Monday, 1 November 2010

The Historic Dockyard Chatham and avoiding submarines...

I'll leave avoiding the big submarine to last...

It was a cold, but bright, Monday morning and I had a bag of supplies to keep me and the family fuelled as we went round the vast site.

It's not hard to stand and imagine the hustle and bustle that would have taken place there, every day, since the late 1500's.

If a ship was made of wood and sailed into battle then it probably came from the Chatham Dockyards.

In the dock where Nelson's 'Victory' once stood there is now a WWII destroyer called the HMS Cavalier (1944) which you can go onto to look around. Space is very cramped, upper walkways are narrow (not being slim, at one point I had to sidestep along one of these to get to the next set of steps down. Okay I didn't like the steep drop down the side of the ship I could see, so facing the bulkhead was reassuring...)

Going up and down stairs visitors are advised to turn round and go down backwards- it is easier, but there were occasions when fellow visitors needed to help one another by passing bags up or down hatchways- handbags got through okay but picnic laden bags made climbing difficult. Thick coats were also a disadvantage...

As I'm not great with heights (if I can see straight down) I left my family happily exploring and took myself (and our supplies) off the ship and sat on a nearby bench while my legs went from wobbly jelly to normal...

My favourite had to be the elegant HMS Gannet (1878) a Victorian steamer that started life policing the various sea areas of the British Empire. It has been beautifully restored and is licenced for the performance of marriges- a great venue for a wedding...

Stepping aboard I could imagine walking along the deck in a big dress, a shawl and bonnet as in Victorian days- admitedly the decks were fairly clear when they wouldn't have been in those times... It was solid and reassuring, despite one my son's pointing out that if it had been hit by a missile there would have been lots of splintered wood flying around to kill you!

This is HMS Gannet in all her glory...
HMS Gannet (1878)

Now the submarine- it was huge and black. It was just too long to be able to get it in a photo.
HM Submarine Ocelot (1962) is certainly imtimidating to look at, it was the last warship built at Chatham for the Royal Navy. It's an 'O' class diesal-electric submarine and stayed in service until 1981.

You can look round it, but you have to go on timed tours (by ticket). You also need to be fairly mobile to move through the sections- you receive instructions on how to do this. But the diagram on the entry building with a circle showing the diameter of hatches helped decide me to stay up top.

You can see some official pictures here

I did walk down the steps into the dry dock where it is berthed and walked underneath and up the steps on the other side. Even that brief contact was impressive.

For anyone interested in lifeboats there is also the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection, it  features fifteen lifeboats from early pulling versions and sailboats to motor lifeboats from the 20th century and beyond.

I'll leave the Ropery for another day, but if you want to find out more and have a look at their photogallery, you will find lots of information here

There is so much to see and do while you are at the Historic Dockyard Chatham and it really is worth the visit if you are ever in the Medway valley...


  1. Love the photo!

    It sounds a fascinating place.

  2. Well worth a visit. At this time of year going at the weekend is probably better, as some areas rely on volunteers so were closed when we visited.

  3. Great post Carol,

    We visited twice this year, as we felt there was far too much to see in one day, and ticket lasts all year. We also ventured up to the War Memorial to see my grandfather's name. It was very moving.

  4. Thanks for commenting. I certainly agree with you Amanda,it does need more than one day and with the bonus of the entry tickets lasting the year I'm sure it encourages repeat visits- we'd cetainly return if we were nearer.
    Being able to remember relatives commemorated on War Memorials is important and especially so this week.

  5. I've loved reading all your posts, Carol, but particularly this one. My dad's dad used to work at the Chatham Dockyard. I want to go there even more now!

  6. Thanks Teresa, I'm glad you've enjoyed the posts. Hope you get to visit Chatham Dockyards some time in the future, though I do recommend a slightly warmer time of year, as more areas are open than in late October.


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