Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I have been to ... The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent

As I mentioned in a recent blog entry, I paid a visit to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent last week. I visited it some years ago, and the whole site has undergone continued development since my last visit, and further changes are planned for the 2016 season.

I parked my car in the car park (which is located inside one of the old covered slipways) and made my way through the ticket office. (The entrance fee was £19.00 ... less 15% because I am a member of English Heritage. The ticket allows me to return as often as I like for the next twelve months for no extra charge.)

My first stop was at the building that currently houses the 'Hearts of Oak' experience. This tells the story of the construction of wooden-hulled sail-powered warships at Chatham Dockyard using a number of tableau and interpretation techniques.

This exhibit will be closing in September of 2015 and will re-open in March of 2016.

The large square outside the building afford an excellent view of one end of the Historic Dockyard.

My next stop was No.1 Smithery, which is used to house temporary exhibits (during my visit this was WAR GAMES) and examples of models from the National Maritime Museum's and Imperial War Museum's model ship collections. (No photography was allowed in the latter exhibit, and there was a tantalising view of some of the models that are not of display through a window into the main collection storage area.)

I was allowed to take one photograph in No.1 Smithery ... of a crane that was used inside the building.

I then made my way over to HMS Gannet ...

... after which I walked around HMS Ocelot ...

... and HMS Cavalier.

(I will be writing more extensive blog entries about these ships as and when time permits.)

Once past the Railway Workshop (which is now a play area and attendant café) I came across an old Police Box (but no attendant strange doctors!) ...

... which was located outside the former site of the Kent Police Museum. Next door is the Nelson Brewery ...

... which was having a delivery when I was there.

I passed some restored examples of the railway rolling stock that was used within the dockyard ...

... as I walked towards the Victorian Ropery.

Because my time was limited, I did not go in to see how rope was (and still is) manufactured. Instead I made my way to the building that houses the 'Steel, Steam, & Submarines' exhibit.

This exhibit tells the story of the dockyard up until it closed, and contains numerous models of ships that were build or refitted in Chatham.

(I will write a separate blog entry about the models in the 'Steel, Steam, & Submarines' exhibit as and when time permits.)

I then walked back towards the main entrance, but on the way I paid a visit to the covered slipway that is now called 'The Big Space.

This currently houses some of the larger vehicles from the collection of the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham. (I will write a separate blog entry about the vehicles I saw as and when time permits). The next-door building houses the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's Lifeboat Collection ...

... which seems to include examples of every lifeboat design ever used by the RNLI.


  1. Went there a couple of years ago - and at the time didn't realise that there was a model shop on site (The Dockyard Model Shop, ). One minor irritation they have no control over is an unparalled collection of ship models that - THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SHOW - !!! - Seems they don't own them and only have permission to put some on display for specified exhibitions.

    Still, excellent place to visit. I'll see about putting some of my pictures on my blog later to complement yours.


  2. Xaltotun of Python,

    The model shop is now just outside the Dockyard, and has its own car park. I visit it every couple of months, usually when my wife wants to go to the Outlet Centre that is nearby.

    It does seem a bit daft that the Museum is the repository of such a large model collection that they cannot display ... but at least the models are being stored in safe and secure environment.

    I look forward to seeing your photographs in the near future.

    All the best,


  3. Got some of HMS Gannet out:;postID=5710529986208875981;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

  4. Wrong link, should be

  5. The Dockyard is also home to Fenris Games, who make some fine figures and terrain pieces.

  6. Xaltotun of Python,

    Thanks very much for the link

    HMS Gannet is a particular favourite of mine, and I followed her restoration with great interest.

    All the best,


  7. Edwin King,

    I was unaware of that, although I understand that it is not possible to visit the Unit they work from.

    All the best,


  8. I manage a visit every couple of years, always something different to see. It annoys everyone in the model boat world that such a collection of models is kept 'behind bars', though you are allowed to view specific ones if you pre-arrange it. Unfortunately that seems to be the way things are going at museums generally.
    I believe that one of the large sheds (can't remember which one) was used for filming part of one of the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes movies, the bit where he gets chased by a villain, generally wrecking the joint, and prematurely launching an ironclad!

  9. Joppy,

    The Historic Dockyard seems to be in a constant state of change and improvement, and merits regular visits just to keep up with what is currently going on.

    I share the frustrations that must be felt by the model ship builders. From what I saw of the stored collection, there are some wonderful models that are not currently on show to the public ... and that is something that does not seem to make sense to me.

    The large sheds were used in the first of the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes films, and the sight of the unfinished ironclad sliding down the slipway and into the river was very well done. It was a marvel of modern computer-generated graphics mixed with traditional film techniques!

    All the best,



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