Tuesday 23 November 2010

History of Albury Street. Part 1

Albury Street was laid out and developed between 1705 and 1717 or soon after, by a local bricklayer, Thomas Lucas. The method of development which he employed and the two homogeneous rows of terrace-houses which were built each side of the street are typical of speculative building as it developed in London after the Great Fire. It is of unusual interest that a local craftsman should build in a manner typical of the Metropolis in an outlying village, as early as this, and that so much still survives. In the middle ages, Deptford was one of several riverside villages lying below the City of London on the south bank of the Thames. Originally known as West Greenwich, its present name derives from the crossing by a deep ford of the river Ravensbourne nearly a mile from its outlet into the Thames. The village called Deepforde Straund or Deptford Strand grew up along side the Thames rather than by the Ravensbourne. 
The settlement by the ford and then the bridge which led to Greenwich, which was later called the Upper Town, was much smaller than that by the Thames until the nineteenth century when it expanded to become the centre of the suburb.
Looking towards Deptford Strand 1620 to 1630

Royal Dockyard 1513
In the reign of Henry VIII, a royal shipyard was founded at Deptford to provide for the developing navy, and for over three hundred years it brought growth and prosperity to the “Navy Building Town”. A map of the village in 1923 shows the docks and the Kings Shipyard and another belonging to the East India Company with a mass of houses close to the river surrounded by fields.

Christopher Marlowe
Here, Christopher Marlowe was killed in a fight at a tavern and here that Gindling Gibbons was discovered. During the seventeenth century John Evelyn, the diarist took a lease of Sayes Court, the manor house of West Greenwich alias Deptford Strand. His diaries recount much of Deptford life and the sojourn there of its most illustrious visitor, Peter the Great of Russia, in his own house. Evelyn records that at the end of the century “by increase of Building may be seene that the Towne is in eighty years become neere as big as Bristoll”. The most notable buildings to be erected there in these eighty years, Trinity Almshouses, were built in 1664-5 in Church Street, considerably away from the Thames.

Grindling Gibbons
John Evelyn

Throughout the eighteenth century, starting with Albury Street, or rather Union Street as it was formerly called, this increase of building continued as houses were built farther and farther south away from the river. As a result Deptford became eligible for one of the fifty new churches planned by the Act of Parliament of 1711, St Paul’s, built to the design of Thomas Archer between 1713 and about 1724. It was Thomas Lucas who obtained the contract as a bricklayer for the church and as such was responsible for building the core of the building before it was faced in stone.

St Paul's Church, Deptford
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Deptford, New Cross, Lewisham, and Greenwich had become one continuous built up area, but although the riverside had an unbroken series of docks, wharves and houses right to London, there were still open fields stretching to the west as far as Bermondsey. It was across these fields that London’s first railway was built between Spa Road and Deptford in 1836, ultimately to connect Greenwich with London Bridge. With the closure of the Royal Dockyard on the 30th March 1869, and its reuse as the Metropolitan Foreign Cattle Market, Deptford’s former individuality and prosperity were doomed. Enveloped at last by the expanding metropolis, it became the poor industrialised suburb which it has remained ever since.  

Foreign Cattle Market, Deptford

Part 1 extract from A Quiney's paper on Albury Street 1979. 

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