The Rochester Guildhall was built in 1687 and is one of the finest 17th-century civic buildings in Kent. Its staircase and main hall have magnificent plaster ceilings, given in 1695 by Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell, who was the Member of Parliament for the city of Rochester at the time. he museum was founded in 1897, in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It was first set up in Eastgate House further along the High Street and was moved into the Guildhall in 1979. The wide-ranging collections are housed in two separate buildings, the Guildhall (1687) and the River Medway Conservancy Board Building (built in 1909).
Highlights of the displays include: the River Medway themed introductory gallery, sales point and reception area; the ornate 17th century Guildhall Chamber featured in Dickens’s novel Great Expectations; the incredible hulks – part of a reconstructed early 19th century Medway prison hulk on three levels; the Medway Room with Medway tug virtual river tour; the Seaton Tool Chest – the most complete example of an 18th century tool chest in the world; displays of Medway’s civic silver; a temporary exhibitions gallery hosting topical exhibitions; the Dickens Discovery Room and AV Theatre (a 10-minute film presentation about Dickens and Medway); a hands-on ‘Discovery Zone’; the ‘Rochester Riverside Eye’ – an interactive camera that gives live views of Rochester Riverside and Rochester’s cultural quarter and a Victorian drawing room and kitchen exhibits.
The Dickens Discovery Room is a special display dedicated to the great author and is housed in the museum's grade two listed Conservancy Board Building. The Dickens Discovery Room was designed by Jasper Jacob Associates, one of Britain's most respected museum design companies. These purpose-built displays include original objects, as well as text and graphic panels, outlining Dickens' links with Medway. A multilingual touchscreen in six languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian and Japanese) highlights other sites of Dickensian interest. There is also a small audio-visual theatre, which can accommodate 16 people, showing a short film about the author. Entrance to the display and film theatre is free. Great Expectations was first published in the UK in weekly instalments, in Dickens’s own magazine, All The Year Round. The first part appeared on 1 December 1860, which makes 2010 its 150th anniversary. It is unusual amongst Dickens’s novels in that it was first seen in this country without accompanying illustrations, either in the magazine, or in 1861 when the first complete version was published. Great Expectations is celebrated especially in Medway since much of it is set in the area. Dickens appears to have been inspired by the landscape of the north Kent marshes and important local buildings such as the Rochester Guildhall, Restoration House and churches in Higham and Cooling.
The Value of Touch Value of Touch. Opening on 19 November and running to 16 April 2017. An extraordinary art exhibition created by blind and partially-sighted members of the Kent Association for the Blind Medway Art Group and a series of new touchable artworks by Wendy Daws. Open times 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Free entry. The museum's wheelchair-accessible entrance gallery contains a small shop selling souvenirs items, a reception desk, and an attractive introductory exhibition highlighting the role that River Medway has played in shaping the environmental and human history of Medway. Text accompanying this exhibition is reproduced in English, French and Dutch. All visitors (including those with mobility difficulties, and wheelchair users) can access electronic media in the gallery which enables them to view short films highlighting key features of the museum displays. Assistance dogs are welcome. The Guildhall museum has both male and female public toilets with baby changing facilities in each. They are located to the right through the door at the base of the grand staircase by the fire pump. There is a small step down to the corridor by the door and a further two steps down with hand rails to the landing near the entrances to the facilities. Whilst the museum does not have designated disabled toilets, these are located a short distance away at Northgate by turning left from the museum entrance into the High Street and taking the left turning at Northgate cross roads. The toilets are located on the right and side of the road.
Location : Guildhall Museum, High Street, Rochester, Kent. ME1 1PY
Transport : Rochester (National Rail) then 4 minutes. Bus Routes : 01, 133, 140, 141, 149 and 151 stop outside
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01634 332680