The walk along Creek Road from Greenwich to Deptford offers little of architectural interest until you cross Deptford Church Street and a passage leads you to a cobbledside street. Here we are then, in Albury Street which is a miracle; a largely intact early Georgian development south of the Thames. Many of the older buildings – only a handful on the south of the street but almost a full compliment opposite remain – date back three hundred years to the opening of the eighteenth century. The first brick was laid on then rural land in 1706 – seventy years before America came into being.
It was originally called Union Street, named after the Union between England and Scotland that created the United Kingdom in 1707. The development was the work of Thomas Lucas who built, owned and leased most of the houses. What is astonishing is that houses of this quaity and with this fine decoration should have been built in Deptford, which would have been no more than a village at the time. Nearby, though, was the Royal Naval Dockyard and its senior officers provided Lucas with most of his original Lessees. London never stops spreading outwards and soon engulfed Deptford. The area became industrial and then down at heel. These houses must have stuck out like the opposite of a sore thumb, and in many ways still do today. In 1898 the name of the street changed to Albury Street as part of a rearrangement of local roads.
The wonderful and striking wooden canopies that sit astride the doorways of the old houses have beautifully carved wooden brackets, most of them with unique designs. I’ve photographed a number of them, which are included below. Traditionally these would have been carved by local carpenters involved in the ship-building trade but some of them are not the original carvings but were skilfully restored in recent times by Charlie Oldham.
If this row of Georgian houses had been located in one of the “better” parts of town it would not have been so remarkable that it has survived intact, but, for it to be still standing in South London, where the Luftwaffe and the planners have been united in their efforts to destroy the old neighbourhoods, it is nothing short of amazing. That it remains a place where normal Londoners live – and it does – should make this street one of the most celebrated in the city. It is certainly one of my favourites.
Full history of Albury Street
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