Mayor turns down request to widen feasibility study

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has rejected a request that the site of the Double Dry Dock be considered as a potential location for construction of the Lenox, as part of the feasibility study that is planned. This study was made a condition of the outline planning permission granted for Convoys Wharf in March.

At the same time, he has granted his planning officers at the GLA a third extension of the deadline for agreeing the Section 106 agreement for the site with developer Hutchison Whampoa. The deadline has now been extended to October 31st.

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Convoys Wharf with the Olympia Shed on the left; the site of the Double Dry Dock is to the extreme right of the photograph.

Since the hearing in March, the Lenox Project team has attended a number of meetings with Greater London Authority and Lewisham Council planning officers, as well as representatives of the developer, Hutchison Whampoa, to discuss aspects of the Convoys Wharf section 106 agreement which relate to the project. Until the agreement is signed, the planning approval will not be validated.

The approval included an obligation for the developer to fund a study to determine the most feasible location for the Lenox Project on the site; this obligation also states that the study should be concluded as soon as possible.

However requests by the Lenox Project CIC for the feasibility study to consider the Double Dry Dock site have been rejected by the Mayor. This is potentially the most feasible site for the project and our preferred choice, being the location where the Lenox was originally built. The site has strong associations with the adjacent Master Shipwright’s House, the only above-ground building of the former Royal Dockyard that survives.

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Above: The Double Dry Dock and Master Shipwright’s House: Extract from an aerial view commissioned by the Navy Board (National Maritime Museum)

The Lenox Project questions the validity of a feasibility study that assesses only two locations and ignores what could arguably be the most feasible.

At the hearing in March, the Mayor of London did not stipulate in the planning condition how many sites should be included in the study, only that the study should determine the most feasible site. The developer has argued that only the Safeguarded Wharf and Olympia Shed should be included in the study, and this view is being supported by Greater London Authority planning officers. This position is unchanged from that which the developer was adopting before the mayoral hearing. 

However Lewisham Council has consistently advocated including the Double Dry Dock and the council recently wrote to Boris Johnson in support of our request to include it in the study. The Mayor received letters from Lewisham Deptford MP and Lenox Project patron Dame Joan Ruddock, Lewisham Deputy Mayor Alan Smith, a number of other Lewisham councillors and three GLA assembly members, all supporting our request.

In his response, the Mayor of London cited advice from his planning officers that the dock ‘no longer constitutes a functional piece of civil engineering’. This is strongly challenged by the Lenox team on the basis that the majority of the dock was excluded from the investigations carried out by Museum of London Archaeology. The small area which was excavated revealed a substantial stone-built structure in very good condition.

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The Great Dock: Photograph from Museum of London Archaeology Evaluation Report April 2010

We believe the aim of the study should be to choose the most viable location for the project and not the most convenient one for the developer.

The terms offered by the developer for use of the two sites currently proposed in the study, coupled with their availability in relation to the development construction programme, would delay the start of the project for anything from 8 to 12 years.

This could seriously undermine the project’s viability and it is for this reason that we want the Double Dry Dock to be included. We believe it is the only option that will enable the project to begin at the earliest opportunity.

The Lenox Project team intends to use the additional time offered by the deadline extension to continue lobbying for three sites to be included in the study and for the terms proposed for use of all of the sites to be modified to provide the best chance of success for the project.

WMF study day at the Master Shipwright’s House

If you missed the chance to visit Deptford’s Master Shipwrights House on Open House weekend, or you want to learn more about the history of the dockyard and its significance, the World Monuments Fund is hosting a study day at the house on Wednesday 15th October. Supporters of the Lenox Project and other local community groups can benefit from the reduced rate.

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Deptford Dockyard & The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Wednesday 15 October, 9.45am – 4.30pm

Deptford Dockyard was included in the 2014 World Monuments Watch due to the outstanding global significance of the site, both historically and archaeologically, and the threat of unsympathetic development.

In 1513 Henry VIII founded the Royal naval Dockyard at Deptford,and the King’s Yard became the foremost Royal dockyard of the Tudor period. Hundreds of warships and trading vessels were built here, including ships for exploration, science and empire.

The Mary Rose was launched from Deptford in 1517, and the dockyard remained a naval powerhouse for another 350 years. The history of Deptford as the lost piece of the Thames jigsaw will be explored in the comfort of the Master Shipwright’s House which sits alongside this threatened site and an afternoon trip to the archives of the National Maritime.

Tickets: £50 Members of Deptford Community groups, £60 non-members.

Bookings can be made on the WMF website.

Price includes a hearty lunch and refreshments throughout, and admissions are included in the cost. Will include some walking between sites and only suitable for those who are physically able. Please advise of dietary requirements in advance.

Visit the Master Shipwright’s House for Open House weekend

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On Saturday 20th September the doors of the Master Shipwright’s House will once again be opened to the public for Open House weekend, offering a rare chance to explore this little sliver of Deptford history.

The Master Shipwright’s House is sandwiched between the watergate next to Paynes & Borthwick Wharf, and the Convoys Wharf site on the former Deptford Royal Dockyard. When activity at the dockyard was at its height, master shipwright John Shish would oversee construction of vessels in the Double Dry Dock – including the Lenox – from this very house.

The building has been meticulously restored and it offers a unique view of the river from its exclusive Thames frontage.

The Lenox Project CIC will be there with our restored Saker cannon, and we will be happy to update you with the latest news on our project and answer any questions you may have.

Saturday 20th September, 10am-5pm. The garden and selected rooms will be open to visitors.

In SE8 and environs you can also visit Deptford Green School, Deptford Lounge, Fordham Park, Lewisham Arthouse, Rachel McMillan Nursery, Seager Distillery Tower (great views in the right weather!), the Stephen Lawrence Centre, and Trinity Laban Building as well as many of the historic buildings in Greenwich. Full details on the website.

Great fun at Party in the Park!

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Thanks to everyone who came along to meet us at Party in the Park on Saturday – it was great to see our long-time supporters and to have the chance to meet so many new faces too. We had fun explaining the project to those who didn’t know about it, and were thrilled by the enthusiasm of everyone we met!

pitp_kidsOur young fans loved seeing the cannon and learning about where it was found, how we restored it, and how it would have been fired in the days when it was employed on a ship similar to the Lenox.

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Our director, boat builder Julian Kingston, dressed up in costume as Deptford’s master shipwright John Shish, whose skills and foresight in noting down the full details of the design and construction of the original Lenox will allow us to replicate the ship exactly.

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We were lucky enough to meet some very interesting and entertaining people – as well as all those local residents who love the idea of seeing a replica ship built in Deptford, we met some with a more direct interest in the project and the period, including a blacksmith, a carpenter and lute player Stephanie Feeney who is giving us a brief serenade in the photo above.

If you missed us at the Party in the Park, do come along to the Master Shipwright’s House in Deptford next Saturday, where we’ll be hosting Open House London from 10am till 5pm.

The Lenox Project at Party in the Park

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The Lenox Project will be taking part in the Party in the Park in Fordham Park on 13th September – do come along and meet us, we would love to update you on what’s been happening this year.

We’ll have our restored 17th century cannon with us – come along and have a look at it and find out a bit about its recent history – and you can support us by buying one of our lovely tote bags for just £5!

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Party In the Park is an event organised by various community groups in the area around Fordham Park. It’s a community event for all ages, with family events, arts and crafts, stalls, spoken word, as well as local bands and acts for all tastes from disco to reggae, punk rock, soul and folk.

There will be food stalls, a beer tent, bric-a-brac for sale, new and vintage book stalls with many rare and first edition books at very low prices, plus games and competitions with lots of prizes. Plus stalls from local community groups like Millwall Football Club, the Lewisham Labour Party, New Cross Commoners, Save Lewisham Hospital, Grow Wild, and local housing co-operatives.

Saturday 14th September, from 12-8pm

Fordham Park, New Cross

For more information and full details of the line-up, visit http://pitpnxd.co.uk/home

Shtandart welcomes the Lenox team at the Tall Ships Festival

The Shtandart moored at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart moored at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Lenox team made an early visit to the Tall Ships Festival in Greenwich. A special focus of the visit was the Russian frigate Shtandart moored at Woolwich Arsenal Pier, a modern replica of a ship built by Tsar Peter the Great and one of almost 50 sailing ships visiting Greenwich.

The original Shtandart was just over a third the size of the Lenox and was the first flagship of the Imperial Russian Navy, built by Dutch shipwright Vybe Aleksandr Menshikov under the direct supervision of the Tsar. It was in commission until 1727, when it was broken up following damage during a refit. The Empress of Russia, Catherine I, ordered a replacement to be built, but this was not realised until a group of sailing enthusiasts embarked upon a project in 1994.

The new Shtandart is a remarkable achievement, having been built without the benefit of surviving historical plans. The replica has furnishings and decorative carvings copied from the original ship, as well as working cannons, but she also meets modern safety standards, although accommodation for the crew is extremely tight, but not as cramped as it would have been in the original. The original crew numbered between 120 and 150, whilst the modern crew consists of 30 trainees and 10 officers.

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Left to right: Captain Vladimir Martus, David Graham and Julian Kingston

Lenox Project director Julian Kingston and our architectural advisor David Graham secured a private visit to the ship on Friday morning before she opened to the public, and met with the captain, Vladimir Martus, whose expertise combines that of naval architect, master shipwright and builder of the ship. We were given a warm welcome, learning first-hand the full story behind her construction sixteen years ago, and were also able to give him a detailed summary of our plans for the Lenox.

Built in 1703, the Shtandart was a contemporary of the Lenox, which was built in 1678 but remained in commission until 1756. The connection goes much further, in that the Tsar learnt about the latest in shipbuilding technology at his visit to the Royal Dockyard at Deptford in 1698, where the Lenox was the first of thirty similar ships to be built, making the Shtandart one of the first Russian ships to benefit from his visit.

The Shtandart's ornately carved bow. The carved figures are based on crew members.

The Shtandart’s ornately carved bow. The carved figures are based on crew members. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart was constructed by a small team almost entirely by hand on wasteland outside St Petersburg. They were allowed to fell trees in the nearby forest that Peter the Great had planted for the construction of ships over 300 years previously. The only concession to modern technology was the occasional use of a chainsaw, and later her twin engines and navigation equipment. She has been successfully cruising northern waters since and regularly joins races and regattas, providing the young crew from St Petersburg with the unique experience of learning to sail a piece of history.

The Shtandart's upper gun deck with working cannons. Photo: David Graham

The Shtandart’s upper gun deck with working cannons. Photo: David Graham

Vladimir gave Julian and David much in the way of useful advice and strongly supports what the Lenox team are trying to do. We aim to maintain links with the Shtandart project and one day may see her visiting Deptford alongside the Lenox. We extend our best wishes to the Captain and crew for fair winds and calm seas.

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Tall ships at Greenwich

Tall ships at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

Tall ships at Woolwich. Photo: David Graham

The Tall Ships Festival opens in Greenwich on Friday 5th September and runs till Tuesday 9th. As part of the Falmouth–Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta, around 50 ships set sail from Falmouth today in a race to arrive at Greenwich during the week where they will berth at various locations along the river at Greenwich and Canary Wharf. The festival includes both free and ticketed events, fireworks, outdoor performances and live music plus the opportunity to board the ships or cruise on the river. More information at www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

The Tall Ships’ Races are organised by Sail Training International, an international association of national sail training organisations devoted to promoting “the education and development of young people of all nationalities, religions and social backgrounds, through sail training.” It is the Lenox Project’s aim to provide such training once the Lenox is built, so we are naturally excited about the arrival of the ‘tall ships’ so close to home, and encouraged by public enthusiasm for such spectacle and endeavour.

Greenwich is busy gearing up for the festival, including one of our staunchest local supporters, Lush Designs (at 8 College Approach SE10 9HY). They have just launched a new design for their homeware range which features the Lenox at Convoys Wharf!

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Meanwhile, the Lenox team are still involved in negotiations with the GLA and the developers to agree the full scope of the Feasibility Study, which forms part of the developer’s Section 106 Obligations, to determine the appropriate home for the Lenox on the development site. Also under discussion are the terms and wording of the legal clauses of the Community Project Obligations in the overall Section 106 agreement. The intricate detail and sensitivity of these negotiations is such that it has been difficult to keep our supporters updated, for which we apologise! The date for the Section 106 agreement to be signed has twice been delayed by the GLA and is now scheduled for the end of September.

Nunhead cemetery open day – 17 May

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Our restored Saker cannon on show last year at Twinkle Park

Some of our team will be at the Nunhead Cemetery open day this weekend – do come along and say hello if you are in the area, although it’s probably worth making a special trip if you’ve never been to this wonderful Victorian burial ground before!

As well as the opportunity to see our restored Saker cannon and catch up with the news from the Lenox Project, there will be other community stalls, tours of the cemetery and the crypt, and food and drink for sale at the cafe.

The open day runs from 11am to 5pm: more information, including directions, at the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery website.