Convoys Wharf

MOLA team
16.06.2011

Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) is undertaking an excavation at Convoys Wharf, on the site of Deptford Dockyard, on behalf of Convoy's Investments S.a.r.l in accordance with detailed archaeological method statements agreed with Lewisham Council as advised by English Heritage. The excavation follows an evaluation which took place in 2010. The dockyard was founded in 1513 by Henry VIII when a storehouse was built, which became the core of a complex of warehouse buildings as the dockyard grew. The last above-ground parts of the storehouse, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, were demolished in the 1950s, although the foundations were identified during the evaluation.

The evaluation also uncovered slipways where ships were constructed. The most impressive of these was the Great Dock, built in stone. This double-dock was over 100m long. The dock was not excavated to full during the evaluation, but a depth-gauge painted on one of the walls revealed that it was at least 17ft deep (c 5.1m).

Other important features on the site include the Grade II listed Olympia building, which can still be seen today, with its distinctive double roof. This was a 19th-century cover building to protect ships from the weather during construction in the two slipways below. Once complete, the ships would be let out into the Dockyard Basin and thence out into the Thames. Sayes Court, home of the famous 17th-century diarist and horticulturalist John Evelyn, was also located on the site, although little evidence for the building has been identified.

The first phase of the excavation is aimed at obtaining geoarchaeological data on an ancient channel that crosses the site. Area 10, in the west part of the site, had to be dug to over 6m deep to allow geoarchaeologists to sample the full depth of alluvium filling the channel.

Many historical records survive of the Royal Dockyard. The 1698 view shows the complex of warehouse buildings next to the Great Dock in the left part of the panorama, as well as other slipways (marked by vertical posts) and other ancillary buildings. The Dockyard Basin is shown in the maps as a roughly hexagonal feature.

  • Post-medieval
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  • Excavation

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