The Bit In The Middle
After the dockyard closed in 1984, it was divided into three parts. The original part became "Chatham Historic Dockyard", the marina and docks became a commercial marina and docks, and the rest, the 350 acres in between the two, became "Chatham Maritime".
Before the Royal Navy left they demolished a lot of the buildings in the Chatham Maritime part of the dockyard. This has left a strange, bare landscape with the occasional isolated big building. On a trip around the dockyard in November 2007, I took some photos of some of these buildings and the surrounding area.
This photo shows the Historic Dockyard viewed from Chatham Maritime. There is plenty of evidence of demolished buildings on the left, and on the right you can just about see a paddle steamer, which had been dragged onto a slipway and left there. As of August 2008, the paddle steamer was gone - if anyone knows where, I'd be interested to find out.
Behind the outlet centre, itself built in an Grade II listed old boiler shop, stands number 4 machine shop. The 1987 hurricane blew most of the metal cladding off of the building, leaving it as an enormous metal skeleton.
The machine shop sits beside one of the docks, which was used for building and refitting ships and submarines. At the end of the dock was the boiler shop, now the Outlet Centre, which you can see in this photo.
The history section on their site is rather unclear, but the centre is built within the frame of the old boiler shop, originally built in Woolwich Dockyard, which is a listed building. When you're inside you can see the way that the new building (painted light blue) fits round the old iron frame (painted dark blue).
There are four docks in this part of the dockyard. The spaces between two of them are being used as sites for Medway's own "twin towers"; you can see the builders' hoardings, cranes and some of the building work along the opposite side of the dock here.
At the end of the land dividing the docks you can see one of the towers being built. I'll try to update these photos as the builders make progress.
Apparently buildings and high security underground car parks will stretch the the full length of the land between the docks, with the towers at the marina end as you can see.
You can also, just about, see what looks like an manhole cover in the bottom right-hand corner of this photo. It's a metal grille and some planks, which seem to cover a set of stairs. There are several on each side of each dock. When the docks were closed and drained, these stairs would have allowed the shipwrights, fitters and other workers to get to the hull of the vessel in dry dock.
Not all of the docks are easily accessible; two of them are cordoned off for the moment, presumably to protect the builders. The gates in the hoardings were open when I walked past, and you can see both towers here.
The docks are surrounded by black-and-white painted pillars, each about three feet high, which look as though they're made of cast iron. They all have "VR" on them, and one near the machine shop is dated 1875. I assume they're for tying ships' ropes to, but I'm not completely sure.
Next to some, but not all, of the black and white pillars is a wheel around 18 inches to two feet in diameter, anchored to the ground. Again, these look as though a rope would be looped around them. If you know exactly what these are for, please feel free to email me. Of course, when the docks were in use, the fence around the edge of the walls wasn't there, so the pillars were easily accessible.
This view, from the end of the dock, near the Ship and Trades pub, shows the view across the Marina. In the background, the lower ground is St Mary's Island, and the higher, woodland area is part of the Isle of Grain.