Deptford Dockyard. 1859. Engraving of a drawing by Walter W. May, R.N. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall, p. 474. Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Pittsburgh and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Commentary by the Halls

At Deptford, opposite [Millwall], we arrive at the first town in Kent. Its name has little altered in the course of ages, so that its original meaning, deep ford, may still be traced. This manor was given by William the Conqueror to one of his followers, Gilbert de Maignent, who erected a castle here. It is chiefly remarkable as the place of residence of Peter the Great, when he lived here to learn the art of ship-building; and as containing the Royal Dockyard, established as early as the time of Henry VIII., and continued with improvements to the present day. The whole is immediately under the inspection of the Navy Board: about 1500 labourers are constantly employed here.* The whole extent of the yavd includes about thirty-one acres. Many convicts are employed at the works, and the whole presents generally a very busy and well-ordered scene.

Queen Elizabeth visited the celebrated Captain Drake in his ship at Deptford, after he had completed his famous voyage round the world. She dined with him on board the vessel, and afterwards conferred on him the honour of knighthood, allowing him to assume the figure of a globe in a ship in his coat of arms, in memory of his having been the first circumnavigator of the world. The vessel in which he had performed the feat, and nobly entertained the Sovereign, was, by her Majesty's orders, preserved in the Royal Dockyard; and, when it went to decay, its timbers were formed into various relics. An elbow chair made of this wood is still preserved at Oxford.

The old church at Deptford is appropriately dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron of seafaring men. The tower, of flint and stone, is embattled. In the church is the monument of Captain Edward Fenton, who accom- panied Frobisher in his voyages, and was afterwards engaged in the action with the Spanish Armada. He died 1603. Another monument is to the memory of Peter Pett, master shipwright in the King's Yard here, who died 1652, and who first invented the war-ship known as a frigate. His family had long been distinguished for superior talent in ship-building, and his father, Phineas Pett, built, in 1637, the Sovereign of the Seas, the largest ship ever built before, and mounted with 100 guns. The meetings of the corporation of the Trinity House were originally held in Deptford; the hospital for old mariners still adjoins the church.

At Deptford, if we are journeying by land, we have just passed the boundary of the county of Surrey and entered that of Kent, which we do not again leave, inasmuch as it continues to border the right bank of the river all the way to its junction with the sea.


* The Deptford Dockyard is famous for its bakehouses and biscuit factory, which are most admirably constructed, and make some of the best bread her Majesty's service is supplied with. It is considered as one of the chief victualing establishments for the navy; but has also some very large slips, where many of our finest vessels have been built. The whole is under the inspection of a captain superintendent. [474-77]

Related Material


Hall, Samuel Carter, and A. M. Hall. The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall. London: Arthur Hall, Virtue, and Cp., 1959. Internet Archive version of a copy in the William and Mary Darlington Memorial Libray, the University of Pittsburgh. Web. 10 March 2012.

Last modified 12 March 2012