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Dockyard 4018th March 2024

Chatham Dockyard Historical Society – A Reminiscence

AHH, THE 1980’S – I REMEMBER IT WELL. A LOOK BACK IN TIME

44 years ago, the original Dockyard Museum was lovingly put together by Dockyard Workers who spent their lifetime working in the ‘Yard.  This is their story…

It all started by artefacts being stored in a “Shed” instead of the salvage dump where they were destined because of the yard’s closure.  Eventually the team of dedicated employees were granted use of the old Lead & Paint Mill by Alan Maunder (Chatham Dockyard’s final Personnel Manager), where they gradually set up the Museum. 

Image: Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Museum. Courtesy of Chatham Dockyard Historical Society.

Officially opened in April 1982 by Rear Admiral Brewer, it was called “Chatham Dockyard Historical Centre”. 

Image: Lead and Paint Mill. Courtesy of Chatham Dockyard Historical Society.

Displays showcased all Dockyard Trades with many tools and artefacts on display.  They, the Dockyard Workers, created something very special in this Museum, covering the trades and skills crucial to warship construction and refits which acquired as Apprentices and going on to spend their working lives in the ‘Yard. They were extremely proud of their Dockyard and their contribution in keeping the Royal Navy afloat.  

Image: Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Museum. Courtesy of Chatham Dockyard Historical Society

Creating the Museum led to formation of the Chatham Dockyard Historical Society (CDHS).  Founded earlier in October 1980 the Society held meetings and talks in the Lead & Paint Mill.

The Museum and CDHS members played a crucial part in the early years of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust by being the only building open to the public where light refreshments could be served.  When the Trust opened up the Dockyard for a weekend of free entry to Medway residents, the Museum was overwhelmed by visitors seeking a cup of tea.

Image: Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Museum, interior. Courtesy of Chatham Dockyard Historical Society.

It was a couple of years after the formation of the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust that a plan was put forward to create “The Museum of the Royal Dockyard” in the ground floor of the Fitted Rigging House on Anchor Wharf. It was agreed that the Chatham Dockyard Historical Society would work with the Trust and move all their artefacts to the new location in this combined project.  A change of name to the ‘Steam, Steel and Submarine” gallery sees Society Members continually manning the Gallery on a seven day a week basis; as Reading Room Stewards and dealing with enquiries from visitors; caring for many artefacts within our Ropery area.

Image: Steam, Steel and Submarines


For more details about Chatham Dockyard Historical Society, visit www.cdhs.org.uk

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