History

Chatham is full of rich history, and there’s plenty to see and explore!  

Hidden in the High Street

Burton’s elephants

Burtons elephant
Elephant’s in Chatham High Street?  Yes really!  If you look above Halifax you may be surprised to see beautiful Art Deco architecture including elephants dating from the early 1930s when it was a prominent Burton’s store.  The store originally went as far as the former Blueberry Park Café where you can see the foundation stone.  Chatham Snooker Club above was originally part of Burtons too, the founder Montague Burton created Billiards Halls above most stores as a way of attracting their target market.

Theatre Royal

Stars of the day including Charlie Chaplin, Gracie Fields, Stan Laurel, George Formby, Max Miller, Norman Wisdom and Ken Dodd all performed at the Theatre Royal between its opening in 1899 and closure in 1955.  After lying derelict for many years and a long campaign to save the theatre, the majority was demolished in 2009 with only the façade and front of house remaining, which have been beautifully restored, showing how grand the theatre’s front originally looked.

Brook Pumping Station

Old Brook Pumping Station
Chatham’s free museum is hidden in the heart of the town, providing a glimpse of Medway’s industrial heritage.  Opened in 1929, the function of the Brook Pumping Station was to lift foul water from the lowest part of Chatham to the main sewer, after concerns for public health and river pollution.  For more information on opening times please visit http://www.oldbrookpumping.co.uk/

Town Hall/Brook Theatre

Town Hall/Brook Theatre
The Brook Theatre began life as the Town Hall for Victorian Chatham’s Town Council.  Finally finished in January 1900, the Town Hall housed municipal offices (including the interestingly titled Inspector of Nuisances), council chambers and a large hall.  After the Town Hall’s closure, the Brook Theatre opened in 1997, and many original features can still be seen.

Unexploded bomb

Unexploded Bomb
Yes really!  On the junction of Medway Street and Sun Wharf lies a 1000kg unexploded WW2 German bomb.  Don’t worry it has long since been made safe by 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), Royal Engineers Bomb disposal!

The Hospital of Sir John Hawkins

John Hawkins Hospital
Hidden halfway between Chatham and Rochester lies the Navy’s oldest hospital, founded in 1594.  Sir John Hawkins had become concerned about the veterans who had fought against the Spanish Armada in 1588, and so he established a fund “to provide accommodation for the relief of disabled and needy mariners and shipwrights in service of the realm” and set aside parts of his Chatham property to found the hospital. Today the hospital comprises of 8 flats for ex-servicemen and women, and the gardens and boardroom open annually to the public for the Heritage Open Weekends.  

Within walking distance

Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst
With 20 acres to explore, there’s so much to see at Fort Amherst! Britain’s biggest and best preserved Napoleonic fort is free to visit, with a children’s trail, nature trail, bug garden, play area, and plenty of cannons! Guided tours of the tunnels are also available for a small charge and there’s a wide range of events throughout the year for the whole family.

Town Hall Gardens

Nestled between the Brook and the Great Lines, lies the Town Hall gardens and children’s playground.  Formerly a Victorian burial ground, the gardens were opened to the public in 1905 and provide an ideal spot to relax after shopping.

Great Lines Heritage Park

Connecting Chatham, Brompton and Gillingham is the Great Lines Heritage Park, offering spectacular walks and views right across Chatham.  Historically used to protect Chatham Dockyard from attack with a series of defensive ditches, today the Great Lines is a treasured urban park hosting a weekly Park Run and annual fireworks display.

The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Discover over 400 years of maritime history and 3 historic warships to explore at The Historic Dockyard Chatham!  There’s so much to see for all the family; you can climb onboard a submarine, ring a ship’s bell, and find out how rope is made. Tickets are valid for 12 months, and there is a seasonal program of events throughout the year including children’s school holiday activities. Are you a Call the Midwife fan?  The hit show was filmed at the Dockyard, and the Call the Midwife Location tour will show you all the behind the scenes secrets of how the show was made!