Built for the carpenters who looked after the dockyard’s own buildings, the House Carpenters shop was constructed to harmonise with the adjacent Officers terrace. The building now forms part of a series of craft workshops and is open to visitors.
In May 1771, the Earl of Sandwich and other Commissioners of the Admiralty Board visited Chatham and were shown how ships constructed from poorly seasoned timber had rotted. Shortly afterwards plans were made to provide timber seasoning sheds in all the Royal Dockyards so that timber could be carefully stored and seasoned before use.
The sheds were to be of a standard design and built in sufficient quantity to provide a 3 year supply of seasoned timber for each yard, at Chatham this equated to 75 bays. All were completed by 1775 and as such the seasoning sheds are probably the first standardised industrial buildings to be erected in large numbers in Britain. Today only two survive – both at Chatham.
The Joiners were responsible for the finishing of surfaces on board a ship prior to its fitting out, including the planning of knees, beams and ledges. Work in the Joiner’s Shop would have included the making of all on board furniture to fit ships, from tables and beds to moving pantries and the preparation of windows for the stern and galleries. The Master Joiner would also survey a ship that came in for refit, identifying what joinery items needed to be replaced or repaired.
The House Carpenters work covered the buildings and maintenance of key infrastructure in the Dockyard. The docks, slips and wharfs were their responsibility as was making sure that domestic houses, offices and fitting shops were maintained. House Carpenters also built the store rooms and magazines on board ships.
Today these buildings are used as offices and creative business units.
Until 1814 timber was sawn by hand, mostly by pairs of sawyers working in saw pits. In 1812 work commenced on the construction of this building that was to revolutionise timber preparation in the Dockyard. Designed by Marc Brunel it provided a mechanised approach to the whole process. Steam powered reciprocating sawing machines were linked by an overhead travelling crane system to timber storage yards and by underground canal to the South Mast Pond.