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Georgian Medway 1714 - 1830

During the Georgian period, London unquestionably became one of the most important cities in the world. Its presence close by would have increasingly affected life in Medway, especially as new turnpike roads and stage coaches increased the speed and ease of travel.

Smaller roads, however, could soon become impassable in the winter and heavy goods were generally moved by sea and up and down the Medway. This meant that, by the end of the 18th century, Rochester was a thriving port, dealing with perhaps 200 large boats a year. In 1824, the Thames and Medway Canal was cut through from Strood to Gravesend. This linked the two estuaries, eliminating the need for a long journey around the Hoo peninsula but the venture was never a commercial success.

There was fishing too, of course. The Medway was full of fish, including smelt, sole, flounder, herring and eel. The oyster fishery was controlled by an Act of Parliament in 1729, which limited the season and the amount each licensed fisherman could take.

The growth of the Dockyard meant that lines of ever more complex fortifications were constructed in the area to protect this vital naval base from attack by sea or land. Many of these fortifications survive in Medway. The most extensive example, Fort Amherst, is now restored and open to the public.

People would have become accustomed to the presence of soldiers in the towns, especially during the Napoleonic Wars (1793–1815), when new barracks were built at Brompton. Chatham in particular began to take on a decidedly military character.

Related pages

Resources

The Royal Engineers at Chatham 1750-2012 by Peter Kendall. English Heritage 2012

The Medway Towns: river,docks and urban life by Sandra Dunster. The History Press Ltd 2013

For more information contact Medway Archives and Local Studies by telephone: 01634 332714 or by email: malsc@medway.gov.uk

Write to: Medway Archives and Local Studies, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR