Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Medway yesterday in support of the area’s fantastic visitor attractions ahead of another jam-packed year of celebrations.
His Royal Highness The Prince Charles visited the award-winning Historic Dockyard Chatham ahead of its 2022 visitor season opening. His Royal Highness has been a Patron of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust since 2013.
His Royal Highness met and spoke to members of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust’s Board of Trustees before taking a tour of the Command of the Oceans galleries, including the model of Lord Nelson’s Victory and the timbers of Namur. He then visited No.1 Smithery to view a new, temporary exhibition Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744, a partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust and Bournemouth University before finally seeing the Trust’s collection of historic warships: HMS Gannet, HM Submarine Ocelot and HMS Cavalier.
His Royal Highness also visited the nearby Copper Rivet Distillery, founded by Bob Russell, with his sons Matthew and Stephen and Head Distiller Abhishek Banik. The distillery is housed in a magnificent Victorian Pumphouse, which was a key part of the Dockyard before being decommissioned in 1983. It is now home to one of the leading farm-to-glass distilleries in the UK, making its own base spirit from local grains, like only a handful of other English distilleries.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall visited The Guildhall Museum in Rochester and opened the much-anticipated new permanent exhibition, The Making of Mr Dickens, which tells the story of one of England’s finest and most celebrated writers and Medway resident, Charles Dickens. The exhibition, which was designed and built by Guildhall Live Events at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, will open to the public on Tuesday, 8 February.
Dickens went to school, and spent his childhood, in Chatham and later in life he bought his dream home at Gads Hill Place, just north of Rochester. Many of Medway’s buildings have inspired locations in Dickens’ works – The Guildhall Museum’s main chamber appears as the Town Hall in Great Expectations where Pip was bound apprentice to Joe Gargery. Rochester Cathedral appears in The Pickwick Papers and as Cloisterham Castle in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Eastgate House also features in The Pickwick Papers as Westgate House and as Miss Twinkleton’s Academy for Young Ladies in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
After visiting The Guildhall Museum, Her Royal Highness visited Rochester Airport to meet members of the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS). The Duchess of Cornwall is a Patron of the society.
Medway is a leading tourist destination in the south east and is steeped in rich cultural heritage and historic gems such as Rochester Castle, the finest and tallest Norman castle keep in the country, Rochester Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in England, the Historic Dockyard Chatham and Fort Amherst. The area also boasts a superb range of museums and galleries as well as eight award-winning country parks, the new England coastal path together with more than 80 miles of cycle paths which provide superb opportunities for residents, and visitors, to enjoy spectacular views, space, fresh air and exercise.
The opening of The Making Mr Dickens exhibition is one of the first of many spectacular events and attractions which are taking place in Medway during this important year, which marks the Queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne.
Medway’s communities will come together to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at a range of family friendly events and some of Medway’s much-loved festivals will have a jubilee twist.
Next week Medway Light Nights, a spectacular festival of light, will transform Rochester’s historic buildings and spaces into works of art on Friday and Saturday, 11 and 12 February 2022. Medway Council, in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts, has commissioned local, national and internationally renowned artists, to work alongside Medway’s young people and communities, to deliver an incredible event.
This year’s popular English Festival, a celebration of St George’s Day and the most iconic and ironic English traditions, will be held on Saturday, 16 April at Riverside Country Park and then thousands of residents and visitors from across the globe will visit Medway for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Medway’s Rochester Sweeps Festival on Saturday, 30 April and Sunday and Monday, 1 and 2 May. The Sweeps Festival is one of the largest gatherings of Morris sides in the world and the streets, parks, bars and pubs of historic Rochester will be filled with the best live folk music and dance over the three-day spectacular.
Another highlight of Medway’s events calendar is The Dickens Festival which will be held in June. Rochester High Street will be transformed into a Victorian scene for the festival, which celebrates the life and times of Charles Dickens, on Saturday and Sunday, 4 and 5 June.
The Historic Dockyard Chatham has a packed calendar of events and activities including the Gaming and Creative Festival in July and Salute to the ‘40s in September. In addition, the Historic Dockyard will be launching a brand-new Ropery gallery, taking visitors on an atmospheric journey through the lives of Ropery workers, past and present, and celebrating HM Submarine Ocelot’s 60th birthday.
All of Medway’s fantastic family-friendly festivals and events support Medway Council’s aspiration to become a Child-Friendly City, putting children and young people at the heart of everything it does.
The Historic Dockyard Chatham, together with the area’s many other heritage attractions, festivals and events will make Medway the must visit destination for 2022.
Looking forward to welcoming millions of visitors to Medway this year
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “We were delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness to The Guildhall Museum. Medway is an incredibly exciting place to visit and has so much to offer both residents and visitors whether it’s the area’s wide range of family attractions, thriving cultural scene, stunning natural landscapes or the adventures on offer both on and off the water. Tourism in Medway was growing rapidly before the pandemic and we will continue to do all we can to support the tourism industry and ensure it bounces back even better than before. We have a fantastic line up of events and activities planned for the year ahead, including celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and we are looking forward to welcoming millions of visitors to Medway this year. As part of Her Majesty’s jubilee celebrations we have submitted a bid for city status for Medway which would further shine a spotlight on all we have to offer.”
Exceptional heritage attractions, festivals and events
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL, Chairman, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust said; “His Royal Highness has taken significant interest in the work of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust since becoming Patron in 2013 and it was an honour that he was able to find time in his busy schedule to visit The Historic Dockyard Chatham on Wednesday. We were especially pleased that his visit has been just two days before our season opening and the launch of our new exhibition, Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744. We have an exciting programme of events and activities planned for this year which, together with the other exceptional heritage attractions, festivals and events, make Medway a must visit destination for 2022.”
Creating a special experience
Stephen Russell, Founder and Commercial Director of the Copper Rivet Distillery, said: “It’s incredible to receive a visit such this from His Royal Highness. Our whole team works so hard and goes the extra mile to create very special farm to table experiences – whether that be Dockyard Gin and Masthouse whisky in the distillery, or the amazing food creations in The Pumproom. It is wonderful to see the team get the recognition they deserve. We were delighted with HRH’s reaction to Masthouse Whisky. This is the year for English whisky’s coming of age.”
Medway also has fantastic connectivity with good motorway links and high-speed services to London.