Writer, diarist, environmentalist, gardener, scientist, town planner, and Deptford dweller John Evelyn, was born 400 years ago today 31st October 1620.
Take some time this weekend to walk around the Evelyn ward, Deptford, there are many reminders of Evelyn's influence, his home, and his family. From Evelyn Street to Sayes Court Street. From Wootton Road to Dorking Close. Even many housing blocks are connected to Evelyn - Mulberry House, Pomona House, Evelyn Estate. Evelyn himself lived in Deptford at Sayes Court Manor with his family from around 1653 to 1694.
His diaries give a glimpse of Deptford as it was 400 years ago albeit from a privileged perspective.
Evelyn was an environmentalist. He wrote Fumifugium - explaining the problem of poor air quality and suggested solutions that include planting trees and fragrant plants.
He catalogued Britain's trees and encouraged propagation. This was ostensibly to support shipbuilding by the Royal Navy. He would have been familiar with the workings of shipbuilding as he lived adjacent to the Royal Dockyard. The book, Sylva: A Discourse of Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber was the first book published by The Royal Society which Evelyn also co-founded. He also 'discovered' wood-carver, Grinling Gibbons, whose work can be seen in St Nicholas' Church.
Evelyn's garden at Sayes Court was world-famous and visited by kings, queens, czars and contemporaries like Samuel Pepys. The garden and manor house are long since gone with the land now part of the new development at Convoys Wharf. The entrance to his estate can perhaps be placed somewhere around the garages on Dacca Street. There is evidence to suggest that Evelyn's wife, Mary, was a huge influence on the garden and the estate. Read more about London's Lost Garden in Karen Lijenberg's blog.
After the great fire of 1666 he planned a new London which was presented to King Charles II. It was his friend, Sir Christopher Wren, whose design was eventually chosen. He collected vegetarian salad recipes in his book Acetaria.
Many of the themes that Evelyn explored and wrote about in the 17th century are of course just as relevant now.
We face a climate emergency and, as we have shown with Evelyn200, Evelyn's historical legacy can be used to educate and inspire a new cultural landscape across Lewisham and beyond.
We had planned a few celebratory events this year but of course COVID-19 has taken over preventing many cultural activities taking place.
Take a walk instead, explore and look around the area at the legacy Evelyn leaves behind right here in Deptford.
A sculptural reminder of Evelyn's legacy off Evelyn Street near Sayes Court Park.
Evelyn's biographer, Gillian Darley OBE, recently spoke at a Gresham Lecture. You can watch the lecture called John Evelyn: Britain's First Environmentalist online HERE.
Metropolitan Public Gardens Association
London Spade Award
We are really proud to have received the MPGA London Spade Award. The award is made annually at the Association's AGM which this year was held online. MPGA have supported us through a grant for a trees or Evelyn200 and through their Bulbs for London scheme.
The Award is often given to the promoters of individual projects, who have created, restored or enhanced a park or garden, thus improving the quality of life dramatically for those using it. However, it is sometimes granted to individuals who have rendered great service to London's open spaces, This year we were joint recipients with Parks For London.
We received the spade in mid-October and the inscription reads:
Metropolitan Public Gardens Association
The London Spade 2020
Presented to DeptfordFolk led by
Trina Lynskey for the improvement
preservation and protection of Deptford's Parks
Thanks you to EVERYONE who has supported what we do from families, children, residents, schools, writers, tree planters, LBL cabinet members, Lewisham Green Scene, the Glendale team, funders, TRA's, activists and many more besides.
In these difficult times green spaces, access to them and the legacy of John Evelyn are more important than ever. We need more space. We need to the right to green and open space.
Pictured above: the spade on John Evelyn's bench in Deptford Park and our Chair Trina Lynskey with the spade by the orchard in Deptford Park
DeptfordFolk is the constituted user group representing Folkestone Gardens & Deptford Park SE8. More information can be found on the website www.deptfordfolk.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list. You can follow DeptfordFolk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #deptfordfolk