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Behind the Scenes14th March 2023

Preservation Through Reuse – The Fitted Rigging House South Project

We are a charity that champions a ‘preservation through reuse’ strategy. Over the years we have successfully brought a number of our historic buildings back into active re-use.

The latest project is the Fitted Rigging House South.

When complete, this building will produce 22,000 sqft of gross commercial office space and will generate vital revenue for the Trust. The completion of this project will fulfil our long held ambition of being a self-sustaining site, no longer reliant on external funding, which is a hugely significant milestone for both the Trust and the entire heritage site.

Recently some of our Visitor Experience team took a break from welcoming visitors and donned hard hats and high vis. to help our Estates team with the project.

The team have been pulling (lots of!) nails, throwing out scrap and do lots of cleaning and they have become quite a close knit family working together on the project.

Jack from Visitor Experience said: “I’m quite new here, it has been a really great experience for me team building wise and it has helped me fit in a lot more which is good, especially ahead of reopening to the public.”

Let’s find out more about the Fitted Rigging House South Project …

The Fitted Rigging House was built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and is 117 metres long. Along with Storehouse 3 next door, they were the largest storehouses ever built for the Royal Navy which emphasised Chatham’s position as one of the most important British naval dockyards of the time.

The first half of the building was used by the Dockyard’s riggers preparing and storing the rigging for ships being ‘Fitted For Sea’. They used rope made in the Ropery and blocks bought in from private block-makers, or, after 1804, from the Portsmouth Block Mills. The second half of the building was used for the storage of new equipment purchased to fit out newly built ships.

The building timbers had lots of hooks and nails that were used for hanging ropes, chains, and other important items at the time. We are preserving these historical features as part of the refurbishment project.

Louise said “It’s great to be part of a new history of the Dockyard, we are going through all of that old history and regenerating it. I like being a part of that.”

You can find out more about the details of the project here.

Whilst cleaning out the building, plenty of fascinating finds have been unearthed, mainly found in the rafters of the second floor.

Finds include:

Dates for these items have not been found, but can be assumed to pre-date the closure to the Dockyard in 1984. All items have been moved into our collection to be catalogued. You may even be able to spot some of these items on display around the Dockyard in the future.

Not only does this work bring the team together and result in some exciting finds, for one team member, Alex, this was an opportunity to explore areas of the Dockyard he had never visited before such as the Timber Seasoning Sheds.

The Visitor Experience Team are now back around the Dockyard welcoming visitors and ensuring all have a fantastic day out with us. More updates on the Fitted Rigging House South Project will follow in the coming months via our blog and social media.

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