To the west of the Isle of Sheppey is an expanse of water dotted with islands which forms the mouth of the River Medway. Chatham stands on the Medway, which at its mouth joins the Thames estuary. Like Portsmouth, Chatham’s place in naval history is important enough to be preserved in the form of a tourist attraction, namely the Chatham Historic Dockyard. The Dockyard has been responsible for the construction of ships right through the ages, from Tudor times right up to the 20th century. Both surface ships and submarines have been built here, and the last of the warships, HMCS Okanagan, was launched in 1966. The Chatham Dockyard is of such significance that it is under consideration as a World Heritage Site. One of the attractions in the Dockyard complex is the Victorian Ropery. Ropemaking in Chatham actually dates back as far as 1618 and the current incumbent of the Ropery, Master Ropemakers Limited, is the oldest rope manufacturer in the country.
Charles Dickens, who we last met at Broadstairs (see 26 June post) spent several years of his youth here, living first in Ordnance Terrace opposite the station (although the house was surrounded by fields in those days), then in the smaller House on the Brook, St Mary’s Place, his parents being forced to move due to financial constraints. Chatham can hardly be accused of ignoring its association with the writer, since there is an attraction called Dickens World aimed fairly and squarely at families, where the kids can relive the life and times of Dickens in areas such as Peggotty’s Boathouse (“visit our 4D Magic Lantern Show”), Haunted House (“view the ghosts of Charles Dickens’ novels”) or Crime and Punishment (“walk through the damp corridors of Marshalsea Prison”).
For a list of events in the area see here.
Map of the area.
photo © 2009 Allan Harris | more info (via: Wylio)