Deptford Creek, 2015

The journey by Docklands Light Railway between Deptford Bridge and Greenwich takes exactly one minute, riding high across one of the fastest changing landscapes in London. Those sixty seconds traverse a two thousand year old urban palimpsest of human settlement and industry that is being swiftly overwritten by a glossy new twenty-first century skyline.

Beneath the railway lies Deptford Creek, its high sea walls overlooking dark waters that conceal shifting layers of oily mud laden with domestic and industrial debris. Close by is Creekside with its famous Birds’ Nest pub, the monolithic Crossfields housing estate and some of Deptford’s last old industrial buildings lying vacant or occupied by motor vehicle workshops and artists’ studios. Between road and creek cling transient communities that belong to a different older Deptford, people living in bedsits, caravans and a hostal, and in an untidy knot of boats on the water itself. The sailors, shipbuilders, mudlarkers, lightermen, factory and dock workers, totters and vagrants who inhabited the area long ago are now succeeded by musicians, students, builders, artists, car mechanics, businessmen, office workers and pensioners alongside recent immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, China, Korea and Vietnam.

Deptford Creek casts a loose ethnographical and archaeological eye over Deptford, excavating through a dense strata of landscape, street and creek. From the urban panorama of contemporary infrastructure and monumental nineteenth century engineering it closes in on Creekside’s inhabitants, encountered on their way home or walking to work, study, shop or socialise. Moving below Creekside on to the creek bed, the survey records scores of everyday artefacts found its sludgy folds, long lost and discarded from unknown Deptford lives.

Deptford Creek, the photo book can be downloaded here

and Deptford Creek Compendium, the accompanying text book here

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