FORMER OFFICE BUILDING OF ROYAL DOCKYARD, DEPTFORD
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- FORMER OFFICE BUILDING OF ROYAL DOCKYARD, DEPTFORD, WATERGATE STREET
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- Statutory Address:
- FORMER OFFICE BUILDING OF ROYAL DOCKYARD, DEPTFORD, WATERGATE STREET
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Greater London Authority
- Lewisham (London Borough)
- National Grid Reference:
- TQ 37197 78105
786/14/10013 WATERGATE STREET 13-DEC-10 Former Office Building of Royal Dockya rd, Deptford (Formerly listed as: PRINCE STREET OFFICE BUILDING CONVOYS WHARF)
GV II* Former Office Building to the Royal Dockyard, Deptford, now a private dwelling. Built 1720, internally remodelled and attic storey added c1805-6 according to a specification by Sir Samuel Bentham, Inspector General of Naval Works. Refurbished late C20 and early C20.
MATERIALS: Brown brick laid in Flemish bond with red rubbed-brick dressings; rear elevation laid in English bond; slate roof.
PLAN: Ground floor plan largely original, comprising three rooms bisected by a cross passage between the N room (the Master Shipwright's office) and the central room. The stair, which dates from 1805-6, is located against the rear wall to the S of the cross passage. End stacks, plus a third on S side of the cross-passage wall. The first floor, originally comprising one large S room and one smaller N room, was modified to form four small rooms, which lead off a narrow corridor from the stair landing. Attic layout similar. 1805-6 plan largely intact apart from some inserted partitions.
EXTERIOR: Front (W) elevation of two storeys, is substantially of 1720; mansard attic added c1805-6. Moulded brick cornice and stone coping. Nine-bay façade framed by giant pilasters, arranged 2:1:3:1:2, originally with entrances in the single bays; S doorway blocked and doorway inserted in southernmost bay. Segmental-headed windows with gauged-brick arches and 6-over-6 pane sashes, of which three on the ground floor are late-Georgian; the remainder replaced to match. Attic has four large dormers: one with 6 lights and three with 3 lights; the windows are C20 replacements, but the form is likely to be original, designed to maximise light for the drawing office.
Rear elevation rises a full three storeys with a parapet. Rear part of the roof has a single pitch. Ground floor painted. The northern part has five bays with segmental-headed windows and a central doorway; first floor rebuilt in 1805-6. Second floor is blind except for one inserted window. Southern part set back slightly and is entirely blind.
INTERIOR: Cross-passage has six-panelled doors to either side. Former Master Shipwright's office to the left (N) retains some early full-height panelling. Central room (former Timber Master's office), has a curious arrangement of diagonal ceiling beams associated with inserted partitions now removed, and c1900 fireplaces on the N and S walls. Recent investigation has identified a series of reused ships' timbers, bearing timber marks, reused as floor joists in the Timber Master's Office and adjacent room to S, which are estimated to date from the latter half of the C18. S room has some early full-height panelling and a fireplace on the S wall. Open-well stair of 1805-6 has closed string, stick balusters and a matchboard inner string up to first floor. Upper-floor rooms are divided from the corridor by panelled partitions. The deep, canted chimneybreast in the N room appears to have been modified to take a stove. Features include dado panelling, plain full-height panelling, four-panelled doors and matchboard ceilings.
HISTORY: Deptford was established as a centre for naval shipbuilding by the late C15. The accession of Henry VIII (1509) marked a massive programme of naval expansion: Woolwich Dockyard was established in 1512, and in 1513 Henry began the development of Deptford by building a great storehouse. By the 1540s 'the King's Yard' at Deptford had become by far the most important royal dockyard nationally for the construction and repair of warships. It was here that Sir Francis Drake was knighted in 1581; his Golden Hind was displayed there as a visitor attraction for over 70 years. In the C17 it was the second major centre for shipbuilding after Chatham, established under Elizabeth I, gained pre-eminence in this respect; the navy board appointed a Master Shipwright in both places. In 1698 Tsar Peter the Great came to Deptford for three months to learn shipbuilding techniques; its nearness to the Navy Board Office in the City of London meant that it was frequently chosen for experimental construction. However, the shifting of hostilities to France and Spain in the C18 meant that Portsmouth and Plymouth gained pre-eminence. A number of well-known vessels were fitted out at Deptford, including Captain Cook's Endeavour and Discovery, as well as ships used in Nelson's campaigns. Despite navigational difficulties due to the silting up of the Thames, and the Yard's consequent inability to service larger ships, further expansion took place in the C18 when the Dockyard reached an area of some 30 acres. After 1815 it fell into decline, closing in 1869 when the site was acquired by the Corporation of London for use as London's Foreign Cattle Market. The handsome late-C17 officers' terraces, which stood to south, were demolished in 1902. The dockyard suffered massive destruction in WWII, and was redeveloped as warehousing known as Convoy's Wharf in the 1950s, when the remains of the bomb-damaged Tudor storehouse were demolished.
The Office Building and adjoining Master Shipwright's House stood in the dockyard's NE corner, alongside the great Double Dry Dock. An annotated sketch plan of 1623 by the diarist John Evelyn, who lived at Sayes Court to the west, and subsequent plans of the late C17, indicate that the present buildings occupy the site of a single-storey range of the late C16 or early C17. The Master Shipwright's house was rebuilt in 1709, and a proposal to rebuild the 'very rotten and decayed' offices is recorded in 1720, to be replaced by 'new offices of two storey high in which the storekeeper may be accommodated. The charge of which besides the old material will amount to about 350....' Work was well advanced by August 1720. The building housed the offices of the Master Shipwright and his assistants.
In 1805, Sir Samuel Bentham (1757-1831), appointed Inspector General of Naval Works in 1796, submitted detailed proposals to the Admiralty to remodel and extend the Deptford dockyard offices. These alterations formed part of Bentham's rationalisation of naval dockyard functions nationally, to facilitate his principle of 'central inspection', a concept which permeated his approach to naval dockyard reform in imposing central control and 'accountability' to all its functions, notably the management of timber. The post of Timber Master was consequently created in each naval dockyard, responsible to the Master Shipwright, to oversee the receipt, conversion and use of every single piece of timber, to minimise wastage and end the practice of purloining of 'chips' or offcuts by employees. The principle of central inspection was more manifestly embodied in the design for a 'Panopticon' prison by his philosopher brother Jeremy, an idea which Samuel initially developed as a means of inspecting a large workforce during his 11-year stay in Russia, where he oversaw the construction of warships for Prince Potemkin.
A Timber Master's office was installed in the central ground-floor room (in which evidence of saw-pits has been discovered). The new offices, in the remodelled first floor and a new attic storey, comprised the shipwrights' repository, drawing room, two assistants' offices and a model room, which enabled the close working and supervision of the Master Shipwright's subordinates. The alterations were completed in 1806, almost exactly to Bentham's plan.
SOURCES: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, unpublished report (1995) C Harrison, 'The House that Joseph Allin Built', Transactions of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society (1988), Vol 10, No 4, 164-178 Report on Master Shipwright's House and Office Building, The Architectural History Practice (2002) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for Samuel Bentham (2004) Dan Atkinson, Shipbuilding and Timber Management in the Royal Dockyards 1750-1850: an Archaeological Investigation of Timber Marks (2007), 107-122 REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The former office building of the Deptford Royal Dockyard is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: a purpose-built naval office built 1720 and remodelled 1805-6 * Rarity: early-C18 naval buildings are rare nationally; it is also the earliest surviving purpose-built dockyard office, predating examples at Portsmouth and Chatham by several decades; the 1805-6 remodelling is a rare survival of a naval drawing office from the Napoleonic Wars * Interior: retaining some fittings from 1720 and more extensive survival from the 1805-6 remodelling * Historic interest: the Office Building and Master Shipwright's House (qv) are the sole remaining buildings of the C18 and early-C19 naval dockyard, occupying the same site as their Tudor/Stuart predecessors, in one of the earliest sites connected with Britain's emergence as a world naval powerr; and for the well-documented changes made under Sir Samuel Bentham as part of his naval dockyard reforms * Group value: with the adjoining Master Shipwright's House (qv) and with the scheduled site of the Tudor Store House, which is located 40m to the north-west.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing