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Discover our collections

Our collections are a small window into the past

Explore the work of the Dockyard and the people that not only built the ships at Chatham, but those who served on them for four hundred years.

The Trust has over 70,000 objects in its collection – ranging from archaeology, rigging, hand tools, machinery to fine art and photography.

We have just begun the process of digitising our collection and we will be gradually adding new objects. Search our catalogue to see what is there at the moment.

We not only collect and preserve objects related to the Dockyard’s past but also carry out specific research into the Dockyard’s rich and varied history. From projects focused on Dockyard workers to the tragedies suffered during the First World War, we are building up a picture of the role and impact the Dockyard has had over four hundred years.


From 1st November 2017 Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust will be undertaking major conservation, repair and adaptation works to the Fitted Rigging House, the home of the Royal Dockyard Library. The project will create a sustainable future for the building, one of The Historic Dockyard’s most important Scheduled Ancient Monuments. The project will deliver a new accessible reading room and much improved conditions for our library and archive collections alongside new volunteer and conservation facilities.

In order for these works to take place the current Reading Room and Archive will close on 1st November 2017 to be relocated to our new facilities ready to open in spring 2019. Limited access to collections due to this process means we will be unable to support research enquiries at this time but will provide advice if and when possible. 

Collections Enquiries

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust is committed to helping the public who have enquiries about our collections. These may be answered face-to-face in the case of the Reading Room collections or by telephone, letter, or email for our archive and object holdings. We receive enquiries from all over the world covering a wide range of different subjects.

Due to the volume of these enquiries collections staff can only undertake a maximum of 30 minutes research per enquiry and we are therefore unable to answer enquiries to any great depth.

If your enquiry requires more extensive research, you will receive a referral email/letter and our research volunteers will work with you to facilitate the enquiry.

Initial written enquires are responded to within 5 – 10 working days. In the case of in-depth research, the timescale will vary dependant on the nature of the research.

Please contact for your enquiry.


Naval and Dockyard Personnel Records

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust hold very few records for either Naval or Dockyard Personnel. When Royal Dockyard Chatham closed in 1984 the Ministry of Defence removed all records still held on site. Those that we have in our collections are ones that have been donated to us, usually by families of former dockyard workers or Chatham Ratings.

Some records are available from the Ministry of Defence via their website

There are also some yard pay books and muster books archived at The National Archives at Kew

Explore the Trust’s online catalogue of objects.

Library and Reading Room

The Dockyard Library and Archive houses the Trust’s collection of over 20,000 books and manuscripts that focuses on ships, shipbuilding, naval architecture and history.


We are actively collecting – if you have an item that you would like to donate that tells a part of the Dockyard story, please contact us.