Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Dutch are coming ... to the Medway again!

On Saturday Sue and I visited Upnor Castle in Upper Upnor, Kent. The castle is situated on the River Medway, and was originally built to protect the Royal Dockyard, which is just upriver towards Chatham. This was not our first visit, but we particularly wanted to go there yesterday as it was one of the venues being used to celebrate the famous Battle of the Medway of June 1667.

The battle took place during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and was the result of a raid up the Medway by the Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral De Ruyter. As a result the Royal Navy lost thirteen ships lost by fire and the capture of HMS Unity and HMS Royal Charles. This was one of the greatest disasters ever suffered by the Royal Navy, and came at a time when the country was still reeling form the Plague of 1665 and the great Fire of London in 1666.

We were unable to park our car in Upnor, and so we went to Chatham Maritime and took a shuttle bus which went to Upnor via Rochester. We alighted near the top of the High Street ...


... which we walked down to reach the castle. (This is a very pretty village high street, and it will not surprise you to know that Sue and I almost bought a house at the riverside end of this street. Unfortunately someone else had their offer accepted before we were in a position to make a bid, but one day ...)

The castle is built in the form of an arrowhead, with the point projecting into the River Medway.


As we are members of English heritage, it cost us nothing to go in. (The normal charge for an adult is £6.40, with a child's admission costing £4.00.) Near the entrance was a map of the site that explained the history of the castle.


As can be seen from the following pictures of the South Tower ...



... and Gatehouse, the main building material used was stone, with some later brick additions.


The entrance to the castle was guarded by a re-enactor dressed as a soldier of the Second Anglo-Dutch War ...


... and two more re-enactors were guarding the stone bridge that you had to cross to reach the Guardhouse.


In the area next to the North Tower another group of re-enactors were demonstrating how to fire muskets ...


... whilst an officer gave orders to some of the others.


They had a cannon with them ...


... and this was also fired at several times during our visit.


Inside the courtyard several re-enactors were preparing food ...


... and undertaking other domestic tasks.


Sue and I spent some time exploring the main building. The ground floor was being used to house a special exhibition about the Battle of Medway ...



... whilst the first floor (which is normally used for wedding ceremonies) had several displays about the castles use as a gunpowder store.




From there we made our way down the narrow winding stairway to the Bastion.


This is on the side of the castle that overlooks the River Medway ...




... and access from the river was barred by a wooden pallisade set into the river bed.


Whilst we were in the Bastion we saw a Dutch boat being rowed up and down the river.


We then made our way back under the castle through a tunnel that took us to the area next to the North Tower.




By this point the castle was getting crowded and we were both feeling hot and thirsty. We therefore took the shuttle bus back to Chatham Maritime, where we ate some lunch and did some retail therapy before returning home.

8 comments:

  1. Bob,
    A most enjoyable read- about living History. Much appreciated. Well done! Regards. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson,

      We almost failed to find out about this important celebration. Had we not made our recent visit to Rochester, we would not have seen the advertisements for the events taking place in and around the Medway over the past and forthcoming weeks.

      We arrived at Upper Upnor at 10.30am, and found the local car park was already full. Some security staff told us that they had not expected so many people to come, which is why they had not made any arrangements for extra car parking. In the end we had to drive to Chatham Maritime and take the local shuttle bus back to Upnor via Rochester ... where the annual Dickens Festival was in full swing!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. We were in Chatham Maritime in the afternoon to visit the HNLMS Holland. They had arranged extra parking for visitors to the ships in the car park of the office building where I used to work. We watched Dutch sailing vessels pass Upnor and could hear the occasional canon shot.

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    Replies
    1. Nigel Drury,

      Things were obviously better organised there than they were in Upnor. English Heritage was 'organising' things there ... and seemed to be totally overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. A very interesting report, Bob. I spent six months at the Royal School of Military Engineering and never visited the castle once - disgraceful, really.

    Regards, Chris.

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    Replies
    1. Chris Kemp (Chris),

      I suspect that a visit to Upnor Castle would not have featured highly on your list of 'things to do whilst at the RSME'. That said, you could always pay it a visit now that you have more time on your hands.

      All the best,

      Bob

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