Deptford: Christopher Marlowe in Dire Straits...

A visit to Deptford will put you in a part of London that has both a vibrant and murky past and has born witness to some notable moments in British cultural history.

The Greenhouse Deptford on New Cross Road is the ideal place both to start your journey around Deptford and experience delicious, home-cooked dishes and barista coffee. A welcoming and relaxed atmosphere will greet you upon arrival, bespoke wooden furniture makes good use of space and allows you to spread your work out across the tables and employ the free Wi-Fi.

The Greenhouse Deptford

There’s 10% off (Mon-Fri) for Lewisham Card holders, making it even harder to choose from the Greenhouse's extensive menu. With plenty of vegan and veggie options and speciality coffee on sale, this independent outfit has eco-friendly wholesome produce at the forefront of their minds.

Greenhouse Deptford Breakfast

With their 100% green energy supply powering the café on renewables; the coffeehouse use directly traded coffee beans and compostable smoothie and coffee containers to maintain their ecological outlook. The café is community minded; it’s a relaxed hub, a meeting point, a place where homemade cakes, local artwork and friends all come together.

Deptford Greenhouse

As you wander through Deptford, head towards the High Street to peruse the local Market. Held every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7am-4pm, antiques, vintage clothes, trinkets and African, Indian and Chinese foodstuffs are aplenty. Make sure you stop by Dungarees Coffee stall. Speciality coffee from Brazil and Guatemala is roasted to perfection. This stall is a must for a special espresso pick-me-up.

Dungarees Coffee

Just a ten minute walk along the high street will lead you to the architecturally striking St. Nicholas Church. It is here that Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare is commemorated. For it is here that he came to his untimely demise. Famed as the writer of two of the most famous 16th/17th Century plays, Dr Faustus and The Jew of Malta, Marlowe is considered one of the greatest of Britain’s stage writers. Along with his plaque in Deptford he is also remembered in the hallowed Poets’ Corner in Westminster abbey, rubbing shoulders with Chaucer and Lord Byron.

Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe was staying in Deptford at the home of socialite Eleanor Bull prior to his death on 30 May 1593. He was stabbed above the right eye with a dagger by businessman and commodity broker, Ingram Frizer. The motive is uncertain, however it is widely considered to be due to either a drunken brawl, a dispute over money or as punishment for Marlowe’s Epicureanism and Atheism. Nevertheless, it all occurred in Deptford.

Deptford’s pubs are not only famous for the murdering of playwrights; the burgeoning music scene has provided a platform for one of Britain’s largest bands in the 1980s and one of the world’s greatest living guitarists. Mark Knopfler and co. played their first ever gig under the name Dire Straits at Crossfields Estate in 1977. The Performing Rights Society has placed a plaque on the First Floor of Farrer House where most of the band lived. The gig took place in an open space at the back of Farrer House, with the electricity cable being fed through the band’s bedroom window.

Dire Straits Deptford
Dire Straits Deptford

 And there they are! Images provided by Deptford Dame

Dire Straits' hit record "Sultan's of Swing" includes the lyric, "Way on down South London Town". The line refers to Mark Knopfler's experience of witnessing a pub band playing in:

“a little deserted pub in Deptford where we were all living at the time - the pub was semi-deserted and the band were down at heel and it was just playing these Dixie standards of Louis Armstrong things, the way they always do”.

Knopfler commented that the members of this standard pub band all appeared to be local guys, with local jobs, such as teachers and postmen. They exited stage left with the words, “We are the Sultans of Swing”! Knopfler thought this to be highly amusing as these local types were a far cry from being lording sultans. Yet inspired, Knopfler wrote the track “Sultans of Swing”, putting Deptford in the Rock ‘n’ Roll history books. It is believed that the “little deserted pub” could be the The Duke, which lies near to the estate. However, the exact pub is disputed. Peter Frame, author of Rockin’ around Britain claims it was the White Swan on Blackheath Road, Greenwich. Others state it was The Royal Albert, just across the road from The Greenhouse Deptford.

Once you’ve soaked up the early beginnings of Dire Straits make sure you check out the stunning mural dedicated to the band. Located at Creekside (SE8 3DZ) lies the "Love Over Gold” mural, named after Dire Straits’ 1982 record and album. In 1989 the artist (Gary Drostle) worked with local primary school children to depict the environs of Deptford. Equality, wealth distribution and the environment are all shown throughout the mural. The egalitarianism represented through the wall painting is perfectly illustrated by the signing hands spelling out “Love Over Gold”.

Dire Straits Mural

Other pubs of note include the CAMRA award winning Dog and Bell and The Birds Nest by Deptford Bridge DLR, where an impressive and eclectic Open Mic night takes places every Wednesday. Adjacent to The Birds Nest is the newly re-opened and rebranded restaurant “Wunderlust”, a double decker London Bus plating up some exciting street food - a novel experience perfect for a date or a night out with Friends.

Before you finish off your day with a well-deserved drink and more Lewisham Card discounts at The Albany Café in the heart of Deptford, there’s one more historical stop just around the corner from Drostle’s mural. In 1698 the Russian Tsar Peter the Great sailed to the UK to learn about the art of shipbuilding. As a commemoration of the royal’s visit to the capital, a statue was erected at the entrance to the Creek on Glaisher Street. It is Deptford’s only statue and it belongs to the town because the Tsar borrowed the diarist John Evelyn’s manor house at the Creek, while he stayed by the docks. However, just as Marlowe found Deptford to cause certain difficulties, the Tsar found himself incurring the wrath of John Evelyn. Evelyn returned to his abode to find the Tsar had been using his paintings for pistol practice and organising wheelbarrow races through the grounds and hedges. The illustrious architect Christopher Wren estimated the damage to amount to £300 for which Evelyn was compensated for by the Government.

Tsar Peter The Great

Deptford has seen playwrights, rock bands and even Russian royal’s walking its cobbled streets over the centuries; it is truly a cultural and historical landmark of our borough. Follow the Deptford Dame on Twitter - a reputable local blogger who will doubtless help you in your exploration of the area. Be sure to bring your Lewisham Card with you, as Deptford also hosts an array of fantastic local businesses both old and new. To see where you can use your card in deptford, click here.

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