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18th Century Dockyard


The Glorious Revolution (1688) united Britain and Holland under William & Mary and led the way to over a century of conflict with France and Spain fought across the world as all three countries sort control of territory and trade with the Americas, East Indies and Asia.

Inevitably British naval activity was drawn westwards away from the North Sea and the Channel and the Chatham’s role as Fleet base passed to Portsmouth and the newly completed Plymouth Dock. Chatham took on the mantle of Britain’s principal shipbuilding and repair yard: building many of the largest ships of the fleet and undertaking the larger and longest repairs, rebuilds and refits.

New facilities were required and the Stuart Dockyard was heavily rebuilt to take on much of the shape and form of the current Historic Dockyard. In 1696 and 1702 two new Mast Ponds, built to enable fir logs used for mast-making to be seasoned under water, were dug. Both remain today – the first as an archaeological site – the second, the North Mast Pond as the Historic Dockyard’s earliest surviving visible historic structure.

The Commissioner’s House, Britain’s oldest surviving intact naval building was completed in 1704 – built for Captain George St Lo, newly promoted from Plymouth Dock. The house, erected on the site of its predecessor inherited the garden, first laid out by Phineas Pett in the 1640’s and provides a tangible link between the dockyard known to Pepys and Evelyn and the present day. Over the next 30 years many of the Historic Dockyard’ surviving historic buildings and structures were erected including the Clocktower Building, Main Gate Dockyard Wall, Officers’ Terrace, Sail & Colour Loft, and first Hemp House.

The mid-years of the century saw the timber framed, timber clad Mast Houses and Mould Loft (1753-5) erected, followed during the 1770 -80s by the Timber Seasoning Sheds and Wheelwrights Shop.

The Navy Board’s attention returned to Chatham during the last decades of the 18th century with the wholesale rebuilding of the southern end of the dockyard. Two new large storehouses were constructed on the Anchor Wharf together with a new large Double Ropehouse, combining both spinning and ropelaying operations under one roof for the first time.