Here it is, another article in our series on the blue plaques of South London, and this week we're talking about the blue plaques of Deptford and New Cross. From the outset we're going to be very honest with you and tell you that there is only one 'official' blue plaque in Deptford and New Cross. Talking about only one plaque would not be particularly interesting however, so we're included the Lewisham maroon plaques as well in this list, along with one or two other plaques. Some might accuse this list of being somewhat arbitrary as we haven't included every plaque in the area, but we've included those which we thought were worth including. Though there is only one blue plaque, we've called this article the 'Blue Plaques of Deptford and New Cross' for the sake of consistency. Anyhow, we hop you enjoy this list of the blue plaques of Deptford and New Cross.
John Tallis - 233 New Cross Road
The only 'official' blue plaque on this list, John Tallis lived in this house on the New Cross Road from 1870 to his death six years later in 1876. As a publisher he achieved success initially with the series London Street Views, which was published from 1838-40 and featured engravings of each house on each street of London. Though the books he published were generally popular, he went bankrupt in 1861, and moved to New Cross in 1870, though it is unclear how related the two are considering the nine years between the two events.
roy porter - 13 camplin street, new cross
Historian (Lewisham Plaque)
Roy Porter was a historian who wrote or edited over 100 books, but was best known for his work in the field of medical history. Born in 1946, Porter attended Wilson's School in Camberwell and then won a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge, where his contemporaries included Simon Schama and he received a double starred first. Porter described his childhood growing up on Camplin Street vividly in the preface to his 1994 work London: A Social History: "New Cross Gate was a stable if shabby working-class community completely undiscovered by sociologists [...] The three-up, three-down council house that my parents shared with my grandparents and an uncle had an outside lavatory; a tin bath was hauled in once a week from the bottom of the garden, set down on the scullery floor, and filled from kettles and a wheezing Ascot gas water-heater. Domestic overcrowding was worsened but redeemed by the sanctity of the front room, used only at Christmas, though unlocked once a week so that the Rexine three-piece suite could be polished with Ronuk."
Peter The Great of Russia + Deptford Friends' Meeting House - 146 Deptford High Street
Emperor of Russia
This is a curious plaque in Deptford because while it commemorates two things - Peter the Great and presence of the Deptford Friends' Meeting House - it emphasises the latter of the two far more than the former. Peter the Great, or Peter I of Russia, was born in 1672 and became the Emperor of Russia at the age of 12 in 1682. Fifteen years into his reign, with Russia in the midst of a costly war with the Ottoman Empire, Peter sought to form an anti-Ottoman alliance during an incognito 18-month tour of Western Europe known as the "Grand Embassy" which started in 1697. As part of his tour he visited England and stayed at the house of John Evelyn in Deptford while he studied the local shipbuilders. While in Deptford, and despite being head of the Russian Orthodox religion, he briefly worshipped at the Deptford Friends' Meeting House, a Quaker place of worship.
Sir Barnes Wallis - 241 New Cross Road
Scientist (Lewisham Plaque)
The name Barnes Wallis is famous for the vital role he played in the design and invention of the bouncing bomb, used during the Dam Busters raid in 1943, and the subject of the 1955 film The Dam Busters, in which Wallis was played by Michael Redgrave. Though he was born in Derbyshire in 1887, Wallis moved to New Cross when he 5 in 1892 and lived there till 1909 while he attended Haberdashers' Aske's in New Cross.
Robert Browning - haberdashers aske's hatcham college, new cross
Poet (Lewisham Plaque)
Born in Camberwell in 1812, Robert Browning was a Victorian poet and playwright probably most famous for his poem version of the the Pied Piper of Hamelin (1842). He is commemorated by this plaque on Haberdashers' Aske's school in New Cross, which marks that he lived in a cottage near the site of the school between the years of 1841 and 1846. It was during this time that he published the collection of poems which the Pied Piper of Hamelin was part of, and began to exchange letters with Elizabeth Barrett who he would elope with to Italy in 1846.
dire straits - farrier house, crossfield estate, deptord
Rock Band (Performing Rights Society)
Dire Straits were a British rock band who sold over 120 million albums while they were active from 1977-1988, and were formed initially of Mark and David Knopfler, John Illsley and Pick Withers. Though the Knopflers were from Newcastle, and Illsely and Withers were from Leicster, the band was formed in 1977 in their shared flat in the Crossfield Estate in Deptford. That same year they also performed their first gig together behind Farrier House. Arguably their most famous track"Sultans of Swing" was apparently written about a band they saw performing in The White Swan in nearby Greenwich called the Sultans of Swing.
new cross fire - 439 New cross road
This plaque on New Cross Road commemorates the fire that started during a house party at this address on Sunday 18th January, and which resulted in the death of 13 individuals, all of whom were teenagers, and all of whom were black. In the initial stages of the investigation as to how the fire started the police believed that it was a racist attack, and that the flat had been firebombed However, this theory was subsequently ruled out after examination of relevant scientific information suggested that the fire had started from inside the house - and from here investigators believed that the fire was most likely the result of a fight between some boys at the part. While the case was being examined, there was anger at the manner with which it was being reported by certain news outlets, and a feeling that the investigation wasn't being taken seriously by the authorities due to the ethnicity of the victims. In April of that same year the Brixton Riots occurred and the fire has been seen as a catalyst for them. To this day, and despite two inquests, it still hasn't been fully established what or who caused the fire, and there are still calls for further investigation.
Thankfull Sturdee - 16 Bolden Street, Deptford
Photographer (Lewisham Plaque)
Born in 1852, the truly amazingly named Thankfull Sturdee is known as one of the most influential early newspaper photographers. Living at 16 Bolden Street from 1900 to 1903, his best known work was that done while working for the Daily Mirror from 1911. While living in Deptford he also documented the surrounding area, and published a collection of those images Reminiscences of Old Deptford (1895). The archive of his photographs are now held in Deptford Library.
Woolworth's V2 Attack - 277-281 New Cross Road
This plaque commemorates the worst single V2 incident of the Second World War in which 168 people were killed. On 25th November 1944, at 12:26 pm, a V2 rocket hit the New Cross Woolworth's while queues had formed out the door of the shop due to a rumour that the shop had received a shipment of 144 tin saucepans, an item that was particularly scarce during the war - it is believed that New Cross station was the actual target. Only one person survived.
London & Greenwich Railway - Deptford Station, Deptford High Street
This plaque at Deptford station commemorates the London & Greenwich Railway line, built in 1836. Deptford station was once a terminus of the line, and is the oldest London railway station. The line is still in use, and now terminates at Greenwich (hence the name) which was voted as part of our Top 10 South London Train Stations.
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