Walk 11 - A Walk Around Historical Deptford

Approximately 7 Kilometres / 4.5 Miles (about 2 hours)


Among other things, on this walk you will see:

  • Where the River Ravensbourne and Deptford Creek flows into the Thames
  • The site of Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyards
  • 18th century buildings from HM Royal Navy Victualling Yard, which provided food and other supplies for the Royal Navy from the 17th century up to the 20th century, and where Samuel Pepys worked.  
  • The memorial to Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to London in 1698 with his entourage, included four chamberlains, three interpreters, two clocksmiths, a cook, a priest, six trumpeters, seventy soldiers all as tall as their monarch (6’ 8” / 203 cm), four dwarves, and a monkey.
  • The site of the famous diarist John Evelyn’s house, where Peter the Great stayed on his visit.
  • The place where Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Elizabeth I
  • A street of Georgian houses, that narrowly escaped demolition, just off Deptford High Street
  • The place where Christopher Marlowe is buried, after being murdered during a drunken row


You can read the walk instructions directly from your smart phone. 

Directions are in black, historical notes are in red. There are also links that lead to further information about points of interest.

If you don't want to read the walk instructions on your phone, you can click here to download a printable PDF version of this walk guide


The walk starts and ends at the Cutty Sark DLR station.  

On exiting the station into a shopping arcade, turn left. When you emerge onto the street, turn left and head towards the Cutty Sark museum.

Keeping the Cutty Sark on your right, and just before getting to the glass domed entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, turn left onto a path leading towards the river. 

Continue along the path at the edge of the Thames, past some cannons.  You will then go past a number of apartment blocks, shops, offices, pubs and restaurants, until you get to a footbridge over a small river flowing into the Thames.


This is Deptford Creek, the last section of the River Ravensbourne, which rises at Caesar's Well, Keston, four miles south of Bromley town centre.

Deptford was first mentioned in documents in 1293 – when it was called Depeford. The ‘deep ford’ crossed what is now Deptford Creek, at the mouth of the River Ravensbourne.

A Celtic trackway crossed the Ravensbourne at Deptford. This trackway was paved by the Romans, and later became called Watling Street. The name Watling Street comes from the Old English 'Wæcelinga Stræt'. The Waeclingas were a tribe in the St Albans area in the early medieval period.

The River Ravensbourne becomes Deptford Creek at Deptford Bridge. This is further upstream from here, where the DLR Deptford Bridge Station now is. 

The Battle of Deptford Bridge occurred on the 17th June 1497, and was the last battle of the Cornish Rebellion. The rebellion was a response, by an insurgent army mainly comprised of Cornishmen, to hardship caused by tax rises introduced by King Henry VII to finance a Scottish military campaign, together with other issues to do with the control of tin mining. Although the rebels were beaten, eleven years later, the King addressed the principal grievance by allowing tin production to resume legally, with a measure of autonomy.

In the Domesday Book (1086), it is recorded that there were eleven water mills on the River Ravensbourne. In the 17th century, the London diarist John Evelyn bought one of these mills (Brookmills) for "grinding colour" (grinding pigments for making paint). It was later used by the Kent Waterworks company, and was finally demolished in the mid-19th century.

From the 16th century up until its closure in the 19th century, the proximity of Deptford Dockyard, created by Henry VIII, and a short distance up the Thames from here, gave work to many small shipbuilders on the creek. 

Francis Drake, having completed the first circumnavigation of the world, returned to Deptford. His ship the Golden Hind remained moored in the creek until it broke up. There is a replica of the Golden Hind now moored at St Mary Overie Dock on Cathedral Street, in Bankside, Southwark.

Captain Cook sailed from Deptford Creek on his three major world voyages between 1768 and 1779 to the Pacific Ocean, Australia, Hawaii and North America, trying to locate a Northwest Passage around the American continent.

Walk over the bridge, and turn right towards the Thames. Shortly, on your left you will see a statue of Peter the Great.

The statue is a gift from the people of Russia, erected in 2000, commemorating Tsar Peter the Great’s visit to London. It was designed by Mihail Chemiakin and Viacheslav Bukhaev.


Peter the Great’s visit to England was from 11 January 1698 until 21 April that same year. Peter’s visit was a section of a European research tour, as part of his efforts to make Russia more modern and European, and to establish the first Russian Navy. William III of England, was keen to welcome Peter as a way of increasing trade with Russia.

Peter was about six foot eight inches tall (203 cm), but his head, hands and feet were small, and his shoulders were narrow for his height. Added to this, Peter had noticeable facial tics, and he may have suffered from epilepsy.

Peter and his entourage first landed at York Water Gate, now near Embankment Station, but at the time would have been on the edge of the Thames. 

Peter’s entourage included; “Four chamberlains, three interpreters, two clocksmiths, a cook, a priest, six trumpeters, 70 soldiers as tall as their monarch, four dwarves and a monkey”. 

From February, the group had moved to Deptford. They stayed in Sayes Court, close to the shipyards (we will pass the site later in the walk).

Sayes Court, was owned by writer, diarist and gardener John Evelyn, who lived at this time in Wotton in Surrey. It was rented by William III to house Peter and his entourage. 

The Russian court in Deptford seemed to have had a riotous time. The following passage is from Ian Grey’s ‘Peter the Great in England’ (1956) which describes the house after the court had left to return to Russia.

“No part of the house escaped damage. All the floors were covered with grease and ink, and three new floors had to be provided. The tiled stoves, locks to the doors, and all the paint work had to be renewed. The curtains, quilts, and bed linen were ‘torn in pieces.’ All the chairs in the house, numbering over fifty, were broken, or had disappeared, probably used to stoke the fires. Three hundred window panes were broken and there were ‘twenty fine pictures very much torn and all frames broken.’ The garden which was Evelyn’s pride was ruined.”

Continue walking along the path next to the Thames. The path bends left at the Ahoy Centre, then swings right, merging into Borthwick Road. Continue on around Twinkle Park, and on to the junction with Watergate Street. There will be a large wall facing you with a large metal gate in it.

Turn right here and head towards the Thames, where you can get to the front of the Paynes Wharf building (up some steps), and if the tide is low also get down to river (take care, the steps can be slippery).


What remains of Paynes Wharf is the Grade II listed arches of its facade. It was retained for incorporation into the current building. From the 1860s until 1913 Payne’s Wharf was the boiler shop of John Penn & Sons, who were marine engineers, supplying ship parts, to ships such as HMS Warrior, the first iron hulled warship in the Royal Navy. The building has also been a meat processing and cold storage facility and a paper warehouse in the past. It is currently a China-UK cultural centre.

Return down Watergate Street to the large metal gate set into the wall on your right.


Behind the wall and gate is the site of the Royal Naval Dockyard. The Master Shipwright’s House and Office, behind and to the right of the gate is one of the few remaining parts of former Royal Dockyard that still exist on the site. It is occasionally open to the public, but usually the gate is locked. 

The Royal Naval Dockyard goes back to the 16th century. Founded by Henry VIII in 1513 the King's Yard became one of the most important shipbuilding yards in the world before finally closing in 1869.

This painting, by an unknown artist in 1683, is entitled, 'East India Ships at Deptford' and shows ships being built. From the position of St Nicholas' Church tower in the background (which will be visited later on in the walk) the view is from the Thames on the eastern side of the dockyard.

Originally a Tudor house, the Master Shipwright’s House was rebuilt in 1708 for master shipwright Joseph Allin who, dissatisfied with his existing house, persuaded the Navy Board to invest in a remodelling. However, Allin overspent on the house and, amidst rumours of corruption, he was dismissed in 1715.

After the dockyards closed, the house was used by the superintendent of the Foreign Cattle Market that occupied the site of the yards for a time.

It was bought and repaired by its current owners in 1998. It functions as a cultural centre and a location for film and photography.

Continue down Watergate Street.

On your left you come to Trevithick Street. 


Take a close look at the metal fence around the flats on the corner with Watergate Street. The fence was made from recycled World War Two stretchers.

Again, continue down Watergate Street, then turn right into Prince Street, still keeping the wall of the dockyard on your right.

The Dog and Bell pub here is a good place to stop for food and refreshments.  We will be passing this point again a little later in the walk.

As you pass the gates to the derelict dockyard site on the right, and can look through, to appreciate the Royal Dockyard’s size.


Founded by Henry VIII in 1513, Deptford Dockyard was an important naval dockyard operated by the Royal Navy from the 16th to the 19th centuries. 

The yard expanded through the 16th and 17th centuries, and for a time was the headquarters of naval administration. The Royal Navy Victualling Yard next to the dockyard (later in the walk) became the Victualling Board's main depot. By the eighteenth century, it was building and refitting ships used by Cook, Vancouver and Bligh, and Nelson.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the dockyard was declining in importance as the Thames was not deep enough for the new, larger warships. 

The dockyard wound down until the navy completely closed the yard in 1869. The victualling yard, that we will come to a little later, had been established in the 1740s, and continued to be used until the 1960s. The land that used to be the dockyard has been sold off and is currently being developed for housing and retail uses.

Continue along Price Street, and almost at it’s end, turn right into Sayes Court Street. Walk straight on to the end, pass the playground on your left, and enter Sayes Court Park.  Follow the path and turn left where it divides.


On the right here is a very old Mulberry tree, thought to have been planted by Peter the Great.

Sayes Court Park commemorates and was part of The Sayes Court estate, once owned by John Evelyn, the 17th century English writer, gardener and diarist. 

John Evelyn is also credited with discovering the famous woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons, who as a young man also lived in Deptford. The carving below is 'The Crucifixion', and is the work that the young Gibbons was carving when Evelyn first came across him, and as a result of which Gibbons was introduced to Charles II.

Sayes Court was also stayed in by the court of Peter the Great in the late 17th Century, as mentioned earlier in the walk. 

Originally a Manor House, with a number of different owners through the years, such as Cardinal Woolsey. When Woolsey fell from favour, the house taken by Henry VIII and later given away to a favourite. After Charles I was executed, the house was seized by Parliament.

In 1647 Mary Browne, daughter and heir of Sir Richard Browne, married John Evelyn, the famous diarist, who hailed from Wotton in Surrey. 

With the Restoration of the monarchy, Sayes Court reverted once more to the Crown, but, having taken up residence in his wife's family home in 1651, Evelyn managed with difficulty to obtain a 99-year lease of the property from Charles II in 1663.

He rebuilt and enlarged the house and, inspired by French and Italian ideas, turned the surrounding orchard and pasture into one of the most influential gardens of his day.

In 1694 Evelyn moved back to Wotton and rented the house out, and in June 1696 a Captain Benbow signed a three-year lease on the house, although wasn’t a good tenant. Evelyn wrote to a friend that he had "the mortification of seeing everyday much of my former labours and expenses there impairing".

Sayes Court in 1900

As mentioned earlier, more damage was done to the house and grounds when William III rented Sayes Court for Tsar Peter of Russia’s three month stay in 1698. 

Paintings were used for target practice, and the gardens were damaged by wheelbarrow races. Benbow demanded compensation after the Tsar's departure, to cover his own losses and reimburse Evelyn's. The Treasury eventually paid out the sum of £350 9s 6d (about £34,000 today), in compensation.

Carry on through the park, turning left at the Thames Path sign. Exit Sayes Court Park through the gate into Grove Street. Turn right, and continue along Grove Street. Just past another stretch of old dock wall with a large gate, turn right into Leeway, following the dock wall on your right. At the end of Leeway, the road bends left and turns into Millard Road. After passing a couple of new houses, go up some steps on the right into Pepys Park. Walk straight through the park up to the Thames. 


Pepys Park is named after Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist. In his life, Pepys held a number of important posts connected with the Royal Navy. One of these posts was as “The Clerk of the Acts for the Royal Navy”, where he was responsible for the secretarial side of the Navy Board's work. This work meant he often visited Deptford on official visits.

He mentioned his business in Deptford regularly in his diary, such as in this entry from Monday 4th March 1666:

“Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten by barge to Deptford by eight in the morning, where to the King’s yard a little to look after business there, and then to a private storehouse to look upon some cordage (ropes for ships rigging) of Sir W. Batten’s, and there being a hole formerly made for a drain for tarr to run into, wherein the barrel stood still, full of stinking water, Sir W. Batten did fall with one leg into it, which might have been very bad to him by breaking a leg or other hurt, but, thanks be to God, he only sprained his foot a little.”

Turn left at the river and walk along the riverside path. 


As you walk along the path next to the Thames, on the left are the 18th century riverside storehouses, and offices for the HM Victualling Yard for the Royal Navy, that was on the site behind these buildings. It was the ‘largest food processing operation in Britain, if not in Europe’ (Jonathan Coad, Support for the Fleet, 2013).

The victualling yard held slaughterhouses, butchery and meat salting areas, a bakery for making bread and ships biscuits, a soap and candle making facility, and areas for producing mustard, pepper, oatmeal and chocolate. As well as for production there were massive storage areas for bought in products, such as sugar, tea, rum, rice, raisins, wine and tobacco. There was also a cooperage, for the manufacture and repair of barrels, in which a lot of the yard's products were packed for storage and transport.

There was victualling activity going on in the site from the mid 17th century right up to the early 1960’s. Soon after that a lot of the yard buildings were demolished, and the Pepys council estate was built, leaving behind just a few of the victualling yard buildings.


Between the two buildings, leading down to the river, are Drake’s Steps. The steps get their name because, Francis Drake’s ship The Golden Hinde was moored at Deptford when he received his knighthood in 1581. 

There is a legend that when Queen Elizabeth I came to knight Drake on board his ship, Sir Walter Raleigh placed his coat down at the top of these stairs to keep her feet dry. However, a number of other places also claim that the event happened there!

Continue walking along the riverside, past some cannons, towards the large green and white block of flats. Just in front of the flats, turn left and go down a path into Longshore. 


After passing a small car park on the right, you arrive at The Terrace, which was built to house the senior officers of the yard.

Walk along the pavement just in front of the terrace.  When you have passed the Terrace, stay on the paved area and bear right. 


You will now pass The Colonnade, which were officers quarters, and housed the victualling yard porter and the Inspector of Works.  

Go through the gate at the end of the path, and look back at the yard’s main gate.  


The bollards are made from cannons. There is also a Victorian postbox set into the wall to the left of the gates. 

To the left of the post box, at ground level, is a stone inscribed - “1855 THIS LAND IS PART OF THE BERMONDSEY ROTHERHITHE AND DEPTFORD TURNPIKE ROADS”

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, many roads were maintained by turnpike trusts. These were bodies established by acts of Parliament which had powers to exact tolls to pay for the upkeep of the roads. 

Facing towards the gates, turn right and walk down Grove Street between two blocks of seven storey flats. Walk to the end of Grove Street, past the Victoria Pub on the right and Lower Pepys Park on the left, later you will also pass Sayes Court Park on the left.

At the junction, turn left into Evelyn Street.  After a short distance, at the mini-roundabout, turn left into Prince Street. Walk to the end of Prince Street, again passing the Dog and Bell pub, this time on the right.

At the end of Prince Street, turn right into Watergate Street.  Continue to the end of Watergate Street where it meets Evelyn Street / Creek Road.  Cross Creek Road and continue into Deptford High Street.  The the second road on the left is Albery Street, turn into it and walk along.


Albery Street is a largely intact early Georgian development, which was built in the early 18th century. Originally it was called Union Street, named after the Union between England and Scotland that created the United Kingdom in 1707. It was built by a Thomas Lucas who kept ownership and leased out most of the houses.

The name of the street changed to Albury Street in 1898.

The carved wooden brackets on the canopies above the doorways are mostly original. Although originally carved by local carpenters, probably involved in the local ship-building trade, some of them have been restored in recent times by Charlie Oldham, a Sculptor and Woodcarver who lived in Brockley in the 1980 and 1990s. 

Turn right at the end of Albury Street, then immediately turn left through a brick archway on to a footpath. Continue to Deptford Church Street, and then turn right and walk along it. Turn right through the gates into the churchyard of The Parish Church of Saint Paul, Deptford. Walk around the outside of the church.


St Paul's, Deptford, is one of London's finest Baroque parish churches, and is cited as "one of the most moving 18th century churches in London" in the Buildings of England series. It was designed by Thomas Archer, and built between 1712 and 1730. It was one of the 50 churches that were to be built by the New Church Commissioners, although only 12 were ultimately constructed. With St John's, Smith Square, it was one of two churches designed by Archer to be built under the Act.

The church is built from Portland Stone, and is raised on a crypt that is mostly above ground, thus needing a flight of stairs to enter. 

The most unusual feature of the building is the cylindrical tower with a steeple, around which is wrapped a semi-circular portico of four giant Tuscan columns.

Among the monuments around the church yard are several table-tombs, an obelisk, and other interesting grave stones.

There is also a very interesting grave stone, set into the grass at the front of the church, of Mydiddee, a Tahitian who came to England with Captain Bligh.  After the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ episode of 1789, when the crew mutinied and Fletcher Christian took over The Bounty, and set William Bligh, the Captain, and eighteen others adrift, Bligh returned to Tahiti on HMS Providence. The journey, like the one on the Bounty, was to take Breadfruit plants from Tahiti to grow in the West Indies, to provide a cheap crop to feed the growing enslaved population, to avoid dependence on expensive imported food. Mydiddee was the servant of the Tahitian king, and was sent to Britain to act as a cultural ambassador, and to learn about life in England in order to bring back knowledge that would be useful to the Tahitians. 

Before sailing, Mydiddee was given an early attempt at inoculation for smallpox. Unfortunately, the vaccine infected rather than protected him. When the ship reached Jamaica to unload its breadfruit cargo, Mydiddee was already ill. Bligh sent him to hospital there. However, shortly afterwards they set off again for England. By the time they got to Deptford, Mydiddee was seriously ill. He died when they arrived at Deptford on 4 September 1793. 

The first successful smallpox vaccine, was developed by Edward Jenner, who noted that milkmaids who had cowpox did not catch smallpox. It started to be used in 1796, three years after Mydiddee’s death.

Return out of the church gate that you entered from, and turn left up Deptford Church Street. At the junction with Creek Road, cross over and keep going in the same direction into McMillan Street, passing Rachel McMillan Nursery School.  Where the road bends right and becomes Stowage, straight ahead is the gate to St Nicholas’ Church.


At the top the two gateposts of the main entrance are skull and crossbones carvings, These are memento mori, which is latin for 'remember you must die', there to prompt people to think about the transient nature of life, and what may come after. They also signal that the church has a charnel house, where bones from old graves were stored when space for burials was short. It’s been said that they are also the inspiration for the pirate flag, the ‘Jolly Roger’, although little evidence supports this.

Enter the through the gates into the peace and tranquillity of the churchyard. Walk around the outside of the church.

St Nicholas’ Church was founded in the 12th century, its tower dates from the 14th century. The rest is mainly 17th century, there was some reconstruction work at the beginning of the 20th century, and again to repair Blitz damage to the the church after World War II.

At the rear of the churchyard, on the wall, is a memorial to playwright Christopher Marlowe. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard. Marlowe was a contemporary of William Shakespeare, although a little younger, and is probably most famous for his play ’Doctor Faustus’ (late C16). In the play, Faustus, when referring to Helen of Troy, gives the well known speech that starts,

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

And burned the topless towers of Illium?

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss:

Her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies. 

Come Helen, come, give me my soul again. 

Here will I dwell, for heaven be in these lips

And all is dross that is not Helena.

As well as playwriting, Marlowe was known to be engaged in spying for the government. He had also been accused of being an “Atheist” with too much love for “tobacco & boies (boys)”.  Marlowe was part of the "School of Night", a loose group of intellectuals, including Sir Walter Raleigh, who met to discuss their thoughts. Members of the group were called atheists, but the meaning of the word has changed, and they were more what we would today call agnostics, or people who doubted the literal truth of the Bible. 

Ten days before his death, a warrant was issued for his arrest on a charge of heresy. Marlowe handed himself in and was given bail. On the day of his death, he spent time in a house in Deptford, drinking with three men who also were, or had been, employed as spys.

Theories about the playwright's death have suggested a number of reasons. They include: a bar-room fight, a quarrel with one of his male lovers, revenge for the espionage he had been involved with (spying on well-off Catholic households). The fact that one of his drinking companions was accused of his murder, but was soon afterwards granted a pardon, has led to suspicions of assassination. 

On the wall of the church is a memorial to John Addey, who was a master shipbuilder in the Deptford Dockyard. He gave money to set up a fund to support poor people of the parish and to fund a school.

Leave the churchyard through the main gate and turn left into Stowage.  Remain on Stowage, then turn right at Gonson Street and then left on to Creek Road. Stay on Creek Road into Greenwich, passing over the River Ravensbourne again, this time on a larger bridge.  

The Cutty Sark DLR station is on the left, just before you reach Greenwich. 

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Russell & Paul