Many of you will recognise the interesting feature above which you may have cycled past. It is along the riverside Thames Path where the River Ravensbourne flows into the River Thames at Deptford Creek. With Putin’s Russian war raging in Ukraine, you may be interested in some Russian connections with Botley Hill Farm, Deptford, our Tudor monarchs, Czar Peter the Great, and Vladimir Putin.
HISTORIC CONNECTIONS – WAR AT SEA
Botley Hill Farm is part of the extensive estate of Titsey Place. It’s connection with Russia started back in the Tudor period – with King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.
England and France had long been enemies. When Henry VIII became king his “navy” consisted of five ships. He set about building a large and effective fleet of ships by commissioning a new, royal dock yard at Deptford. When he died his new “royal navy” consisted of 58 purpose built ships, the most famous being the Mary Rose which saw much action from 1512 when King Henry declared war against France, and was eventually sunk in action against the French 43 years later.
Fighting wars costs money – lots of it – which included the new dock yard at Deptford and the huge expansion in the King’s navy. The considerable expense was aided by the sale of the valuable estates that the King had seized from the Catholic Church during the Reformation. One buyer of such an estate was Sir John Gresham, a Lord Mayor of London, who in 1534 acquired the Manor of Titsey.
TRADE WITH RUSSIA
Titsey Place has an interesting history – https://www.titsey.org/history – which relates that Sir John Gresham made his fortune as a merchant, being successful in trading with the Middle East and the Baltic. He also founded the Russia Company to trade with that little-known country. The Russia Company’s trading with Russia was profitable. This lead to the signing of a commercial treaty between Queen Elizabeth I and Czar, Ivan the Terrible.
During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, her navy proved it’s abilities against the Spanish, and in particular against the Spanish Armada’s threatened an invasion of England. Perhaps it was this background which resulted in Czar Peter the Great coming to England, as recorded in English, on the plinth to his statue at Deptford.
“Peter the Great – Russian Czar. Peter the Great, arrived in England in January 1698 and stayed in Sir John Evelyn’s house, Sayes Court in Deptford for four months. This monument is erected near the royal shipyard where Peter the Great studied the English science of shipbuilding. The monument is a gift from the Russian people and commemorates the visit of Peter the Great to this country in search of knowledge and experience”.
After the brief period of residence by Czar Peter and his entourage, Sir John Evelyn complained that they had caused hundreds of pounds of damage to all parts of the house and its grounds, leaving a huge repair bill. Evelyn’s steward described the Czar’s entourage as “right nasty”.
THE PUTIN CONNECTION
Whilst the inscription on the monument states that it was a gift of the Russian people, it was in reality a decision of Vladimir Putin to donate this historic memento when he made a state visit to the UK in 2003. It was subsequently placed at Deptford on it’s riverside location, which Putin visited on his next state visit in 2018.
After Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, like Czar Peter the Great and his entourage, Putin is also now considered to be a “right nasty” destroyer. The statue of the Czar has since been decorated with a Ukrainian flag and ribbons in Ukrainian colours. And a local resident threatened to paint it all blue and yellow.
After the damage caused during Czar Peter’s visit at Sayes Court, it is now damage to Czar Peter’s statue that has left a nasty bill that no one appears willing to pay. CCTV images of the incident showed two hooded men taking an angle grinder to a marble balustrade on the statue. They were also filmed trying to lift off a bronze caricature of Evelyn that flanks the larger sculpture of Peter. As a result of this vandalism the monument is now cordoned off. So no more stops by Anerley B.C riders to rest their legs!