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Points of Interest: Chatham
Chatham can trace its history back a long way and was first recorded as Cetham in as early as 880 AD, although this had changed slightly to Ceteham by the time of the Doomsday Book.
A small settlement based on the ancient Celtic route that was later paved by the Romans and dubbed Watling Street by the Anglo Saxons, it wasn’t until the 16th century that Chatham started to grow.
Warships of the time were moored at nearby Jillingham water (Gillingham) and so the small village on the banks of the River Medway became of strategic importance. Queen Elizabeth I established the area as a military dockyard in 1568 and it developed over time from a refitting base into a shipbuilding yard. Many ships, including HMS Victory were built here while many submarines were also constructed here in the aftermath of the First World War.
The threat of invasion led to a greater number of defensive fortifications being constructed, alongside barracks to house those tasked with manning them. To meet these needs, the town grew rapidly during the Victorian era and Brompton Barracks still exists in the town as the headquarters if the Corps of Royal Engineers.
Gradually the importance of the dockyards declined as Britain reduced its naval resources and shifted them elsewhere. In 1984 the dockyard closed completely although some of the buildings are preserved as a historic site named The Historic Dockyard which also houses the submarine HMS Ocelot and a retired class-C destroyer, HMS Cavalier.
Part of the site is now a thriving marina while the majority of the rest of the site is being developed for housing and commercial purposes under the title ‘Chatham Maritime’.
The hub of the Medway Towns, Chatham is home to large shopping centre – the Pentagon – as well as a wide array of shops, eateries and entertainment venues.
Central Theatre plays host to vast number of different performances while those looking for a thrill can explore the twists and turns of Buckmore Park outdoor carting centre.