The Battle of Medway
Anyone who’s grown up in or around Kent will have of heard of Chatham Dockyard. Those that are a bit further away may not have. The Historic Dockyard in Chatham was a place which once employed many skilled labourers for the purpose of ship building. Today it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Kent. It’s steeped in history and there’s lots to see and do.
The Dockyard is going to be the epicentre of a really exciting event in 2017 - The Battle of Medway. I grew up in Medway and was a little sad to admit I had never heard of the Battle of Medway until a few weeks back. It wasn’t something we were taught at school, which I think is a real shame as it’s an absolutely local historical event that all local children should know about.
Let me take you back to 1667. Two years after the outbreak of the plague and one year after the great fire of London. In June of that year, the Dutch navy sailed and captured the fort at Sheerness. From here, they entered the River Medway and attacked the Royal Navy fleet, capturing the Royal Charles, England’s Flagship. They also set fire to a number of other ships. The only way the English could stop the Dutch was to sink some of their greatest ships and block the channel.
Maybe this is why it isn’t talked about in schools, no one likes to highlight when we were caught unaware and one of our most famous ships was captured. It’s gone down as one of the biggest Royal Naval defeats in history.
This year sees the 350-year anniversary of these events and rather than focusing on the negatives, Medway is celebrating the event and putting on a whole host of activities.
The events will unfold through an exhibition called Breaking the Chain. There will be a collection of art, objects and manuscripts to take you back to the story of the battle. Medway have teamed up with The Royal Museum Greenwich, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Dutch National Maritime Museum, the Michiel de Ruyter Foundation and the British Library to put this all together.
The two-week event starts on 8th June 2017 with a spectacular finale taking place on the 17th June at the battle site on the River Medway, overlooked by Upnor Castle and The Historic Dockyard. If I were you, I’d put these dates in my diary now and plan your visit. I don’t think Chatham will have seen anything like it before and you don’t want to miss out.
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