London SE8 has recently gained a lot of attention in the press for all the right reasons. In March 2009, The New York Times proclaimed Deptford a must-visit destination, describing it as ‘a boisterous concoction of blue-collar aesthetics and intermittent hipsterism’ with ‘the most heady of urban ingredients: an edge’.
Home to contemporary dance centre Laban, and with Goldsmiths College just down the road in New Cross, the area is a magnet for south London’s artistic community. There are so many galleries, in fact, that an online map has been created to help visitors find their way along the artistic trail. Arch, a gallery under the railway arches on Resolution Way, sells work by hot new artists and, around the corner on Creekside, is highly praised communal artisans’ studio Cockpit Arts .
What sets Deptford apart from its arty counterparts Soho and Shoreditch, however, is its strong south London identity, complete with rough edges. A colourful market on Deptford High Street sells everything from food to furniture every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The street is also home to unusual finds such as Cod Father’s, a fishmonger where you can buy live eels and baby sharks, and AJ Goddard, a traditional pie-and-mash shop with a tiled interior that’s been run by the same family since 1890.
Deptford was a vital hub of London’s dockyards from the mid-sixteenth until the mid-nineteenth century, and clues to the area’s past can be found around every corner. At St Nicholas’ church on Deptford Green, a pair of carved skulls and crossbones adorn the gateposts, which some believe to have been the inspiration for the infamous Jolly Roger pirates’ standard. In contrast to these historical gems, other parts of the area are undergoing a transformation. In 2008, the Deptford Project – an old railway carriage converted into a colourful café and community space – arrived on the high street and, within the next two years, the train station is set for a redesign by renowned architect Richard Rogers.
Four trains per hour go to London Bridge in seven minutes and Cannon Street in 11 minutes, with more trains at peak times. The closest tube station is New Cross (Zone 2 on the East London line). DLR trains leave Deptford Bridge every five to 10 minutes, reaching Bank in 26 minutes. There are also plentiful buses.