Though a cliché of travel writing, the description “a place of great contrasts” fits Deptford perfectly. The lively high street — with a noisy, thrice-weekly market — and the artists’ enclaves and council estates sit alongside shiny new riverside apartments.
Deptford is a place with many stories to tell. In 1513, Henry VIII established a naval dockyard at what is now Convoys Wharf, a prime development site. This is also where Queen Elizabeth I knighted Francis Drake. In the 17th century, diarist Samuel Pepys, as Secretary to the Admiralty, ordered a new fleet of 30 fighting ships to be built at Deptford. They transformed the fortunes of the English Navy. Fellow diarist John Evelyn lived nearby at Sayes Court, and established a garden that locals are campaigning to revive.
How Peter the Great went up the creek
Tsar Peter the Great, who ruled Russia from 1682 to 1725, stayed incognito in Deptford in 1698 to learn the art of shipbuilding. He rented Sayes Court from Evelyn, who had moved to Surrey, and reputedly trashed both the house and garden.
Fifteen years ago, the Russian government commissioned a statue of the tsar from sculptor Mikhail Shemyakin. It stands on the waterfront, near the mouth of Deptford Creek.
Now popular with younger and creative types, Deptford is only five miles south-east of central London, with Surrey Quays to the north-west, Greenwich to the east, Blackheath to the south-east and New Cross to the south-west.
Bustling Deptford High Street has cafés and pop-up shops. The station is one stop from London Bridge.
Estate agent Tim Howells, assistant branch manager at JLL Blackheath, says the area is popular with owner-occupiers and buy-to-let investors as it is cheaper than neighbouring districts.
“A one-bedroom apartment in Deptford typically starts at about £285,000, compared with about £325,000 in Greenwich,” he says.
What there is to buy in Deptford
The area has a mix of social housing and new flats, with enclaves of 17th-century cottages in Tanners Hill, terraces in Albury Street and Victorian properties around Deptford Park.
There is an enclave of Victorian houses between Evelyn Street and Trundley’s Road.
One-bedroom newly built flats range in price from £275,000 to £390,000.
Two-bedroom flats are priced between £300,000 and £700,000.
Travel: Deptford station has trains to Cannon Street (15 minutes) passing through London Bridge (nine minutes). Deptford Bridge on the Docklands Light Railway is seven stops from Heron Quays, a few minutes’ walk from Canary Wharf. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 is £1,284.
The area attracts : Young professionals, often first-time buyers. The new riverside flats are attractive to buy-to-let investors and there is a strong community of artists based in studios around Creekside. However, as people look to settle down, they tend to move away.
What there is to rent in Deptford: If you can afford them, there is a plentiful supply of flats to rent in the new developments, which are popular with City workers and overseas students studying at Goldsmiths in nearby New Cross. The rental yield for buy-to-let investors is about four per cent.
SE8 is the Deptford postcode, although on the eastern side of Deptford Creek it falls into SE10, the Greenwich postcode, which some might believe adds cachet.
The best street
Albury Street has early 18th-century houses that have carved wooden porches decorated with cherubs and flowers. With views of Thomas Archer’s St Paul’s Church, it is described by architectural historian Professor Anthony Quiney as “one of the most important treasures historically among domestic buildings in London”. A five-bedroom house in the street recently sold for £1.2 million.
Up and coming
St John’s is a little-known area of mid-Victorian terrace homes south of Deptford town centre. Originally known as Deptford New Town, it is protected by two conservation areas — St John’s and Brookmill Road. Houses in Albyn Road have sold for between £427,000 and £775,000 over the past two years.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch
Shopping and eating out
The heart of Deptford is its long high street, stretching from Deptford Broadway to Creek Road.
There is a busy market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays selling everything from clothes to fish, fruit and vegetables. The market strays into Douglas Way, where there is bric-a-brac for sale, and street food stalls trade on Saturdays in Giffin Square next to the new library and Tidemill Academy.
Deptford High Street has London Velo — a new bike shop, café and bar — and Manze’s, a traditional pie and mash shop. Job Centre is one of Antic’s chain of shabby-chic bars. Tattoo parlour Kids Love Ink is next door but one to The Waiting Room, a vegetarian and vegan eaterie, while Deli X is a delicatessen and café. Buy vintage clothing at Rag’n’Bone, or browse contemporary art at Bearspace gallery.
Tanners Hill has Vinyl record shop and café, and established butcher WH Wellbeloved. The Big Red is a pizza joint in a converted double-decker bus in Deptford Church Street and there is a branch of Waitrose in New Capital Quay on the Greenwich side of Deptford Creek.
Deptford Park off Evelyn Street is the area’s largest park; it has football pitches and a children’s playground. The river Ravensbourne runs through Brookmill Park where there is an ornamental garden, a lake, a children’s playground and a nature reserve. Waterlink Way, an eight-mile walk from Sydenham to the Thames, runs through the park. Sayes Court Park once formed part of the garden owned by John Evelyn, the 17th-century writer and diarist.
Three things about Deptford
What brought two rock stars back to Deptford in 2009?
The band Dire Straits first performed on the green behind Farrer House on Deptford’s Crossfield estate in 1977, when they were called the Café Racers.
The band’s Mark Knopfler and John Illsley returned to the estate in 2009 to unveil a Performing Rights Society plaque commemorating the event.
Why might a Restoration warship rise again?
A group of local people is campaigning to build a replica of the Lenox, a warship built in the Deptford shipyard and launched in 1678.
Whose death in Deptford remains an enduring mystery?
The playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), was killed in a brawl in Deptford at the age of 29. Controversy continues to surround his death as there were rumours that he was working for Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster.
Deptford has two primary schools judged to be “outstanding” by the government’s education watchdog, Ofsted: Tidemill in Giffin Street and Grinling Gibbons in Clyde Street, although the later had its Key Stage 2 test results withdrawn after evidence of maladministration was uncovered. Tidemill has a new school building designed by architects Pollard Thomas Edwards, which innovatively shares space with a new library, known as the Deptford Lounge.
The local comprehensive school Addey & Stanhope (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in New Cross Road is judged to be “good” but there are also quite a few nearby state comprehensives that are judged to be “outstanding”: St Ursula’s RC (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Greenwich; Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College (co-ed, ages three to 18) in New Cross and Prendergast (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Brockley.
The nearest private schools are: Blackheath High (girls, ages three to 18); St Dunstan’s (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Catford and Colfe’s (co-ed, ages three to 18 in Horn Park, Eltham).