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Dockyard 4019th January 2024

40 Things to See and Do

Read 40 Things to See and Do at The Historic Dockyard Chatham in 2024 to celebrate the Trust’s 40th anniversary.

In March 1984, The Royal Dockyard at Chatham ceased operating as a Naval Dockyard. Since then, The Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust has been the custodian of this historically significant site that is filled with over 400 years of Chatham’s shipbuilding heritage.

Be a part of The Dockyard’s story as a visitor to our exhibitions, events, attractions, and all things Dockyard for you to see and take part in.

1. The Historic Dockyard Chatham Reopens

From Saturday 10 February, The Historic Dockyard Chatham will reopen its doors for the 2024 season. This year is a big year for the Trust as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Exhibitions

2. CELEBRATE 200 Years of the RNLI

RNLI 200: The Exhibition
On display in No.1 Smithery, 23 March — 01 September 2024

In partnership with the RNLI, discover the exhilarating story of the history of the lifesaving charity in its 200th anniversary year, and the stories of the men and women who have risked their lives to save others, come rain or shine, storm or hurricane.

* Free entry with your standard Dockyard admission ticket.

3. Enter the mind of Ralph Steadman

RALPH STEADman: INKling
On display in No.1 Smithery, 21 September — 17 November 2024

Kent-based artist, Ralph Steadman is bringing his unique and eclectic artwork to The Historic Dockyard Chatham. In his new exhibition, INKling, experience the extraordinary world of Ralph Steadman and celebrate his versatile artistry through a captivating collection of illustrations, collaborations, and personal works.

* Free entry with your standard Dockyard admission ticket.

4. The Pipe-Bending Floor exhibition space

Set inside No.1 Smithery, the Pipe Bending Floor is a unique room that hosts temporary exhibitions through the year. This year don’t miss our Dockyard40 Photography Exhibition and The National Historic Ships Photography Exhibition.

* Free entry with your standard Dockyard admission ticket.

5. Community exhibitions in the Namur Room

This free-to-visit community exhibition space in The Mess Deck Restaurant hosts a number of temporary exhibitions each year. The 2024 programme is kicked off by the Medway Diversity Forum. Following this is a special exhibition created by staff and volunteers to commemorate our 40th anniversary.

* Free to access, no Dockyard ticket required.

6. Get Onboard with the Digital Exhibitions

You don’t have to visit The Dockyard to enjoy our exhibitions as there are a number of digital exhibitions available on our website. Discover the tragedy of the Three Cruisers or read Falklands 40: In Their Own Words, you can even learn about the untold stories of the women of The Dockyard in Hidden Heroines.

Events & Activities

7. get Immersed at Medway Gaming Festival

Medway Gaming Festival
15 – 16 June 2024

Returning for 2024, the Medway Gaming Festive gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the ultimate gaming experience. The festival will take over the iconic Historic Dockyard Chatham for an unforgettable weekend of gaming, technology, and entertainment.

8. Step back in time at Salute to the ’40s

Salute to the ’40s
14 – 15 September 2024

Step into the past at The Historic Dockyard Chatham’s creative vintage festival, a family-friendly weekend of music, captivating performances, and a unique vintage market including a Make Do and Mend fair. Explore classic cars and military vehicles, enjoy a wide range of family activities, and savour a cream tea in Commissioner’s House. Immerse yourself in history with air raid shelter tours and wartime displays.

9. Accept this year’s Christmas Mission

Mission Christmas
Late November – Christmas Eve

Mission Christmas returns for 2024 however this year’s secret mission is still sealed.

* Tickets released at a later date.

10. ICON Theatre X The Historic Dockyard Chatham

26 – 28 September 2024

Icon Theatre’s next immersive theatre and dance production explores the forgotten and hidden histories of The Historic Dockyard Chatham. Using a mix of breath-taking visuals, exhilarating choreography from acclaimed ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company (SYLVIA, Old Vic; Message In A Bottle, West End) and Amina Khayyam Dance Company, spoken word and original new music, it will uncover the forgotten and hidden stories of a 400-year-old monument that has shaped our local and national identity.

* Tickets released at a later date.

11. lET OFF stEAM DURING THE School Holidays

Join us for the school holidays and enjoy a range of family-friendly activities. In February, take the CAVALIER CREW CHALLENGE by completing a number of challenges to become honorary members of the ship’s crew. Throughout the event, you’ll have the opportunity to learn various skills that are vital to the crew’s daily operations.

There will be events during the Easter Holidays; the May half-term; the Summer Holidays; and the October half-term.

*School holiday activities are included with a standard Dockyard ticket.

12. STEP IN A MIDWIFE’S FOOTSTEPS

Call The Midwife Official Location Tour
Selected dates throughout the year.

Created in partnership with award-winning television production company, Neal Street Productions, our Call The Midwife Official Location Tour is the only one of its kind in the world. Whilst the show is set in the East End of London, many of the outside scenes from the BBC series are actually filmed here, at The Historic Dockyard Chatham in Kent.

* Tickets available to buy online.

13. Share a story and a cuppa

Dementia Café
Monthly; second Monday of the month.

Our monthly Dementia Café is a comfortable, social gathering that allows people experiencing memory loss and a loved one or a carer to connect, socialise, and build new support networks. The Café is free-to-attend (you do not need a ticket for The Historic Dockyard) and all are welcome.

*Ticket not required.

14. talks and tours at the dockyard

During the year, there are a range of tours and talks available for everyone to enjoy, all included in the price of your entry ticket. All talks and tours must be booked at ‘Plan your Visit’, which is located near the main visitor entrance.
*Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website for information of upcoming events.

15. AcCess the Dockyard through Relaxed Openings

Relaxed openings at The Historic Dockyard are designed for visitors with autism, learning disabilities, or sensory and communication needs along with their siblings, families, and carers. They take place during most school holidays and offer fewer visitors across The Dockyard with a quieter atmosphere.

* Sessions are free to attend but spaces are limited and must be booked in advance. Upcoming dates will be listed on the What’s On page of the website.

16. This is a sign to join the bsl programme

Discover 400 years of dockyard history through our scheduled BSL interpreted talks, events, and exhibitions tours. These will be suitable for D/deaf people who are BSL users.

*Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website for information of upcoming events.

17. Remember the Fallen

Armistice Day Service
November

Join us for our annual Armistice Day Commemoration Service. Taking place at the National Destroyer Memorial (beside HMS CAVALIER) the service invites those in attendance to lay their own tributes at the memorial.

*Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website for information of upcoming events.

18. Sing along during the annual carol service

Annual Dockyard Christmas Carol Service
Mid-December

The annual Dockyard Christmas Carol Service takes place in the Royal Dockyard Church in mid-December. Enjoy a Mulled Wine Reception before the service filled with festive favourites.

*Keep an eye on the What’s On page of the website for information of upcoming events.

Attractions

Entry to all attractions is included with your standard Dockyard admission ticket.

19. hms cavalier is 80

Launched in 1944, HMS CAVALIER is a CA-class destroyer. She is preserved as The National Destroyer Memorial commemorating the 11,000 lives and 142 Royal Navy Destroyers lost during the Second World War.

20. See what Life was like 40,000 leagues under the sea

Take a tour of HM Submarine OCELOT, the last Royal Navy Warship built at Chatham. Launched in 1962, HM Submarine OCELOT was the last warship built at Chatham for the Royal Navy. She was one of 57 submarines built between 1908 and 1966 and served during the Cold War in the Arctic, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

21. step aboard HMS Gannet

A sloop of the Victorian Royal Navy, HMS GANNET was built on the River Medway at Sheerness in 1878. Powered by both sail and steam, with a hull constructed from stout teak planking on a strong iron frame, this highly significant vessel forms part of the United Kingdom’s core national collection of historic ships.

22. No.1 Smithery reopens

No.1 Smithery is a Grade II listed Scheduled Ancient Monument. Built in 1806 in response to the Royal Navy’s growing need for ironwork as part of shipbuilding and repair. It is now a flagship museum and gallery space for the Dockyard. Scheduled works started in late November 2023 and will be ready to welcome visitors back into the newly refurbished entrance and galleries from April 2024. Read the full story “No.1 Smithery – Fundraising Refurbishment of a Scheduled Ancient Monument” here.

23. NEXT Stop… The Dockyard Railway

The railway at The Historic Dockyard Chatham is a demonstration freight train along 1 mile of track that starts just outside the Historic Dockyard (adjacent to No.7 Slip) and runs through the middle of the site to the southern end of Anchor Wharf. Stop by to admire the restored locos and wagons in the Railway Workshop.

24. Marvel at 3Slip: The Big Space

No.3 Slip stands at the cusp of technological change, its amazing cantilever roof was built to shipwright Sir Robert Seppings’ designs. All around the world, buildings of this kind were constructed but 3 Slip is now a rare survival. Furthermore, it is also home to a vast array of epic objects and vehicles from the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust; Royal Engineers Museum, Library and Archive; and Imperial War Museum collections. Occasionally, No.3 Slip is used as a filming location, those eagle-eyed among you may have spotted it recently in Marvel’s Loki – Season 2.

Chatham Dockyard has made rope for over 400 years. Miles upon miles of Chatham-made rope has rigged the mightiest vessels ever to take to sea, including Nelson’s VICTORY. During your visit, stop by The Ropery to explore the Ropery Gallery for an atmospheric journey through the lives of Ropery workers, past and present before stepping out onto the iconic ropewalk and witnessing ropemaking in action.

26. Take a trip back in time in the walking cinema

Follow the story of a Chatham dockyard worker in Hearts of Oak. The story takes part as an immersive audio-visual tour set in the Mould Loft, which is the exact building where the designs of Nelson’s VICTORY were made.

27. iMmerse yourself in the age of sail

Command of the Oceans will immerse you in the story and history of the era-defining Age of Sail. Explore four interactive galleries to discover how ships, including HMS VICTORY, were designed and built at the Royal Dockyard Chatham.

28. Follow the dockyard story

The story of Chatham Dockyard and its people from the Industrial Revolution through to the Cold War can be discovered in Steam Steel Submarines. The 19th and 20th centuries represented times of great change at Chatham Dockyard. Explore 150 years of rapid technological advances and adaptations, from the development of iron-hulled warships through to the nuclear-powered submarines of the Cold War, many of which were refitted at Chatham. The gallery focuses on social history, incorporating first-hand accounts from dock workers who witnessed these changes and lived through the painful closure.

29. Look through 200 years of RNLI

In the RNLI’s bicentenary year, visit the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats, which together have saved hundreds of lives off the coasts of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. The oldest vessel in the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection is an 1897 pulling and sailing lifeboat. There is also an opportunity to step aboard a number of boats.

30. Let off steam in the Play Areas

No family visit to The Dockyard would be complete without a run around in one of the three play areas available. There are two outdoor play areas, including one that is located by our visitor entrance and free for anyone to enjoy (you do not need an admission ticket). For our smaller visitors we have a fun soft play area, located in our Wagon Stop canteen, alongside our Dockyard locomotive workshop.

31. Discover 47 Scheduled Ancient Monuments

There are over 100 buildings and structures at the Historic Dockyard of which 47 are Scheduled Ancient Monuments, protected by law. These monuments include Marc Isambard Brunel’s Saw Mill; Timber Seasoning Sheds; Hemp Houses and Spinning Room; Assistant Queen Harbour Master’s Office; and many more. The full list can be viewed here. Please note that not all monuments are open to the public.

32. Check out The Reading Room

Looking to develop your knowledge and understanding of 400 years of Dockyard history or maritime history in general? Then look no further than The Historic Dockyard’s Reading Room and browse through our collection of over 6,500 books and manuscripts.

33. A SMALL WINDOW INTO OUR PAST

Access the online Collections page to see objects and artifacts connected to The Dockyard’s 400-year history. We care for over 70,000 objects in our collection – ranging from archaeology, rigging, hand tools, machinery to fine art and photography. Our Collections Team has recently begun the process of digitising our art collection which can now be viewed online for the very first time.

34. Get up close to HMS Victory

Head to the Victory Gallery for your chance to walk around the fascinating model of VICTORY. Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar is an icon for both British sea power of the Age of Sail and Chatham-built ships. Built at Chatham between 1759 and 1765, the VICTORY returned for major repairs before and after Trafalgar. The model has been a star in its own right – used in the 1941 film ‘That Hamilton Woman.’

35. MOre than just Cannon-Fodder

You may have noticed that there are a large number of cannons around The Dockyard, and some of them have recently undergone an extensive cataloging exercise where each one being photographed by a group of volunteers. These detailed images will be digitised and used to understand the cannons and their history better.

The majority of the collection can be viewed within No.3 Slip but do keep an eye out as you move around as you never know where you might spot one.

36. Crash Out on CAVALIER

Make your next group visit to The Dockyard a night to remember. For schools and youth groups, a Crash Out on Cavalier experience is a unique overnight stay experience on board the Royal Navy’s last operational Second World War Destroyer, HMS CAVALIER.

37. Follow The Dockyard, Follow the History

Following The Historic Dockyard on Facebook, Instagram, X, or LinkedIn will keep you up to date with all Dockyard news, stories, and events. There are regular features like On This Day; Transformation Tuesday; and Warship Wednesday to look out for.

38. Dockyard in the community

We are incredibly proud of our heritage here at The Historic Dockyard Chatham and so we want to engage with as many people as possible. Therefore, there is a chance that you will come across The Dockyard in your local community, whether it is visiting a school, taking part in a community event, or through our network of friends and supporters. Don’t forget to say hello.

39. Welcome Aboard The Mess Deck

After all that excitement it’s time to sit down and enjoy a nice cuppa and a slice of cake. or even a delicious plate of fish’ n’ chips or even a bowl of homemade soup. Whatever takes your fancy, The Mess Deck restaurant or the Wagon Stop Café has got you covered.

40. Sound Good? Join us as a Volunteer.

There are over 300 volunteers involved with us here at The Historic Dockyard Chatham donating over 35,000 hours of their valuable time each year. If you would like to join the crew, find out how here.

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