Deptford and the River Thames: Deptford Dockyard’s History

Once comprised of two communities - a small fishing village and a settlement beside a ‘deep ford’ - the River Thames united the community of Deptford with London, and the rest of the world, upon the development of Deptford Dockyard in 1513.


What’s in a name? Deptford Dockyard, the history behind the name

King Henry VIII put Deptford on the world’s map, literally; but have you ever wondered why the area is actually called Deptford? Or how the area came to be? Deptford Dockyard’s history may be steeped in royal esteem, but the area’s humble beginnings simply add to its charm.

The passing place at the River Ravensbourne, described as a ‘deep ford’, once connected a small settlement beside the River Ravensbourne with a fishing village on the River Thames. Over time, the area around the deep ford passing place became known as Deptford, and the passing place itself eventually became Deptford Bridge - which continues to unite the River Ravensbourne with Deptford Creek and, in turn, London’s iconic River Thames. 

Deptford Dockyard’s royal history

Rumoured to be the very first of the British Royal Naval dockyards, King Henry VIII recognised the immense potential in Deptford, and established Deptford Dockyard as a Royal Naval Shipbuilding capital. The longest of King Henry’s commitments, outliving the combined age of his own life and that of his ill-fated spouses, Deptford Dockyard is where naval warships were brought to life. From the 16th to the 19th century, the British Royal Navy warships were built at Deptford Dockyard to provide protection to Britain and aided in the expansion of the British Empire.

Deptford Dockyard’s history is steeped in its royal connection to the crown, but also to worldwide trading. The River Thames connected Deptford Dockyard to the many tastes and cultures of the world, long before air and rail travel were the norm. From this, Deptford Dockyard was home to many shipping and trading organisations, small and large, including the world-renowned East India Company.


A piece of Deptford Dockyard’s history, a commitment of your own

If, like King Henry VIII, you too recognise the immense potential of Deptford, a piece of Deptford Dockyard’s rich history can be yours at Deptford Landings. The royal yet humble history of Deptford and its connection to the River Thames is not the only draw of the area; there is a huge arts and culture scene, with plenty of places to eat and shop, with lots of green and open spaces to explore, right in the heart of London.