Slip Cover Chatham Docks

Slip Cover Chatham Docks

There is something awe-inspiring standing in a big cavernous space with shafts of light penetrating from the roof. This isn’t a sacred place or even a royal place it is a place made by craftsmen for craftsmen. The Slip Covers at Chatham Docks are functional buildings of true beauty.

Slip Cover Chatham Dock

It was refreshing to read, earlier this year, that Simon Thurley the Chief Executive of English Heritage had identified the No 6 Slip Cover at Chatham Dockyard in his top ten best historic buildings. In fact, in list almost half of the buildings were from England’s Industrial Heritage.

Slip Cover Chatham Dock

Covers to ship-building dry docks were introduced to the Navy yards in the early C19th to stop the deterioration of wooden ships exposed to the rain and damp. Designed by the Royal Engineers these buildings pushed the boundaries of engineering and these were the first wide spanned structures in the World.

Splayed Scarf Joint

Stop Splayed Scarf Joint

The light pours into the building through roof spaces which allowed longer working days. In 1904 a mezzanine floor was added to create storage space but it does obscure the original lighting effect. From the mezzanine you can begin to get a sense of what it was like when it was a place of work.

Slip Cover Chatham Dock

The wooden structure of No 6 is worth exploring in some detail as many of the joints are so big and so unusual, such as the stop splayed scarf with folding wedges. The workers, who normally built the wooden boats, used their skills to craft this magnificent structure. In fact, the building does look like an upside down ship.

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The slip now houses a collection of heavy plant machines and lifeboats but the building is far more interesting than its contents.

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