Enthusiasts in Deptford, south-east London, propose to build a replica of the Restoration warship Lenox in the dockyard where she was originally built. Already hundreds of people in Deptford and beyond are embracing the magnitude and power of this project.
Based on other successful schemes in Europe, the Lenox project aspires to create jobs, build transferable skills, bring pride to Deptford, and create tourism and identity.
The original Lenox was built at Deptford more than 330 years ago and is unique in that all her details and specifications are known so that a true replica can be made. The original dock in which she was built is only a fifteen minute walk from the maritime heritage site of Greenwich, the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark.
At 52 metres long from her lion figurehead to the stern, Lenox would be an added attraction for the vast numbers of tourists who visit the area, and they would help secure her financial future. Her timbers would be fashioned using the latest computer controlled machines so that trainees and young people working on her would learn skills transferable to many other industries. For the benefit of research and visitors, traditional shipbuilding skills would also be used, which together with a museum and outlet store would provide a complementary experience to that which is offered in Greenwich.
In the past, Deptford prospered from the presence of the dockyard,
which provided a highly-skilled workforce and supported associated
industries. This prosperity and success was entirely responsible for the
fact that Greenwich is a World Heritage site today. By contrast, Deptford has one of the highest levels of unemployment in London.
At the moment the historic dockyard at Deptford has no working links with its wonderful history. Building a ship which was a significant part of the dockyard’s past would regenerate the area and help restore the eminence Deptford once enjoyed. It would also help bridge the maritime cultural gap with Greenwich. For a modest entrance fee, visitors would be able to see the ship being built and some of the traditional skills used to build her. They would experience all this in close proximity to structures that were contemporary to her construction, such as the Master Shipwright’s house and other surviving buildings.
The heritage crafts would include sawing with two-handed saws and hewing wood using axes and specialist tools such as the adze. The historical nature of the ship and its construction would be supported by a museum or visitor centre containing seventeenth-century naval artefacts including cannon, navigational instruments, models and paintings.
Using a computer-generated 3D model of Lenox, a ten minute guided tour through the ship would be shown on a large screen. Another screen would show the sequence of building enabling visitors to study progress of the ship and the stage they see it during their visit.
A commercial outlet selling booklets, books, models, images and anything else relating to the history of the period would provide additional funding. This would be supported by a theme restaurant replicating the Captain’s great cabin which itself would be an informative artefact. Office space for running the project and instructing trainees in the necessary computer skills would also be required.
As well as creating the 3D images, programmes would also be made for a numerical controlled routing machine that would automatically produce frame pieces, knees and numerous other ship components. The modern machinery and the large quantities of timber would be situated in Deptford but not necessarily next to the ship.
It is estimated that the build process would take eight years, employing ten supervisors and twenty trainees. Once Lenox is completed the facilities could be used to build another ship.
The current proposals consist of 3,514 new homes in a mixed-use development, to include retail and office space, a primary school and a working wharf.
The forty acres of Convoys Wharf dominate the river; long closed off to the public at large, at first glance it looks like any other brownfield site in need of some urgent and much welcome development. However this is not entirely the case.
The dockyard still exists and many of
its major features still survive below ground level: the great basin, the
mastponds, five slipways and, most importantly, the great double dry-dock where the original Lenox was built. Above ground there are also
survivors: the Master Shipwright's house and the vast Olympia Shed,
both of which are listed structures.
When shoe-horning a new neighbourhood of this density into an existing community, creative thinking is needed to find the best way to integrate the two. The success and longevity of such a development depends to a large extent on a sensitive response to the site and its surroundings – both cultural and physical. To achieve these aims the design needs to be distinctive and engaging: heritage assets hold the key.
The most romantic place to build the Lenox would be in the great double dock dry-dock originally built by Henry VIII next to the Master Shipwright’s house.
The double dry-dock could be excavated to accommodate the ship but if this proves impractical then it could be built at another location inside the dockyard in the Olympia shed. This structure was constructed in 1846 to enable ships to be built ships under cover, and a use for it is presently being sought. Building Lenox inside it would be a most economical and practical solution.
Of course the proposal to build the Lenox is not without precedent, and perhaps one of the most spectacular is the Hermione Project at Rochefort. This project is claimed by the local mayor to have turned around the fortunes of this small town near the west coast of France, raising local pride, and creating aspirations and jobs. In the summer of 2011, the Hermione Project received its 3 millionth visitor and currently opens its doors to 250,000 tourists each year.
The plan to build a replica of the Hermione started with a small group of dedicated enthusiasts seventeen years ago. With sound and
steady management and a great deal of creativity
they persuaded government, regional
and town councils and the public that
nothing was impossible and that the benefits can be enormous.
The dock was excavated, temporary buildings
sourced, funding secured, shares sold,
and challenge after challenge overcome.
The National Maritime Museum in London provided
the drawings used to build her, as the
Royal Navy had captured her sister-ship and
meticulously detailed its construction. The
building programme was tailored to provide the
maximum in training opportunities, and skilled
specialists were drawn from across Europe.
In the spring of 2012 she will be floated out of
the dry-dock and masted and rigged. The following year the plan is that she will retrace the voyage of
the original Hermione, when LaFayette used her
to harass the English Navy's blockade of the
Batavia Yard is a shipyard with extraordinary ambitions, reconstructing ships from the Golden Age that were important to the Netherlands' maritime history. This heritage was demolished at the time because of its limited lifespan, or has sunk to the bottom of the sea. In April 1995, the Batavia, which is the most authentic reconstruction of a 17th-century VOC ship ever made, was launched after ten years in the making. The initiator was master shipbuilder Willem Vos.
After this reconstruction was complete, a second project was started in the yard to reconstruct ‘De 7 Provinciën', a 17th-century battleship with which Michiel de Ruyter fought many sea battles.
The construction of the replica of ‘De 7 Provinciën' is one of the largest and most challenging historical shipbuilding projects in the world. Using vocational reintegration and work experience projects to construct these ships, the shipyard plays an important part in the lives of long-term unemployed people for whom, over time and for various reasons, the distance to the job market has become too great.
Having official ‘Charity Organisation' status, Batavia Yard is a non-profit foundation that is dependent on donations and sponsors to construct and maintain the ships.