Viking ship remains found at Rochester

Typical Viking ship

The Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Normans have left plenty to see in Rochester, but until today (1 April) there has been no trace of the Vikings who visited in 842 and 884 AD. Although they were unable to take the city, they stayed until 885 AD when most of them were sent on their way by Alfred the Great. A few were allowed to remain in their fortified encampment, which according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicles was “by the entrance of the city”. Unfortunately the city, being of Roman design, had four entrances so until now the site was unknown. As the Vikings came by water they would probably have used the North Gate, which opened onto the marshes now being developed as Rochester Riverside, and this has been confirmed by Kent Archaeologists today.

Could this be Guthrum’s sword?

Workmen digging near the site of Acorn Wharf have uncovered remains of Scandinavian ninth century weapons and traces of a clinker-built ship of the style used by Vikings led by the warrior Guthrum.

A spokesman for the Medway Heritage Harbour Group said, “This exciting discovery supports our claim that Rochester has considerably more maritime heritage than meets the eye. The Romans, Saxons and Normans understood the strategic importance of the location, being where Watling Street crosses the Medway. Medway Council must ensure that the site is properly excavated and protected for use by future generations of boaters.”

CA talk on Navy Board Ship Models, 10 March

The Cruising Association Kent Section hosts a popular series of monthly talks each winter. The meetings are currently held on Zoom. Non-members are welcome to attend. On Thursday 10 March at 19.00 Nick Ball from Chatham Historic Dockyard will give a talk on Navy Board Ship Models.

Nick is the recently appointed Collections, Galleries and Interpretations Manager at the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. He had previously been a curator at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Together with Simon Stephens, he co-authored the book ‘Navy Board Ship Models,’ published by Seaforth Publishing in 2018. Nick will give a talk outlining his research into the construction and function of the models together with the identities of those who built and owned many of the finest ship models ever made. From about the middle of the seventeenth century exquisitely crafted ship models with distinctive unplanked lower hulls began to be made. Regarded as the pinnacle of the ship modeller’s art, they are valued both as art objects and as potential historical evidence on matters of ship design.

CA talk on HMS Bellerophon, now 31 March

This Cruising Association Winter Warmer talk has been rescheduled Thursday for 31 March at 19.00, with Kent Section member Des Crampton to talk about the history of HMS Bellerophon.

Model of HMS Bellerophon made by Martin Male of Upnor Sailing Club

HMS Bellerophon, nicknamed ‘Billy Ruffian’ by her crew, was a 74-gun ship of the line launched at Frindsbury on the River Medway in October 1786, just three years before the start of the French revolution. She fought in all the major naval battles of the Napoleonic wars and crowned her well-deserved reputation when she prevented Napoleon’s escape to the United States after the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was detained on board for twenty-four days until his transfer in Torbay to HMS Northumberland for the voyage to St Helena.

The talk will review Bellerophon’s construction, long naval service, and eventual retirement to become a prison hulk in Plymouth. Her hull design and sea-keeping characteristics will be briefly analysed using the original 1:48 scale drawing of her lines. There will be a review of her armaments followed by descriptions of her participation in the battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. The talk will conclude with some detail of Napoleon’s surrender to Bellerophon’s Captain Maitland at Ile-d’Aix off Rochefort.

Do you have any old photos of the islands, marshes or piers?

Medway Council is in the process of creating a River Strategy which, once completed, will be instrumental in helping to address river user needs, monitor pollution, coastal erosion and secure future funding to protect and enhance river access locations and plan ecological improvements such as salt marsh preservation and creation. To help us understand the changing nature of the estuary and visual history of the river, we are seeking old photos of the following:

  • St Mary’s Island
  • Darnet Island
  • Hoo Salt Marsh
  • St Mary’s Island
  • Oakham Marsh
  • Burntwick Island
  • Greenborough Marsh
  • Rochester Pier
  • Sun Pier
  • Gillingham Pier

If you have any photos of these sites we would be very grateful if you could scan and send them to adam.taylor@medway.gov.uk or alternatively photos can be collected from your address, copies made and then returned to you.

This is a unique opportunity for river users to make the first contributions to the River Strategy. For any photos we use we will credit the person who provided them.

In the meantime, here are two photos: the farmhouse which once stood on Nor Marsh, taken in 1932, and Sun Pier taken in the 1960s, which we hope are of interest to MSBA members.

We look forward to hearing you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Adam Taylor, Rivers & Paths Manager

Festival of Chatham Reach, 18-19 Sept

A country fayre atmosphere, with a focus on the heritage of the river and river vessels, we’ll be remembering the history of Sun Pier as a hub of river life coinciding with the second weekend of Heritage Open Days. Located alongside and on Sun Pier in Chatham – currently the only available public river access point in Medway – we will celebrate with historic vessels open to explore, free have-a-go stalls, history walks, and interactive activities to entertain and educate all ages.

In the days leading up to the festival a free sail will take place offering community groups and organisations who would never usually experience life on the river the chance to take the helm and have a go at steering the ship. Haul a sail, wind a winch, learn the history of the area and enjoy the peace of being on the river, all under sail on a 115-year wooden sailing barge (pre booking required). Seeing Medway from the river is without doubt its most beautiful viewpoint. These sailings will need to be booked in advance.

This event is organised by Medway Council in partnership with Sun Pier House and Tiller and Wheel.

CA talk: Islands of the Medway by Adam Taylor, to be repeated Tues 23 Feb, 7pm

The Cruising Association Kent Section’s brilliant “winter warmer” talks, organised by Clifford Mickleburgh, have not stopped for Covid. All of us, CA member or not, can enjoy them online. This month’s talk is by Adam Taylor who regularly represents Medway Council at MSBA meetings. Clifford had a preview and was amazed at how much there is to learn about the Medway, Adam has put in a lot of energy researching his presentation and you will not be disappointed. Here’s a taste:
* Deadman’s Island: Kent’s terrifying forgotten island littered with human remains.
* Tom Court Island and the German U-Boat.
* William Turner’s painting at Stangate Creek.  

Look out, it’s the Excise Men!

This is the River Medway that nobody knows and yet we enjoy sailing up and down this fascinating river. And then we have the Reculver smugglers battling with the Excise officers; the once inhabited islands and the fortress islands. But don’t let us spoil it for you, this is a river that nobody knows, a talk not to be missed.

Adam suggests that you might also like to search  National Library of Scotland – Map Images  before his presentation.

APOLOGY: We’re sorry that the number of people trying to access Adam’s excellent presentation very quickly exceeded Clifford’s Zoom limit of 100, far more than have previously attended a CA winter warmer meeting. Furthermore the session was not recorded – unless someone knows differently. We’ll try to make sure this doesn’t happen next time!

HOWEVER, for those who missed out, Adam repeated the talk on Tuesday 23 Feb at 7pm.

Medway Queen forges ahead

Everything is still locked down by winter and the pandemic but the Medway Queen Preservation Society has ambitious plans for the coming year. All dependent, of course, on Covid and in some respects the weather. Nevertheless they will get as much done in 2021 as available time, effort and cash allow. To that end the MQPS is seeking sponsorship for two main projects this year. Follow the link below to find out more…

https://www.medwayqueen.co.uk/2021-work-program.html#

Latest Heritage Harbour: Queenborough and Milton Creek

Queenborough Creek

The historic Queenborough Harbour is to be linked with Milton Creek. At Queenborough, the harbour trust is improving mooring facilities for Thames sailing barges.

Lloyds Wharf, in Milton Creek, is home to the Raybel Charters project. There is also a magnificent new building which will house the reborn Dolphin Barge Museum. An inaugural meeting is to be held shortly.

Milton Creek and SB Raybel