What's New in Kent?

What's new for this year & beyond

Check out what's new and upcoming in the Garden of England for groups...

   2016   2017               


Command of the Ocean, The Historic Dockyard Chatham

In spring 2016, the Historic Dockyard Chatham will be opening its £9 million ‘Command of the Oceans’ project including a brand new orientation centre for the Dockyard and its defences. The project also sees four new museum galleries centred on the conservation, preservation and interpretation of the NAMUR warship archaeological find (Ship Beneath the Floor). Restoration has taken place of over 4.5 hectares of historic landscape for a brand new visitor arrival experience to both the Dockyard and Chatham’s naval and military historic sites. There will also be a new free coach park with drop-off point, and a restaurant and shop.

The Great Store Exhibition, Knole

Currently undergoing a major conservation project, the National Trust’s Knole will be transforming the historic Great Hall into the Great Store, filling it with the most significant objects in their collections that will be transferred to the brand new conservation studio later in 2016. The Great Store will have objects in it from around the house, including objects from the ballroom, Reynolds room, carton gallery, King’s bedroom and King’s closet (these showrooms will be closed for conservation during this time). Objects will be presented in different ways and curators and conservationists will run up close sessions with them – ideal for specialist groups.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter, The White Cliffs of Dover

Following nearly two years of excavation work by the National Trust, specialist guides lead hard hat and torch-lit tours deep into the heart of the White Cliffs, into Fan Bay Deep Shelter, a labyrinth of tunnels ordered to be built by Sir Winston Churchill.

The shelter is the largest of its kind in Dover and one of the deepest recovered from the time, at 23 metres below the surface. Visitors can descend the original 125 steps into more than 3,500 square feet of tunnels, reinforced with heavy duty iron girders and metal sheeting, which were once manned by troops from the 203rd Coast Battery, Royal Artillery, later becoming the 540th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Visitors to the tunnels can also see two historic sound mirrors which form part of the site. Uncovered by the Trust in November 2014, a rare First World War mirror and an older inter-war mirror were incorporated to form part of the tunnel’s blast walls and exits onto the cliff face. The guided tour is a 45 minute adventure in a dark, dirty and wet environment – visitors must be over the age of 12 and in good health.

100th Anniversary at Oare Gunpowder Works

At 14:20 on Sunday, 2 April, 1916, 109 men and boys were killed by an explosion at the Explosives Loading Company factory at Uplees, near Faversham. Fifteen tons of TNT and 150 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up when some empty sacks caught fire. So great was the explosion that windows across the Thames estuary in Southend were shattered and the tremor was felt in Norwich. The crater made by the explosion was 40 yards across and 20 feet deep. 2016 is the 100th year anniversary of the great explosion that took place in 1916. A group trip to the Chart Gunpowder Mills and Oare Gunpowder Works provides an insight into Faversham's first gunpowder factory and one of the first in Britain.  

Port Lympne at 40

Port Lympne Reserve near Ashford offers walks through stunning grounds to see some of the world’s most endangered animals and the African Experience – a safari-style drive through Kentish savannah. In 2016, the attraction celebrates its 40th birthday with a variety of events taking place to explain how founder, John Aspinall’s, dream to protect endangered species became a reality. Further developments include an app, designed with augmented reality to enhance visitor experiences, and a new Asian Experience with free roaming Asian species. 

Walmer Castle Renewed

The displays at English Heritage’s Walmer Castle and Gardens close to Deal have been transformed with new interpretations and multimedia guides giving insights into the castle’s history from Tudor times onwards. Exhibitions cover its role as home of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, with famous residents including the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt the Younger, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Newly opened, after a four-year restoration programme, is the Broadwalk Garden with a magnificent double herbaceous border planted in a style inspired by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.

Sharpshooting at Hever Castle & Gardens

New for 2016, the Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry Military Museum at the 13th century Hever Castle in Edenbridge, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, tells the story of one of Kent and London’s proudest regiments. The museum, inside the castle grounds, has been designed to resemble a military operations tent and displays include a Saladin armoured car and a 25lb field gun. 

Dreamland - Phase 2 Openings

During 2015, Dreamland opened in Margate regenerating a derelict site and using historic amusement park rides including the Scenic Railway, the UK’s oldest roller coaster, to recreate the thrill and nostalgia of traditional seaside entertainment with classic side shows and fairground rides. Phases due to open in 2016 will include new restaurants, renovations to the main building façade, cinema, bingo hall and arcade, and the development of inside and outside spaces that can be used for festivals and large-scale events.

Wartime at Dover Castle

English Heritage’s Dover Castle has commanded the English Channel and gateway to Britain for nine centuries. During WWI, the Dover area was officially designated as a fortress, with a garrison of over 10,000 men centred around the military headquarters at the Castle. Here, the Fire Command Post and Naval Signalling station was crucial in protecting and monitoring the thousands of naval and merchant ships in the harbour and Straits of Dover. A major conservation and reinterpretation programme at the Post has recently been completed and a rare WWI anti-aircraft gun added to the displays. 

Yarrow House Training Hotel, Broadstairs

A multi-million pound project is transforming East Kent College’s historic, Grade II listed Yarrow Building in Broadstairs into a 4- star Training Hotel, scheduled to open in early 2016. The purpose of the new hotel is to provide a dedicated base for training in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industries. 



400th Anniversary of the Battle of Medway

Medway will commemorate the 350th anniversary of one of England’s greatest naval disasters, which saw the River Medway engulfed in flames, with a special event programme. In the Dutch Raid of June 1667, a Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway and surprised the English fleet at anchor, burning a number of ships before towing away the Royal Charles, England’s flagship. 

2017 Folkestone Triennial

Following a hugely successful triennial in 2014, which saw gold buried in the sands of Folkestone beach, and the notorious street artist Banksy delivering a brand new artwork, the Folkestone Triennial will once again return to Kent in 2017, with even more exceptional artists, performances and eclectic variety of art events around the town. 

St Augustine's Visitor Centre, Ramsgate

A Pugin and St Augustine Education, Research and Visitor Centre is being developed at St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, next to the home designed, built and lived in by English architect, Augustus Pugin. Work on the project has already begun, with the launch in early 2017.

Eastgate House, Rochester Reopens as New Exhibition and Community Space

Eastgate House is a Grade I listed building and a treasured landmark in the heart of historic Rochester.  This beautiful Elizabethan townhouse was built in the late 1590s for Sir Peter Buck, who was Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham’s Royal Dockyard and Mayor of Rochester. Throughout the centuries the house has been a girls' boarding school, a restaurant, the city museum and the Dickens Museum as well as a family home. It also features as Westgate in Dickens' novel, The Pickwick Papers and as the Nun's House in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The gardens, annexe building and cottage were designed by Sir Guy Dawber in the 1920s. Here you will find the Swiss chalet where Dickens worked on some of his most famous novels. Previously sited at Dickens’ home in Gad’s Hill, it was moved to Rochester in the 1960s.


More to come in 2018...

  • 400th Anniversary of The Historic Dockyard Chatham

  • Expansion of McArthur Glen’s Ashford Designer Outlet –  there will be an additional 38 new luxury and premium brands added to the existing 80 names already trading in the famous tented shopping centre

In case you missed it in 2015...
  • Kent was voted by Lonely Planet as the Best European Destination for Families in 2015

  • New accommodation opened – The Royal Wells in Royal Tunbridge Wells, brand new campus accommodation at the Canterbury Christ Church University and the launch of the Treehouse Hotel and Pinewood eco-pods at Port Lympne Reserve   

  • Dreamland opened in Margate, with its original and retro, vintage feel of the classic seaside amusement park

  • The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Scramble Experience at the Battle of Britain Museum in Capel-le-Ferne

  • Buckmore Park Karting Circuit unveiled an all-new fleet of 50 2016 model karts in the striking blue and yellow Team Surtees livery of the successful European Championship Winning Formula Two TS10 Car