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Volunteer Voices2nd June 2024

Volunteers’ Week: Chatham Dockyard Historical Society

Volunteers’ Week: Chatham Dockyard Historical Society – A Reminiscence

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 with artefacts being stored in a “Shed” instead of the salvage dump where they were destined because of the dockyard’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 original Museum. Officially opened in April 1982 by Rear Admiral Brewer, it was called “Chatham Dockyard Historical Centre”. 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 were acquired as Apprentices and going on to spend their working lives in the ‘Yard. They were extremely proud of their Dockyard and their contribution to keeping the Royal Navy afloat. Creating the Museum led to the formation of the Chatham Dockyard Historical Society (CDHS). Founded 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 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.

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” on 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.

Today, the museum is now known as the ‘Steam, Steel and Submarines” gallery where Society Members help to man the gallery that is open seven days a week. Society members also act as Reading Room stewards, which involves assisting with enquiries from visitors; and also caring for many artefacts within the Dockyard’s Ropery area.

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

Volunteers’ Week celebrates volunteers’ amazing contributions to communities across the UK.

The celebration starts on the first Monday in June every year. It’s a chance to recognise, celebrate and thank the UK’s incredible volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector, and society as a whole.

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