Friday, October 7, 2016

Dockyards and Dickens

"Rule Britannia! rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves" - this famous Poem by James Thompson dates from the 1700's, and has long been associated with the Royal Navy, and sung famously every year at the last night of the Proms.

Great Britain has had a close link to the sea for many many centuries, and shipbuilding was a very important industry during the heyday of sea supremacy and exploration. One very important dockyard was Chatham, on the River Medway in Kent, established in 1567 by Elizabeth I. The dockyard at its peak employed over 10,000 workers, and over its history built 500 ships, including Lord Nelson's famous HMS Victory.

HMS Cavalier WW2 Navy ship

One of the most striking buildings at the Royal dockyard is the Ropery, this building dates from 1728, is 346m long, and is capable of producing 300m (1000ft) long hemp ropes (still in use today). The quickest way to travel along the length of the building when making rope is by bicycle.

The Ropery

The Ropery

Every September the Royal Dockyard hosts a 1940's weekend, you really feel like you have been transported back in time. The sound of Vera Lynn, Andrew Sisters, and Frank Sinatra fills the air; the smell of fish n'chips tempts you to the food vans and costumed actors really look the part.

Just a short distance south along the Medway river from Chatham Royal Dockyard is the City of Rochester. Rochester has links back to the Celts, the Romans, and Saxons, and in more recent times has strong links with Charles Dickens. Dickens lived just across the river Medway, many of his stories are based in and around Rochester, most famously "Great Expectations".

Rochester Cathedral dating from 1080AD

The city has long needed guarding against an attack due to its proximity to the river Medway and the Kent coast. Rochester castle is a very prominent landmark; dating back to 1087, the stone keep is one of the best preserved in England.

Canyons overlook the Medway

The impressive stone keep

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