Deptford: A Life By The River Thames, a set on Flickr.
In May, when I first conceived of the notion of travelling the whole of London by bike, taking photos to compile a portrait of the city at this troubling time in its history (caught between the Olympics and its role as a harbour for the global rich on the one hand, and on the other subjected to the Tories’ ruinous and ideologically malignant “age of austerity”), the first places I visited were Greenwich and Deptford (or see here), down the hill from my home in Brockley, in south east London.
Greenwich, of course, is internationally renowned, and deservedly so, as it is the home of the Royal Observatory (and the location of the prime meridian), and is also the home of the recently renovated Cutty Sark tea clipper, and the splendid Royal Naval College.
Deptford, in contrast, Greenwich’s westerly neighbour and the site of the former Royal Dockyard, is unknown to many Londoners, and has few obvious attractions beyond its two historically significant churches — the Church of St. Nicholas on Deptford Green, where the playwright Christopher Marlowe is buried, and the Church of St. Paul, located off Deptford High Street.
However, although far too much of its old housing was razed to the ground when it should have been saved and renovated, as much of the housing in Greenwich was, it does not follow that Deptford is some kind of poor and wretched place, as the BBC suggested in a flawed documentary as part of its series, “The Secret History Of Our Streets,” which provoked a campaigning website to be created in response, entitled, “Putting the Record Straight.” Also see the responses of various Deptford blogs — Crosswhatfields, the Deptford Dame and Deptford Misc.
Unlike the Deptford portrayed by the BBC, the real Deptford has a wonderfully vibrant street market and a high street that is the least corporate in London, and has long been a magnet for all kinds of artists and creative types, alongside its varied and often misrepresented locals.
So Deptford, it turns out, is actually a historically fragmented but endlessly lively and interesting part of London’s inner city, with two rivers playing a huge part in that history. One is the Thames, dominated for centuries by a royal dockyard, now known as Convoys Wharf, abandoned and owned by foreign property developers who want to turn it into a mini-city like Canary Wharf, in a hugely inappropriate manner, which will be extremely socially divisive. The other is the Ravensbourne, which feeds into the Thames at Deptford Creek.
This set of photos follows up on that initial photographic visit in May, and a follow-up visit here (or here), and I also made several other visits before these photos in July. I have since visited Deptford on several occasions — in fact, I find myself drawn back repeatedly — and will post those photos in due course.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, where I posted the photo, “Hughes House, Deptford Green,” I wrote:
From my latest photo set, of Deptford, this photo captures something quintessentially English for me – the man walking his dog, the rain-watered greenness of the grass, the council flats and the silver birch trees. There is beauty here, a beauty lost on those who dwell on greed, and on profiteering from shiny new housing projects, like the £1 bn project planned nearby for Convoys Wharf, the derelict former Royal Dockyard.
Ruth Gilburt wrote:
thoughtful words, as ever x
Jennah Solace wrote:
There are some stunners in this lot, Paynes & Borthwick Wharf from the shore in Deptford and Canary Wharf from Paynes & Borthwick Wharf – I love the contrast! Kind of reminiscent of Roman ruins and your Italian holiday, lol
Thanks, Ruth and Jennah. Good to hear from you.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.”
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