Tour guide and history buff Sean Patterson leads walks around Clerkenwell and Deptford (and very soon Whitechapel) that draw inspiration from Charles Booth’s famous poverty maps. Walkers are invited to recite from a selection of readings that help to excavate the area’s past present and futures. Here he lists five of the secret spots on his Deptford tour…
Deptford High Street is the traditional heart of Deptford and hosts one of London’s great street markets boasting more fresh fish than you will see at Billingsgate, along with giant West African snails. Near the northern end is Albury St, a row of beautifully preserved Georgian sea captain’s houses much loved by historian Dan Cruikshank. In 1899 Charles Booth describes Crossfield off the high st. as ‘very neglected, broken and dirty windows, costers, woodchoppers, squalid poverty.’
Halfpenny Hatch Bridge is the footbridge over Deptford Creek and gives an excellent view both north and south over the mud flats. The railway viaduct next to it is Britain’s largest listed structure as it was the first railway to London. The Victorian metal frame through which the Greenwich bound trains thunder was used to lift a section of track up so that ships could go further up the Creek. The Stirling Award winning Laban building can be seen through the arch.
Russian Tzar Peter the Great’s Statue faces the Thames next to the entrance to the Creek. It’s Deptford’s only statue but what is he doing here? On a mission to learn about shipbuilding he borrowed diarist John Evelyn’s nearby manor house to live in in 1698. Evelyn was furious to discover him using pictures for pistol practice and running wheelbarrow races through the hedges. His friend Christopher Wren estimated the damage at three hundred pounds and the government had to give Evelyn compensation.
St Nicholas Church is a hidden gem and one of London’s oldest. Rumour has it that privateers using the church got the idea for the jolly Rodger flag from the scull and crossbones on the gate posts. At the far end of the churchyard is a plaque for play write and spy Christopher Marlowe who was stabbed to death in a house nearby in 1593. He’s listed on the burial records but no one knows exactly where his grave is.
The Dog and Bell Pub at the corner of Prince Street and Watergate is Deptford’s best boozer and has been here for 300 years. Charles Booth describes the area in 1899: ‘A faint foetid smell prevails, overpowered in places by disgusting stenches. Rough women, shoeless children, men used to be decoyed here and robbed’. Thankfully its much nicer now and landlord Charlie keeps a pleasant quiet pub with some of the best (CAMRA award winning) beers in London.
For further information on these locations and guided walks around historical locations around the capital, contact Sean Patterson’s Charles Booth Walks on 07957222070.