Littoral, river and sea
: exploring the maritime history of Deptford, 1700-1850

  • Christopher John Ellmers

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This submission relates to key elements of the maritime history of the Deptford
riverside area, or littoral, of south east London across the period 1700-1850.
Whilst many famous historical characters – including Sir Francis Drake, Samuel
Pepys, Admiral John Benbow, Peter the Great, Grinling Gibbons, Captain Kidd,
and Captain Cook – have provided all too ready and easy proxies for the area’s
maritime past, this has generally served to obscure far deeper, more complex and multi-faceted histories.1 That rich and often hidden maritime history is
primarily explained and explored through a detailed overarching contextual and
integrative guiding commentary around the four published papers submitted
here in partial fulfilment for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by
Publication in the Department of History, University of Portsmouth. These papers
all investigate core elements of Deptford’s maritime and related cultural history
through a variety of connected lenses, including the ways in which the area’s
littoral acted – physically, economically and culturally – as a liminal space, where
the maritime met and interacted with the non-maritime. Centring on
shipbuilding, the Greenland Dock and the Arctic whaling trade, the papers are
also about how that littoral interacted with the Thames and reached out across
the world’s seas and oceans. Given the specific subject nature of the submitted
papers, a key section of this integrative commentary examines broader
historiographies by way of a focused account of maritime Deptford. This helps to
positively situate and ground this introductory commentary. It also demonstrates
how the papers have contributed to a much fuller academic understanding of
those key elements of the Deptford littoral and significantly advanced the
historiography. As such, this section forms an essential component of the
submission and is linked to the other contextual sections relating to rationales,
methodologies, research standards, reflective analyses, and contributions to
knowledge of the submitted papers. The Deptford littoral was an important and
unique maritime place. Whilst only a mile-long, Deptford’s busy and imposing waterfront arguably punched well above its weight in terms of Thameside,
national and international maritime history
Date of AwardMar 2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCathryn Pearce (Supervisor), Karl Bell (Supervisor) & Brad Beaven (Supervisor)

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