Sunday, October 31, 2010

Putting the clock back in Deptford.(1)

Why put the clocks back just one hour when we can go back over a century?  On 18 July 1899, Charles Booth was out and about in the local streets revisiting the area to evaluate the changes since his Poverty Map of London had been created 10 years earlier.  This is the area he walked, accompanied by police officers from the local Nick - which at the time was at the junction of Blackheath Road and Greenwich High Road:

So, Crossfields estate is splat bang in the middle of the area he surveyed.  The Broadway in the south, the Thames in the north, Deptford High Street in the west and the Creek in the east.

First, a note on who accompanied him.   Booth's accounts of his survey companions are not always as neutral as you might expect for a sociological survey.  He has been known write such sentences as ''Sergeant Vann is a solid, stolid character...'' and though they're not too objective they do provide little caricatured impressions of what he means.  His return to our neck of the woods was done with Inspector Gummer at his side.

Inspector Gummer is a small well dressed portly man. Jacket suit and straw hat. Has over 10 years service at Blackheath Road and knows the district well. We started about 10am, Sergeant Goddard having instructions to relieve the Inspector at noon as he was due at Woolwich Police Court.

Sergeant Goddard, who relieved the inspector at noon didn't come in for such a flattering portait.

At this point Sergeant Goddard relieved the Inspector. He is a thin man of about 40. Face mottled, the result of bad digestion or too close application to the worship of Bacchus. Walks slightly lame, owing to rheumatism. Has been over 10 years in the sub division but for last 18 months at Blackheath Road.

At the beginning of the walk, starting at Deptford Bridge he notes Gardiners, the ''large establishment'' which still stood in the 60s, with its imposing, ornate but predominantly soot-stained brickwork, before it was replaced by the imposing, plain and predominantly bland characterlessness of Lewisham College.  And thence to Deptford Broadway, a...

Triangular open space, paved with cobble stones. Stand for barrows and the meeting place of the neighbourhood. Political and other meetings held here. Men standing about. Good three storied shops to High Street, slightly poorer near Church Street. 

The cobblestones have long since gone, but it's interesting to note that the Broadway was once a place for political and other meetings.  Any gathering there now would be the 999 club, where the unemployed can get themselves a free cup of tea and maybe even a bit of company.  And the police would soon be along with insistent ''move along, please!'' commands if more people than the fingers on your hand gathered together there now.

(Next instalment - Booth follows Church Street past Deptford's answer to Evian water along  to Creek Street, which of course is now known as Creekside.  ''Poorer as you go north....'' and we may meet prostitutes on the way.)

1 comment:

  1. had to steal this great title, also looking forward to the next post.