Deptford and Woolwich: London's Royal Dockyards
|Decline of the Deptford and Woolwich yards|
Beginning of the end
The yard closed in 1869, throwing many out of work and causing great hardship to the local population. The yard was converted into the Foreign Cattle Market in 1871, which operated on the site until 1913. It is now Convoy's Wharf.
The shift from shipbuilding at Deptford
Long before the yard's closure, Deptford's importance to the Navy had already begun to shift away from shipbuilding.
As early as 1742, a victualling (food and provisions) yard was set up to the northwest of the dockyard. At first, it chiefly supplied ships' biscuits, made only from flour and water to help preserve them.
The complex was renamed the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard in 1858, following a visit by Queen Victoria. By this time it occupied 14 hectares (35 acres) and contained stores for clothing, food, tobacco and rum.
There were also slaughterhouses, pickling houses, brew-houses, and facilities for making chocolate, milling mustard and pepper as well as baking biscuits. The victualling yard closed in 1961 and the site became part of the Greater London Council's Pepys housing estate.
Woolwich: steam-power and closure
A new purpose-built steam basin and additional slips were added in 1831 and facilities for building larger steam vessels were completed in 1843.
By this time, covered slipways had been introduced to protect the workers and the ships as they were built. The launch of new propeller-driven steamers – like HMS Royal Albert in 1854 – marked a high point in the history of Woolwich dockyard. Just as with Deptford, the Woolwich yard closed in 1869.
Chatham and closure
The closure hit the population of Woolwich particularly hard, coinciding with a period of lay-offs at the Royal Arsenal. The hardship was such that a relief fund was set up to help families start a new life in Canada.
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