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Discover our collections

Our collections offer a small window into the past

Explore the work of the Dockyard and the people who not only built ships at Chatham but served on them for 400 years.

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust cares for over 70,000 objects in its collection – ranging from archaeology, rigging, hand tools, machinery to fine art and photography.

Our Collections Team has recently began the process of digitising our collection and we are gradually adding new objects to our digital resources. Search our catalogue.

We collect and preserve objects related to the Dockyard’s past and 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.

Reading Room, Archive and Collections 

Since November 2017 Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust has been undertaking major conservation, repair and adaptation works to the Fitted Rigging House, the home of the Reading Room. The project is enabling a sustainable future for one of the Dockyard’s most important Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Once complete, the project will provide a new accessible reading room and much improved conditions for our books and archive collections alongside new volunteer and conservation facilities.

Our new Reading Room can be accessed on a drop-in basis. The opening hours are 11am – 3pm, Sunday to Friday (closed Saturday).

Due to the ongoing development of the Fitted Rigging House, there is currently no access to our archive. At present, we do not have access to items such as maps, plans and photographs.

Find out more about our Reading Room.

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 collections@chdt.org.uk for your enquiry.

 

Naval and Dockyard Personnel Records

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust holds 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 https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records

There are also some yard pay books and muster books archived at The National Archives at Kew http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

Explore the Trust’s online catalogue of objects.

Reading Room

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

Donations

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.