Counter-Hill Academy on the site of which the new Royal Academy School is erected
Deptford became an important suburb of London in the 16th century, when it was one of England's main shipbuilding sites. The Royal Dockyard and The East India Company's yard were established here during the reign of Henry VIII.
Despite the town's reputation as a major industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries, the large majority of its resident families were poor. Most of the men were unskilled labourers doing seasonal work at the dockyards. Many unsavoury "fragrances" lurked in the air, as the locality was home to glue works, gasworks, tar distilleries, breweries and manufacturers of artificial manure!
The Royal Naval School provided support for the families of impoverished officers who served in nearby Deptford. The site was later to become Goldsmiths College, one of London's major centres for higher education.