A visit to Kent’s Heritage Coast has got to include learning about the area’s sea-faring heritage and there’s no better place to learn all about that than the Historic Dockyard Chatham. In fact, you can follow Kent’s heritage coast all the way from Folkestone and Dover round to this historic Kent gem. A family friendly dream, a visit here is made for the whole crew- granny and gramps too, taking in everything from BIG wartime ships and a heritage railway to the Dockyard’s starring role on-screen! Ready to be transported through the age of sail? Read on.
We’d better start at the beginning with the Command of the Oceans award-winning galleries. Learn all about the heyday of the Age of Sail, from how the likes of HMS Victory was designed and built, to the breath-taking archaeological discoveries of the timbers of the Namur and a treasure trove of objects recovered from the Invincible. Get hands-on with the trades that played such an important part here at the Dockyard, the stories of 2,500 workers and just how important this very special place was in maintaining Britain’s command of the world’s oceans.
What do ships need a lot of? Rope. Miles and miles of it to be exact, so your next stop is Chatham Dockyard’s very own ropery, the only one of the Royal Navy’s original Ropeyards still in operation. This very building has crafted rope for the mightiest vessels, including Nelson’s Victory, so the brand-new gallery and exhibition has plenty of tales to tell. Journey through the lives of the Ropery workers, immerse yourself with hands-on activities, learn the importance of rope in British history, before watching today’s craftsmen and women at work in the iconic ropewalk.
Nothing tells the tale of the hard work and grit of the Dockyard’s workers like its three historic warships, HMS Gannet, HMS Ocelot and HMS Cavalier. These mighty ships still stand at the Dockyard, allowing today’s visitors to walk their decks and be transported to Victorian Britain, the Second World War and the Cold War
It’s safe to say a lot changed between 19th century and Cold War Britain, so the Steam, Steel and Submarines exhibition is the perfect place to learn of the workers who witnessed the Dockyard’s adaption to new technology from warships to nuclear powered submarines. Along the way, stop off at the selfie spots and test your knowledge with an interactive quiz in the gallery.
We haven’t forgotten about the little explorers as they have a job to do at the Dockyard – keep an eye out for the Captain’s Cat who’s always on the move! Help your little seafarer complete the Mission Explore tasks along the way, learn fun facts, crack the code to become a Dockyard Explorer, and ultimately learn a thing or two along the way – hey, we won’t tell if you don’t.
We mentioned the Dockyard’s starring role on-screen and it’s safe to say once you’ve visited, you’ll recognise it as the backdrop to many a film and TV favourite, but its most iconic role is as the setting for the BBC’s Call the Midwife series. Take the Official Location Tour and you’ll walk in the footsteps of ‘Poplar’s’ famed midwives, along cobbled streets and past buildings that have featured throughout the series. At the end of your midwife-led tour, you’ll have the chance to see props and costumes from the iconic series in the exclusive Call the Midwife exhibition.
Trust us, there’s so much more to discover, but we’ll leave that to you to jump aboard and set sail to Kent’s much-loved Historic Dockyard Chatham.