Friday 6 September 2013

Come and see Deptford's highs and lows in Open House

One of my favourite weekends of the year will be with us in just over fortnight - Open House London, the time when London's grand buildings, architectural follies, private homes and quirky corners are open to the public.

I do love a good snoop around people's houses - something worth remembering if you ever invite me in, although I will always respect your privacy by not actually divulging what I find ;-) - so this is an event that really appeals to me. And whatever you want to say about the opportunity to examine the architectural detailing or admire the historic fabric of a building, I'm damn sure a lot of you love snooping too, you're just too polite to admit it.

So what will there be to see in Deptford? 

There's enough to keep you busy for a whole day in Deptford, and if you aren't from round these parts, I reckon you'll get a good introduction to our neighbourhood by coming down on Saturday 21st September.

Start with a trip to the top of the Seager Distillery Tower - a building which it's definitely preferable to be in looking out, rather than the other way round. I went up it last year and the views are stunning - you can orient yourself with views north to the river, following the route of the Creek, or look south towards the rest of the borough. Be warned space is limited at the top of the tower and you may have to queue.

Once you've descended, you may wish to head over to Deptford New Town where you'll find the pocket-sized Connearn Studio in Friendly Street. I've not been to this one, and from the picture on the website it looks like it won't keep you amused for long - but the walk is a pleasant one, especially if you go through the park and pass by the Stephen Lawrence Centre. Just try and ignore the ugly block of houses they built next to it (replacing the ugly houses that were there before). You can come back along Brookmill Road past Mereton Mansions, or go the other way to pass Wellbeloved's butchers on the bottom of Tanner's Hill, in a row of Deptford's oldest buildings. 

From there I would recommend a wander down our fabulous high street and through the market (not forgetting the huge second-hand stalls outside the Albany) to Tidemill Academy and the Deptford Lounge, to dig out the substance behind the bling. You might want to linger in the library for a while, browse a few books or have a coffee.

If you like your coffee super-charged, be sure to stop off at the Waiting Room to get your caffeine fix, and a falafel wrap or veggie burger with super hot sauce to keep up you sustained for the afternoon. Any visiting vegans will be happy to discover this place, which serves vegan-friendly fare without making a fuss about it.

Alternatively if the Waiting Room is too crowded - or you want something a bit more substantial for your lunch - Deli X a few doors down is another great option. If you want to eat on the move, or it's too nice to go indoors, I recommend filling up on fresh salt-cod fishcakes or souse from In a Pikkle or try the jerk chicken with rice and peas from the neighbouring stall. Both are in Douglas Square in the middle of the market. 

From here, keep walking towards the river for two more very interesting Open House experiences. Convoys Wharf site is well worth a visit just to get an idea of its vast scale and the glorious riverside vistas it has kept to itself all these years. 

You're too late to see any of the remaining underground structures - they are still there but covered up for now - but you will be able to venture inside the Olympia boat-building shed with its distinctive curved roof and lovely internal iron structure.

According to the Open House listing, there will be displays showing Hutchison Whampoa's redevelopment proposals. It's more than possible they will wheel out the famous groundscape model of the scheme although perhaps they'll also show the little polystyrene blocks (above) which are supposed to show the building density and heights.

Right next door to the site is the historic Master Shipwrights House, which will be open to the public on both days - a rare chance to see this beautiful building. I visited a few years ago during Open House and was mightily impressed - you can read about it here. Normally this house is only visible when glimpsed from the river on a Thames Clipper - don't miss the chance to explore behind the big steel gates.

What's more, I've got it on good authority that there's going to be some very interesting events taking place here over the course of the weekend - of which, stay tuned for more details in due course.

While you are down Watergate Street, it's well worth popping into the Dog & Bell for a pint or two of the best-kept (and by far the cheapest) ale in Deptford. Have a game of bar billiards or sit out in the garden at the back - it's a real old-fashioned boozer of the best kind. 

If you're visiting from outside the 'ford, do take the opportunity to explore our lovely little corner of SE London to the full. Every one of these is only a stone's throw from the high street.

Deptford Creek - tide half in, half out. Look out for herons and swans, or watch the DLR trains rattling over the bridge.

St Paul's, Deptford - a Baroque beauty with a bit of guerrilla gardening on the adjoining green space. The grass circle marks the size of the access shaft that Thames Water wants to dig for its supersewer.

The Laban Centre on Creekside was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and won the Stirling Prize for architecture in 2003. Sadly it's not part of Open House London, which is a shame. But they do have monthly architecture tours you can book at £12 a head  - and it has a very pleasant garden if you want to picnic.

Finally, if St Nick's church in Deptford Green is open, it's worth taking a look inside at the Grinling Gibbons woodcarvings. But even if you can't get inside, you might want to walk past just to look at the famous skull & crossbones sculptures atop the two gateposts.

Other eating and drinking highlights close by are the rotis at Chaconia, grilled pork noodles or banh mi at Panda Panda, cocktails out of teacups with cheese straws in the living room of the painfully hip Little Nan's Bar, a wide range of ales and reliably top-quality dinners at the Royal Albert, and if you are prepared to walk that bit further, there's the small-but-perfectly-formed London Particular, another place for great quality grub, top coffee and fantastic cakes.


Richard Elliot said...

Really useful post.

I love the London Open House too, but I find their website isn't the easiest to navigate and search for the places I'd like to visit.

Eleanor said...

Richard - you can pick up a copy of the paper guide for free from libraries - all Lewisham libraries have copies.

Deptford Dame said...

Thanks Eleanor, I didn't know that either (and agree with Richard about the website!)

John said...

Great to see the Shipwright's House back on the programme but a shame that they're not opening for as long as last time. You can find a floor plan of the house by following the first link below and if you follow the second link you will find some recent photos of the house during a fashion photo shoot.

vesper said...

@Deptford Dame

Thank you for bringing Deptford's architectural treasures, and the associated Open House London, Thames Gateway, City Challenge 2013 debate into sharp focus. It saddens me that both St Paul's and the Laban don't feature in the 2013 programme, which should be available in ALL London libraries.

As you know I was born in Deptford, and it was there nearly thirty years ago, that I brought my pristine RICS 1984 qualification to St Paul's Deptford & Father Diamond's table in an attempt to bring some "Jam lucis orto sidere" light to the dark art of planning.

As an Open House volunteer for Christ Church, Erith in 2012, I was given a roving commission by the C of E, which allowed me to interact with everybody involved with 'The changing face of the tidal Thames : Thames Estuary Partnership & Institution of Civil Engineers walk. I was therefore able to bring nearly thirty years of critical Thames Gateway, City Challenge development work, and experience to the event, which I know was appreciated by the ICE's Roland Grzybek BSc Hons CEng FICE FCIWEM MIOSH Halcrow Director, flood coast & environment, Europe public sector :

Dear Roy

I really do appreciate your enthusiasm and dedication in following up on what was an excellent day.

Kind regards


The contemporary housing 'Crisis' confronting us in London has reached a critical legal juncture for me personally. Stephen Couling and Dr Brian Hanson formerly of HRH The Prince of Wales' Institute of Architecture can confirm that I was shortlisted for their Summer School to Oxford, Rome and Villa Lante at the time I discovered that the neo-Nazi NF/BNP/KKK/SS 33 The Watcher group were being allowed by London Old Boys to use the Old Addeyans FC/Densitron International PLC clubhouse development for their malevolent 'Planning for Real' meetings. From St James's Palace to Belmarsh Prison was an unlikely career move, but I became a prisoner of conscience, and a letter from Dr Brian Hanson sent to me in Belmarsh was handed to Judge Smith prior to commencement of the ILCC trial Regina v Hobson 1991.

In June 2004 Ben Bolgar the Senior Design Director at the Prince's Foundation gave me his card after the BBC debate 'The Architects and the Prince' at the Farmiloes Building in Clerkenwell. I fully briefed Ben with regard to my individual legal case. and following our Open House interaction in September 2004 (when St Paul's Deptford was in the Open House programme), which also involved Lucy Faulkner the FA's Ethics and Sports Equity Manager, Ben concluded his fax dated 20th September 2004 with these words... I am not sure how much use we can be to you directly but wish you every success for 'justice not vengeance' in every area you direct your work.

I'm sure the new Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis will understand why I took the stand I did in 1991 against the neo-Nazi betrayal of Deptford and London, and why I have continued to fight for JUSTICE NOT VENGEANCE right up to the present day. I hope that you enjoy this video as much as I have :

The Installation of Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth - St John's Wood United Synagogue, London - Sunday 1st September 2013, 26th Elul 5773

Our Lady of the Assumption pray for us!


Roy Hobson aka "Vesper"

Deptford Dame said...

@john the opening hours at the Master Shipwrights House have been extended, you should be able to get in all day till about 4.

vesper said...

@John & @Deptford Dame too

I've always thought that the Shipwrights House should be publicly owned, and I never quite understood how it was mysteriously purchased by the current owners from News International ?

John Addey, and real shipwrights have played a very important part in Deptford's history as you can see from Addey & Stanhope's School Song :

Addeyans all from far and near
Hither come today
With memories of yesteryear
Of mingled work and play
The school that gave you of her best
Now seeks to bind you closer yet
In bonds of grateful love and duty
Addeyans ne'er forget!

Stanhopes haste to bear your part
In our filial lay
For all her gifts bestowed on you
With love her love repay
Her watchful care and wise restraint
Wrought strength of heart and skill of hand
For ever with a true devotion
Stanhopes round her stand!

Pepys lift your voice in song
Loud your love proclaim
The mother smoothed the path ye tread
Yield honour to her name
Once more within these hallowed walls
Where hope and high resolve had birth
Renew the pledge of loyal service
Pepys prove your worth!

Evelyns up with heart and voice
Join the joyous song
So shall the love of all her sons
The strain of praise prolong
'A Deo Mother' be the cry
Till neighbour Thames hath ceased to flow
True loyalty to school and country
Evelyns ever show!

Hearts of Oak that Deptford made
Guarded England well
The ships are gone but stands the school
The shipwrights' worth to tell
As builded they right sound and true
So builds the school and shall for aye
Sing Addeys, Stanhopes, Pepys, Evelyns
Prosper school alway!

Just. Hangsing said...

London Open House is indeed one of my favourite weekend.

So happy that Deptford is so well represented in comparison to other neighbourhood across London.

I got to check out to the Shipwright's House :)

vesper said...

@Just Hangsin

London Open House has become BIG BUSINESS, with the programmes now being sold at £7.50 a copy, and the numbers available to London libraries seem to have been considerably reduced this year. This morning at Central Library in Bexleyheath, I was informed that they were given two boxes of programmes this year, which had now all gone, leaving only two copies for reference purposes upstairs.

Perhaps it is this BIG BUSINESS hijack of London's critical Thames Gateway City Challenge architectural debate, that existed in Deptford long before Open House/Open City was launched in the early 1990s, that has led to the withdrawal great buildings like St Paul's Deptford, and the Laban by their respective owners, who were/are not being given the recognition and reward they deserve for their inspired, and inspiring input to debate?

I'm sure that the current owners of the Master Shipwrights House in Deptford, Chris & his partner, will give you an excellent contemporary LGBTQ Open House/Open City tour.

Apparently in the 18th Century there was a female shipwright living in Deptford called Mary Lacey, who had dressed as man during her working life in the naval dockyards, and on board ship. She lived in a large house with her (probable) lesbian lover Mary Slade, whose husband Benjamin Slade lived in the house next door.

Deptford's history is littered with brilliant women, my headmistress at Tidemill Primary School in the 1960s was Miss Lane, and Mrs French "Muvver" was the top woman teacher at Addey & Stanhope Grammar School when I was there between 1967-74.

At this year's Addey & Stanhope School Founders Day reunion, Roger Lawrence told me that "Muvver" was still going strong.

Anonymous said...

​Mrs French passed away peacefully in a nursing home July 2018 .
She was about 96 years old