Plunge into Naval History

By Calder, Simon | The Independent (London, England), September 11, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Plunge into Naval History

Calder, Simon, The Independent (London, England)

"Best reinvention of a de-commissioned dockyard" - I'm not sure if there is such a prize, but if there is, then I have no doubt of the winner. One good reason that Britain ruled the waves (mostly) from Elizabethan times to the Second World War was Chatham Dockyard, a place of tremendous energy and innovation. HMS Victory was just one of the ships that was launched here.

This vast site closed in 1984: a traumatic time for the Medway towns, yet from which one of the leading attractions in South-east England has emerged.

You appreciate the weight of history as soon as you arrive, because the old gates are still standing. You can plumb the depths of life aboard a Royal Navy submarine, and - some weekends - watch steam trains fizz, splutter and rumble along the dockyard's ancient tracks.

Perhaps the Dockyard's greatest strength is the way the essential fabric of the naval base has been so assiduously preserved. The exhibits are curated into the marvellous muddle of historic buildings that range through Tudor, Stuart and Georgian eras, and which supported the Royal Navy right through from the Spanish Armada to the Falklands War. A favourite of mine is No 3 Slip, whose prosaic name only hints at the magnificent space beneath a canopy so broad that, when it opened in 1838, was Europe's widest timber structure.

Starting this year, a brand-new attraction claims to be an "all- round treasure house". No 1 Smithery brings together many great naval treasures that, until now, have been split between Chatham Historic Dockyard, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, south London. In a sense, this added dimension to the dockyard is a cultural rationalisation - but with plenty of inspiration in the way that previously unseen maritime artefacts are displayed alongside great naval art and intricate model ships.

There is also a programme of touring exhibitions, starting with Stanley Spencer's vivid pictures of "Shipbuilding on the Clyde" (until 12 December). These paintings - breathtaking in scale and detail - depict the decades when the banks of the river west of Glasgow comprised the centre of the maritime world. They are on display alongside tools from the Chatham Smithery of the kind that the Clydeside workers would have used.

Chatham Historic Dockyard (01634 823807; thedockyard. Open 10am-6pm until 30 October; 10am-4pm from 31 October until 12 December 2010. Admission 15.

A glimpse into the past:

Hampshire's museums

Dotted throughout Hampshire are a host of museums providing a fascinating insight into the county's past.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Plunge into Naval History


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?