Above: The large house, standing in its extensive garden. To the left is the redeveloped Payne’s Wharf and stairs at the end of Watergate Street. On the right is one of the enormous modern warehouses standing on Convoys Wharf when the picture was taken in 2015.
To give the house its full title, the Master Shipwright’s House is the oldest remaining building from the days of the former Royal Naval Dockyard at Deptford. Originally the home and office of the master shipwright from 1513, the building was remodelled in the early 18th century. It stands in a large garden almost on the water’s edge on the south side of the old dockyard site, having a separate entrance from Watergate Street.
During the dockyard’s history of over 350 years – from 1513 until it finally closed in 1869 – it became one of the most important shipbuilding yards in the world. The old Tudor shipwright’s house was remodelled in 1708 for master shipwright Joseph Allin who had been appointed in 1705. He was dissatisfied with the official residence and persuaded the Navy Board to spend money having it rebuilt. The work on the house was carried out by dockyard employees, probably to Allin’s design. His grand scheme was to become his downfall. Allin overspent on the project and with rumours of corruption, he was dismissed in 1715. The house and NE range were remodelled a century later – from about 1805 until 1809.
The interest in the interior is that there is extensive survival of late-Georgian joinery at all levels, including panelled doors, architraves with reeded decoration and shutters. In short, although it was in a poor state by the time renovation began in the 20th century, the house is a treasure trove of fine interior design.
The house is Grade II* listed. The reasons given were because of its architectural interest. Although altered, it is a handsome Queen Anne house remodelled internally about 1804, retaining significant fabric from both phases. The listing was also because of the rarity of such a building. Being an early-18th century house, such naval buildings are rare in Britain. It is also the only surviving example of a purpose-built Master Shipwright’s residence in a naval dockyard anywhere in Britain.
After the dockyard closed in 1869, the large house was used by the superintendent of the Foreign Cattle Market that occupied much of the land. The house was purchased in 1998 by private owners who carefully conserved the interior and carried out a full restoration. They not only use it as their home but it has also become a cultural centre with annual events featured in the house and also the grounds. Musical events are staged along with plays and even cabaret. In addition, the location is used for filming and photography.