Deptford Church Street, SE8

Place Name

Originally Church Street until around the 1930s when efforts were made to reduce street name duplication to avoid confusion. The churches in question are St Paul’s and St Nicholas, the parishes of which were known as Upper and Lower Deptford, respectively. Both were completed under Acts during the reign of Queen Anne that made law the building of 50 new churches in and near London to cater for the expanding population. There has been a church on the site of St Nicholas since at least 1321 when the priest was recorded as Guido de Ewar, he remained in place until 1339. The two new churches were completed around 1730. The name Deptford has changed little since it was first recorded as Depeford in 1293, it comes from the Old English words dēop and ford and literally, the deep river crossing – or ford. In 1313 it was written as Depford and a year later as Deppeford. David Mills in a Dictionary of London Place Names explains: “The medial – t – spelling in the modern form, around from the 15th century, is quite unhistorical, but no doubt reflects a change of pronunciation in the name at that date (still currently ‘Deptford’).” The crossing itself was over the River Ravensbourne at the point where it widens out into Deptford Creek and so on to joining the River Thames. This was more than just some mere general description however, with few bridges and a limited number of watermen working the rivers it was a useful warning for travellers not to cross the river at high tide. Indeed such was the depth of the water that this former fishing village was chosen as the site of Henry VIII’s new royal naval dockyard. Deptford was part of the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury used by the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and is mentioned in the prologue to The Reeve’s Tale.





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