Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tensions rise as Deptford secessionists launch petition

With the world's media focused on the crisis in Ukraine and the possibility of regions breaking away, a secessionist threat closer to home has so far gone largely unnoticed, except in the pages of the Newshopper and local blogs. Some settlers in the far East of Deptford are attempting to break up the integrity of the historic area by declaring that they do in fact live in Greenwich! They've even launched a petition to have their postcode changed from SE8 (Deptford) to SE10 (Greenwich). They say:

'The border between Deptford and Greenwich runs along Watergate street (crossing Creek Road). The border of the SE8/SE10 postcode runs along Deptford Creek. Citizens in this area are consistently effected by late / missing deliveries, higher insurance premiums etc. We all pay a higher rate of Council Tax to Greenwich, yet we are treated by the world as Deptford because of the power of the postcode. In addition to this our property prices are held at artificially low levels due to this confusion'.

This statue on the Peter the Great monument at Millennium Quay
was making its feelings clear today, wearing a 'Welcome to Deptford SE8' placard.
I must admit I thought with its reference to 'property prices' this was actually a satire on estate agents' hype, especially when I read the comment by somebody in the Newshopper that "Everything about the area is Greenwich, except the post code." I was going to write a long withering critique of this absurdity, but luckily 853 blog has saved me the time and done so there. The short version is that for historical reasons Deptford has been split for over a hundred years between being administered by two Councils - now Lewisham Council and Greenwich Council. The complainants presumably live in the Greenwich Council-adminstered side, but that no more means that they live 'in Greenwich' than people who live in Plumstead, Eltham or Woolwich - which are also within the so-called Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Deptford militia prepare to repel Greenwich incursion

The boundary between Greenwich and Deptford is Deptford Creek (the clue's in the name) and despite the efforts of estate agents to suggest otherwise, developments like Millennium Quay on the west side of the Creek are firmly in Deptford FULL STOP. That estate is actually on the site of the old Deptford Power Station, and other bits of Deptford in the Greenwich Council area include Deptford Green and the ancient parish church of St Nicholas Church, Deptford. I don't see them being renamed anytime soon. 

A far more obvious solution to avoid future confusion would be to redraw the borough boundaries so that Greenwich Council's area finishes at Deptford Creek. As 853 shows, this was what was originally proposed last time boundaries were reviewed in the 1990s. The reason it didn't go ahead was that Greenwich wanted all of Blackheath, so as a compromise Lewisham and Greenwich Councils split both Blackheath and Deptford between them - in both cases with little or no regard to the coherence of these areas.

Update Sunday 23 February: easy as it is to knock the people behind this ill-considered petition, the real villains are arguably developers Telford Homes who have been marketing their development on Copperas Street SE8 (next to the Laban) as 'Greenwich Creekside'. The website repeatedly refers to Greenwich rather than Deptford, saying for instance 'Greenwich is one of South London's most fascinating and vibrant districts. Our Greenwich properties lie just minutes from some of the city's most significant historical buildings - and you don't just have to take our word for that, as UNESCO has listed Maritime Greenwich as an official World Heritage Site due to the historical importance of the area'. It seems that the petition was started by people living there, rather than Millennium Quay. The same facts apply - whatever the developer might say this side of Deptford Creek is Deptford. Where does the Laban Centre think it is? Its website gives its address as 'Creekside, Deptford, SE8'. Correct.

Telford Homes website advertises Greenwich Creekside development - yes, its in the London Borough of Greenwich
but it is also very definitely in Deptford SE8
A little more on the Peter the Great statue...

I used to share the disdain some local people have for the  Peter the Great statue, but have changed my mind after reading an appreciation at Doilum blog and realizing that it is supposed to be subversively absurd:

'into this came Mihail Chemiakin, a Russian sculptor relatively unknown inside the UK, to jolly up this vapid development with a statue of Peter the Great. Peter the Great lived by the dockyard for four months as a young man in the seventeenth century at the home of the writer John Evelyn, where he studied shipbuilding and other new technologies coming out of England at the time.

The resulting work, unveiled in 2001, is a bizarre and ugly piece of art. There are three separate pieces on the municipal plinth: an empty throne to the right, a fat, squat dwarf to the left, and in the centre Peter the Great himself, his booming chest comical in juxtaposition to a tiny, disproportioned head. This sculpture does not flatter its subject matter - it holds it in contempt.

Chemiakin was a dissident artist in Soviet Russia and was exiled to the United States in 1971. Upon Russia's return to artisitic freedom Chemiakin went back to his homeland, and apparently his comical, disrespectful effigies of public figures are everywhere. He expresses a very Russian attitude to authority that sneers at, debases and takes the piss out of those that have repeatedly driven his country to despair. There is no measured critique in the Deptford statue of Peter the Great; instead an off-hand disdain that makes a laughing stock of its subject. Its main point that the everyday passer-by feels superior to the silly figures that stand above them. It is informed by a Russian sense of humour that celebrates the collective, downtrodden self against authority'.


Anonymous said...

I ♡ Deptford and am delighted to spend my life within its boundaries! I have never heard such nonsense from other residents.I say stop winging and enjoy the place you live in ...oh and stop moaning about things of no consequence!!!

Transpontine said...

Just to be clear I've got nothing against Greenwich, though I don't really understand why it would be seen as more desirable than Deptford.

Transpontine said...

Also nothing against people living in the Creekside development or Millennium Quay, many if not most of whom are quite happy and indeed proud to live in Deptford. But it's not down to property developers or people who have just bought properties to decide to fundamentally rename an area.

Sue said...

So funny! Is it Millennium Quay or Creekside Village though?

mari tay said...

I'd say historically and geographically old Deptford (riverside) has a much greater natural affinity to either Greenwich or Rotherhithe.Southwark.. Lewisham council too have been busy co-operating in the disappearance of Deptford as a political and administrative entity for a very long time..It has effectively lost its geo-political power already with only the SE8 post code to draw its borders in a fluid way...Perhaps oddly that intensifies the powerful mythology of a place - existing only by word of mouth and common consent.of people - .as place names used to and hopefully will continue to be...which is why West Greenwich (although a very old name for the area now being revived from above) sounds like an invading outside settlement intent on rubbing out living memories of the place to make way for a new regime
Factual point: most of Metropolitan Borough of Deptford became part of Lewisham in 1965.
Very glad to see mention of the Deptford Power Station (in fact it was 3 power stations in one) and the developers might want to change the street name too when marketing their new builds on Copperas St if potential buyers start looking into what that refers to !!
I'm not a supporter of the Russian sculptor..if the intention is to scoff at the powerful it is a bit odd that he is the richest and most influential artist in Russia on his return there with the rise of the wealth barons. As for the post code status..I'd rather be paying less council tax..(on the assumption I was a live in owner occupier of course).

Transpontine said...

Well yes, really there is a close affinity between the former docklands areas on both sides of the river. In many ways this is a silly debate that doesn't matter - place names and boundaries shift over time as usage changes. Deptford used to be Kent now it's London etc etc. I guess what gets people's backs up - including mine - is that for short term financial reasons there is an attempt to erase a long-established and commonly-held sense of place.

Unknown said...

I always understood that Greenwich Creekside already existed - it's called Norman Road. I'm sure if anyone genuinely objects to living in Deptford then they'd get a warm welcome there.