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On This Day21st October 2021

Dockyard landmark where Nelson left for battle restored to former glory

On this Day in 1805 the Royal Navy, commanded by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, won over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. This day is celebrated annually as Trafalgar Day.

Today we also raise a toast to our Historic Environment and Buildings team for painstakingly restoring the very landmark where Nelson left to take command of HMS Agamemnon, at the start of the French Revolutionary War in 1793.

The Queen’s Stairs

The Queen’s Stairs is a set of stone steps leading from the River Medway that were used as a main entrance point to the Dockyard during the Age of Sail.

At the top of the landing stage steps is an early 19th or 18th century wrought iron arch and lantern holder, next to the Assistant Harbourmaster’s Office. This office was built in 1770 for the Dockyard’s two Master Attendants, who were Principal Officers and were responsible for the ships moored in the river, with in Ordinary or waiting repair as well as for the trades involved in fitting ships for sea.

In 1865, the whole of the tidal part of the river from Allington Lock to Sheerness was designated as a Dockyard Port under the control of the King or Queen Harbourmaster who was in charge of all movement within the river between these points.

Historic Environment and Buildings Director, Nigel Howard, and his team, work year-round to repair and preserve the Dockyard’s 47 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and 54 Listed Buildings.

As you will see from the before and after photographs, The Queen’s Stairs have been stabilised and grouted, returning them to their former glory, fit for a Lord, all whilst perfectly timing the work around the tide times for the river.

As one of Britain’s most important Royal Dockyards, Chatham was associated with many great historical figures of their time. Famous seamen like Sir Francis Drake and literary legends such as Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens would all have set foot on the Queen’s Stairs.

With thanks to research volunteer Ann Howe, who helped write this blog


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