Friday, August 2, 2013

Deptford Anchor: is this the new smiley face?

Not your usual anchor, this. It's not part of anchor mythology. It's sort of close to a modern anchor. You may have noticed it has no "arms". In fact it has no "stocks". What ordinary folk might instinctively call 'arms' are called "stocks", and actually the anchor has "arms" but they're the arched bits either side of the bottom of the "shank" – the stem.

Unsurprisingly, this anchor without stocks is known as 'stockless', and is very different to the anchor we have come to prize as part of Deptford's heritage (a gift from Chatham Dockyard), that stood for 23 years in the place where this graffiti has arrived. The old and classic anchor design was superseded by the 'stockless anchor' in 1821, the first significant departure in anchor design for several centuries.

Meanwhile, the Deptford Anchor has disappeared, possibly never to return. Since it was practically the only thing left to remind Deptford of its own history, its absence has been much lamented. We particularly enjoyed Laura X Carlé's reconstruction of it at the recent Festival of Neighbourhood at the South Bank last weekend (see the Deptford Dame's report)...The artist invited visitors to write their feelings about the Deptford anchor on post-it notes, and by the end of the weekend, the sculpture was covered in coloured notes.

We particularly like this one...

Since the the original (albeit not Deptford Dockyard original) anchor was removed, its whereabouts are unsure. It is apparently stored in a warehouse in Convoys Wharf, courtesy of the site's developers, Hutchison Whampoa. This company is owned by the 17th richest billionaire in the world (Li Ka-Shing), and Hutchisons are perhaps the last people to be left in charge of Deptford's heritage. If you'd like to know what English Heritage think about the developer's plans, please read Deptford Is...

If the anchor stayed on the Convoys Wharf site, it would surely look small next to the new buildings that are proposed: the main tower being 48 storeys, the others 38 storeys and most other buildings 12 storeys. Most buildings in Deptford High Street are 2-3 storeys. It's a human level. Double click this diagram to get an idea of how inhuman you can get..

Meanwhile, more 'anchors' are appearing on the new paving at the site of the old anchor....

Thanks to Paul for tip off, and to David for first and last photos.


  1. Interesting, everyone drawn to the stocks...More history please...(sorry my subject cardiac arrest so hoping someone else do the research)

  2. Well, I cycled past this morning, and another one appeared...looks a bit like an invocation to me, 'a remembering'. Much fancier with stocks and such if I recall.

  3. More anchors are on their way. Just wait and see....

  4. The first one now has stocks. Disappointingly.

  5. Loving the 'invocation', Paul. Not sure or not whether I hope it's easy to clean off. I sort of hope it isn't. It's not like the detritus of the market is being cleaned off anyway, although there do seem to be some spectacular stains in Giffin Square that have been modified.

    Perhaps there's a point here: build new high street surfaces with no money to ensure their maintenance. Testing, testing, by local artist, how well can this paving be cleaned? It can't, it absorbs muck, and the only cleaning regime that happens is when our MP is about to open something or the south london press have been called for photoshoot...

    Unfortunately, local taggers may discover the horizontal and put their boring self publicising tags all over the effing pavements. Then again, why not. If you build a blank canvas someone may fill it.