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‘…under this bridge the Medway foams and rolls with great violence and rapidity, and presently abating both, forms a dock finished for the finest fleet the sun ever beheld, and ready on a minutes warning, built lately by our most gracious sovereign Elizabeth for the security of her subjects and the terror of her enemies…’, Camden, Britannia, 1606

The first documentary evidence of the Royal Navy’s use of the River Medway is in the Pipe Roll Accounts of 1547 which record the rental of two storehouses on ‘Jyllingham Water’.

By 1570 dockyard facilities had been constructed below Chatham Church (close to the present day Chatham Waterfront Bus Station) with a wharf, storehouses and slipway. The first warship known to have been built at the new yard was the Merlin, a pinnace of ten guns, launched in 1579.

In 1588 the shipwrights of Chatham prepared the Queen’s ships for their ultimate test – to face the might of the Spanish Armada and in March of that year the majority of the fleet set sail under the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, to make the journey west to Plymouth to fight the Spanish fleet. Two Chatham built ships, the Merlin and the Sunne, fought in the action against the Armada.

No buildings of the Tudor dockyard survive today for in 1618 the dockyard moved to the site of the present Historic Dockyard and the Tudor yard was redeveloped as Gun Wharf for the Ordnance Board’s facilities at Chatham.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
Notice to Visitors

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust welcomes the news that museums and visitor attractions are able to reopen to visitors from 4 July.

We are actively planning to welcome visitors back to the Dockyard as soon as we are safely able to do so but this will be some time after 4 July.

We will make a further announcement to confirm the exact date as soon as we can.

In the meantime, much of Dockyard life has never stopped. Master Ropemakers has started operating again and we are taking forward bookings for filming, group travel and hospitality, including weddings. Call the Midwife Official Location Tours will resume shortly.

We would like to thank all our visitors for their understanding during this challenging period.

Last updated: 25 June 2020

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