Roof of the Slip Cover Chatham Dockyards

Roof of the Slip Cover Chatham Dockyards

There is a treasure trove of wonderful industrial buildings at the Royal Chatham Dockyards. The earliest buildings date back to the early C18th and are mainly wooden structures such as the Mast House and Mould Loft. The harnessing of coal and steam energy combined with new industrial materials especially iron, steel and glass brought new industrial forms like the Covered Slips. Chatham claims to have the first wide-span structure of cast iron columns and wrought iron arched trusses, so familiar in Victorian stations. It’s remarkably light and airy with its distinctive chequerboard roof. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s national collection of historic life boats is kept here.

Chatham Dockyards

This collection is an unexpected gem and I learnt two new facts. Firstly that different coastal communities had their preferred type of boat. Secondly, I hadn’t realised the important role women had in launching the boats. Old photographs show rows of women pulling hard on ropes and waist high in water launching the rescue boats. Some boats required 60 people to launch them. A poignant reminder of our maritime past.

Slip Cover Chatham Dockyards

Ropery Chatham Dockyards

Ropery Chatham
Dockyards

Mould Loft

Mould Loft

In the Mould Loft is the Hearts of Oak exhibition which consists of digital figures that you follow through the building. As you follow the characters you are introduced to the different processes involved in making a ship. It’s informative and leaves you in awe of C18th and C19th engineering. At the end of the exhibition is a scaled model of HMS Victory. This was made in Hollywood for the 1941 film That Hamilton Woman. I didn’t manage to see everything that Chatham has to offer but the ticket is valid for a year so I intend to go back.

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