More For Your Money: Deptford, London SE8

New life for the old docks
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The Independent Online

One of London's oldest areas, Deptford has been shaped, and reshaped, by warfare. The process continues now.

The area is located on the Thames in south-east London, on the ancient road to Dover and Canterbury. Geoffrey Chaucer's pilgrims, in his Canterbury Tales (around 1387), reached Deptford shortly after leaving Southwark. A century and a half later, Henry VIII chose this large riverside location for his naval dockyard, and throughout much of its long military incarnation (1513-1869), this brought prosperity - and handsome, still extant properties - to the area. Later, the site became home to a foreign-cattle market and then morphed into a navy victualling yard.

After the Second World War, the docks handled cargo such as cars, timber and general goods. That war itself profoundly affected Deptford, with Luftwaffe bombing preparing large areas for subsequent development into council blocks. After the war Deptford was dominated by industry (the victualling yard remained operational until 1961) and grim estates.

Recently Deptford started moving upmarket, initially in warehouse conversions and small-scale new-builds. One prominent project - the conversion of the Aragon Estate from a council block to a posh private tower - is emblematic of the overall trend. Out goes a troubled, and troublesome, council block and in comes a spectacular, pricey skyscraper.

Deptford awaits an even more transforming jolt when the fate of the 40-acre Convoys Wharf - the site of the former navy yard - is finally settled. Planners did approve an ambitious scheme by the architectural firm of Lord Rogers, which included more than 3,500 residential units, including 1,200 social-housing flats. Every unit was to have a balcony or private or communal garden space - or both - in a complex with shops, a new school, andperiod listed naval buildings. But a recent change of ownership sent the scheme back into the bureaucratic melting pot.

Matthew Redfearn, a secretary at nearby Goldsmiths College in New Cross, moved to Deptford for practical reasons and is grateful that he did so. "I was living in Brixton and wanted to be closer to Goldsmiths," he says. "Deptford was cheap and convenient."

Redfearn and several housemates are renting a four-bed Victorian house. "My immediate area is near a park and is very quiet and attractive. Deptford generally is cosmopolitan, with lots of international bars and restaurants, and lots of outdoor access. Some roads are Victorian and Georgian but there are also new apartment blocks with big, bold architecture and colour. I like my road and hope to eventually buy a conversion flat here."

How much do flats cost?

A ground-floor studio flat in a purpose-built block on Glenville Grove is £110,000, and an ex-council third-floor flat in Maple House is £112,500, both at Cannon Kallar. Two- and three-bed ex-council flats are available for £150,000 at Radiant. Also at a discount is a two-bed flat above shops on Deptford High Street that is £169,500 at Reeds.

What about newer, private flats?

Two two-bedders each boast a balcony but one is £45,000 cheaper: the apartment in a modern block on Watergate Street is £204,950, whereas the flat in OneSE8 is £249,950. The latter has slightly larger rooms and allocated parking in a 450-unit development with a gym, lap-pool and café/bar. The agent for both is Reeds. About 50 new units in OneSE8 have been released, from £199,950.

What about period houses?

Three-bed terraces sell for around £250,000. A three-bed end-terrace with 20ft garden on Speedwell Street is £245,000, and a three-bed Victorian terrace on Etta Street with connecting reception rooms is £265,000; both at Cannon Kallar.

Tell me more about Aragon.

The original council block had 24 storeys. The developer Berkeley re-clad the façade and added five storeys of penthouses, making it London's tallest private residential block. The building, which will be ready for occupation next spring, will have 144 two-bed split-level flats and 14 two- and three-bed penthouses; from about £250,000 to more than £750,000.

What about transport?

Deptford is one stop from London Bridge. The station, which will be refurbished, was opened in 1836 and is the oldest surviving passenger-train station in London. The nearest tubes are New Cross (East London Line) and Deptford Bridge (Docklands Light Railway). Deptford is in zone two.

And the shops?

On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays Deptford High Street and its intersecting companion, Douglas Way, host a large street-market. Nearby Lewisham has a major shopping precinct.

What about culture?

Local to Deptford are the Albany Theatre and the Laban Dance Centre. During his stint as clerk to the Navy Board, Samuel Pepys often visited the Dockyard. Another diarist, John Evelyn, lived in a manor-house, Sayes Court. The novelist Joyce Cary (1888-1957) lived in Deptford.

And one for the pub quiz?

What famous Russian studied shipbuilding at the Royal Dockyard in Deptford?

Tsar Peter the Great, a Deptford resident (and not a well-behaved one) for a few months in 1698. Workhouse Lane is no more; it is now Czar Street, near Peter the Great's Sayes Court home and the dockyard.

Cannon Kallar, 020 8692 0555; Radiant Property, 020 8692 3377; Reeds, 0208691 9009.