Tucked between touristy Greenwich and rough-and-ready Bermondsey, Deptford has an atmosphere all of its own. Once blighted by post-industrial neglect, Deptford’s twenty-first-century renaissance has been swift and – for some locals – sweeping. New bars and restaurants seem to open weekly, amid fears that the area’s unique character could disappear for good. What sets Deptford apart from its arty eastside counterparts is its strong south London identity and its maritime history – clues to the area’s past as a major dockyard can be found around every corner, and only add to its quirky charm. Add Deptford to your London to-do list: read on for our guide to things to do in SE8, including its stand-out restaurants and best places to drink.
The best bits of Deptford
11 reasons to go to Deptford High Street, SE8
Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was murdered in Deptford after quibbling about his bar tab, wrote of ‘infinite riches in a little room’, and that just about sums up the high street. Over its short distance, it packs in a street market, a golden-hued library, one of London’s finest baroque churches, lots of Vietnamese restaurants and more history than you can shake a stick at. You’ll have heard of its famous anchor, which for years sat at the Deptford Broadway end, before it was removed by Lewisham Council, supposedly because it attracted street drinkers (anchors are notorious for this, apparently). It was a symbol of Deptford’s maritime heritage but for residents its removal marks the gentrification front line. The old order changeth. A development around the station is bringing in coffee shops and boutiques, plus the inevitable flats. The artists are leaving. But Deptford has always ebbed and flowed like its muddy, atmospheric Creek, and for all the changes, its spirit remains unique. There’s something theatrical about it, from the market traders to the post-church Sunday crush. Stroll past the wet fish shops and the buckets of giant snails. Fuss the cats in Terry’s Discount. Pause by St Paul’s (which is not a Hawksmoor church, though people will swear it is). Sign a petition to get the bloody anchor back. All human life is here. Marlowe would have approved. Drink this A photo posted by BUSTER MANTIS (@bustermantis) on Jun 22, 2016 at 7:44am PDT
Giant snails and dwarf porn: welcome to Deptford Market
You want London's best market? Head to SE8, says Alexi Duggins. But be warned: you won't find any artisanal parmesan or vintage jumpsuits here. Odder stuff? Yeah, different matter. © Chris Waywell The first time I went to Deptford Market, a white stallholder was yelling 'Sod off, Mohammed!' at a Muslim passerby. Suddenly the air was filled with shouting. People stopped to stare. The two men stepped towards each other. And, as incandescent glares met over secondhand books, for a hot, tense moment, time itself seemed to stop. Until they pissed themselves laughing. 'See you later, Dave!' 'Cheers, Mohammed!' Deptford Market doesn't play by the rules. To be honest, I'm not sure it even knows that there are rules. The bric-a-brac pitches of Douglas Way are less stalls than old stuff fly-tipped on to the pavement. At local discount shop El Cheap 'Ou (motto: 'Love you can afford'), there are packs of LED lights mixed in with the cheese ravioli. There are gigantic African land snails being sold by butchers rather than pet shops. Once I nearly bought a beautiful pair of green curtains. Until a dog started rolling around on them while the stallholder chucked him greasy sausages. But the stuff! It's the sublime and the fucked, all jumbled up then thrown to the ground and priced according to the vendor's mood. There are beautiful, azure Singer sewing-machines next to heaps of loo seats. Charming old leather suitcases propped against knackered dishwashers. Antique clocks and baro
Restaurants and cafés in Deptford
The roots of The Albany date back to 1899 when it was founded to encourage wellbeing in the poverty-ridden Deptford community. The 1970s saw the institute host theatre and music before a fire put paid to its artistic efforts. The Albany you see today was rebuilt in 1982 and, as a performing arts centre, has hosted a mix of theatre, music, comedy, spoken word and dance ever since. It continues to be rooted in the community with diverse, often participatory programming.
Bars and pubs in Deptford
The nexus of south-east London's live music scene, the Amersham Arms brings together the character (and prices) of a trad pub with a souped-up soundsystem and 3am licence, a 300-capacity performance area, an upstairs arts space and a walled garden for smokers. From the same stable as Camden's ultra-fashionable Lock Tavern, the Amersham Arms's roster is dominated by London's hippest promoters, bands and beat-makers (Adventures in the Beetroot Field, Skull Juice, Rob Da Bank and The Teenagers to name a few) plus comedy from the likes of BBC3's We Are Klang. All that plus the best-value Sunday roasts in town. Forget the east, head south.
Love London Awards: last year's winners
Most of Deptford Market is your standard south/east London fare: three-pack pants, timber wolf fleeces, Duracells and lighters. Halfway down its length, though, is a distended gut of impacted crap, presided over by two tennis umpires up stepladders who take money, dispense change and guard against pilfering. There’s a brisk turnover of domestic breakables and massive accretions of video cassettes that never seem to move – a Monument Valley of the VHS age. Haggling can be hit and miss: friends have witnessed stallholders smash items if they think barterers are taking the piss.