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. The Historic Dockyard Chatham is the most complete dockyard of the Age of Sail in the world.
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 (324,000 m²), 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.
Historic Dockyard Chatham has over 70,000 objects in its collection – ranging from archaeology, rigging, hand tools, machinery to fine art and photography. Explore the work of the Dockyard and the people that not only built the ships at Chatham, but those who served on them for four hundred years.
We not only collect and preserve objects related to the Dockyard’s past but also carry out specific research into the Dockyard’s rich and varied history. From projects focused on Dockyard workers to the tragedies suffered during the First World War, we are building up a picture of the role and impact the Dockyard has had over four hundred years.
Exhibits and displays:
Three historic warships:
HMS Gannet (1878)
HMS Cavalier (R73)
HMS Ocelot (S17)
The Ropery: a Grade I listed building, Georgian and Victorian rope factory.
Wooden Walls: a recreation of the working life of the dockyard in 1758, centred on the construction of HMS Valiant.
Steam, Steel and Submarines: tells the story of Chatham Dockyard and the Royal Navy’s use of the River Medway in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Lifeboat: a museum about the work of the RNLI which has 17 historic vessels.
3 Slip – The BIG Store: Originally a covered slipway, now a display of large objects from the dockyard and the nearby Royal Engineers Museum.
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. The new building provides dedicated storage and curatorial facilities for the National Maritime Museum and Imperial War Museums’ 4,000 ship models as well as a regional Touring Exhibition Gallery, and museum quality permanent Exhibition Galleries. The first touring exhibition to be shown was Stanley Spencer’s Shipbuilding on the Clyde series.
A new project for 2014 was ‘Command of the Oceans’. This was possible due to £4.53m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Also the project got a £3m contribution from the Homes and Communities Agency. A new entrance on the north side of the visitor attraction will be built and a discovery centre linking the former naval base with other significant heritage sites including Fort Amherst, the Great Lines Heritage Park (between Gillingham and Chatham) and Upnor Castle. This all became possible after the remains of the Namur warship was discovered under the floor of the Wheelwrights’ Shop in 1995.
Workers at the dockyard performed eight years of restoration work on the MV Havengore, the ceremonial vessel that carried the body of Winston Churchill during his state funeral. In addition the dockyard is acting as custodian of artefacts, masts and rigging from the Cutty Sark and the Medway Queen, while their hulls are being restored elsewhere.
Records of the ships built at Chatham go back to 1646.
Chatham Dockyard had one of the best technical schools in England, it housed the first Dockyard School followed by Devonport and Portsmouth. It accepted students from Overseas Dockyards as Gibraltar and H.M. Dockyard, Malta
Some of the hundreds of warships built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard may still be seen. These preserved ships include:
HMS Victory (100-gun first rate, i.e. ship of the line” launched 1765, preserved in dry dock at Portsmouth, England, UK; Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar)
HMS Unicorn (54-gun fifth rate – launched 1824, preserved afloat at Dundee, Scotland, UK)
HMS Ocelot (S17) (“O” class submarine – launched 5 May 1962, preserved in dry dock at Chatham.
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
Rope has been made here for 400 years and we still make it today – for lots of customers! This means you can witness the mysterious craft of ropemaking for yourself during our live demonstrations by the Master Ropemakers!
Royal Navy warshipr is for those that want to have a feel of what life was like on-board! Swing through the hatches and discover the last Royal Navy warship built at Chatham!
This is for those that want a little more detail on how all 69 men lived on-board for up to 10 hours at a time underwater! HMS Ocelot was made for the perfect surveillance vessel and were selected to undertake missions in the deep waters of the world’s oceans – some of which remain top secret!