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Must Visit The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Sophie Hewitt
5th May 2022

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 historic ropery to the Dockyard’s starring role on-screen!

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. Experience the journey through the lives of Ropery workers, past and present, before stepping out onto the iconic ropewalk and witnessing ropemaking in action. Discover the Immersive film, hands-on interactives, and displays, including a vast collection of ropemaking and rope related objects from the Museum of Knots & Sailor’s Ropework, tell the story of rope and its place in British history, with over 400 years rooted in Chatham.

Nothing tells the tale of the hard work and grit of the Dockyard’s workers like its three historic warships, HMS Gannet, HM Submarine 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.

Look out for the Octonauts this summer! Join the team on an interactive adventure, through the depths of maritime history and learn all about the skills needed to the join the crew. Pickup a training log on arrival and follow the Octo-Map and complete fun activities to learn the characters specialist skills. On completion of the Training Log, you’ll be named an honorary Octo-Agent and receive a special certificate.

Don’t forget to say hello to Captain Barnacles and Kwazii who will make special appearances on selected dates throughout the summer.

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.

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