Episode 101. Henry VIII’s Navy

Today, Ian will take us on a deep dive into one of the most pivotal moments in London’s maritime history. As one of England’s most famous monarchs, Henry VIII played a crucial role in the development of the Royal Navy, establishing it as a powerful force on the world stage.

During this time, London’s docks and shipyards were bustling with activity, as shipbuilders worked to construct the vessels that would become the backbone of the Royal Navy. Many of these ships were built at Deptford, which had become the largest dockyard in the country. The proximity of the dockyard to the Royal Palace of Greenwich made it easy for Henry VIII to oversee the construction of the fleet.

Together, we’ll explore the key moments and figures that shaped this era of maritime history.  We’ll also discover the Royal Navy’s impact on London itself, as the city became a hub for shipbuilding, trade, and exploration.

Now, let’s set sail on our voyage through time!

Hazel Baker is an active Londoner, a keen theatre-goer and qualified  CIGA London tour guide.

She has won awards for tour guiding and is proud to be involved with some great organisations. She is a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and am an honorary member of The Leaders Council.

Channel 5’s Walking Wartime Britain(Episode 3) and Yesterday Channel’s The Architecture the Railways Built (Series 3, Episode 7). Het Rampjaar 1672Afl. 2: Vijand Engeland and Arte.fr Invitation au Voyage, À Chelsea, une femme qui trompe énormément.


Ian McDiarmid

Ian McDiarmid qualified as a City of London tour guide in 2017 and has a particular passion for Roman and Medieval history, having in an earlier incarnation studied history at Cambridge and London universities.

He began working life in the early 80s in the City, and has since written extensively on the share and bond markets as a journalist. He loves talking finance and taking people around the narrow alleys where today’s massive trading centre was born.

When not walking and talking, Ian enjoys pottering about in the garden. His expertise is such that he often spends several hours doing this.

Recommended Reading on Henry VIII’s Navy:

The Tudor Navy David Loades

The Safeguard of the Sea NAM Rogers

Great Harry’s Navy Geoffrey Moorhouse
Five Hundred Years of Deptford and Woolwich Royal Dockyards, Transactions of the Naval Dockyards Society Volume 11 December 2018
Turning the Tide, the History of Everyday Deptford Jesse Steele
History of Deptford Nathan Dews
Be the first to learn more about Hazel’s new book: Royal Tudor Palaces of London
Dockyard Wall Deptford

Henry VIII’s Navy Transcript

Hazel Baker:  Hello and welcome to our London History Podcast, where we share our love of London. It’s people, places, and history. It’s designed for you to learn things about London that most Londoners don’t even know. I am your host, Hazel Baker, a qualified London Tour guide, and CEO and founder of London Guided walks.co.uk

Each episode is supported by show notes, transcripts, photos, and further reading all to be found on our website. If you enjoy what we do, then you’ll love our guided walks and private tours that we offer throughout the year.

To get that cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy. Joining me in the studio today is City of London Tour Guide Ian McDiarmid. Today we’re going to be focusing on the Tudor period, and more specifically during the rain of Henry the eighth. The area that we’re gonna be talking about is now considered to be zone two in London, but it wasn’t considered London at all in the Tudor period.

Ian McDiarmid: Yes, we’re talking about Deptford and in 1513. Henry VII establishes a royal Dockyard at Deptford, and he also establishes one pretty much the same time. At Willard, and these are enormously important. The first Royal Dockyard is established by Henry VIII’s father Henry VII of Portsmouth. But these are the first dockyards built on the Thames, and in the course of the 16th century, Deptford becomes the largest dockyard in the country and one of the reasons that Deptford is chosen is that between Deptford and Woo is the Royal Palace of Greenwich, and therefore it’s an easy place for Henry VII to get to. Easy to get to, particularly when he’s staying in his palace at Greenwich, but also easy to get to because it’s long the Thames, if he’s somewhere else in, in London.

So it’s very easy for him to keep an eye on. And he also establishes about the same time the Royal Ordinance woo as well. And you have here with these two sites at Woo and the Dockyard at Deptford, the establishment of a large naval. Industrial complex which is of enormous importance. And these developments are partly because Henry VII really is the first monarch to have a permanent Navy.

And a lot of writers when they’re writing naval history, they see Henry vii as the father of the modern British Navy. One of the significant things is that, Henry Day spends a lot of money on his navy. He has in relative terms, relative to what’s been before a lot of ships. And this diminishes a little after his death, but not significantly.

And then of course, under Elizabeth, there are these important there’s this important naval conflict with the Spanish. One unfortunate thing for these people are arguing for the origins of the modern navy is the fact that things rather go into reverse in the early 17th century. But nevertheless, this is a clear.

Break with the past. And in particular, medieval kings would often construct ships just for a particular campaign. And then once that campaign was over with, I’m thinking perhaps Henry the fifth when he and the campaign that leads to ascor, once that campaign is over the ships are decommissioned, sold, or even broken up.

Deptford Dockyard

Hazel Baker: Were these dry docks?

Ian McDiarmid: It’s at this time that you get the construction, the fir of the first dry dock. So the first dry dock is built by Henry the seventh of Portsmouth, and then Henry vii in 1513 builds one new dry dock at Deptford and another one at Willard. And this is very significant because before this date, if you wanted to repair a ship, what you would do is you would at high.

Drag the ship as far up the riverbank as you possibly could, and then very probably create some barrier against the incoming tide using bits of wood and earth. And that was the standard way of proceeding. And when you get dry docks, they are obviously a lot more convenient. They’re a lot more makes.

Repairing your ship a lot easier. They are, however very expensive. And one other constraint on them is that they, at this period they can only take one ship at a time. And Henry, in 1513, he establishes a dry dock at Deptford. He establishes a huge storehouse. And then these facilities are gradually added to and in particular, 17.

They build what is known as the Great Pond which is a wet do, which can contain five ships at a time. So this is an absolutely huge thing. And these facilities are gradually added to one of Henry’s innovations I was talking about in being seen as the father of the modern Navy. It’s not just simply having a large number of ships, it’s also.

At the end of Henry’s Reign, it can be argued that he puts in place the bureaucracy. So when we talk about a modern, when we talk about a Navy or an army, we’re talking about a permanent organization. And in the 1540s, he creates the council for marine causes. And this is a kind of the beginning of a bureaucracy.

The Navy. So he’s he can be seen as the creator of the modern navy in two senses, and that has its heart at Deptford. So the treasurer’s house is at Deptford, and this is a house that’s later lived in by sir John Hawkins. And there is also a building there for the clerks of this committee to inhabit.

So you’ll be getting the development of a complex at Deptford. And when we’re mentioning. Woo as well. It’s important that also in 1513 Henry VII founds the royal ordinance at Woo. So woo is divided up into the eastern part of it which is where. The ordinances and then the western part, the bit nearer to Greenwich and Deptford, which is where the royal dockyards are.

And you can see that you’re getting the development of a naval complex here, and this is by far and away the largest industrial complex in early modern England. And. After our period, it’ll expand enormously especially in the 18th century, and becomes absolutely vast. But really throughout this period, up until England industrializes, this is the largest concentration of industrial activity.

And it’s not just the. Woo and Deptford and Greenwich, it’s they also are taking activity. They’re building docks. They’re repairing ships at other places along the river, like Erith. So it’s a huge undertaking. 

Hazel Baker: And why these particular places? 

Ian McDiarmid: Partly because the, Palace is there at Greenwich.

Also, it’s obviously convenient with the river. It’s very convenient to move ships along well, reasonably convenient to move ships along. One thing about the Thames at this time is that it can accommodate the largest ships in existence. And it’s also extremely convenient for communications because of the river.

One of the.  that you have to do with navies is you have to whittle them. You have to ensure that the men on board have sufficient food and drink. And they also need supplies of ammunition and things. And the ling is absolutely huge. You’re talking about vast amounts of sorted meat, sorted fish, ships, biscuits, fresh water, and above all beer.

And all of this has to be supplied. And obviously, the one place in England that can provide vittles for a Navy is London. And even. The ships depart from bases outside London and in, in particular, Portsmouth. The vittles will still be sent by ship from London. That’s for when you’re sending a ship out to see when it’s already, but also you need to repair the ships and you need to build the ships, and obviously, they take vast amounts of timber.

The structure of the ship is made of oak, and the planks that they use for oak are enormously thick for the holes but also for the decking. And you need to have a reasonable supply of timber, which you’ve got in southern England because of Kent. And there’s an area again now.

Southeast London, just about named Pets woods. , the pets were a ship-building family who owned the wood, and the wood comes named after them, I think a bit later in the 16th century. So you’ve got that supply of vogue, but also you’ve got the other timber that you need for the masts and yard arms, which is fur and spruce.

And you also need sail cloth. You need pitch and tar for caulking the ships and All of these things are imported and the ropes as well. In the 15th century they make ropes endorse it, but by this time, the ropes imported, it’s obviously just a lot more efficient, a lot cheaper to import rope from the Baltic than to have it made in England.

And if you’re importing things, then obviously.  being on the Thames is an ideal place, and a lot of these tic goods, as we were mentioning when we were talking about the Elizabethan docks, beginning, but beginning with this period is the huge importance of Antwerp and the convenience for London from getting to and from work.

So all of. Factors feed into why the Thames is very convenient. And one might also add that there’s a kind of specialization. W debt foot is hugely important because in the course of the 16th century, it becomes by far and away the largest naval dockyard. So hugely important. But when England is at war, The ships tend to depart from Portsmouth.

So Portsmouth is the kind of forward base. And when England is at war, things get concentrated on Portsmouth. But when she’s at peace and when you are maintaining the ships, building ships, then it’s the Thames and in particular, Deptford, which is more important. This is obviously because it’s a lot easier to defend the tens you are further away from your enemy, so it’s safer to do the maintenance and the shipbuilding there.

There are a couple of disadvantages to the Thames. One is that if you get an unfavourable wind, you can be stuck for ages trying to make your way up to London at this period. It can actually take weeks to get from the mouth of the Esry to London if you’re unlucky. The other thing is that the Thames obviously is a river, and when you are at Deptford the water.

Can actually be quite fresh. And freshwater timber rots a lot more quickly in freshwater than it does in salt water. It’s not great. It has disadvantages for keeping ships in and talking about the rotting of sh and timbers. At this period, the ships need to be repaired and maintained at least once every two years, and they recognize this partly because when they are in slightly warm waters. The timbers will be eaten away by worms. You’ll get all kinds of rubbish growing on the bottom of the hulls of the ships, which needs to be cleaned. And you need to undertake general maintenance, and you’ve, as I say, you’ve got this general threat of wood rotting.

So they are very expensive things to keep and you need to be able to provide them with regular maintenance. And hence the importance of these dockyards and the number of people that have the skill, London’s going to be the place for that as well. Yes. Shipwrights are enormously skilled and you, once you’ve got the centre of these things. You’ve got the pool of labour there that you can bring in, and you’ve also got the pool of all the other craftsmen you can draw on for all the ancillary services.  and what’s Henry doing, getting involved with all of these ships anyway?

Deptford Dockyard

Hazel Baker: What, what is Henry VIII trying to achieve? 

Ian McDiarmid: I think there are the, there are two things behind the creation of a standing Navy. One is Henry VII’s interest in military affairs, the military in general. So he spends a lot of his time, a lot of his reign at war. And he’s, I guess he’s primarily interested in fighting on horseback in fulfilling a Chivay element.

Ideal, but he’s also fascinated by what we would regard as modern technology. And these ships can be seen as huge status symbols. One of the ships that is constructed at woo the beginning of his rain is the Henry Grasso jewel, which is a remarkable ship, 1500 tons. When we were talking about the Elizabethan dockyards the other week, I think I mentioned that a lot of the.

Docking ins docking in London for commercial purposes. Between 60 and maybe 80 tons, so this is 1500. It is absolutely enormous, and I think this vessel was partly a sort of big vanity project on the part of Henry vii. 

Hazel Baker: When we say tons, what do we mean? 

Ian McDiarmid: Yeah, that’s a good question. Unfortunately, when you read tons, it’s often spelled t o n s and it shouldn’t be confused with the modern use of tons.

When we talk about a ship’s displacement, it’s done in tonnage now, and that’s the amount of water displaced by the hu measured in tons. T o n s, whereas the Tudor period, should be spelt t u n s. And it was a hypothetical measure of the volume of how many tons the ship’s hole could hold.

So you can’t compare really Tudor tons with modern tons, but 1500 is obvious. Compared to these, the standard size of a commercial vessel, is about 60 tons. It’s absolutely huge. 

And when we’re talking about Henry VIII and his ego, there’s a price that has to be paid, not just in lives lost, but where’s the money coming from for this?

Yeah. This is one of the Extraordinary things about Henry VII’s Reign. I think in general, when you read about Henry vii and people take a critical attitude towards him, they concentrate either on the reformation and certain writers dislike the reformation. Perhaps coming in from a Catholic point of view and seeing it as.

The willful destruction of a religion that fulfilled the needs of the popular party. That’s controversial, but certain critics have Henry vii come at it from that angle. And others focus on his great personal cruelty and in particular, his predisposition to have.

Quite close to him, executed. But the other thing that really strikes me about Henry VIII’s reign is its wastefulness. He spends a huge amount of money on fighting. And not only is this a waste in a kind of contemporary 21st century rather than an unhistorical thing of decrying warfare, but it was wasteful.

in his own terms because he achieved very little. Now, I don’t think he saw it that way, and he was certainly very keen to talk up his military prowess. But the two big achievements in inverted commerce of his reign, from a military point of view are the battle of the Spurs in 1513 which is basically described.

Historians as a cavalry skirmish, which incidentally is totally overshadowed by the Battle of Floden in the same year, which is fought by Thomas Howard and not by Henry And Floden is a massive victory over the Scotts and say, Henry, ‘s not there. And then at the end of the, he captures BOLO in this great victory supposedly against the French, but pretty much it’s immediate.

After its capture, his council is discussing how we can get rid of BlueLine. It’s costing so much money to provision. So there’s very little return for all of this expenditure. And we should mention that this expenditure, Henrie eight, gets into debt because of this, and he’s also dissolved the monasteries.

and he’s used the resources from that dissolution partly to finance these wars, and there’s very little return on it. But one of the things, he spends a huge amount of money fighting, I think the figures are in the 1540s when he goes to war. He spends a total of 2 million pounds, absolutely huge in his final wars.

And of that 2 million, about a 10th, 200,000 goes on the Navy. And this is a constant refrain about the Navy is. That’s very important in English history, is that fighting naval wars is so much cheaper than fighting wars on land, but it’s still a huge expense. These ships are hugely expensive.

The crewing of them is a hugely expensive, all the supplies provisions, it’s enormously expensive. . 

So if we go back to Deptford and why Deptford? Where does it get its name from? 

There are two crucial aspects to the geography of what is now Southeast London, but was then a series of villages.

One is the River Thames, which we’ve been talking about, which is a hugely important means of communication. But the other thing is the old. Roman Road of Watling Street connects Dover with London and then goes in theory over London Bridge and up into Staffordshire and Watling Street.

At this time is the old Dover Road, and it runs fairly close to the river. All of this area is marshy, so when the Romans build their road they build it up on a kind of embankment, and then when it gets to Deptford, it has to cross the river Ravensbourne and the end of the river. Ravens born when it flows into the Thames, is known as Deptford Creek and.

it was at Deptford that the Ford was, and I suspect the clues in the name Deep Ford, I e it wasn’t an easy Ford to cross, particularly at High Tide. And one of the remarkable things when you are modern Deptford, when you go through it on. The railway is looking at Deptford Creek and how dramatic the difference is between low tide and high tide.

At low tide it looks like a little trickle. And then at high tide it, it really is a very high river. And I think the difference between high and low tide is around 18 feet normally, and it can go a lot higher than that around this part of the Thames. So it’s quite dramatic. Yeah, you 

can see it on the railway bridge. Yesterday I went into London at Low Tide and returned at High Tide and it, yeah. And it always it never ceases to fascinate me. 

Hazel Baker: Brilliant. You mentioned this pond they built in 1517, so let’s go into that. What was it? 

Ian McDiarmid: Yeah, so the key thing, in 1513, Henry VIII established it.

He builds a dry dock and then he builds a huge storehouse. And then, , these facilities are added to. And in 1517 they build the pond or great pond as it’s known. And this was a wet dock. And by the standards of the time, it was enormous. It could hold. Five ships in it at least. So a huge undertaking.

And then the facilities at Deptford are gradually extended. They build other storage facilities. The treasurers house the, this is the treasurer of the Navy. His house is built in the 1540s. And it becomes the heart of an industrial nav. Complex. I said earlier that Henry VIII is often regarded as the founder of the modern Navy.

And I’ve alluded to one reason for this is under him, for the first time, England acquires a standing Navy. But he’s also a historian, when they look back and they want to see the creation of the modern Navy, they look at his bureaucratic reforms. And in particular, in the 1540s, he creates something known as the Council of the Marine, or sometimes it’s known as the Council for Marine causes.

And this is seen. The first time there was a permanent bureaucracy, there are officials in charge of the various aspects of the Navy. So, for example, one of them is in charge of the ordinance and it’s a permanent body as opposed to it being under the charge of Woolsey or Cromwell. And then, dealing with everything here for the first time, you’ve got a dedicated council.

Dealing with naval administration. And one aspect of this is that they acquire a new house for their Clarks. And where do they do that? It’s at Deptford. 

So you were speaking about Deptford. The listeners have put Deptford in their city mapper on their Google Maps, ready to plan their day to look at these Royal Dockyards.

Hazel Baker: What is there to see of Tudor Deptford? 

Ian McDiarmid: Unfortunately of the Tudor. It can be answered very quickly, absolutely nothing. And indeed, at Deptford, it’s quite hard to see anything because where the CH Dockyards were is now known as Convoys Wolff, which is a modern name, and since about 2000, this has been a site that’s been assigned for.

Modern development. It’s owned by a Hong Kong developer Hutchinson, and they’ve been in dispute with Lewisham council, trying to get planning permission to pick up blocks of flats. And there’s been a lot of touring and froing. But a lot of the, up until now, the Planning Commission has been refused because the council thought that the developer was not.

Paying sufficient attention to the enormous historical importance of the site. And they wanted the development to in make some nod towards the history, not just the Tu history, but the later history as well. I might add that at this point Deptford is a dockyard as is woo, right up until 1869.

And I saying there’s none of the Tudor remain. There, but there are in the archeology, there are later dockyards one, one of the problems is that the Tudor dockyards became subsumed within the later dockyards. So there’s nothing there in the archeology. Oh, I was gonna say, what about that storehouse that you mentioned?

Yes. Good. I’m glad you mentioned that . Yeah, this is a remarkable story. So I mentioned this huge Tudor storehouse that was in. That was actually intact until 1952 and the admiralty knocked it down. I beggar’s belief, but because it was knocked down fairly recently, the archeology of its foundations.

Was fairly complete that’s had the proper attention from our archaeologists and what you can do now, convoy’s wharf, you can walk round the edge of it and you can peer through security gates. The latest development, they’ve got a notice up saying piling has just been completed, I think on the site.

So it is now progressing. And you can see the. Two sheds, which are all the remains of two 19th-century dockyards. And it’s worth walking around there though, because on the edge of Convoys Wharf, you’ve got the 18th-century master Shipwrights house, which you can see above the high wall.

It is private property it’s all fenced off, but it, you can just about make it out. And if it’s okay, UK I’ll put some photographs on of a building site, but. It shows you where the Tudor Dockyards were. Yeah, of course. And then at Woo there’s a bit, in a way there’s a bit more sea.

Again, nothing Tudor, but when you walk along that part of Woo on the Riverside there are a couple of 19th century. Dry docks, which are now filled with water. You can see a 17th century clock tower. And you can also see the sum of the 18th century walls of the naval dockyard. And think a lot of people get confused between the, which is quite understandable, between the Dockyard and then the Royal Arsenals Royal arsenal.

So the Royal Arsen arsenal. There’s a quite a lot left off the 18th and 19th centuries, which has been redeveloped over the past 20 or so years. But the dockyard was before you came to the, to, to the arsenal. So yeah, there’s a huge amount of history there. There’s also a kind of what looks like a little fort at Woolwich, which again is a 19th century construction and was possibly used for training Marines there.

Hazel Baker: So there’s a bit to see. I might add those photos in the show notes as well. Okay. . So let’s get into this age of innovation then. So what brought about these changes? 

Ian McDiarmid: We’ve been talking about Henry’s the first person to have a standing Navy, and this is partly just because he’s involved militarily, but it also reflects a fundamental change in naval architecture, which also leads to the importance of these dockyards for maintaining the ships.

And that is that in the Middle Ages if you wanted to create a warship, you could do it quite quickly because you would take a merchant ship and you would add. Big wooden castle to the back and the front of the ship. And these wooden castles, these superstructures, were basically used by archers and crossbowmen to fire down on other enemy ships.

And when they, with the introduction of gunnery, They’re basically an addition to the bows and arrows. The, so guns are fairly small and light and they can’t really do damage to a ship’s structure, but they used to try and kill people and possibly do some damage to the rigging as well. And then the key development into creating standing navies is the development of the dedicated warship.

And this was because the guns become a lot bigger and you can begin to entertain the. Of having guns with sufficient power that they will actually damage the structure of a. And the Portuguese are the first people to mount big guns on ships. But in England, the crucial development comes with the launch of the Mary Rose.

And the Mary Rose is launched in 15, sorry she’s built in 1509. I might have been begun in Henry the Seventh Reign the very end of it. But she’s the first English ship to mount. Guns on her waistline on the deck above the allop dyke. So the allop deck is the lowest deck in a ship, and she had two heavy guns on either side.

And not only have you got big guns in the waistline, the other crucial development is you’ve got the, those I was gonna say modern gun pores, but I’m thinking of Nelson type of ship where you have a square hole in the ship with a hatch over the top. And.  in theory, you can begin to contemplate doing structural damage to other ships.

Now because you’ve got these guns in the waste of the ship and you’re no longer able to convert merchantmen for the first time. Really, you’ve got dedicated war ships and they are ships that aren’t very good for.  being used as merchant men before the state. Not only could the not only could you convert merchant men into war ships, but obviously you could convert them back again.

And the ship, the kings, if they were interested in naval affairs, they would have a sort of small fleet of their own ships and they would hire those out. And one of the, one of the targets for hiring them out would be merchants who wanted to use them. So with these, beginning with the Mary Rose, you beget, you get these.

Modern in the sense of ships that are dedicated to fighting and they are permanently there and you need to look after them. And so hence the need for a lot of the, these dockyards. 

Hazel Baker: So you’ve mentioned Portsmouth but why specifically the River Thames? 

Ian McDiarmid: Yeah, so we, we’ve said that Portsmouth was developed by Henry VII, and I think one reason why Henry VII was keen on the Thames was simply that it was further away from potential enemies.

Portsmouth alternates really with the Thames Dockyards. When England is at war, Portsmouth is the forward base from which the ships are dispatched. But otherwise it’s the 10 yards that are. The main yards, and it’s Deptford. That’s by far away the largest dockyard in the 16th century.

And I think it’s partly to do with strategy just being further away from the enemy. But the Thames has a lot of advantages in the middle of Deptford and Woolwich. You’ve got. Greenwich and Greenwich is where Henry VIII’s Greenwich palaces, is. So it’s very convenient for him to be involved and to keep an eye on things.

Also with ships, you need an awful lot of material. You need a lot of material to provision them, and you also need a lot of materials when you want to construct them, you need a ready supply of timber. Uh, And the ships, the main structure is made of oak and you are fairly near to decent supplies of timber from Kent and in particular, in southeast London there is now an area known as Pets Wood, that is a 16th century name. I think the name’s a bit later than Henry vii Rain. But the pets were a dynasty of shipbuilders who happened to own the land there. And. In addition to that, you need to be able to draw on a supply of skilled labour.

There was already some shipbuilding at Greenage, at Woolwich and at Deptford. You need to draw on a supply of labour. London’s quite an easy, convenient place for getting people from, and you also need to be able to vittel the ships. And London is really the only place in England, which. The large markets whereby you can get all the produce you needed when sending ships on voyages.

And even when the ships are sent from places like Portsmouth, from bases that aren’t on the Thames, all of these goods tend to be sent out from London. And you’re talking huge amounts of sorted fish, sorted beef ships, biscuits. Fresh water and, above all, beer. And then for the repair and construction ships again on the construction side it’s not just.

Oak. You also need other timber. And that timber will be imported and London is a very convenient place to import stuff from. So you need spruce and fur. You need lots and lots of nails, which can be made locally. You need huge amounts of sailcloth, which is imported. And also ropes, which are imported.

They had in the 15th century they had made a lot of rope in England in around door set. But in Henry VIII’s reign, they increasingly import it from the Baltic. Presumably just simply because it’s a lot cheaper and you need huge amounts of rope. A ship itself could easily take 20 miles of rope, and so London is extremely convenient.

Extremely convenient cause it’s a big market, but also it’s very easy. Convenient place to import goods to. One should also mention there are a couple of disadvantages to the Thames. One is that if you were unlucky and you were in the Thames Estuary and trying to make your way into London, if the winds were unfavourable, you could be stuck for weeks.

So that’s a huge disadvantage. The other disadvantage is that the Thames is a river at the area we’re talking. Deptford and woodage. The water is a mixture of it; it’s brackish, it’s a mixture of seawater and freshwater will rot timbers a lot more quickly. 

Hazel Baker: So you said we’ve got a long history here, but why did it finally all end?

Ian McDiarmid: Yeah, so we mentioned earlier that the end date for this is 1869. And actually, can I just say that whilst I say there’s not a, there’s not a great deal to see if the Tudor Dockyards, there is a reasonable amount to see of the later dockyards. And in particular, near Deptford, you’ve got the eight.

Late 18th-century whittling yards, which are very impressive. It’s only a fraction remains of the original, but it’s very dramatic. And yeah they expand massively in, in the 18th century, huge industrial complex, but it all comes to an end in 1869. And it comes to an end for two reasons. One is the Thames is constantly silting up.

They can deal with that. They can dredge the Thames, but it’s an inconvenience. And the other thing is that by this time, , the main ships are just too big to use the Thames, and it becomes very inconvenient. 

Okay. Fascinating. Thank you, Ian. Oh, my pleasure, Hazel. So if you haven’t listened to the previous episode with Ian talking about the Port of London in the Tudor period, then that is number 95 and that went down really well with our audience.

Yeah, good. I find it really that subject of London as a port, I find really interesting. No, brilliant. And this is nice to add layers of knowledge onto. 

Yeah. And it’s good to do something about the Tudors again, isn’t it? 

Hazel Baker: Yeah. Firm favourite. Thanks, Ian. 

Ian McDiarmid: Okay, my pleasure, Hazel.

Hazel Baker: That’s all for now. But if you’d like to know more about Tudor London and its history, then go to londonguidedwalks.co.uk/history/tudor, and that’s also where you could sign up to be the first to hear about my brand new book, Tudor Palaces of London. Until next time.


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