Postcode plotters eye escape from Deptford to Greenwich

"West Greenwich" sign, Creek Road, Deptford

There’s much to be proud of in Deptford these days. A thriving creative community, one of London’s most distinctive street markets, a rich naval heritage and the feistiest community spirit this side of the Thames. Or, indeed, on their side of Deptford Creek, which is what divides Deptford from its eastern neighbour, Greenwich. I’ve been doing a bit of work alongside the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart campaign lately and been hugely impressed with their tenacity and determination to defend their neighbourhood. What’s not to like?

One oddity, though, is that Deptford has long been split between between two boroughs. In 1900, the parish of Deptford St Paul went to form the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford, while the parish of Deptford St Nicholas became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich. In the 1960s those boroughs became Lewisham and Greenwich, and in 1994 the boundary was moved slightly to the east, shifting Convoys Wharf – the old royal dockyard – into Lewisham borough.

Despite all this change, the creek has always been the boundary between Deptford, SE8, and Greenwich, SE10. But despite living in a unique and rather special part of London, some residents want out. They want to be considered part of Greenwich.

Deptford petition

They’re clearly confused.

Deptford petition

Sorry chum, the border down Watergate Street is the Lewisham/Greenwich borough boundary. The border goes just past the SE8 delivery office for Royal Mail, funnily enough. Just like it runs down the middle of Blackheath Village, too – and they’re not demanding to be called “Greenwich”.

But who are the culprits? Estate agents, who’ve sold properties in SE8 as being in “Greenwich” for years, and the highways department of Greenwich Council, who stuck a sign outside Sainsbury’s in Deptford a couple of years ago bearing the legend “West Greenwich”. Mind you, it originally said “East Greenwich”, so what do they know?

Deptford petition

And then there are bits that as as wrong as the petitioners’ geography. Greenwich charges a lower rate of council tax than Lewisham – the average Band D in Greenwich is £1,283.91, in Lewisham it’s £1,363.35. I’m not really sure another £1.50 a week on your council tax will have an impact on your house price.

Deptford petition

Another falsehood. Your postcode alone cannot affect your credit score.

Deptford petition

But if you live in Deptford, the nearest town to you would be… Deptford.

Deptford petition

Is that legally possible?

Deptford petition

I live in Charlton. Can I have an SE10 postcode, please? And so on.

Ah-ha! Here’s Dave to put ‘em right.

Deptford petition

Of course, we all know postal areas have their quirks – ask residents of SE13 who pay council tax to Greenwich and SE10-dwellers who pay to Lewisham. And Royal Mail almost always refuses these requests anyway. So maybe the ideal solution to this was proposed over two decades ago, when Deptford Power Station was still standing and Greenwich borough extended up Evelyn Street, and the boundaries were being reviewed.

Local Government Boundary Commission Review, 1992

Now you see, if only the boundary commission had taken up Lewisham’s suggestion – our friends wouldn’t be so confused today. As it stands, they’ll just have to move house if they want to live in Greenwich – just like everybody else.

Or they can learn to love Deptford. From the Housewives’ Cash & Carry to the Build The Lenox campaign through London’s newest vinyl record shop/cafe/gallery – I’m sure it won’t take long.

Sunday update: Also worth seeing Transpontine’s take on this.

21 comments

  1. Peter Cordwell

    Pitiful. As someone who worked in Deptford High Street for years and loved the place (someone must write a song about Ted the Head…maybe I will one day with young Carlos), I wouldn’t have wanted an SE10 postcode for all the croissants in Crawley (there aren’t any). There’s another laugh a few miles east where people in Kidbrooke insist on living in “Blackheath”. In fact, there are some people on the edge of Welling who call it Blackheath. Mind you, if Kidbrooke Village continues to flourish, maybe there’ll be some people in Blackheath Village who say they live in Kidbrooke. Me, I’m a Catford boy and proud of it. Well, er, Bellingham. Actually, yes, Downham. SE6 for ever!

  2. David Gardner

    Great story. In 1989, I had more than a hand in settling the Gardner-Wheeler boundary line between The Boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich. After both Boroughs made counter-bids for valuable bites of each other’s territory. The old boundary went through the middle if houses and businesses so needed to be tidied up and passions were very strong on both sides; Lewisham wanted all of Deptford and Greenwich wanted All of Blackheath.

    But their respective then leaders Quentin Marsh and one Steve Bullock were reasonable men who (to the annoyance of some of their planners and colleagues) agreed the compromise line we suggested and then made a joint proposal to the then Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

  3. maryorelse

    The SE8 delivery office is in Deptford, to which all of these complaining residents have easy access. I don’t think they have anything to moan about – but it gives me a chance to raise a real problem.
    I could go on for hours about the inconvenience of being designated SE3 when I live right on the SE10 boundary. My parcels get delivered to Blackheath Village – a long way from me and I am nearer both the SE10 and the SE7 offices. They refuse to leave parcels for me to collect at Trafalgar Road – just down the road – and call my ‘local office’ Stratheden Road – miles away. This same inconvenience must apply to the many, many people who live in SE3 – Kidbrooke, the old Ferrier – for whom Blackheath Village is an awkward journey. There are poor public transport links from many of these outlying areas to the parcels office – something which must add traffic to already congested Blackheath Village.
    This however could be easily sorted out by a few less inflexible rules. It isn’t what you are called that matters, its how you behave!!

  4. Stephen Brain

    We lived in New Cross then Deptford before moving down to East Greenwich 1985. At risk of sounding like Ian Dury Reasons to be Cheerful…Deptford always the buzz place to be several of the best live music pubs/venues (performing or listening) and pubs in general. What about the Market the Albany – famously lost a contact lens dancing with my bass player at Miners’ Strike benefit- and history of welcoming new comers(including 19th German Catholics)? The friendliest publican in London Eric Hoffer. Jamaican dominoes at The Birds Nest (not its appellation at the time) the Dog and Bell and more recently the Laban Centre -what’s there not to like about SE8 ? Still got it…wise up post-coders.
    ..

  5. runner500

    Postcodes are always a bit of a lottery and were never designed to follow borough boundaries- SE8 has bits in Lewisham, Greenwich and Southwark, SE9 Greenwich, Lewisham, Bexley, Bromley and SE19 is split 5 ways between Croydon, Lambeth, Bromley, Southwark and Lewisham. Estate agents always refer to where I live as Blackheath borders, but it is Lewisham and I am proud of it!

  6. clogsilk

    Of course postcodes don’t follow borough boundaries. They pre-date current boroughs after all! Bits of BR1 are in Lewisham, which confuses people from time to time, but they soon get over it.

  7. Peter Cordwell

    Don’t get me going on Deptford/New Cross live music, Stephen. I carried on one of my one-man crusades to get a proper album/cd out of the best band of the lot, Rubber Johnny, and virtually fell out with John Turner, who was more concerned with right-on causes than great music. Below is ‘Nicotine’ on Youtube and there are at least 10 other songs (Dr Giro, Laundriette, Hangdog, Winston Brown, etc, etc) that would have made a fantastic album. That was the heart of Deptford, something that Greenwich can only dream of.

  8. Steve

    Ah, but maybe Darryl should petition to be reclassified as living on the Charlton Slopes – a much better area.

  9. Steve Haywood

    What an hilarious article. These wannabes betray their own predudices. They should live in SE13 in Blackheath (dream on!) It’s a step away from the village and the Royal Mail sorting office there. But residents have to schlepp off a mile and more to Lewisham for their mail. At least they’d have a tangible reason for wanting a change in the postal code. But as far as I know its never been an issue.

  10. Ricky Spanish

    I live in the affected area and have done for 5 years.

    I like living in deptford and see no reason to change the post code.

    I’ve seen these silly campaigns crop up before and they’ve been ignored so hopefully this one will go the same way.

    Best,

    Ricky

  11. Chris

    How can a height be lower then a slope? Surely the slope leads up to the height?? Maybe I am on the slope, not the height.

    Oh sod it, I live in Charlton. That’s simple.

  12. Corinna

    Can’t see Royal Mail giving a toss – it’s a bit like a teacher asking you to change your child’s ethnic name because it’s difficult for her to remember; clearly you’ve not picked the name with that in mind and equally the postcode system does not exist so that some people can increase their property prices!

    I also live in the ‘affected area’ and am quite happily ‘treated by the world as Deptford’. Really, if they don’t want to live in Deptford, why on earth did they move here?! Some people…

  13. James Masterton

    Defining things by postcodes is a way which always leads to madness. I’m a Greenwich resident, paying council tax to them but live in a DA15 postcode literally a few hundred yards from the border into what is officially Bexley. It causes no issue at all, save for the odd occasion when I’ve had cause to phone the council up and their operators struggle with the idea that anyone with a Dartford postcode is their problem.

    I’m guessing this is the reason why countless orders via the council website for new batches of free clear plastic recycling bags never get fulfilled. Whoever processes the order forms bins them based on one glance of the postcode.

  14. Annie

    Do people really care about this stuff? I live in in Kidbrooke Village, literally the first set of houses in SE9 with SE3 across the road. The only reason this is annoying is for takeaways, who say SE9 is out of their delivery zone. I’m much closer to parts of SE12, SE3, and SE13 than I am to Mottingham.

    The vast majority of people who live outside of Dockland and SE London, have no idea what the difference between Greenwich and Deptford is. In fact many might think badly of Greenwich because they only know it as the O2 and the rather bland retail strip mills in its immediate surrounds. And then there are people in North London who think the entirety of SE London is a hellhole, making these SE8/SE10 quibbles seem even more ridiculous.

  15. Will

    Just to join in the postcode fun, in SE26 you either fall under Lewisham, Southwark or Bromley, though as far as I know, there’s no vanguard action in Sydenham to demand a BR postcode.

  16. Jester

    Hilarious article! I don’t understand why people are complaining about artificially low property prices in SE8 vs SE10. Surely if you own one of the properties in SE8, then you benefitted from the relative lower price when purchasing it in the first place.

    What I can understand is the frustration that comes with paying higher insurance costs in SE8, for both property and car insurance, which I have found to be almost double what you would have to pay in an SE10 property no more than 100 yards away because you are classed as living in a ‘dodgy area’.

    That said, it’s more than offset by the reduced property price…

    If people don’t want to be associated with Deptford, then don’t live here – leave Deptford to the Deptfordians.

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