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Published: November 12th 2013
The Modern Highrises
as seen from the Chatham marina.
In order to enter the Chatham Marina you need to go through a lock off the Medway River. At the time of our arrival there was about 5 m (roughly 16 feet) difference between the water levels in the marina and the River. This is the first lock we have ever entered where the cleats for tying up the boat are connected to a floating pontoon (dock); this makes life so much easier. Once inside the lock we were met by the harbor master, Tony. He was very welcoming and helpful in getting us oriented to the marina and Chatham in general. The first thing we learned was that the marina is located in what used to be a Navy Dockyard first established in 1567 when it was set up as the Royal Dockyard by order of Queen Elizabeth I. It was the largest refit dockyard in the 17th
century when it was critical during the Dutch wars. When the main enemy became France, ports on the south coast became critically important. It soon became a shipbuilding yard which built on average two ships per year. That may seem like a very long time but remember everything at this time was
The Pump House
near the marina is empty waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it.
done by hand, there were no machines and the warships of the 17th and 18th century could easily carry over 100 cannons and were said to use as much as 16 acres of mature oak trees to build one ship. The yard consisted of three basins; one which was 21 acres in size, the second was 28 acres and the last 20 acres. They also had 4 large dry docks located on the premises. During the 20th
century this yard started building submarines during World War I. Building and retrofits continued in World War II, but the last submarine or ship built here was in 1966 with the dockyard being completely shut down in 1984. Many of the buildings are now used by the local University or have been converted to retail space. They have built up around this area with new residential areas, shops, restaurants and pubs. The marina itself is first class with excellent facilities except for the fact that you had to pay extra for Wi-Fi and it's not cheap. This is now the 2nd
marina in England that charges extra for its Wi-Fi and we hear that this is quite common here. Almost every marina we
I Caught Him
in the store when he tried this Halloween hat on.
have visited since arriving in Europe has provided very good free Wi-Fi, unfortunately it looks like the British never got the memo.
Tony told us about a couple of the sites that we might want to take in. It's amazing what this area has to offer. Fort Amherst, Britain’s’ largest Napoleonic fortress, the Royal Engineers Museum, and the Naval Dockyard with its extensive displays within some of the remaining historic buildings from when the dockyard was operating here. The area around Chatham is equally historic; the nearby city of Rochester is closely associated with Charles Dickens. It was one of his favorite cities and many of his stories were based here. One of the first castles built when the Norman's first invaded the British Isles (the Battle of Hastings 1066) is found in Rochester and is connected to a significant Cathedral of the time.
With all of these choices we decided to explore the Royal Engineers Museum. They have an extensive exhibit highlighting the centuries of service they have performed within the UK as well as abroad. They trace their beginnings to the use of engineers by William the Conqueror to build fortifications and to construct siege engines
Machine Shop#8 was Preserved
to show the history of the Royal Navy Yard that was vacated in 1984.
(catapults). The current corps traces its origins back to the 15th
century. Bishop Gundulf is known as the “father” of the royal engineers with his designing and building of the Cathedral in Rochester (UK) as well as the White Tower at the Tower of London in 1078 for King William.
The services of engineers have been critical for centuries. As long as there have been armies there has been a need for engineers to help armies move, fight and survive. The word engineer is not what we commonly think of as today’s engineer. It comes from the Latin, ingenarius, meaning a person skilled in the art of building defenses for the protection of settlements. It is thought that the role of the engineer began in Roman times with the need to control their Empire with their network of forts and roads. After 1066 with the invasion of William the Conqueror, the role of engineer became a permanent one. They were necessary for the building of the castles to exercise Norman control over the land and populace (Anglo-Saxons).
With Britain’s Empire, many of its “civil engineering” tasks fell to the Corps of Royal Engineers. They were involved in projects
all over the world. This caused them to branch out and started various divisions. The need to fly was the beginning of the Royal Air Corps. A tunneling division was created in order to dig the tunnels necessary during WWI due to German lines and trenches. They also were critical in the design and building of civic buildings such as Royal Albert Hall and worked on irrigation canals on the Ganges in India and Nile in Egypt. Closer to home in the Americas, they were responsible for the building of the Rideau Canal in Canada. Many of the railroads found around the world were designed and built by the Corps.
We would have liked to have visited the Historic Dockyards, but it is a very large complex with plenty to see. When you buy an entry ticket there it is good for a full year. It is obvious that they know that to do it justice you can’t cover it in a day or part of one. Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to cover much of it we will just have to put it on the list for “next time” we are in the area.
An Interesting Poster
telling people what to do if they found a bomb!
been told that Chatham was a good stop and that it was a reasonable distance to London, meaning we could make it there in one tide. We were originally thinking it would be a one night stop, but stay two nights, a combination of weather and enjoying the place. The 2nd
day we walked into the town of Chatham and went through some of the shops, had lunch and returned to the marina to prepare for our early morning departure to London the next day.
The lock here is operational 24 hours a day so at 4 AM on October 18th
we contacted the harbor master and he opened the lock for us to leave. With a full moon we headed out to the Thames to catch the morning tide which would help push us the 35 miles to London. It was a perfect start to our final trip this year to St. Katharine Docks in London.
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