40th anniversary of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Last week, AIM member Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust marked the 40th anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard and the creation of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. 

On 30 March 1984 Chatham Dockyard’s gates closed, ending 400 years of the Royal Navy’s presence in Chatham and the surrounding area. The very same day, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust was formed to save 80 acres of this uniquely historic site and provide a beacon of hope for the community.

At its height (during the Second World War), the Dockyard employed more than 17,000 workers from more than 26 different trades. Just prior to the announcement of its closure, the Dockyard employed 6,500 civilians.

Richard Morsley, CEO of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust says:

“In 1984, the year of Band Aid and the Miner’s Strike, the closure of the Dockyard in Chatham went unnoticed by many outside of the Medway Towns. Its closure was more than purely an economic impact, the Dockyard provided identity, purpose and value to the community; it was akin to the heart being ripped out of the Medway Towns.”

Saving the dockyard has taken 40 years

Forty years on and the Trust, who began the work of preserving, conserving and finding a use for the historic site in 1984, is simultaneously remembering the closure and what it meant to Chatham, while also celebrating the achievements of the last four decades which have seen:

  • 47 Scheduled Ancient Monument buildings saved
  • World-class exhibitions curated and housed on site
  • Architectural awards for excellence
  • The creation of new jobs and sectors
  • Welcoming 180 businesses on to the site
  • Saving the oldest Ropery in Europe and continuing to keep the 400 year old skills alive in practice
  • Providing a permanent home for the HM Submarine Ocelot, HMS Cavalier and HMS Gannet
  • The creation of a creative hub in the Medway
  • An education campus for University of Kent and Mid Kent College (Medway School of Arts)
  • Contributing c £30 million a year to the local economy (The last economic impact study, pre- covid, estimated the Dockyard to have contributed £29.5 million to the Kent and Medway economies in 2017/18. This figure is being reappraised following the creation of further office space onsite and visitor numbers increasing).

Phoenix from the flames

Dockyard CEO Richard Morsley, says:

Regeneration of the site has taken nearly four decades, and today The Historic Dockyard Chatham is a vibrant and thriving mixed- use heritage estate; an award winning museum and visitor attraction, educational campus, commercial and residential estate, and filming location.

“The partnerships formed during this time and the milestones passed, have helped to deliver much-needed hope for the locality, whilst also placing Chatham on the international stage as a destination not just for education and creativity but also as the best preserved Dockyard of the Age of Sail.”

Read more about the remarkable achievements of the Trust here>>

Lynette Crisp, Director of Public Engagement at Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust is speaking at AIM Conference 2024. Find out more about the conference programme and buy your tickets here>>