Friday, May 10, 2013

Convoys Wharf update

Convoys Wharf has been in the news this past week as developers Hutchison Whampoa and architect Terry Farrell announced the submission of their masterplan to Lewisham Planning. Thanks to East London Lines who also covered the story for the pictures above and below from Farrells.

A puff piece in the Evening Standard's property pages failed to refer to a wholly critical Evening Standard article written by architecture journalist Kieran Long back in 2011. As campaign group Deptford Is... point out, much of the coverage was regurgitated from a press release. They highlighted Building Design's criticism that the development gives little back to the community.

Meanwhile, Paula Hirst, a regeneration expert who is one of the candidates selected by the Labour Party to take over from Joan Ruddock (results to be announced next week) wrote in Estates Gazette that "in developing a scheme that faces Canary Wharf rather than its hinterland, Farrell appears to be giving local people a clear sign that this is not for them...this is pure real estate development and represents everything that is wrong with our property industry...what Deptford needs is not more high-density housing in an area of existing high density, putting more pressure on existing infrastructure. What's needed is more open space, free to enjoy access to the river, and new employment opportunities that go way beyond construction."
Read Hirst's article in full (or see Deptford Is... who have now republished the article).

The Grade II listed Olympia Shed is dwarfed at the centre of the development and is vaguely intended for retail use. When the site was the Royal Naval Dockyard (1513-1869), ships were built under its canopy (as well as in other docks on the waterfront) and floated out into the Great Basin in front of it and then into the river. In the new masterplan, the Great Basin will be a shallow water feature over half its original size.

Offal by name, awful by nature

From 1871 till 1914 the Olympia Shed was used as a Foreign Cattle Market, where over 4 million head of live cattle and sheep were landed and traded. A glimpse into that period can be had in Sarah Daniel's play The Gut Girls, presently being performed at The Space in Westferry Road E14 (a short hop on the DLR to Mudchute station).

The show runs till 25th May and revolves around five feisty Deptford women working in the gutting sheds of the Foreign Cattle Market. It was first performed at the Albany Empire in 1988, and has since been seen all over the world. In 2002, local theatre group Freakshow performed the play at Convoys Wharf itself.

The Foreign Cattle Market, 1872 (Illustrated London News)

Another local link...

This video promoting the British Lions 2013 rugby tour to Australia (that keeps popping up on the telly) features the team pretending to be the crew of the Endeavour on Cook's first expedition to the south Pacific ocean in search of 'unknown southern land' to echo the sporting challenge they are about to embark on. In reality, the ship in the trailer is most likely to be the Rose, a replica ship which was used in the film Master and Commander, which the advert also parodies. The replica ship is American-built and Russell Crowe tried to buy it after filming finished!

HMS Bark Endeavour was fitted out at Deptford in 1768. Cook's third voyage (1776-1779) was on HMS Resolution, which was also fitted out at Deptford, along with the most advanced navigational aids of the day. The dockyard was the epicentre of technological advance at this time.

Just a small part of the enormous heritage of shipbuilding at Deptford Dockyard that is being totally ignored by the proposed development at Convoys Wharf.

Local project Build The Lenox hopes to celebrate this history by building a replica ship in the place it was originally built – in a restored dock on the site. The dock in question cannot be built on so is presently included in the masterplan as a flattened park area. The Lenox has been chosen by the shipbuilding project because it is one of the few ships of this time for which all the plans and details needed to build it are available. It was also the first in a massive naval shipbuilding programme begun in 1677 which was managed for Charles II by Samuel Pepys.

The project wants to partner with other organisations involved in training and education, and also plans an interpretation centre that could become Deptford Dockyard Museum, as an annexe to Museum of London Docklands and Greenwich Maritime Museum, kick-starting Lewisham's tourism strategy for the only bit of Thames waterfront it has. Part of the Lenox vision also includes lobbying for the establishing of a Marine Enterprise Zone on the protected wharf on the westerly part of the site, which could provide further jobs and training.

Proper and full commitment from the developer to the Lenox Project and to the other local project, Sayes Court Gardens (which aims to create a public garden and research centre on the site of John Evelyn's 17th Century garden) to allow the projects in the places on the site where they are most assured of success is still waiting to be negotiated. Both projects offer extraordinary opportunities in modern and transferable skills training that go far beyond the developer's offer of jobs in retail and construction.

These projects need your support if you want to stop Deptford's "incredible history" (Sir Terry Farrell) being buried in a "millionaire's waterfront playground" (Joan Ruddock). Farrell said "we feel we have a scheme that strikes the right balance between respecting and celebrating the cultural heritage", but it would appear his only method for achieving this is by naming a 46-storey tower after Sir Walter Raleigh.

Follow them on Facebook:
Build The Lenox
Sayes Court Garden

Also see Joan Ruddock's address to the Naval Dockyards Society Conference at the National Maritime Museum on 20th April 2013.


  1. excellent review as usual.

    developers never stray much from their original 'masterplan' (shorthand for 'lets see how much money we can make out of this') - they put a few token bits on here and there, but thats what they always are - token.

    Who'd like to be a fly on the wall at a developers meeting when they're discussing "what are we going to do with these pesky locals?"

    Answer: as little as humanly possible but lets make it look as if we're making an effort

  2. just to say thanks for the tip on Gut Girls, it was great, the company were superb. only gripe how hard the seats were, but the company sure gave me my money's worth. Excellent cast working on a shoe string, can't be beat. Thoroughly recommend.

  3. Has this Chinese developer been sold a pup? They paid far too much for the site. Not that they care, they view Deptford as a natural extension of Docklands and the City, and their property arm would have everywhere look like Hong Kong. They own Felixstowe and other British ports and 3G, satellites and all sorts of telecommunications.

    Nick D'Alosio's billion deal with Yahoo for his app Summly was the result of a £300,000 investment by Hutchison Whampoa after being cherry picked by Wendy Deng, Rupert Murdoch's wife. It's no surprise then that Murdoch, having sold Deptford Dockyard to Hutchison, retained a profit share in the sales of the luxury apartments. That alone tells you what sort of powerful agents Deptford is up against.