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Hidden Heroines

... the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard

“Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard” is a new, temporary exhibition now showing in No.1 Smithery at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

The exhibition explores the valuable roles women played throughout the Dockyard’s 400-year history, right up to present day.

From the women of the Spinning Rooms and Sail and Colour Loft, to tales of stowaways, women masquerading as men and the extraordinary women whose impact left a lasting legacy. The exhibition challenges the misconceptions and superstitions of women at sea, women’s place in war and highlights colourful characters including Jane Austen’s sister, Fanny, and Zandra Bradley, the first female apprentice, whilst not forgetting those who continue to work at the Historic Dockyard to this day.

Book tickets

Admission into Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard is FREE as part of an entry ticket to The Historic Dockyard.

At this time we are operating additional safety measures to keep all our visitors safe. It is essential for everyone book a ticket (including annual ticket holders) with a date and arrival time prior to a visit. The number of tickets available each day is limited to allow us to control the number of visitors within The Historic Dockyard site.

The exhibition

Whether they were real-life action conquerors of the high seas, in the mould of  Nelson, or fictional characters such Moonfleet’s John Trenchard, we tend to think of our naval heroes as men. Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard challenges such preconceptions and reveals the variety of fascinating roles women played on land and at sea.

The exhibition highlights many colourful characters – including Jane Austen’s sister-in-law Fanny, and Zandra Bradley, the first female apprentice – whilst not forgetting those women who currently work at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

“As Hidden Heroines clearly demonstrates, the Royal Navy has progressed from women having to dress as men to gain opportunity to go to sea to being named one of the UK’s top employers of women. The exhibition serves to celebrate the success of women in the workplace, which was made possible by some of the amazing women highlighted in Hidden Heroines, who bravely broke down barriers, challenged gender roles and paved the way for others,” says Alexandra Curson, Hidden Heroines Curator.

If you cannot make it to Chatham right now and experience the exhibition first hand, Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of women at the Dockyard has a supporting digital exhibition that can be enjoyed here:

Women of the Dockyard - we need you

We are looking to hear and record the stories of women who lived and/or worked at the Dockyard, served in the Royal Navy or any related trade. Domestic help, ex-apprentices, WRNS, ropery workers, nurses, volunteers, Sail & Colour loft ladies, apprentices, wives who lived on site, caterers, pub landlords, civil servants, engineers, painters, electricians … we would love to hear your stories. In addition any images or objects relating to this theme.

If you have anything relevant, please fill in a few details on the form below or get in touch with Vikkie Mulford via

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