Digging up Deptford’s past

As is common practice with all major construction projects, archaeological ground investigations should be carried out in order to evaluate and identify any historical remains or evidence.

Tideway have already undertaken an archaeological trench evaluation at Deptford Church Street, specifically at the location where the shaft will be located. The site comprises areas of the Crossfield Open Space. Four archaeological evaluation trenches were excavated on the site. The results of the evaluation trenches and assessment revealed no finds of medieval and earlier date. However a number of post-medieval finds were identified.

Archaeological finds_drawing

Deptford Church Street site and heritage find locations marked in brown 


Trench excavation locations marked in green with St. Paul’s in top section


The historical context of this site – St Paul’s Church rectory, once existed on this site but was demolished in the 19th century. The Grade II railway viaduct was added to the south in 1836. Housing appeared from at least mid-18th century. A terrace of 24 houses, including a pub onto Deptford Street were located here and in the 19th century, housing was extended along the northern side of Crossfield. St Joseph’s School was built at this time. These houses suffered bombing damage during the Second World War and in late 20th century were removed.

Here is a nice chronological summary of what has been identified from this archaeological investigation:

Pre-historic period (700,000BC – AD 43)

  • No known remains date to this period within the site or assessment area. Outside the assessment area, a Paleolithic tranchet axe was recovered from the Ravensbourne River at the Century Works, Conington Road. Bronze Age artefacts have also been recovered from the Ravensbourne and its floodplain in Lewisham 1.5km to the south of the site.

Roman period (AD 43 – 410)

  • No known remains within the site or assessment area. Watling Street, a Roman road was a major route and is believed to have crossed Deptford Creek c. 250m east of the site.

Medieval (Saxon) period (AD 410 – `1066)

  • No known remains dated to this period. The site is believed to have been in open fields outside of, and between Saxon settlements of Deptford Green and Deptford Bridge. The name Deptford is thought to be Anglo-Saxon in origin. Saxon pottery was found nearby on the former Deptford Power Station, c. 300m northeast of the site. Two 7th century burials with grave goods of jewelry and personal items were found 410m southwest of the site. At the end of the medieval period, Domesday Book (1086), records, that West Greenwich (or Deptford) comprised two manors (estates held by Early Harold and Beorhtsige).
  • After the Norman conquest the manor (estate of Depford) passed from Gilbert De Magminot (1066-1191), de Say Family, Knights Templar, King John (1223-1487).
  • The main settlement of Deptford was focused on the church of St Nicholas, c. 190m northeast to the site

Post-medieval period (AD 1485 – present)

  • Majority of known archaeological remains date from the 17th – 19th centuries, reflecting the rapid growth of Deptford as a centre of manufacturing and industry centred in the Kings Royal Dockyard.
  • The area was urbanized during the 18th and 19th Remains of 19th century building were recorded.


Star finds on the site include the following:

  • Three ceramic clay tabacco pipes bowls were recovered and dares to 16th – 18th centuries and are typical of London manufacture.
  • A miniature or model cannon, made from cast iron and 118mm long. The cannon appears to a be a replica 18th or early 19th century cannon. If funding allows the recommendation is for a naval historian to accurately plaice it within its historic context.

Copper cannon

  • Three fragments of post-medieval glass were recorded dating to 1680-1740 all coming from wine bottles.
  • Five fragments of inscribed grave markers were recovered and dated to 19th century and are thought to have been brought from St. Paul’s Churchyard when the churchyard was cleared of many tombstones and turned in to a garden in 1912-1913.




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