History of Deptford

Learn more about the famous places and faces from Deptford’s rich past. 

King Henry VIII & The Royal Dockyard

King Henry VIII recognised the importance of Deptford’s position in London. With its proximity to the Thames, Deptford was where England’s most notorious monarch choose to build his Royal Dockyards. The site became known as the King’s Yard.

For over 350 years, the Royal Dockyard built and maintained ships from all around the world. Many notable figures passed through the port, including Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. The Royal Dockyard is reported to be the site of the famous tale of Sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cloak in an act of chivalry for Queen Elizabeth I.

St Nicholas Church & Christopher Marlowe

Established in the 12th century, St Nicholas Church marks the resting place of one of Shakespeare’s famous rivals: Christopher Marlowe.

Christopher Marlowe was a famous English playwright and author. His most famous works includes Doctor Faustus.

Marlowe was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas after being murdered in a house he was visiting in Deptford. If you’re visiting the churchyard, look for the plaque erected in his memory, 400 years after his death in 1593.

Drake’s Steps

Sir Francis Drake was a 16th century navigator, explorer and civil engineer. After completing his first circumnavigation of the world a few months earlier, Sir Francis Drake was knighted on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I aboard his ship, The Golden Hind, while docked at the King’s Yard.

Leading from the Thames to the land, Drake’s steps still stand to this day as a reminder of the life and times of the famous Englishman - Samuel Pepys.

Born in 1633, Samuel Pepys is most famous for his diaries which span a period of almost 10 years from 1660 and 1669. Best known for his account of the Great Fire of London, he was also a Clerk to the Navy Board.

He knew Deptford well and frequently visited for business - even during the plague. It’s said that he often combined business with pleasure by visiting a certain Mrs Bagwell at her home.

During regeneration of the area in the 1960s by the local council, the Pepys Estate and Pepys Park were created in memory of the celebrated diarist.

Statue of the Tsar

A statue of the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, stands on the corner of Deptford Creek. This statue commemorates his visits to Deptford to study the world-leading naval forces of Britain and Holland as inspiration for his own.

Peter the Great is thought to have spent an entire winter in Deptford working in the shipyards while he learned his trade, and it’s reported that he worked as hard as everyone else during his time there.

In an attempt to stay incognito, he rented diarist John Evelyn’s house at Sayes Court Park. However, standing at over 6ft 7” with a heavy Russian accent, he would have been hard to miss.

All that remains of Sayes Court Park today are parts of the manor house and Evelyn’s famous gardens which lie within the boundary of Convoy’s Wharf.