History of Deptford

History of Deptford, by Nathan Dews

History of Deptford, originally published in 1884, covers the old parish of Deptford, which included New Cross and Brockley. FamLoc have republished it in Print and eBook format.

History of Deptford, by Nathan Dews

This book covers the old Parish of Deptford, which also included New Cross and part of Brockley. Originally published in 1884, this FamLoc edition has made changes to format and some punctuation, but the prose has been faithfully retained, other than changes to a handful of typographical errors and the very few instances where clarity was required.
Deptford is steeped in history, and this new edition of Dews’ History of Deptford is invaluable for family historians, local historians, as well as those with Deptford connections who wish to know more about the town and its surrounding area.

BUY History of Deptford

Chapters and Contents of History of Deptford:

Preface by Nathan Dews
Preface to Famloc Edition
Roman and Saxon Period
Manor of Sayes Court
The Evelyn Family
Manor of Hatcham
Manor of Deptford-le-Strond
Manor of Brockley
Ecclesiastical History
Charities and Charitable Institutions
Worthies and Men of Note
Trinity House Corporation
Commercial and Industrial History
Past and Present Aspect, &c.
Deptford Bridge and its Historical Associations
Notable Events &c.
General Information
Notes to Text

The name of Deptford

In History of Deptford, Dews tackles the origins of the name Deptford:

At what time the parish adopted its present name is not certain, but it could scarcely have been before the Norman Conquest, for, as has already been seen, in the Domesday Survey, it is spoken of as Meretone, and in the Saxon Chronicle, A.D. 871, it is also called Meretun. Lambarde, in his “Perambulations of Kent, 1570,” says this place was called “West Greenwiche,” in ancient evidences, and in Latin “Vadum profundum”. It received its modern name of Deptford, after the Norman Conquest, from its position on the river Ravensbourne, which being subject to tidal influences rendered the fords at certain times, of great depth. As tenements were erected along the banks of the river, it obtained the addition of Stronde or Strand. We also frequently find it termed Depeford-le-Stronde and Deptford-Strond, alias West Greenwich, from its relative position to Greenwich; in course of time, however, this latter appellation was disused, and it retained its present name of Deptford.
We find the word spelt variously in many old books, manuscripts, and on the Deptford tokens, viz: Depforth in Mackyn’s Diary, A.D. 1551; Depforde in 1555; Depeforde in 1570; Depford in 1572 and 1649; Detford in 1648; Depthford in 1665; Deadford in 1665; Dedford in 1667 and 1673; Deptforde on an old token, no date; Depthorde in the Harleian Manuscript; Debtford in an old ballad, printed in black letter in 1675, entitled, “The Debtford Frolick, or a Hue and Cry after the Shag Breeches,” of which three different editions are in the British Museum. On an ancient monument in St Nicholas Church we find it spelt Deepford.

The Evelyn Family and Deptford

Dews devotes a whole section of History of Deptford to John Evelyn and the Evelyn family. Here is just a small extract:

The Evelyn family is supposed to be a branch of the Norman family of Ivelin. John Evelyn, author of “Sylva,” states that there were some of this name both in France and Italy, written Ivelin and Avelin; that in old deeds he found the name written Avelyn, alias Evelyn, and that a member of the family was taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt, 25th October, 1415.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the representative of the English branch of the family was George Evelyn, of Long Ditton, Kingston, and Wotton, Surrey, Esq, who died the 29th of May, A.D. 1603, aged 77 years, leaving, besides other issue, four sons. His first wife, Rose, daughter and heiress of Thomas Williams, brother and heir of Sir John Williams, Knt., was buried at Long Ditton, 21st July, 1577. His second wife, Joan Stint, died in 1613, and was buried at Wotton. From the second son, John Evelyn, of Kingston, Surrey, the present head of the family, William John Evelyn, Esq, is directly descended; the youngest son, Richard Evelyn, succeeded to the Wotton Estate. Richard married Ellen, daughter and heiress of John Stansfield, of Lewes, in Sussex, Esq, by whom he had issue: George, of Wotton; John, of Says Court, Deptford; Richard; Elizabeth, married to Thomas Darcie, of Dartford; and Jane, married to William Glanville, of Devon.Richard Evelyn, Esq, died 20th December, 1640, and was succeeded by his eldest son, George, who died without male issue in 1699, having devised the Wotton Estate to his brother John, who had become possessed of Sayes Court (or more properly Say’s Court), by marrying Mary, only daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Browne, son of Christopher Browne, by Thomazine, daughter of Benjamin Gonson, widow of Captain Edward Fenton, and sister of the Lady Katherine, first wife of Admiral Sir John Hawkins. John (Sylva) Evelyn, Esq, had five sons, four of whom died in infancy at Sayes Court, and three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth, and Susannah.Mary died unmarried, March 17th, 1685, æt 19. Elizabeth was married to Sir John Tippet, and Susannah to William Draper, of Adscomb, near Croydon, in Surrey.(For biographical sketch of `Sylva Evelyn,’ see chapter on “Parish Worthies”)John, eldest and only surviving son of “Sylva” Evelyn, was the ingenious author of several books and poems (see “Parish Worthies”); having married Martha, daughter and co-heiress of Richard Spencer, Esq, died in his father’s lifetime, March 24th, 1699, leaving one son, John, and one daughter, Elizabeth, who was married to the Hon. Simon Harcourt.

The Great Plague of London and Deptford

The History of Deptford includes information directly from the diarist John Evelyn:

The Plague began its ravages in Deptford about July, 1665, when two houses were shut up. Its progress during August was more desolating, as may be seen by an extract from Mr Evelyn’s letter to Lord Cornbury, Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, dated from Sayes Court, September 6th, 1665:
“After 6978 (and possibly half as many more concealed) which the pestilence has mowed down in London this week, near 30 houses are visited in this miserable village, whereof one has been the very nearest to my dwelling; after a servant of mine now sick of a swelling (whom we have all frequented) and which we know .not where will determine, behold me a living monument of God Almighty’s protection and mercy. It was Saturday last ere my courageous wife would be persuaded to take the alarm; but she is now fled, with most of my family; which my conscience, or something which I would have taken for my duty, obliges me to this sad station, till His Majesty take pity on me.”
The contagion raged in the town during the next twelve months, and it was not deemed safe to venture to any place of promiscuous resort. Mr Evelyn says, December 31st, 1666:
“Now blessed be God for His extraordinary mercies and preservation of me this year, when thousands and tens of thousands perished, and were swept away on each side of me, there dying in our parish this year 406 of the pestilence.”
On the 28th of October [1666] we find entered in the diary, “The pestilence, through God’s mercy, began now to abate considerably in our towne. During 1666 there were 522 persons died of the plague in Deptford,” making a total of 928 for the two years, which must have been a large proportion of the inhabitants of the town at that period.
ln the parish registers are lists of persons who had been touched for the King’s Evil during the years 1684-88. In 1686 the number amounts to 82.

Deptford Bridge

This being the place from which Deptford acquired its name, Nathan Dews in History of Deptford, takes trouble to pass on notable events surrounding it. Here are just two extracts:

Three insurgent armies have crossed here on their march to London, viz: That under Wat Tyler in 1381; Jack Cade in 1450; and Sir Thomas Wyatt in the reign of Queen Mary. Sir Thomas Wyatt encamped with his army in Deptford from Friday afternoon till Monday morning. But the most memorable event connected with Deptford Bridge was the sanguinary conflict between Royal troops and Cornish rebels in 1496.

The immediate vicinity of the old bridge was, undoubtedly, one of the earliest inhabited portions of the parish, and was, as we have already seen in the Survey of 1608, called “Deptford Towne,” to distinguish it from the riverside portion known as Deptford-Stronde. There still exists a piece of the wall of the old Royal Dog Kennel, in Mill Lane, which, according to local tradition, was built by King John (Lackland), and, if so, Dog Kennel Row is probably the older name of the two for this noted thoroughfare; for the earliest mention of the “Deptford Mill” occurs in the 16th year of the reign of Edward II, when we learn that “John Abell held a mill at Deptford, which then escheated to the Crown.”

Kent Water Works

History of Deptford includes the following:

On the 11th December, in the 13th year of the reign of William III, a Royal Charter was granted to William Yarnold and Robert Watson, their executors, administrators, and assigns, empowering them to take water from the River Ravensbourne, and to break up the roadways within the Royal Manors of Sayes Court and East Greenwich, and to lay pipes for the supply of water to the inhabitants of the said Manors for a period of 500 years, and prohibiting any other person from breaking up the roads for supplying the inhabitants; and conferring upon the holders of the patent the sole power and privilege of supplying them with water from the Ravensbourne or elsewhere during that period. This was the commencement of the Ravensbourne Water Works. A water mill was erected in Mill Lane, formerly Dog Kennel Row, the machinery being made by that eminent engineer, Smeaton, who built the first Eddystone Lighthouse, on principles of his own invention. There were two wheels, one for grinding corn and the other for raising water. On the 20th June, 1809, extended powers were obtained by Act of Parliament (49 Geo. III, cap. 189), and the Ravensbourne Water Works then became merged into the company of proprietors of the Kent Water Works.
At the present time the Company supply an area of about 120 sq. miles in the County of Kent. Its limits, having been extended by subsequent Acts, now include the district from Rotherhithe, down the Thames as far as Gravesend, and inland as far as Dartford, Greenhithe, the Cray Valley, and Orpington, Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Lewisham, Bromley, Chislehurst, &c., and its supply of water is unequalled for its purity by any company within the metropolitan area. Steam power is now used for pumping, and about 9,000,000 to 11,000,000 gallons are supplied daily.

“Greenwich” Railway: London’s Oldest Railway

This railway plays an important part in the history of Deptford:

Deptford, doubtless, owes its rapid increase in population and importance to its extensive railway facilities, being intersected by the L.B. & S.C., the North Kent (opened in 1849); the L. C. and D., and the Greenwich lines, the latter being the oldest in the metropolis. The first train was run from Spa Road to Deptford 28th February, 1836; from Bermondsey to Deptford about October, 1836; from London Bridge to Deptford 14th December, 1836; and from London Bridge through to Greenwich in 1838. There are no less than seven stations in the parish, with just as many more within almost a stone’s throw of its boundaries. The Croydon Railway was worked in the first instance by atmospheric pressure, and was built on the site of the old Croydon Canal, with its numerous locks and lock houses, one of which, situated on the Brockley Tips, has only just disappeared. The Croydon Canal nearly occupied the site of the L.B. & S.C. Railway, passing through Brockley between the shop of Mr R. Henderson, the baker, and Flora Cottage, the residence of Mr Griffin, landscape florist. This cottage, with the adjoining Bank Lodge, occupied by Mr C. Cox, gardener, are the only remnants left to show the former rusticity of the Deptford portion of Brockley.

New Cross

Most of the area now known as New Cross was previously known as Hatcham. Here is an extract from History of Deptford on the Manor of Hatcham:

In the Domesday Book, compiled by order of William  the Conqueror, 1087, the Manor of Hatcham is noticed in the following terms:
“In Brixton Hundred the Bishop of Lisieux holds of the Bishop of Baieux Hachesham, which Brixi held of King Edward. It was then assessed at three hides, as it now is; the arable land amounts to three caracutes. There are nine villanes and three bordars, with three caracutes; and there are six acres of meadow; the wood yields three swine: from the time of King Edward (the Confessor) it has been valued at forty shillings.”
In the reign of Henry II, Hatcham was the seat of a family of the same name; for we find by a certificate returned into the Exchequer at that time that Gilbert de Hatcham (or Haachesham, as then spelt) accounted for four knights’ fees of the Barony of Wakelin de Maminot. In the next reign, as stated in the “Testa de Nevill,” two knights’ fees in Hatcham and Camberwell were held of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, by William de Say, and the heirs of Richard de Vabadun. Sarah, the daughter and heiress of de Vabadun, married Roger de Bavant, who in the 46th year of the reign of Henry III accounted to the Exchequer for two knights’ fees, pertaining to the above-mentioned barony. A composition was made in 1274 between the Prior of Bermondsey and the Abbot of Begham, of Hatcham, in the parish of West Greenwich, which was let to the abbot for the sum of 13s. 4d. per annum.In the 13th year of the reign of Edward I, 1285, Adam de Bavant, son of Roger, had a grant of free warren, but it appears that he alienated a portion of the estate directly afterwards to Gregory de Rokesley, an eminent citizen of London, who had filled the office of Lord Mayor from A.D. 1275 to 1281; was Keeper of the Royal Exchequer, and essay-master-in-chief of all the English Mints. De Rokesley obtained a faculty from the Abbot and Convent of Begham that same year for his oratory, which he had built for the use of himself and family here, saving to themselves all oblations and other rights. He died in 1292, and Roger Busslep, who may have been his heir, sold or mortgaged the estate to Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells; and on his death in October, 1292, an extent was taken both of this and the Manor of Hatcham-Barnes, from which it appears that here was a capital messuage, garden, and fishpond, with lands, and rents of assize, valued together at £6 0s. 2½d. The Bishop’s claim on the estate descended to his nephew Phillip Burnell, who died in the 22nd year of King Edward I’s reign. His son Edward dying without issue in 1316, the inheritance devolved on his daughter Maud, who married first, William, Lord Lovell, and afterwards John de Handlo. The descendants of the latter succeeded to the possession of the Burnell estates under the sanction of a settlement; but on the failure of male heirs of that family the estates reverted to William Lord Lovell, who however, in 1442. transferred Hatcham to Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury, and his son, Sir Edmund Hungerford, who had married a co-heiress of the Burnell family.The subsequent descent of this estate is uncertain, but it may possibly have passed by the marriage of an heiress, from the Hungerford to the family of Hastings, as there was a building between Camberwell and Stockwell, called Loughborough House, which may have been founded by Edward Hastings, created Baron Loughborough by Queen Elizabeth in 1558, or by Henry Hastings, who obtained the same title from Charles I in I643, but neither of whom left heirs to continue the title. In 1749, Cowper and his wife levied a fine to Gordon of one third of the Manor of Little Hatcham in Peckham and Camberwell, which possibly may have reference to this part of the Burnell estate now under notice.Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, was found, at his death, to have been possessor of the Manor of Hatcham in Deptford Castle (as it is expressed). This Earl was murdered in France, when in attendance on Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, the “She-wolf of France.”

History of Deptford contains much more on the history of New Cross.


Brockley was once in the parish of Deptford, and in History of Deptford, Nathan Dews includes Brockley history:

Brockley is situated in the southern extremity of the parish, a portion being in the parish of Lewisham. It was once accounted a manor, and granted with its appurtenances by Wakelin de Maminot in the latter end of the reign of King Henry II, to Michael de Turnham, to hold free and quietly to him and his heirs by the yearly rent of 12 pence, in lieu of all services, for which grant the said Michael became his feudatory tenant and paid him 40 shillings.
Michael de Turnham afterwards sold his land of Brocele, as his free gravilikinde and stockikinde to the Countess Juliana, wife of Wakelin de Maminot, that she might found a religious house here, Stephen de Turnham, his nephew, consenting to it.
The religious of the Premonstratensian Order, who were first settled at Ottham, in the County of Sussex, by Ralph de Dene, finding that place very inconvenient to them, resolved to quit it for one more suitable; and in all likelihood it was these to whom the Countess Juliana and Michael de Turnham gave this place, in pure and perpetual alms, for a habitation, which gift was confirmed by Geoffrey de Say, the land being part of his barony.
But they did not remain here long, for Robert de Turnham, nephew of Michael (with the consent of his lordship, Richard, Earl Clare), gave them an estate consisting of “all his lands of Begham, or Bayham,” partly in Lamberhurst, in Sussex, “with all its appurtenances in pure and perpetual alms, free from all service and secular exactions, whereon to build an abbey in honour of St Mary.” They selected a spot in the two counties of Kent and Sussex for the site of their structure, on a point of land between two branches of water, a divided branch of the Medway, “where wood, water, and variety of ground and picturesque scenery were amply provided by nature;” a spot fully entitled to bear the name they gave it: “Beaulieu.” Hither, after obtaining the consent of Ella de Sackville, the daughter of their founder, Ralph de Dene, they wholly removed on the Feast of the Annunciation, A.D. 1200.
King John, in the ninth year of his reign, confirmed the land at Brokele to the Abbot and Convent at Begham.
Edward III in 1329 granted them free-warren in their lands at Brokele.
The lands at Brockley continued with the monks until the dissolution of their abbey in 1526, when, being one of those smaller monasteries which Wolsey had obtained from the king for the endowment of his college at Oxford, it was settled by him on Cardinal College. Wolsey, being cast in a præmunire in 1529, all the estates of this foundation, both real and personal, were forfeited to the king and continued in the hands of the Crown till 1532, excepting such as were begged from time to time by the hungry courtiers, which were not a few.
That part of this estate, situated in the Parish of Deptford, was granted by Queen Elizabeth by letters patent in the 10th year of her reign, May 4th, by the description of the site and capital messuage of the Manor of Brockill, to Philip Conway but in 1608 it had again reverted to the Crown, where it seems to have remained till about the time of the Restoration, when the Manor Farm (or, as Hasted calls it in 1778, Hither, or Upper Brockley Farm) was vested in Sir John Cutler, Bart., who settled it, by deed in 1692, on Edmund Boulter, Esquire, who by will in 1767 left it to his brother William Boulter. In 1709 William Boulter made a settlement by which it passed to his grandson, Richard Wilkinson, and afterwards to William Wickham, Esquire, and Mary, his wife, sister to the said Richard Wilkinson. This, together with another considerable estate in the parish of St Nicholas, Deptford, were carried by Mary and Anne, daughters and co-heiresses of the Rev William Wickham, of Garsington, Oxfordshire, into the family of Drake, of Shardeloes, Amersham, Bucks. Mary, the eldest daughter, married the Rev John Drake, rector of Agmondesham, whilst her sister Anne espoused on August 8th, 1780, his eldest brother Thomas, who had assumed in 1776 the name of Tyrwhitt, in accordance with the testamentary injunction of Sir John de la Fountain-Tyrwhitt, Bart,, the surname and arms of Tyrwhitt; but, upon inheriting the estates of his own family at the death of his father, 8th August, 1796, he resumed, in addition, his paternal name, and became Tyrwhitt-Drake.
The first ancestor of the Drake family, according to Burke, from whom lineal descent can be traced is John Drake, of Exmouth, Devonshire, “a man of great estate, and a name of no less antiquity” who lived in the time of Henry V. 

BUY History of Deptford

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