Chatham Historic Dockyard - slip 3

Chatham Historic Dockyard - slip 3

Chatham Historic Dockyard - Smithery

Chatham Historic Dockyard - Smithery

Chatham Historic Dockyard is a maritime museum on part of the site of the former royal/naval dockyard at Chatham in Kent, South East England. Chatham Dockyard covered 400 acres (1.6 km²) and was one of the Royal Navy's main facilities for several hundred years until it was closed in 1984. After closure the dockyard was divided into three sections. The easternmost basin was handed over to Medway Ports and is now a commercial port. Another slice was converted into a mixed commercial, residential and leisure development. 80 acres, comprising the 18th century core of the site, was transferred to a charity called the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and is now open as a visitor attraction. It claims to be the world’s most complete dockyard of the Age of Sail.


'…under this bridge the Medway foams and rolls with great violence and rapidity, and presently abating both, forms a dock finished for the finest fleet the sun ever beheld, and ready on a minutes warning, built lately by our most gracious sovereign Elizabeth for the security of her subjects and the terror of her enemies…’, Camden, Britannia, 1606. The first documentary evidence of the Royal Navy’s use of the River Medway is in the Pipe Roll Accounts of 1547 which record the rental of two storehouses on ‘Jyllingham Water’. By 1570 dockyard facilities had been constructed below Chatham Church (close to the present day Chatham Waterfront Bus Station) with a wharf, storehouses and slipway. The first warship known to have been built at the new yard was the Merlin, a pinnace of ten guns, launched in 1579.


In 1588 the shipwrights of Chatham prepared the Queen’s ships for their ultimate test – to face the might of the Spanish Armada and in March of that year the majority of the fleet set sail under the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, to make the journey west to Plymouth to fight the Spanish fleet. Two Chatham built ships, the Merlin and the Sunne, fought in the action against the Armada. No buildings of the Tudor dockyard survive today for in 1618 the dockyard moved to the site of the present Historic Dockyard and the Tudor yard was redeveloped as Gun Wharf for the Ordnance Board’s facilities at Chatham.


The Tudor dockyard site lacked the space to build dry docks, leading the Navy Board to build a new yard downstream. By 1618 the new yard, built on the site of the present Historic Dockyard was operational with new storehouses, slips and Ropery. By 1625 a dry dock had been built and houses for senior dockyard officers erected. The new yard was geographically well placed to support the Royal Navy through a series of trade wars with the Dutch that were fought largely at sea in the English Channel and North Sea. As a result the dockyard became the Royal Navy’s principal fleet base a role it would retain until the early years of the 18th century. Only largely archaeological evidence now remains of the early Stuart dockyard located around the Commissioner’s House and the garden.


The Glorious Revolution (1688) united Britain and Holland under William & Mary and led the way to over a century of conflict with France and Spain fought across the world as all three countries sort control of territory and trade with the Americas, East Indies and Asia. Inevitably British naval activity was drawn westwards away from the North Sea and the Channel and the Chatham’s role as Fleet base passed to Portsmouth and the newly completed Plymouth Dock. Chatham took on the mantle of Britain’s principal shipbuilding and repair yard: building many of the largest ships of the fleet and undertaking the larger and longest repairs, rebuilds and refits. New facilities were required and the Stuart Dockyard was heavily rebuilt to take on much of the shape and form of the current Historic Dockyard. In 1696 and 1702 two new Mast Ponds, built to enable fir logs used for mast-making to be seasoned under water, were dug. Both remain today – the first as an archaeological site – the second, the North Mast Pond as the Historic Dockyard’s earliest surviving visible historic structure.


The Commissioner’s House, Britain’s oldest surviving intact naval building was completed in 1704 – built for Captain George St Lo, newly promoted from Plymouth Dock. The house, erected on the site of its predecessor inherited the garden, first laid out by Phineas Pett in the 1640’s and provides a tangible link between the dockyard known to Pepys and Evelyn and the present day. Over the next 30 years many of the Historic Dockyard’ surviving historic buildings and structures were erected including the Clocktower Building, Main Gate Dockyard Wall, Officers’ Terrace, Sail & Colour Loft, and first Hemp House. The mid-years of the century saw the timber framed, timber clad Mast Houses and Mould Loft (1753-5) erected, followed during the 1770 -80s by the Timber Seasoning Sheds and Wheelwrights Shop. The Navy Board’s attention returned to Chatham during the last decades of the 18th century with the wholesale rebuilding of the southern end of the dockyard. Two new large storehouses were constructed on the Anchor Wharf together with a new large Double Ropehouse, combining both spinning and ropelaying operations under one roof for the first time.


The Commissioner’s House, Britain’s oldest surviving intact naval building was completed in 1704 – built for Captain George St Lo, newly promoted from Plymouth Dock. The house, erected on the site of its predecessor inherited the garden, first laid out by Phineas Pett in the 1640’s and provides a tangible link between the dockyard known to Pepys and Evelyn and the present day. Over the next 30 years many of the Historic Dockyard’ surviving historic buildings and structures were erected including the Clocktower Building, Main Gate Dockyard Wall, Officers’ Terrace, Sail & Colour Loft, and first Hemp House. The mid-years of the century saw the timber framed, timber clad Mast Houses and Mould Loft (1753-5) erected, followed during the 1770 -80s by the Timber Seasoning Sheds and Wheelwrights Shop. The Navy Board’s attention returned to Chatham during the last decades of the 18th century with the wholesale rebuilding of the southern end of the dockyard. Two new large storehouses were constructed on the Anchor Wharf together with a new large Double Ropehouse, combining both spinning and ropelaying operations under one roof for the first time.


“This day will be launched his majesties ship the Victory, estimated the largest and finest ship ever built. Several of the Lords of the Admiralty, Commissioners of the Navy, and many persons of quality and distinction, are expected to be present, for whose receptions great preparations are making through the Town”, London Public Advertiser 7th May 1765. The order for the Victory to be built at Chatham was signed by the Navy Board on the 7th July 1759. Work started almost immediately and the first timbers, those for the keel were brought together at the Old Single Dock on the 23rd July 1759 in a ceremony that even William Pitt the Elder – the then Prime Minister, and the future Earl of Chatham is thought to have attended.


Once her frame was complete she was left to ‘season in frame’ until the Seven Years War had ended and work restarted on her. Launched on 7th May 1765 she was completed and fitted out – not for war, but for the reserve fleet. It was not until 1778 that she left Chatham for sea service – as Augustus Keppel’s flagship. Following the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797) she returned to Chatham where she underwent a Great Repair – before returning to sea as Nelson’s flagship and the battle of Trafalgar. The Battle of Trafalgar ended Napoleonic France’s ambitions to invade Britain and her Navy’s ability to threaten Britain’s worldwide Command of the Oceans. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 ushered in a century of ‘Pax Britannica’ Britain’s undisputed naval power and position as global superpower – and laid the foundations for much of the modern world we know today.


The need for greater speed and efficiency in the Royal Dockyards to meet the ever-increasing demands of keeping the fleet at sea during the Napoleonic Wars led to many of the great engineers and architects of the day – Marc Brunel, Henry Maudslay, John Rennie, Samuel Bentham, Simon Goodrich and Edward Holl – becoming involved in the mechanisation of industrial processes from sawing timber to the manufacture of rope and paint. At Chatham new ironworking facilities were built in 1808 (No 1 Smithery), the Ropery mechanised in 1809, one of Britain’s first steam powered Saw Mill’s erected in 1814, the Lead & Paint Mill constructed in 1818 and a new stone dry dock with steam powered pumping station completed in 1820. During this time new office accommodation for the Dockyard’s principal officers (now Admirals Offices) and the Royal Dockyard Church built for the spiritual welfare of the yard’s employees.


The last major period of construction of dockyard buildings and structures on the Historic Dockyard site took place during the middle of the 19th century. A new range of covered building slips were constructed between 1838 and 1855, most on land largely reclaimed from the River Medway. All of the slip covers were at the forefront of technology. No 3 Slip, thought to be Europe’s the widest wide span structure in timber. The cast iron frames to 4, 5 & 6 slips providing examples of the world’s first wide span structures in metal, pre dating the great Victorian train shed roofs and being part of the design path to the Crystal Palace. No 7 slip, one of the first wide span structures in wrought iron leading the development of modern portal framed buildings.


From 1832 the Navy entered into a period of great technological change with the introduction of both steam and iron to shipbuilding. The first steam vessel built at Chatham was the paddle sloop Phoenix, launched in September 1832. From 1840 numerous trials were carried out with screw propellers, including the construction at Chatham in 1842 of the Bee, a curious small craft built with both paddle wheels and screw propeller. In 1849 the Admiralty suspended construction of all remaining sailing ships and Chatham’s first screw frigate, Horatio, was launched a year later. The 1850’s saw traditional timber-hulled sail-powered warships fitted with auxiliary steam engines to form the ‘black battlefleet’ which fought during the Crimean War. In 1863 Achilles, the first iron-built battleship to be constructed in a Royal Dockyard was launched from Chatham – the start of an entirely new generation of steam powered metal-hulled ships.


Building in iron and steel released ship designers from the constraints on size inherent in timber construction and the largest ships of the fleet quickly outgrew the facilities of the age of sail dockyard. New machine shops were required to house the steam powered iron and steel working equipment now used in shipbuilding and buildings to construct ships’ engines and boilers were required. All led to the Victorian Dockyard extension – a huge civil engineering undertaking that created an entirely new dockyard to the north of the present Historic site – an area now known as Chatham Maritime. Ship fitting out and repairing largely moved to the new dockyard extension. Shipbuilding generally did not – with No7 Slip used intensively through the late 19th century to build new generations of steam powered, armour plated battleships and cruisers. The last battleship to be constructed at Chatham was HMS Africa, launched from No 8 slip (to the north of 7 slip ) in 1905. 1906 saw the launch of HMS Dreadnought from Portsmouth dockyard – a new generation of ship powered by steam turbines and with large calibre guns in turrets mounted in centreline turrets, Dreadnought changed the face of battleship construction, issued in a new age of naval competition with France and Germany – and led to battleship designs that were too large to be built on Chatham’s slips and launched into the River Medway


The end of battleship construction marked the dawn of a new era for Chatham as the Royal Navy began to embrace the submarine as a new weapon of war. In 1906, the Admiralty, having had two small classes of submarines built by Vickers of Barrow-in-Furness, were sufficiently confident to order the construction of 38 coastal submarines. To ensure that the Royal Dockyards kept abreast of this new technology six were built at Chatham, the first of which, C17, was launched from No 7 Slip on the 13th August 1908. The construction of C17 heralded the start of a new shipbuilding era for the dockyard with a specialism in submarine construction which would span two World Wars, enter the nuclear age, and provide continued work for at least two of the Historic Dockyard’s Covered Slips (Nos 6 & 7) until the mid-1960’s. In all, 57 submarines were built at Chatham between 1908 and 1960. Significant vessels included the giant ‘X’ and ‘M’ class boats of the inter-war period; ‘T’ class submarines such as Torbay and the highly successful post war ‘O’ or Oberon class boats, six of which were built at the yard, including Oberon, the class leader, Ocelot, the last warship built for the Royal Navy at Chatham (and now preserved by the Trust), and three for the Royal Canadian Navy, Ojibwa, Onondaga and Okanagan.


HMS Gannet

HMS Gannet

HMS Cavalier

HMS Cavalier


HMS Gannet

HMS Gannet was a Royal Navy Doterel-class screw sloop launched on 31 August 1878. The Doterel class were a development of the Osprey-class sloops and were of composite construction, with wooden hulls over an iron frame. The original 1874 design by the Chief Constructor, William Henry White was revised in 1877 by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and nine were ordered. Of 1,130 tons displacement and approximately 1,100 indicated horsepower, they were capable of approximately 11 knots and were armed with two 7" muzzle-loading rifled guns on pivoting mounts, and four 64-pound guns (two on pivoting mounts, and two broadside). They had a crew of around 140 men. Gannet was laid down at Sheerness Royal Dockyard in 1877 and launched on 31 August 1878.[1] She was commissioned on 17 April 1879, and was classified as both a sloop of war and a colonial cruiser. She was capable of nearly 12 knots under full steam or 15 knots under sail. The primary purpose of ships of the Gannet's class was to maintain British naval dominance through trade protection, anti-slavery, and long term surveying.


Gannet served her first commission from 17 April 1879 to 20 July 1883 on the Pacific Station under Admiral De Horsey. She sailed from Portsmouth, across the Atlantic and via Cape Horn to the port of Panama City on the Pacific coast of Central America. She spent much time shadowing the events of the War of the Pacific before embarking on a patrol around the Pacific. She returned to Sheerness to pay off in July 1883, and underwent a two-year refit. Gannet recommissioned at Sheerness on 3 September 1885 and sailed to join the Mediterranean Fleet. She was initially used to support the forces of Major-General Sir Gerald Graham during the first Suakin Expedition in the Sudan. Anti-slavery patrols took her into the Red Sea, searching suspicious ships. On 11 September 1888, she was recalled from a mid-commission refit at Malta and ordered to relieve Dolphin at the besieged port of Suakin, Sudan. On 17 September she engaged anti-Anglo-Egyptian forces led by Osman Digna for nearly a month, firing 200 main armament shells and nearly 1,200 Nordenfelt rounds. Gannet was relieved by Starling on 15 October and paid off at Malta on 1 November 1888.


Gannet recommissioned almost immediately on 10 November 1888 and was assigned to perform surveying work throughout the Mediterranean. She paid off from her third commission in December 1891. She recommissioned on 26 January 1892 and spent 3 years conducting survey work in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. She returned to Chatham and decommissioned on 16 March 1895. After four months out of commission, in December 1895, Gannet was transferred to harbour service in Chatham where she remained until 1900, when she was placed on the list of non-effective vessels. In the autumn of 1900, Gannet was leased to the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company as an accommodation hulk at Port Victoria railway station on the Isle of Grain.


In 1903 Gannet was ordered to relieve the original HMS President of 1829, which had served as the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve drill ship in London Docks since 1862, and underwent major alterations to convert her into a drill ship. Renamed HMS President, she took up her new duties as the headquarters ship of the London Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the South West India Docks in June 1903. In 1909 the ship was renamed President II and in the spring of 1911, was relieved by HMS Buzzard, again finding herself on the list of non-effective vessels. In 1913 Gannet was loaned to C. B. Fry, and was stationed in the River Hamble, and became a dormitory ship for the Training Ship Mercury (where she retained her name President). The school took young boys who otherwise might not have many options in life, and trained them to join the Royal Navy. The ship served in this capacity until 1968 when the school was closed. Back in Royal Navy stewardship, the ship was turned over to the Maritime Trust so that she could be restored.


HMS Cavalier (R73)

HMS Cavalier is a retired C-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. Cavalier was one of 96 War Emergency Programme destroyers ordered between 1940 and 1942. She was one of the first ships to be built with the forward and aft portions of her hull welded, with the midsection riveted to ensure strength. The new process gave the ship additional speed. In 1970 a 64-mile race was arranged between Cavalier and the frigate Rapid, which had the same hull form and machinery. Cavalier beat Rapid by 30 yards (27 m) after Rapid lifted a safety valve, reaching an average speed of 31.8 knots (58.9 km/h).


After commissioning she joined the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, part of the Home Fleet, and took part in a number of operations off Norway. Most notably in February 1945 she was despatched with the destroyers Myngs and Scorpion to reinforce a convoy from the Kola Inlet in Russia, which had suffered attacks from enemy aircraft and U-boats, and had subsequently been scattered by a violent storm. She and the other escorts reformed the convoy, and returned to Britain with the loss of only three of the thirty-four ships. This action earned Cavalier a battle honour. Later in 1945 Cavalier was despatched to the Far East, where she provided naval gunfire support during the Battle of Surabaya. In February 1946 she went to Bombay to help quell the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny. After some time in the British Pacific Fleet she was paid off in May 1946 and was placed in reserve at Portsmouth. Cavalier returned to service in 1957 after a modernisation, which included removing some of her torpedo tubes in favour of Squid anti-submarine mortars. She was again sent to the Far East, and joined the 8th Destroyer Squadron in Singapore. In December 1962 she transported 180 troops from Singapore to Brunei to help suppress a rebellion that became part of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation. After disembarking the troops she remained in Brunei as a communications centre for several days until other Royal Navy ships arrived to relieve her. Cavalier was decommissioned in 1972 along with HMS Wellington (moored in London), and is the last surviving British destroyer of World War 2.


After decommissioning at Chatham Dockyard, she was laid up in Portsmouth. As a unique survivor, after a five-year campaign led by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the ship was purchased by the Cavalier Trust for £65,000 and handed over on Trafalgar Day 1977 in Portsmouth. By selling the ship to the Trust, the UK Government and the Royal Navy severed all formal connection and responsibility for the ship. A special warrant was issued that allows her to retain the prefix "HMS" (Her Majesty's Ship) and fly the White Ensign, a privilege normally only enjoyed by commissioned ships of the Royal Navy. A similar privilege is enjoyed by another museum ship, the cruiser Belfast. Moved to Southampton, Cavalier opened as a museum and memorial ship in August 1982. This was not commercially successful, and in October 1983 the ship was moved to Brighton, where she formed the centrepiece of a newly built yacht marina. After the reforming of the Cavalier Trust, and a debate in Parliament, in 1998 Cavalier was bought by Chatham Historic Dockyard for display as a museum ship. Arriving on 23 May 1998, Cavalier now resides in No. 2 dry-dock. On 14 November 2007, Cavalier was officially designated as a war memorial to the 142 Royal Navy destroyers sunk during World War II and the 11,000 men killed on those ships. The unveiling of a bronze monument created by the artist Kenneth Potts was conducted by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The monument is adjacent to the ship at the Historic Dockyard. In April 2014 Cavalier was added to Google Maps Business View in celebration of the 70th anniversary of her launch. The tour, which includes Cavalier's engine and gear room, was enhanced with interactive audio hotspots to enable visitors with accessibility issues to explore the ship.


HMS Ocelot (S17)

HMS Ocelot (S17) was an Oberon-class diesel-electric submarine operated by the Royal Navy. The Oberon class was a direct follow on of the Porpoise-class, with the same dimensions and external design, but updates to equipment and internal fittings, and a higher grade of steel used for fabrication of the pressure hull. As designed for British service, the Oberon-class submarines were 241 feet (73 m) in length between perpendiculars and 295.2 feet (90.0 m) in length overall, with a beam of 26.5 feet (8.1 m), and a draught of 18 feet (5.5 m). Displacement was 1,610 tons standard, 2,030 tons full load when surfaced, and 2,410 tons full load when submerged. Propulsion machinery consisted of 2 Admiralty Standard Range 16 VMS diesel generators, and two 6,000 shaft horsepower (4,500 kW) electric motors, each driving a 7 feet (2.1 m) 3-bladed propeller at up to 400 rpm. Top speed was 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) when submerged, and 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) on the surface. Eight 21-inch (530 mm) diameter torpedo tubes were fitted (six facing forward, two aft), with a total payload of 24 torpedoes. The boats were fitted with Type 186 and Type 187 sonars, and an I-band surface search radar. The standard complement was 68: 6 officers, 62 sailors.


Ocelot was laid down by Chatham Dockyard on 17 November 1960, and launched on 5 May 1962. The boat was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 31 January 1964. Ocelot was the last submarine built for the Royal Navy at Chatham Dockyard, although three more Oberons; Ojibwa, Onondaga and Okanagan—were built for the Royal Canadian Navy. After commissioning, Ocelot was assigned to the 3rd Submarine Squadron, based at HMNB Clyde, in Faslane. During the 1960s, Ocelot took part in clandestine missions. Ocelot attended the 1977 Silver Jubilee Fleet Review off Spithead when she was part of the Submarine Flotilla. HMS Ocelot was paid off in August 1991 as the conventional submarine fleet of the RN began to decline, making way for the nuclear fleet. She was sold in 1992 and preserved as a fully tourable museum in Chatham Historic Dockyard. In November 2013 the interior of HMS Ocelot was added to Google Street View.

The Ropery

The Ropery

HMS Ocelot in Dry Dock

HMS Ocelot in Dry Dock


Covered Slips

The covered building slipways, together with the dry docks, formed the industrial heart of the Dockyard of the age of sail. Most ships were built on slipways that sloped into the river – located both here and in front of Commissioners House, although some were built in dry docks. 4, 5 and 6 slips were built as a group between 1847 and 1848. Their slender cast-iron frames were covered with corrugated-iron (now steel) sheeting. These roofs are an important landmark in the history of wide span iron and steel structures as they predate those of the great train sheds of King’s Cross and Newcastle and were part of the design path to the 1851 Crystal Palace. The last slip to be built was No.7, erected in 1855 with a frame built out of wrought-iron with integral overhead travelling crane rails. Most of the submarines built at Chatham between 1907 and 1966 were constructed there, including HM Submarine Ocelot. Today, No.7 slip is operated commercially by Turks Shipyard.


During the Napoleonic Wars the Navy Board set about minimising the impact of Dry Rot on ships under construction by building covers over the all the building slips and docks used for shipbuilding. At Chatham the large slips in front of Commissioners House were tackled first, with No 2 Slip covered in 1813 and No 1 Slip in 1815. No 3 slip was built in 1836 and covered in 1838 with a roof 300 ft. (91m) long and 146 ft. (44.5m) wide. The cantilevered frame was to the design of Sir Robert Seppings and is a remarkable tribute to the skills of the dockyard workforce which built it. Today it remains the sole survivor, No.1 Slip was taken down at the end of the 19th century while No.2 Slip was lost to fire in 1966. By the 1850s the length of ships had outgrown the slipway and in 1904 a new mezzanine floor was inserted to create a store for ships’ boats.


Dry Docks

The dry docks were used for both shipbuilding and ship repair. During the age of sail the Navy Board built more dry docks than any other country. Originally they were built of timber and needed frequent repair and re-building. No. 3 dry dock, now home to HM Submarine Ocelot, was the first of Chatham’s dry docks to be built in stone. It was designed by naval architect John Rennie, along with the South Dock Pumping Station. No.4 dry dock, where HMS Gannet is now berthed, was constructed in 1840 and enlarged in 1908 to accommodate larger ships. Both dry docks were built in the same in the same manner with floor and sides of granite blocks supported underground by an inverted brick arch.


No. 2 Dry Dock is on the site of the Old Single Dock where HMS Victory was built and launched in 1765. As ship building changed from wood to iron and the size of vessels increased, there was a need to extend the dock. Between 1855 and 1856 it was lengthened and rebuilt in stone. In 1860 this dock was used to construct HMS Achilles, the first iron battleship to be built at a Royal Dockyard, a sister ship to Warrior, who still survives today at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Dock Pumping Station, built in 1822, was designed by John Rennie as part of the works to build No 3 Dry Dock, this was Britain’s second large volume steam powered pumping station. Connected to all three docks and the river by a series of underground culverts it was used to drain the docks when ships were brought in for repair or after a launch. The water was pumped back into the river through the underground drainage system. The Pumping-Station was powered by two steam powered beam-engine and this was replaced by in 1929 by an electric pump. The pumping-station remains operational and could be used when the docks are drained to carry out major works on the ships, although this does not happen often.


Residential Buildings

Commissioner's House. The original house was built in 1640 for the First Resident Commissioner Phineas Pett, his family and servants. In 1703 it was knocked down and rebuilt in its present style for the new Resident Commissioner George St Lo. Lo felt that the original house did not compare to his previous, and newly built, residence in Plymouth and petitioned for a new one to be built of equal grandeur. The house has changed little since its construction and it is the oldest intact naval building in Britain to survive. Internally the centrepiece is a magnificent ceiling painting above the main staircase. Painted on wood panel and depicting a scene of the Greek gods assembling, it is believed to have come from the Great Cabin of the Royal Sovereign an important first rate ship of the line, broken up at Chatham in 1768.


The Royal Dockyard Church. Provision for the spiritual welfare of those who worked in the Dockyard was not made until 1755, when a hulk was provided in the river for use as a chapel. In 1804 approval was gained for the construction of a dockyard church. It was designed by Edward Holl and was built largely by the Dockyard’s own workforce. It has an internal gallery supported on slender cast-iron columns. It is one of the first uses of cast-iron in the Dockyard. The last service in the Dockyard Church was in December 1981. Today the church is used as a lecture theatre for the University of Kent. This new lease of life has allowed the building to be restored, providing a stable future for the building and is appreciated by all those who use it.


The South Stables - built 1737. One of two ranges of stables in the Dockyard that provided accommodation for the horses of the Dockyard’s principal officers. The southern block contains a coach-house which was used for the Resident Commissioner’s carriage. During much of the age of sail the Resident Commissioner at Chatham was also responsible for operations at Sheerness Dockyard. Although only 12 miles away the journey to Sheerness by river could take a long time if winds and tides were unfavourable. The Commissioner was therefore provided with an official carriage and horses. Today the range of buildings is largely residential.


Officer's Terrace, built 1722 - 1733. This comprises twelve large houses built for the senior offices of the Dockyard. The rooms on the lower floor would have originally been used as offices until the construction of the Dockyard’s first office block in 1750. Each house has its own walled garden, now some of Britain’s few remaining eighteenth-century ‘town’ gardens. Six of the houses are larger than the others and were for the principal officers. They were the Master Shipwright, the Clerk of the Cheque, the Storekeeper, the Clerk of the Survey and two Master Attendants. The other houses were occupied less senior men: the Clerk to the Ropeyard and Master Ropemaker, the first and second Assistant Master Shipwrights, the Mast Caulker and the Surgeon. Today these houses are private residences.


The Cashier's Office, built in the late 18th century. This substantial building was constructed for the pay clerks and other staff of the Clerk of the Cheque. It was originally a single-storey structure with the upper floors being added later on. John Dickens, father of Charles Dickens, worked as a pay clerk in this building between 1817 and 1822. Paid £200 per year, he attended the regular muster of all the artisans and labourers employed in the Dockyard and met arriving ships to pay the crews. Charles Dickens made many visits to the Dockyard, both then and later, writing some of his experience in his book The Uncommercial Traveller. The building remains in use as an office today.


The Rope Yard

The Ropery, built 1786 to 1791. Rope has been made on this site since 1618 when the first Rope Yard buildings were completed. Originally there were two long timber single-storey buildings – one used for spinning, the other for rope forming and closing. The present building is a Double Ropehouse where spinning took place on upper floors with the Rope Walk, where the rope was made, on the ground floor. Rope was an essential commodity in the age of sail with a first rate ship of the line needing around 31 miles of it – over 20 for its rigging alone. The Rope Yard operated as a separate business unit within the dockyard, run by the Clerk of the Ropeyard, with its own workforce recorded separately by the Navy Board to that of the rest of the dockyard. Today the Ropery is unique –a traditional naval ropery, complete with its original Georgian and Victorian equipment – that still makes rope commercially.


Hatchelling House, 1787. Built as part of the rebuilding of the Rope Yard in the late 18th century, the Hatchelling House was where the ropemaking process began. Hatchellers, semi-skilled artisans, combed the raw hemp fibre across hatchels, boards with long iron pins to straighten out the fibres before they were spun into yarn. Whale oil, known as ‘train oil’, was used to lubricate the fibres. This was very hard manual work that took great strength. In 1803 19 hatchellers worked in this building. In 1864 the hatchelling operation was mechanised and incorporated in the new Spinning Room built above the Hemp Houses. The hatchellers’ role was passed over to women to work as machine minders following the pattern set in northern textile mills. The earliest surviving buildings of the Ropeyard are the Hemp Houses, the northern most part (closest to Commissioners House) dating from 1729. Originally a single storey structure, the hemp houses were extended in length three times and doubled in width. They were used to store raw hemp fibre grown in southern Russia and imported through Baltic ports such as Riga. As a result the hemp was often known as Riga hemp and the Baltic became an important supply route for key raw materials of shipbuilding in the age of sail such as hemp and fir logs to be made into ships’ masts and spars. In 1812 , during the Napoleonic Wars, a second storey was added to double the space available to store the hemp. In 1864 the upper storey was rebuilt to take mechanical hatchelling and spinning machinery. A new workforce of women were recruited as ‘machine minders’ to operate the new equipment and other parts of the ropeyard altered to provide facilities and separate access for the new female workforce.



The Clocktower Building - built 1723. The oldest naval store-house to survive in any of the Royal Dockyards. The Clocktower Building was constructed at the head of the docks as a ‘present use store’ for materials and equipment needed by ships under construction or repair. These would include iron, lead, copper, oakum, pitch and tar. The top floor was used as a mould loft and the six ground floor bays at the north end of the building were left open and used as sawpits. The store was rebuilt in 1802 when the original timber cladding was replaced with a brick skin, while the saw pits were filled in. In the twentieth century it was converted into offices. Today the Clocktower Building has been adapted for the University of Kent’s School of Music and Fine Art. It houses a small lecture theatre, seminar rooms and offices.


Anchor Wharf was where supplies and stores were transferred from river to shore. The long expanse allowed easy movement of materials that were brought into the Dockyard to the storehouses that run the length of the wharf. Areas were also used to store ships’ anchors. With the development of steam technology and the growth of the Dockyard in the mid-19th century, Anchor Wharf became connected with the rest of the site with a new steam railway by 1871. This enabled easier movement of stores across site. The Fitted Rigging House (built 1796) and Storehouse No. 3. These two storehouses dominate Anchor Wharf and are the largest storehouses ever built for the Royal Navy. The nearest building is the Fitted Rigging House and Storehouse No 2. This was where the Dockyard’s riggers prepared and stored the rigging for ships being ‘Fitted For Sea’. They used rope made in the Ropery and blocks brought in from private block-makers, or, after 1804, from the Portsmouth Block Mills. The furthest part of the building was used to store new equipment purchased to fit out newly built ships. The far building, Storehouse No 3, replaced the earlier Long Store in 1785 and was used as a ‘lay apart’ store. Here stores and equipment from warships under repair or lying in Ordinary, or reserve in the Medway, were brought on shore and kept ‘laid apart’ from those of other vessels.



Admirals Offices: 1808. Built as office accommodation for the Master Shipwright and other principal officers of the Dockyard, this building was designed by the Navy Board’s architect, Edward Holl. Its roof-line was kept deliberately low to avoid interference with the view from Officers’ Terrace behind. During the 20th century it was extended both on the Clocktower side of the building and at the back – both serving to reduce the impact of Holl’s original symmetrical design. In 1832 the Navy Board was abolished and the Admiralty Board took over the running of the Royal Dockyard with naval officers, first Captains and later Admirals placed in charge. Later on it became the offices of the Port Admiral. Today a range of different 21st century companies have offices within the building. Assistant Queen Harbour Master's Office, c1770. This building was constructed next to the Queen’s Stairs, which was the main entry point to the Dockyard from the river during 18th century. This office was built for the Dockyard’s two Master Attendants, who were Principal Officers and were responsible for the ships moored in the river, either in Ordinary or waiting repair and for the trades involved in Fitting Ships for Sea. In 1865 the whole of the River Medway was designated as a Dockyard Port under the control of the King or Queen’s Harbourmaster, a post held by a senior officer of the Dockyard. The Assistant Harbourmaster worked from this building, responsible for all moorings and ship movements that affected the Navy’s use of the river. In the 20th century the large mast to the left of the building flew the flag of the Port Admiral.


Main Gate. This imposing building was the main entrance to the Dockyard. Completed in 1722 in ‘Vanbrugh style’ its first coat of arms of George I now sits on the inside face of the building. It was replaced on the outside in 1811 with the arms of George III. The gate provided homes for two junior officials, the Yard Porter and Boatswain. The Yard Porter watched over all those who would enter and exit the site. Workers would have been mustered by the tolling of the muster bell, which is just to the right of the gate. During the Napoleonic Wars, when fears of spies were at their height, Quartermen, or gang leaders, from each trade were required to personally identify each of their men entering the yard. A practice repeated during the world wars of the 20th century. Guard House. The Seven Years War (1756-63) raised the threat of invasion and landward attack to the dockyard as well as increasing concerns about the risks of spies and saboteurs. A new Guard House was built in 1764 to house a force of Marines brought in to supplement dockyard security at Main Gate. The external timber colonnade was added in 1813. In 1834 the Marines were replaced by a uniformed Dockyard Police force and it, and its successors, occupied the Guard House until the Dockyard closed in 1984. Today the building is used for office accommodation.


Timber Working

House Carpenters Shop, built 1740. Built for the carpenters who looked after the dockyard’s own buildings, the House Carpenters shop was constructed to harmonise with the adjacent Officers terrace. The building now forms part of a series of craft workshops and is open to visitors. In May 1771, the Earl of Sandwich and other Commissioners of the Admiralty Board visited Chatham and were shown how ships constructed from poorly seasoned timber had rotted. Shortly afterwards plans were made to provide timber seasoning sheds in all the Royal Dockyards so that timber could be carefully stored and seasoned before use. The sheds were to be of a standard design and built in sufficient quantity to provide a 3 year supply of seasoned timber for each yard, at Chatham this equated to 75 bays. All were completed by 1775 and as such the seasoning sheds are probably the first standardised industrial buildings to be erected in large numbers in Britain. Today only two survive – both at Chatham.


Joiners Shop, 1790. The Joiners were responsible for the finishing of surfaces on board a ship prior to its fitting out, including the planning of knees, beams and ledges. Work in the Joiner’s Shop would have included the making of all on board furniture to fit ships, from tables and beds to moving pantries and the preparation of windows for the stern and galleries. The Master Joiner would also survey a ship that came in for refit, identifying what joinery items needed to be replaced or repaired. The House Carpenters work covered the buildings and maintenance of key infrastructure in the Dockyard. The docks, slips and wharfs were their responsibility as was making sure that domestic houses, offices and fitting shops were maintained. House Carpenters also built the store rooms and magazines on board ships. Brunel Saw Mills. Until 1814 timber was sawn by hand, mostly by pairs of sawyers working in saw pits. In 1812 work commenced on the construction of this building that was to revolutionise timber preparation in the Dockyard. Designed by Marc Brunel it provided a mechanised approach to the whole process. Steam powered reciprocating sawing machines were linked by an overhead travelling crane system to timber storage yards and by underground canal to the South Mast Pond.

No. 1 Smithery

No. 1 Smithery

Exceptional Models

Exceptional Models


No. 1 Smithery

The structure is a Grade II listed building (formerly for iron-working) and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was restored by van Heyningen and Haward Architects and re-opened as a visitor and exhibition centre in July 2010. A treasure house of maritime treats, No.1 Smithery is a joint project between the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich and Imperial War Museums that encourages visitors to unearth incredible stories through objects, paintings and play. It also has a regional Touring Exhibition Gallery, and museum quality permanent Exhibition Galleries. No.1 Smithery is also home to National Museums: Collection and Research, a state-of-the-art, environmentally controlled storage space for over 4,000 models and artefacts. At the heart of No.1 Smithery is The Courtyard, a large open space that allows visitors to view most of the original building with its huge anchor pits, chimneys and rugged industrial feel.


The gallery is home to remarkable objects selected from more than 4,000 items from the national collections stored at Chatham. They reveal fascinating stories based on the people who made the models – such as prisoners of war or lighthouse keepers – as well as shipwrecks and heroic actions at sea. Among the artefacts will be the intricate 18th century model of Admiral Balchen’s flagship HMS Victory and a superb scale model of the Eddystone Lighthouse (1759) – the first stone built offshore lighthouse to survive. These and all the other objects and stories are supported by superb artworks providing contemporary interpretation. These pieces are just two of the highlights of the National Museums Maritime Treasures gallery – comprising three separate gallery areas, which include many interpretations of England’s place as one of the world’s greatest seafaring nations. On arrival a series of audio visuals lead to the display of a single ship model, the SS Jervis Bay, a ship built in 1922 to carry passengers and cargo between London and Australia via the Suez Canal. At the start of the Second World War she was refitted as an Armed Merchant Cruiser of the Royal Navy and allocated to the Chatham Division of the Royal Navy.


Amphibious Warfare. During the age of sail the Royal Navy pioneered the development of specialist craft to land troops and equipment on hostile shores. The 20th century saw even more innovation, especially during the Second World War, to support landings across Europe and the Pacific. Today amphibious warfare capability remains at the heart of Britain’s military strategy. Thames Traffic. London and the River Thames lay at the heart of Britain’s international trade for over 300 years. Extensive docks and port industries, combined with international insurance and commodity markets, led to London becoming the maritime capital of the world. In the 19th century Thames’ shipbuilders and marine steam- engine builders were at the forefront of iron and steel ship construction, and the ships that were built on the river had a world-wide impact. Models in Design. By the early 19th century Britain led the world in ship design and construction, with models playing a major role in both processes. Today, historic models made as part of the design and construction process, provide evidence of the innovation and pioneering ground-breaking engineering that enabled Britain to become the world’s maritime superpower of the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Imagine a place so cold that everyday objects become useless. Rubber crumbles. Metal becomes brittle. Skin burns. Now imagine shopping, working or even celebrating a marriage or planning for the birth of a child – when the nearest hospital is miles away. This is the life in the Arctic North, captured in the temporary exhibition Pole of Cold, at The Historic Dockyard Chatham from 13 August till 27 November 2016. World-renowned Kent born explorer Felicity Aston, 38, made the 36,000 km journey from the UK, across Scandinavia, to the Pole of Cold in northeast Siberia, the coldest inhabited place on earth. Setting out from London in November 2013 her team, supported by Land Rover and the Royal Geographic Society, aimed to focus their expedition on the theme of winter, exploring and documenting the physical, social and cultural implications of the cold throughout their journey. The 35 beautiful photographs from the Pole of Cold capture this journey and the extraordinary people met on the way including Shaman in Tuva, reindeer nomads in Yakutia and the Lord Keeper of the Cold, Chyskhan who is responsible in Yakutian mythology for distributing the winter around the world. The exhibition charts this journey, exploring five themes – Clothing, Food, Livelihood, Transport, belief and shamanism. The Pole of Cold expedition photographs are complemented by a number of archival prints on loan from the National Maritime Museum exploring historic arctic explorations in the 1850s and 1870s, including a rare photograph of the Victorian steam ship HMS Phoenix- the first steam paddle sloop to be built at Chatham in 1832.


This family friendly exhibition offers immersive elements too; Visitors can try on Inuit snow goggles, mittens and other anthropological objects on loan from the Scott Polar Research Institute, listen to the melodic sounds of ‘Joiking’ – a traditional Sami form of song, or design their own polar clothing in a recreated Siberian house. Each aspect of Aston’s journey and the historical collections on display will inspire and demonstrate how daily life goes on for the people that live in this truly extreme climate. Felicity Aston MBE (Guest Curator) says: “Our journey chased the onset of winter as it occurred from the centre of London, across the UK and Scandinavia, east across Siberia, all the way to the coldest inhabited place in the world. Along the way we met some astonishing people and discovered something of their lives. I wanted to know how they thought about winter, when winter means temperatures as low as -60C. Did they dread it (as we in the UK often do), or did they have reasons to welcome the extreme season? I am very excited about this new exhibition and about the opportunity to bring elements of the wildest parts of Siberia and Arctic Scandinavia to the south east. I find the extreme cold fascinating and I’m passionate about sharing that fascination with others. We don’t just experience a place with our eyes – we hear it, we feel it – so what we have worked hard to create in this exhibition is an opportunity to experience the coldest inhabited places on earth in all those different ways – by seeing, hearing and feeling it.”


Command of the Oceans

Nowhere is the experience of life during the heyday of the age of sail more alive than in the Age of Sail galleries. Discover how ships, including HMS Victory, were designed and built. Immerse yourself in the vivid Hearts of Oak audio visual gallery and explore four superb new interactive galleries – ‘Command of the Oceans’. Command of the Oceans reveals the full dockyard story, thrilling archaeology and long-hidden objects for the first time. It tells powerful, compelling stories of innovation and craftsmanship. It shows how Chatham Dockyard and its people helped lead Britain to worldwide influence. It features two internationally significant maritime archaeological discoveries – the timbers of the Namur (1756), intriguingly laid to rest beneath the floor of the old Wheelwrights’ workshop, and an incredible treasure trove of archaeological objects recovered from the sea bed, from the Invincible (1758).


Hearts of Oak. Join the now retired Master Shipwright, John North, as he relives his role as the Valiant’s Carpenter and encourages his Grandson to follow in his footsteps. What will the young man do? Become a Shipwright like his Grandfather – or follow his instincts and join the Royal Navy to be like Nelson? People, Tools and Trades. Immerse yourself in the story of the dockyard’s 2,500 strong workforce during the Age of Sail and the crucial / pivotal part they played in maintaining Britain’s command of the world’s oceans. Discover who they were, how much they earned and what they did. Get hands-on with key trades and have some green screen fun as you step into the 18th century dockyard. The Victory Gallery. Discover the fascinating, larger than life model of HMS Victory that has been a star in its own right – used in the 1941 film ‘That Hamilton Woman’. HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, is an icon for both British sea power of the age of sail and for Chatham built ships. Built here between 1759 and 1765, the Victory returned to Chatham for major repairs both before and after Trafalgar.


Supporting the Fleet. Explore the role of Royal Dockyards like Chatham in supporting the fleet through over 100 objects recovered from the 1758 wreck of the Invincible, 3rd Rate ship of the line. Incredibly well preserved they bring to life what it was like to live, work and fight on board a ship of war during age of sail. Find out how sailors’ measured a ship’s speed, how food was prepared and served, how the guns were loaded and fired. Namur – The Ship Beneath the Floor. Be moved by the story of the Namur, the ‘ship beneath the floor’. A unique archaeological find over 10% of the frame of this 90-gun ship was discovered beneath five layers of floor of the Wheelwrights Shop in 1995. Today visitors descend to the Namur’s final resting place, where the timbers are preserved, evocatively lit and interpreted. Find out what the archaeologists have discovered from them; explore their importance to the Age of Sail story at Chatham and the moving stories of those who served on board. Turn detective and ask the intriguing question – why are the timbers buried here?


The 19th and 20th century represented times of great change at Chatham Dockyard, the Steam, Steel and Submarines gallery is used to explore this defining period of power, strength and adaption to new technology. Chatham Dockyard, along with the Chatham Port Division of the Royal Navy played a central role in many of the 19th and 20th centuries major conflicts, without their contribution would Britain have been able to maintain such important global influence? Discover how the big steam ships of the Victorian age were built. They are now running daily sessions (every hour) within the Steam, Steel and Submarines gallery to bring some of their hidden collections to life. Visitors will have the opportunity to get hands-on with items that helped build the Royal Navy and supported the Royal Dockyard at Chatham. All sessions are delivered by their experienced and friendly gallery staff and allow you to get closer to the collections.


No. 3 Slip. Built in 1838, the immense No. 3 Covered Slip at The Historic Dockyard Chatham was, when built, the largest wide span timber structure in Europe. Today it is home to a vast array of epic objects and vehicles from both the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Royal Engineers Museum, Library and Archive collections. No.3 Slip stands at the cusp of technological change, its amazing cantilever roof was built to the design of shipwright Sir Robert Seppings. It stands next to roofs made of cast iron constructed under Captain Bandreth of the Royal Engineers less than 10 years later. The Ropery. Rope has been made at Chatham Dockyard for almost 400 years and its rope, still made on the Ropewalk, has been used to rig the mightiest vessels ever to take to sea. Today Chatham is the only one of the original four Royal Navy Ropeyards to remain in operation and together with its related buildings forms the finest integrated group of 18th century manufacturing buildings in Britain. Take the Victorian Ropery Tour and “learn the ropes” with a foreman from 1875. Discover why the enormous double Ropewalk is nearly ¼ mile long. Before you visit, have a guess at how many miles of rope HMS Victory needed… you’ll be amazed at the answer! Master Ropemakers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, continues to use the skills and tradition of 400 years of rope making at Chatham to supply today’s business and leisure markets. In some cases their use has changed little in 400 years with Master Ropemakers supplying many of the world’s historic sailing ships with their rope needs – from Gannet, Cutty Sark and Victory in Britain, to the Australian barque Endeavour. Master Ropemakers also supplies a wide range of non-maritime customers – from Aviaries to Zoos! Their customers include film production companies, theatres, interior designers, garden designers, sports clubs & gymnasiums, adventure playgrounds, churches and cricket clubs. This means you can witness the mysterious craft of ropemaking for yourself during their live demonstrations - Mondays to Fridays at about 12.30pm.


RNLI Museum

The RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, boasts the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats, which together have saved hundreds of lives off the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Discover their stories, and those of their fearless crews. From an 1897 pulling and sailing lifeboat, to the familiar Arun class and Blue Peter inflatable inshore lifeboats, visitors can explore how lifeboats have evolved over the past century. Interactive displays, archive film and audio clips bring to life the moment of a launch, coping with violent seas and how technology has helped create ever safer and faster craft.


Lifeboats on display include: Susan Ashley lifeboat, a Watson motor cabin boat, built in 1948 for slipway and open beach launching. James Leath lifeboat (can be boarded), a pulling and sailing lifeboat. Lizzie Porter lifeboat, A classic pulling and sailing lifeboat from 1909, twice awarded the RNLI Silver Medal and saviour of 77 lives. Will and Fanny Kirby lifeboat, a sectioned Oakley, showing the complex self-righting system and engine. St Cybl lifeboat, a 52ft (15.8m) Barnett class, famed for her 1966 double gold medal service. Helen Blake lifeboat, A unique lifeboat design from 1938, designed to be used in confined waters. Altogether there are seventeen histic vessels on display.



The site is also home to a Dockyard Railway that has a diverse collection of locomotives and rolling stock, some of which can be seen in operation throughout the year. The stock includes : Steam Engines 7042 Ajax, an 0-4-0ST built in 1941 by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, operational, boiler ticket expires in 2022. Has spent all of its life at Chatham Dockyard. 2220 Invicta 0-4-0ST, built by Andrew Barclay in 1946, undergoing restoration. Spent all of its working life at Chatham Dockyard. 1903 0-4-0ST, built by Peckett and Sons in 1936, operational, boiler ticket expires in 2020. Deisel Locomotives include 357/WD42 Overlord 0-4-0DM, built by Andrew Barclay in 1941, operational, often on display in the military exhibition. 3738 Rochester Castle 4wDM built by F C Hibberd in 1955, operational, has spent all of its life at Chatham Dockyard. 2503 Thalia 0-4-0DM, built by Drewry in 1954, operational.

Victorian Ropery

Victorian Ropery

7042 Ajax Steam Locomotive

7042 Ajax Steam Locomotive


The Historic Dockyard is an 80 acre (32 hectare) site with over 100 historic buildings and structures and 3 historic warships, and this alone provides some limitations and challenges to access. Disabled parking is located in the main undercover car park within easy reach of the admission point. There is ramp access to the Visitor Entrance & Shop. Helpers/Carers receive free admission to the Dockyard. Free pre-visit for organisers of groups or educational visits. A limited number of manual wheelchairs are available for loan at the admissions point; please book in advance to avoid disappointment. Guidebooks are available for loan on request to the hearing impaired.


The distance between the main entrance and the furthermost gallery is approximately 800 metres. The route between the galleries and ships has a fairly even surface with the ground sloping down from east to west. There are however some steep slopes to the landward side of the site, particularly between the Ropery, The Royal Dockyard Church and Main Gate. In addition to the gradients mentioned above, there are several changes of surface on site. These include gravelled pathways, tarmac, concrete and in some areas around Hearts of Oak and the Victorian Ropery Galleries there are cobblestones. A railway line runs through the site from the Main Visitor Entrance to Commissioner’s House parallel with the roadway which can trap wheelchair tires if you don’t notice them. There is, subject to availability, a 6 seater electric buggy to assist visitors around the site which can be requested via duty staff (availability of this vehicle can be checked at Visitor Reception on arrival and is subject to on the day cover).


There are disabled toilets located throughout the site at the following locations:  Museum Square  Thunderbolt Pier  Outdoor Play Area  No.1 Smithery All disabled toilet facilities are equipped with folding handrails and emergency alarms. Food & Drink. The Historic Dockyard Chatham offers a variety of great British food to their visitors looking for something to eat. Their brand new Mess Deck offers a delicious menu of locally sourced meals and sandwiches freshly prepared there at The Dockyard each day. Enjoy Great British favourites such as their renowned ‘Fish and Chips’. Alternatively, visitors can enjoy hearty ‘doorstep’ sandwiches, hot Kentish pies, baked potatoes, cakes, biscuits and great tasting Kentish ice cream at The Wagon Stop Canteen. Food served there can be either taken-away or eaten alongside their locomotives. Railway workshop, Refuel and Play. Ground floor level access. Indoor picnic and play area (At busy times and school holidays there is a mobile canteen located outside the Railway workshop. Please check on arrival for opening times). Due to the construction of the server, there is unfortunately no low level counter. Commissioner’s House - Ground floor level access to some areas with a wheelchair lift to gain entry to the building.


Hearts of Oak. Ground floor and first floor gallery with level access (some slight inclines). Lifts are available to and from the upper gallery. Lift size is 3 feet 7 inches x 4 feet 9 inches (110 x 147cm). Interpretation within the gallery is largely through an audio visual presentation. Subtitles can be requested for the hard of hearing from the gallery staff prior to the start of the tour. Steam, Steel & Submarines: The Royal Dockyard Story 1832 – 1984 Ground floor level access through double width doors is via a second entrance located to the right of the main entrance. A lift is available to enable visitors to view the Dockyard Library by appointment only. The Victorian Ropery Ground floor level access. A lift is available to the upper gallery and there is a ramped exit from the ropewalk. Lift size is 3 feet 7 inches x 4 feet 9 inches (110cm by 147cm). Please note that there is a small area of cobblestones immediately outside the ramped exit from the building that could be more difficult to negotiate. Descriptive tours are available if pre-booked.


The BIG Space (No 3 Covered Slip) Ground floor level access. A lift is available to the upper floor. Lift size is 3 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 5 inches (109cm by 135cm). The RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection (No 4 Covered Slip). The self guided visitor route around the gallery is via a gently inclined walkway. Handrails are available on either side of the walkways. No.1 Smithery. Self Guided visitor route with ground floor ramped access. A disabled toilet is located in the building.


HMS Gannet (1878). Access to Main Deck and Commander’s Cabin is via a ramped gangway with access for visitors in wheelchairs. Lower deck, poop and forecastle decks are accessed via steep ladders. Interpretation is by hand held audio tour, induction loops and text versions are available upon request at the ship. HMS Cavalier (1944). Access to the ship is via a steep gangway (with steps leading up to it). The visitor route onboard involves a number of steep ladders and small compartments with narrow passageways. Interpretation is by hand held audio tour, induction loops and text versions are available upon request at the ship. A separate gangway is located to the port side of the ship to enable wheelchair access to the main deck (and aft education spaces). Access can be arranged by speaking to a member of staff. HM Submarine Ocelot (1962). Access to the submarine is via a gangway (with steps leading up to it) followed by a steep ladder. Due to the nature of the vessel it features confined areas and small hatchways to climb through between compartments. Interpretation is by guided tour. Descriptive tours are available if pre-booked. Virtual Tours of both HMS Ocelot and HMS Cavalier can be found on The Historic Dockyard Chatham website. As well as showing publically accessible areas there is also the ability to look at parts of the vessels not normally open to the public.


Keeping Britain Afloat. Level access to gallery through double width doorways. Commissioner’s Garden. Level access to shingle pathways with slight gradients. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the site. Visitors are welcome to bring along their own refreshments and enjoy them in any one of open spaces such as Commissioner’s Garden or the Tennis Court Lawn. The Historic Dockyard Chatham offers free parking to all its visitors with space for up to 1,000 vehicles with dedicated parking for Blue Badge Holders. Simply follow the signs for visitor parking upon arrival.


Location :Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, The Sail & Colour Loft, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE

Transport : Chatham (National Rail) then bus (100, 116) or 25 minutes. Bus Routes : 100, 116, 121, 151, 170, and 174 stop very close by.

Opening Times : Daily 27 March – 29 October 10:00 to 18:00;  Winter 10:00 to 16.00.

Tickets (online): Adults £22.00;   Concessions £19.50;   Children ( 5 and older) £13.00;   Additional Children £9.50

Tel. : 01634 823800