Deptford, Kent & Surrey Family History Guide

Deptford comprises of the following parishes:

  • Deptford St Paul
  • Deptford St Nicholas

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

DEPTFORD a town and two parishes which are also sub-districts, in the district of Greenwich; part of one of the parishes in Surrey, the rest of that parish and the whole of the other in Kent. The town stands at the influx of the Ravensbourne rivulet to the Thames, and on the London and Greenwich railway, immediately W of Greenwich, and 3 miles SSE of London Bridge. It is the Depeford of Chaucer, whose pilgrims went through it; and it took that name, of which the present one is a corruption, from a deep ford in the Ravensbourne, long ago superseded by a bridge. It was, at one time, a small fishing village; but it sprang into a town from the establishment of a royal dock at it, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. It was visited by Elizabeth in 1581, to see Drake in the ship with which he had just "compassed the world;" and was the place where the Czar Peter studied the science and practice of ship-building. It suffered desolation by fire in 1652; by Wyatt and his rabble, in 1653; by the plague, in 1665; and by a high tide, rising 10 feet in the lower streets, in 1671. It presents a crowded, irregular, disagreeable appearance; yet contains well-built streets and many good houses. A castle was built at it, by Gilbert de Magnimot, soon after the Conquest, but has disappeared. A mansion, called Sayes Court, succeeded the castle; was long held by the family of Say; passed, in 1651, to John Evelyn, author of the "Sylva;" was then famous for its fine garden and a fine holly-hedge; suffered great damage from temporary occupancy by the Czar Peter; figures graphically in Sir Walter Scott's novel of "Kenilworth;" and was at length swept away, and gave place to a work-house. The original bridge over the Ravensbourne was a wooden structure; was rebuilt of stone in 1628; and reconstructed of cast-iron in 1829. The Trinity House, now the Trinity Board, was first established here by Henry VIII.; held long its meetings in an old hall, taken down in 1787; and removed then to Water-lane, Thames-street, and afterwards to the present building on Tower-hill. The royal dockyard became so enlarged as to occupy 31 acres, and to include two wet-docks, three building-slips, two mast-ponds, a mast-house, and other appurtenances; but is now no more than a third-rate establishment. The original building for it forms part of a quadrangle, with additions made at different periods. The victualling offices, a long range of brick buildings west of the docks, are still of considerable importance; and they include part of the ground of the quondam Sayes Court garden. St. Nicholas church was rebuilt in 1697, remodelled in 1716; has a much older embattled tower; and contains monuments to Fenton, Pett, Shelvock, several Brownes, and others. St. Paul's church was built in the time of Queen Anne; has a west-end spire; and contains a mural monument by Nollekens, to Admiral Sayer, and two grand monuments to the Finches. St. John's church is a Gothic edifice of 1854. Christ-church is a mission building of 1864. Two Independent chapels are structures of 1861 and 1862, the one Gothic, the other Italian; and there are four other dissenting chapels. Two hospitals for pilots and ship-masters, exist in connection with the Trinity Board; the one built toward the end of the 17th century, the other built in the time of Henry VIII., and rebuilt in 1788. The Dreadnought, of 98 guns, which captured a Spanish three-decker at Trafalgar, now lies as a hulk adjacent to the town, and serves as an hospital-ship. Addey's school has £415 from endowment; Stanhope's or Gransden's school, £212; and other charities £260. The town has a post office under London, S.E., a railway station with telegraph, and a banking office; is a seat of petty sessions; and is grouped with Greenwich, Woolwich, Chorlton, and Plumstead, in sending two members to parliament. A fair is held on Trini-Monday; and manufactures of earthenware and chemicals are carried on. Water-works were constructed in 1699; passed by purchase, in 1808, to a company; took then the name of the Kent water-works; draw supply partly from the Ravensbourne rivulet; and deliver about 3,500, 000 gallons daily to Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Chorlton, and Blackheath. The Earl of Winchelsea, who commanded at the Armada, Sir T. Smith, the ambassador of James I. to Russia, and Cowley, the poet, were residents. The town, together with all the rest of the two parishes, is within Greenwich borough; but the pop. of the town is not separately returned.

The two parishes are St. Nicholas and St. Paul. St. Nicholas contains royal marine barracks; and St. Paul includes Hatcham hamlet, and St. John, Christchurch, St. Peter, and Hatcham chapelries. Acres of St. Nicholas, 110 of land and 39 of water; of St. Paul, 1,587 of land and 22 of water. Real property, of St. N. £19,339; of St. P. £94,691. Pop. of St. N., 8,139; of St. P., 37,834. Houses, 1,172 and 5,905. The manor, after being held by Gilbert de Magnimot and the Says, was held by the Mortimers, the De la Poles, the St. Johns, and others; and went, at the Restoration, to the Crown. Much of the land is fertile market garden, in the highest state of cultivation. St. Nicholas is a vicarage, St. Paul a rectory, and St. John, Christchurch, and St. Peter p. curacies, in the diocese of Rochester. Value of St. N., £557; of St. Paul, £400; of the others, not reported. Patron of St. N., T. T. Drake, Esq.; of St. P., W. W. Drake, Esq.; of St. J., J. J. S. Lucas, Esq. was constituted in 1865; St. Peter's in 1867. See Hatcham.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

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