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District 45: A Walking Tour Of Deptford

M@
By M@ Last edited 70 months ago
District 45: A Walking Tour Of Deptford
Second World War shelter sign off Deptford High Street.
Second World War shelter sign off Deptford High Street.
One of the area's many murals.
One of the area's many murals.
The rail equivalent of Tower Bridge. This machinery once lifted the mainline track to allow boats through Deptford Creek.
The rail equivalent of Tower Bridge. This machinery once lifted the mainline track to allow boats through Deptford Creek.
Bizarre statue of Peter the Great, and friend.
Bizarre statue of Peter the Great, and friend.
Skull and crossbones outside St Nicholas Church.
Skull and crossbones outside St Nicholas Church.
One of London's most-used film sets.
One of London's most-used film sets.
Old stretchers used as railings.
Old stretchers used as railings.
Bar billiards in the Dog and Bell.
Bar billiards in the Dog and Bell.
Exquisite Georgian housing.
Exquisite Georgian housing.
Sean Patterson in front of St Paul's Deptford.

If your first thought is 'Why the hell would anyone want to go on a guided tour of Deptford?', please read on.

If your second thoughts are 'What's District 45?' and 'Wasn't that a film about aliens in South Africa?', let us explain.

District 45 was the name given to the Deptford area by Charles Booth (1840-1916), the philanthropist who created the famous poverty maps of London. Booth or his hirelings explored central London's streets to assess levels of poverty and affluence. In 1902 they moved further out, probing the social conditions in Deptford.

A new walk by actor and historian Sean Patterson follows in Booth's footsteps. The three hour sojourn is anything but conventional. You'll be asked to make historical readings. You might find yourself in a shop, a church or a pub. You'll certainly leave the walk buzzing with historical anecdotes and a new-found love of Deptford.

The route begins on Deptford High Street, which Patterson describes as possibly the most ethnically diverse street in the capital. We weave in and out of side streets. Each turn throws up hidden clues to Deptford's past. Here a WWII sign pointing to Blitz shelters, there a mural celebrating the area's nautical past. We learn about Deptford's pre-Roman origins, its hidden medieval and Tudor riches, and its modern regeneration. And we keep returning to Booth.

Our guide refers regularly to the Edwardian report, pointing out modern houses that mirror earlier dwellings recorded by Booth's men. Elsewhere, well-to-do apartment blocks occupy land formerly given to industry or slums. Many of the buildings survive from the philanthropist's time, and it's fascinating to compare their changing fortunes.

Those already familiar with the area are guaranteed to learn more. Those who've never set foot in SE8 now have the perfect excuse.

District 45 is a regular walk by Sean Patterson, with several dates in July. Booking details can be found here. Cost is a very reasonable £10 (£8 concessions) for three hours of unforgettable urban exploration.

If you'd like to recommend an alternative guided tour of London, drop us a line at tips - at - londonist.com

Last Updated 30 June 2011