the same size and in a regimented pattern, and the size of them suggest that it will be nice and light inside the building itself. 

The design effort has naturally gone into the main entrance area, where the structure bulges out with an organic flourish and a wood cladding with raised pattern has been applied. A nice contrast to the rest of the block, although I hope they intend to paint the concrete columns, which have a very poor finish at the moment. Let's also hope that the wood cladding is good quality and that detailing has been carefully considered so we don't get patchy ageing of the wood.

I was a bit puzzled by the 'unfinished' bits of the facade that looks over Fordham Park, but looking at the renderings it seems that they are destined to be coloured panels, so there will be a bit of visual interest from this side too.

The Takeaway Shop

No, I'm not talking about one of Deptford's many fried chicken takeaways; the Takeaway Shop is a project by Amy Lord which is running from 20-27 January at Number 82, the gallery at the bottom of Tanner's Hill.

Here's what she says about it:

What do you know about where you’re living, where you wake up every morning? 

Archives are often unruly, dusty masses of paperwork and words locked away to keep them safe. What if you learn about the most interesting bits straight away? And more importantly, be able to TAKE them AWAY with you?

This will be a place for people to drop in and learn craft activities including book-binding and paper-making, and to collect real stories about the lives of the local residents, families and the history of the area. It will be a place to meet. 

People that come into the shop will learn how to create individual handmade books and be able to cut, paste and assemble their favourite bits of text, pictures, true stories, people and textures, to create THEIR own mini TAKE-AWAY archive.

I think it’s important to know the area you live in, it’s history, what came before it, and who lives here now. It’s the context in which you are positioning yourself, and your life.

82 Tanner’s Hill, Deptford SE8 4PN

20th – 27th January 2012 

(Closed 24th)
10:30am – 6:30pm weekdays, 12 – 5pm Sat & Sun

Late night Friday 27th January as part of South London Art Map tour (until 8pm)

PLEASE EMAIL TO BOOK A SLOT [amy-lord at hotmail dot com]

Sunday 8 January 2012

Deptford Lounge review

With the new library in the Deptford Lounge having been open just four days, I've already clocked up two visits, two coffees, a couple of biscuits, four books and a tour of the building.

You could say I'm pretty sold on it.

Now steady on, I still have massive reservations about that bloody cladding and how it will age, but the great thing about being in the library is that a) the cladding doesn't come down that far so the frame which supports it is not visible at the ground floor and b) the huge ground floor library is a rather nice space!

So what is it for? as someone plaintively tweeted the other day? Lounging, that's what! Reading, surfing the internet, meeting friends, checking out the papers, drinking coffee, working on your laptop, entertaining your kids...etc etc.

With the lounge planned to open from 7am, seven days a week, and until 10pm every weekday, I am very excited at the prospect that this facility could bring some life back to the high street. It's not a bar or restaurant where you have to spend money in order to hang out, it is free and open to all.

At the front of the library, which extends the full length of the ground floor, are a few comfy chairs and small sofas with little coffee tables, and a dozen or so tables and chairs for eating/reading at. A small cafe counter (which sadly is only open during the day at the moment) is tucked into the side of the space, serving hot and cold drinks (a good quality coffee I can confirm) biscuits and cakes, as well as sandwiches and salads which looked rather tasty.

There is a large childrens library at the back of the room, which was running alive with boisterous youngsters when I visited on Saturday because of an event, but deserted when I was there on Thursday evening.

In between the cafe area and the childrens library are shelves of shiny new books - fiction and non-fiction, DVDs, CDs (aside from one Tinchy Stryder CD most of the music did seem to have been chosen by someone of my age or older :-/) audio books, graphic novels and so on. Tables and chairs for studying are dotted in between, with a few study booths sectioned off at the back of the adults library. Pick your time carefully if you are coming here to study; it's right next to the childrens' library and might not offer suitable conditions on weekends!

There's a large computer suite off to the rear side of the library, with 20 or so computers (including half a dozen Apple Macs - yay!) which are available for booking via the computer terminal in the main room.

Lots of activities are planned - storytelling and reading sessions for children, a reading group (starting 7 February) advice for the over-60s, computer skills for adults, job search advice and even world cinema screenings on Thursday nights. I'd like to see more adult education classes too, given that the building has numerous meeting rooms which would be ideal for this. Clearly the council's current programme was set up before the opening date of the Lounge was finalised, but it would be great to see more classes being held here next year.

More tables and chairs may be necessary for the cafe area of the library if it is to succeed - as people start to discover the place I can imagine the cafe getting quite busy and the limited seating might restrict its success.

Upstairs are meeting rooms, a 'jamming suite' (I believe that's music not preserves), a large hall which overlooks the square, and of course a ball court on the roof.

If you want to have a look around, tours of the building are available 11am Tuesdays
6pm Thursdays and 2pm Sundays - contact the Deptford Lounge direct to book.

Phone 0208 314 7264/65

Please feel free to add your comments and feedback below!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Deptford Lounge opens to the public

Sadly I had to be in the office today, but I sent my spy out to have a look around the new Deptford Lounge, which opened this morning.

Here's a few photographs of the ground floor to whet your appetite, I will attempt to bring you a more comprehensive report in the next few days. Meanwhile Sue over on Crosswhatfields had a more thorough snoop around, she has posted a report which also includes information about room hire rates.

Photos courtesy TCoM

I certainly like the sound of the opening hours, which hopefully will bring a bit of evening life to Deptford High Street in the evening and on Sundays.

The Lounge is open every day except bank holidays and for the opening week they have a special offer of tea/coffee for £1 a cup.

Monday-Friday 7am-10pm
Saturday & Sunday 7am-7pm

They have a Facebook page here.