Thursday 11 February 2010

Cellars & Tunnels under Deptford.

In the early part of 1978 a survey was carried out at the request of Nolans Clothes Shop, No 127, by the proprietor Mrs Order. The purpose was to examine alleged tunnels under the shop which ran east to deptford Creek, or a Pub, or the place of Nelson's assignations with Lady Hamilton in Albury Street. A trap door at the front of the shop gives access to a series of cellars under the whole building, some of which were blocked and one which had a barreled roof and could be the begining of a tunnel leading directly under the street.It was described as being about 6ft high, with a stone rubble floor. There was a rectangular manhole leading to sewers beneath which were said to flood. The tunnel terminated in a brick wall at approximately the edge of the outside pavement. The bricks were of mixed stock and red bricks, with no obvious signs of great age, and were probably contempoary with the building which seemed from map and visual evidence to be c. 1844-50, contempoary with the adjacent Catholic church. It was noted  there was nothing on site on the 1844 tithe map but earlier maps 1800-33 may show buildings but were to small a scale to be confirmed with any certainty. There was a similar tunnel which had been blocked more recently and was said to lead from the indentical adjacent shop. It was discovered to have been blocked by the owners of the shops across the street. The tunnel at No 127 seemed to be an extention of the cellars, and without pulling the wall down, there was no evidence of it going any further other than the edge of the pavement. If it did originally cross the street it would presumably join the cellars of the opposite shops. Does anyone know of underground tunnels in Deptford?

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Photo taken soon after the Chapman Murders 34 Deptford High St.

I came across this old photo Of Chapmans Oil & Colour store located at 34 Deptford High St. This was the location of the murder committed by The Stratton Brothers who lived not far away in Deptford Broadway. The full story of the crime is listed below. This was the first case in history where the murderers were found guilty by fingerprints. The shop front hasn't changed much since.

Friday 5 February 2010

Old Deptford

Grinling Gibbons

The most famous English woodcarver of all time was born, oddly enough, not in England at all but in Rotterdam, in what is now Holland, in 1648. Grinling Gibbons did not set foot in the British Isles until sometime around 1670 or 1671.In those days a craftsman needed to be recognized and promoted by patrons to make his work widely known.
Gibbons was fortunate in that he was blessed with extraordinary talent in woodworking, and that his talent was recognized and promoted by a succession of patrons until he eventually came to the notice of Charles II.
Charles gave Gibbons commissions, as did William III and George I. Gibbons was also a favourite of the premier architect of the age, Christopher Wren. Wren called upon Gibbon to supply decorative carving for many of his country house commissions. The genius of Gibbons is not simply that he had a remarkable ability to mold and shape wood, but that he evolved a distinct style that was all his own. Working mostly in limewood, Gibbons' trademark was the cascade of fruit, leaves, flowers, foliage, fish, and birds. Such cascades could be applied to paneling, furniture, walls, or even chimneys. Perhaps to prove that he was not limited in his ability to the cascades, Gibbons produced a cravat made of limewood in a perfect imitation of Venetian needlepoint. The "cravat" was so lifelike that a foreign visitor was fooled into thinking it the standard dress of the English country gentleman! Horace Walpole, who is known to have later worn the cravat on at least one occasion, remarked in 1763, "There is no instance of man before Gibbons who gave to wood the loose and airy lightness of flowers". The cravat is now on display in the Chapel at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Much of Gibbons work survives in isolated country houses, but Hampton Court Palace near London is blessed with an abundance of fine carvings by the Dutch-born master.
William III commissioned Gibbons to redecorate his State Apartments, and was so impressed by the result that in 1693 he gave Gibbons permission to use the title "Master Carver". Such carvings as the ones at Hampton Court are filled with symbolism which would have been apparent to an educated observer of the day, but which would escape most modern observers. Very often each object in the carving would have a particular meaning or reference to a classical Greek or Roman ideal or story. Some of Gibbons best work outside Hampton Court survives at Petworth House in Sussex, in particular a ceiling he designed for the Duke of Devonshire, and at Lyme Park and Dunham Massey in Cheshire, Belton House in Lincolnshire and Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire. Other fine examples of his work can be seen at Windsor, St Paul's, London. Also in London,, the font at All Hallows by the Tower church has a wooden cover carved by Gibbons in 1682. Grinling Gibbons work had an enormous influence of interior design and decor during the Golden Age of the English country house. Later craftsmen such as Thomas Chippendale are known to have been heavily influenced by his work. Grinling Gibbons died in 1720.

Information from Britain Express

St Nicholas Church, Deptford and a Ghost Story.

I recently visited the church of St Nicholas in Deptford. The first time I visited was somewhat unnerving as it was late, dark and a feeling of foreboding. This time, in daylight I was warmly greeted by the assistant curate who was very helpful to my request to take photos and learn a little more unknown history of this ancient monument. I was surprised to learn the church was completely destroyed by an incendiary bomb during World War 2 and remained derelict for some years becoming a dump and play area for children until it’s rebuilding in the late 1950’s. Many of its grave stones , plots, plaques and artefacts were destroyed or taken during those years with only fragments of architecture being recovered from the ruin. It also became a target of the V1 rockets one of which landed very close in the Royal Dock area. I believe this may be the one mentioned in  The Shipwrights
Whilst taking pictures and talking to various people I approached a lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, and asked her about church’s history. It was then she told me a story which was quite unexpected. She told me of a witch who was homeless and was granted permission by the church to stay in a room in the tower, the oldest part of the church still standing. She then started to relate a very unnerving ghost story which she experienced and had never disclosed to anybody other than her partner and now me. Whilst carrying out her duties it was her responsibility to secure the church when her work was finished. This invariably took place when she was alone to lock up the church. She recounts that one evening she distinctly heard rapping’s coming from the tower area. This happened several times dispelling thoughts that it could be floorboards, doors creeking or some other rational explanation.. She experienced an  intense feeling of being watched. So intense was the feeling she stopped working and fled the building. It affected her so badly over the coming weeks that she did not want to return. When she did return she made sure it was always during daylight hours and since that date she always paces her work so she can leave when everyone else departs.the building. I could see that the experience unnerved her and still to this day stays with her .
Can anyone shed light on the witch in the tower story??  
Grinling Gibbons the master carver and his renowned  work "The Valley of Dry Bones" God breaths air into the bones of the departed to give them everlasting life.


Stone carving fragment fron the church interior.                                                                                                 

Balcony leading to the room in the tower.

Carving representing St Peter.

St Luke

Bell Tower.

A facinating place to visit.                                     

Wednesday 3 February 2010

A Front Room in Albury Street.

This photo dates from about 1911 and could be the interior of 29 Albury Street. This gentleman who ever he was looks in deep contemplation. How will I pay my rent this week?...... still plenty of coal.

Source: My thanks to the Lewisham Local Studies and Archives

More Goings On at 34 Albury Street

In September 1950 a Mrs Emily Wilcox rented No. 34 for 23s 9p per week and looked after 6 children in this 7 roomed house. She also encountered terrifying events for a number of years whilst at the property. My mother and Aunt Jeanie knew her well and were told on a number of occasions by her that the place was haunted. Mrs Wilcox use to hear quite distinctly footsteps going up and down the stairs when the place was empty, and once saw a shimmering white light on the first floor landing. Sash windows were constantly being flung open by themselves and more disturbing an apparition of a lady would appear quite unexpectedly. I quote, "she always wore a cloak and a wide brimmed hat" This apparition also appeared in other properties close by. The further you investigate and go back in time researching archives you discover many references to the fact that Lord Nelson stayed briefly at this property and would meet Lady Hamilton there. I believe this story was not invented to elevate the selling price of the property but I know was handed down word to mouth over the years to successive occupants. Could it be that the lady in the cloak and wide brimmed hat may of been this lady in the photograph....Emma Hart...later to become...Lady Hamilton?

Newspaper cutting "Ghost in a Cloak" September 1950