River wall. Built 1816-20 to the designs of John Rennie with Jolliffe and Banks as contractors. The upper section, added in the C20 as a flood defence measure, is not of special interest.
Reason for Listing
The river wall to the former Naval Victualling Yard, Deptford, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural and engineering interest: as an impressive and virtually intact structure designed by the great engineer John Rennie, little of whose work in London survives;
* Historic interest: for its association with Britain’s principal naval victualling yard, which had a pivotal role in sustaining the fleet;
* Group value: with the adjoining river wall of the former Royal Dockyard which comprises contemporary work by Rennie, and with designated buildings and structures from the former victualling yard. The river wall, river stairs and C18 former warehouses and offices form a handsome architectural setpiece; the ensemble as a whole constituting an important survival of London’s Georgian riverscape.
Until the late C17, the victualling of the fleet was outsourced to private contractors. Delays in supplying provisions, and not least their variable quality, was a source of perennial discontent which came to the forefront in the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars (1665-7 and 1672-4). The senior Navy Board official and diarist Samuel Pepys, who had been promoted to Surveyor General of Victualling in 1665, was instrumental in the move towards state control of the victualling system and in 1683 the Victualling Board, overseen by salaried commissioners, was established, a body which operated until its abolition in 1832 when its duties passed to the Controller of Victualling.
A naval supply depot had been established in the C16 on the riverside site to the north-west of Deptford Royal Dockyard. Known as the 'Red House' after a C17 warehouse which stood on the site, the land was acquired by the Victualling Board in 1743. Expanding from 11 to over 35 acres in the later C19, the victualling yard encompassed the manufacture and storage of foodstuffs and warehousing of clothing, tobacco and rum and other goods. It was the largest of the three naval victualling yards in the C18, with responsibility for supplying its counterparts at Devonport and Gosport. Its name changed to the Royal Victoria Victualling Yard in 1858. The yard continued in use until 1961 after which it was redeveloped as housing. A number of buildings survive, including two late-C18 former warehouses and offices overlooking the river, and the river stairs which may be contemporary with the wall.
In October 1811 a 90m section of the yard’s river wall collapsed; emergency repairs had to suffice however until 1816 when work on the Royal Dockyard wall was nearing completion under John Rennie (1761-1821), who undertook a series of works to the Royal Dockyards for the Admiralty during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The wall was entirely rebuilt to Rennie's design with Jolliffe and Banks as contractors. It was built in two phases, the c240m stretch to the north of the river stairs in 1816–17, the c105m southern stretch in 1818–20. The new wall was built out 5m in front of the old one, using coffer dams and pumping steam engines. Rennie said of the structure that it was ‘an excellent piece of work’, ‘extremely well performed’, ‘highly creditable’ and ‘well executed and perfect in all its parts’.
The walls are c6m high, curved in both plan and section, built in purple-brown stock brick laid in English bond, with granite copings and a stone plinth. Just under mid-height are stone ashlar bands, possibly Dundee or Craigleith stone as specified in Rennie’s work on the Dockyard walls. Some brick courses beneath the coping appear remade in yellower brick. At the angles of the landing recess to the Queen’s Steps are carefully mitred stone quoins; those on the north side incised with tide-measuring heights in Roman numerals, IV being the lowest visible, rising up to XX. There are vertical recesses in the brickwork for timber fenders at intervals of about 6m, and at the base of each, set into the plinth, is a cast-iron pocket, though some of these towards the south end have been removed. Below the plinth and the foreshore gravel there appear to be courses of finely pointed yellow-stock bricks. At the south-east end is a quadrant curve where the wall returns back to its original line, abutting the dockyard wall some 12m further along. Another curve at the north-west end marks the victualling yard's northern boundary. Above the copings there are C20 flood-prevention additions in concrete and engineering brick (which are not of special interest).
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.