Sunday, October 30, 2011

Convoys update: Nothing here, mate...

We Laughed Out Loud when we saw this on the Deptford Dame's blog on Friday, and since then we've seen lots of the spoof posters in the high street. The Dame was posting her views on the coverage that appeared in the Evening Standard (in Wednesday's rag) about Convoys Wharf, written by a renowned architectural commentator (viewable online here).

A friend had already sent us a link to the piece with the quote "his arse must be sore from sitting on the fence" – since journalist Kieran Long seemed to yo-yo between support for the development and sympathy for the campaign against it. The Dame is a tad more polite, see her post here. Campaigners Deptford Is... took something positive from the Evening Standard feature, despite being described in the piece as 'vague'.

OK, this blog is biased, but you could hardly describe the opposition to the present proposals as vague. The people of Deptford know both what they want and what they don't want. Much of their wants and don't wants were recorded in a survey commissioned by Lewisham Council and conducted by Ipsos Mori in 2008 and reported in 2009.

They said: Less Traffic Congestion, Better Transport Links, More Green Spaces, More Youth Provision, Better Social Housing, Celebrate Heritage Assets to Enhance Local Identity and Pride, among other things. You can find the Summary and Recommendations here (they're hidden in the final pages, scroll to page 10 of 18). The rest of the 90 odd pages of the report can be found on the North Deptford regeneration page on Lewisham council's website.

Anyway, none of these requests are fulfilled in the latest masterplan for Convoys Wharf.

If you're mystified by the Private Eye cover, the joke refers to the lamentable excavations being conducted on the Convoys site by Duncan Hawkins, leader of the archaeological dig commissioned by the developers. Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa say they have employed the top people to do the job: none other than the Museum of London.

We note that the MoL provide "Preliminary risk appraisals and assessments for planning" for developers. Level 1: Historic environment risk assessment: Is heritage going to be a significant risk to my site – are there any showstoppers? (3 working days) Price on request. Etc.

Of course none of that would have been required at Convoys Wharf, since there is already so much on record, there is hardly any need to look for proof that the dockyard existed. The site itself IS a showstopper. The fact that the old slipways and basins have been buried in concrete by News International (and the MoD), and above ground structures such as Sayes Garden and the Manor House, and the Tudor storehouse, were knocked down, is unforgiveable. As Keiran Long acknowledges "Most jaw-dropping of all is that...a Tudor storehouse was demolished and its foundations concreted over..."

The MoL also offers developers an On-site Conservation service that advises on the preservation of archaeological deposits in situ, along with "mitigation strategies and reburial of structural remains and archaeological features".

But hang on, Hutchison Whampoa didn't go to the Museum of London to get the work done – they went to private consultants CgMs, run by Duncan Hawkins. Naturally, the last thing the developers want is for anyone to find any significant artefacts among the significant remains, since they plan to pretty much build over all of the site (excepting the still standing and listed Olympia building). Any significant finds would require a halt in proceedings and a bit of a rethink.

What is this, if not significant findings...

To cut a long story short, Mr Hawkins has been digging up the concrete that News International and the Ministry of Defence have poured in over the years, and declaring nothing of worth to be found, and then filling the holes back in to be built over.

Some local historians and archaelogists also claim he has been digging in the wrong places. This claim has been backed up by people who've been working on the dig, as well as informed analysis from other local experts and those from further afield who attended the open day to view the excavations in early October.

A more in depth and passionate view of the (deliberate or careless?) mistakes being made can be found on the Shipwright's Palace blog: Entrenched Positions: An Archaeological Dig To Reveal? Stay there long enough to read the next post Sold Down the River and other posts, and then you will get the joke if you haven't by now.

Below is a picture of people attending the aforementioned open day. It's been suggested they might be engaged in a "L.S.Lowryesque" search for the foundations of Sayes Court, which have been totally misappropriated by the developer's archaeologists CgMs

Oh, and who buried it all and still has a stake in the profits?


  1. The reason CgMs are avoiding a wholesale excavation of the Dry Dock, the slipways, the basin, the mast ponds, the saw pits, the capstan housings and penstocks, the slipways to the boathouses together is simply that the results would be so impressive as the last remaining opportunity to demonstrate London as a major centre of shipbuilding dating from at least 1420 through the life of the dockyard 1513-1869 and beyond. The structures on the site of Convoy's herald Historic Maritime Deptford. This is the reason we will not see them excavated together.

  2. Well, SP, we WILL see them and they WILL inform the next masterplan that follows the disasterous plan on the table at LBL. Deptford WILL have its history recognised so that the future is more than just another Pepys estate or Thamesmead - that will need rebuilding within 50 years, as it becomes a ghetto of impoverished tenants paying rent to absent international landlords...........Deptford Will be proud in the future by being proud of the past- tourism, apprenticeships, gardens , homes, businesses, recreation. NOT JUST 3,500 dormitory flats and no sense of belonging-- unless this is what the councillors think is best! Shal we have the SLUMS of the future or shall we create a real fresh future for Deptford? Come on LBL we can help you defeat this dire plan! Together we can do it!