Rochester Tourist Attractions
Rochester lies halfway between London and the Channel ports on the River Medway just inland from where it flows into the North Sea. The town is noted for its Norman Cathedral, with the second oldest bishopric in England, and Rochester Castle, with a well-preserved keep from 1127.
The town's official name of City of Rochester-upon-Medway denotes the urban district comprising not just Rochester, but also the neighboring municipalities of Chatham and Strood. The quiet little town of Rochester is closely linked with the name of Charles Dickens, who spent his childhood in neighboring Chatham and the last 12 years of his life at Gads Hill, halfway between Rochester and Gravesend. In many of his books locations in Rochester and the surrounding area play an important part; his last work, the unfinished novel "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" is set almost completely in the fictitious town of Cloisterham, which is obviously Rochester.Rochester developed from the early Roman settlement of "Durobrivae". It was here that Ethelbert of Kent founded the second episcopal see in England after Canterbury in 604. The present cathedral was begun by the Normans, who also added to the town's defenses by building a castle. Henry VIII ordered that warships for the English fleet should be built here at the Medway estuary. The Dutch entered the estuary with their ships in 1667 and attacked the dockyard at Rochester. However, for many years after that the docks remained one of the most important places in the country for building naval ships
The oldest portions of the Rochester Cathedral are Gundulf's Tower and the crypt. The most inspiring feature is the west front, completed in 1160.
Towering opposite the cathedral is Rochester Castle, construction of which was begun in 1088 on the site of the first Roman fortifications. It is one of the best preserved Norman fortresses in Great Britain. The massive keep, built in 1127, is, at 121ft/37m, the highest in the country. From its platform there is a magnificent view of the town and the Medway valley. To the south Satis House can be seen, in which Queen Elizabeth I was a guest in 1573.
Opening hours: Mar 21 to Sep 30: 10am-6pm
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-4pm
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-4pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee in GBP: Family £14.00, Adult £5.00, Concession or reduced rate £4.00
Guides: Taped tours for rent.
Facilities: Gift shop
Transit: BritRail: Rochester
Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel
The former Bull Inn, over 400 years old, was renamed the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel after the queen visited it in 1836. In "Pickwick Papers" it appears as the Bull Hotel, while in "Great Expectations" it is the Blue Boar.
Walking from the castle in the direction of Rochester Bridge and passing Bridge Chapel (14th century), we come to the main street of Rochester, the High Street, which boasts several memorable buildings along its length, many of which have found mention in Charles Dickens' novels.
Opposite the Bull Hotel stands the Guildhall, built in 1687, which now houses the Rochester town museum.
Kenneth Bills Motor Cycle Museum
At 144 High Street is the Kenneth Bills Motor Cycle Museum, which displays British motorcycles from 1921 to 1977.
Old Corn Exchange
On the left of Rochester's Guildhall, just before theturning into Northgate, is the Old Corn Exchange, easily recognizable because of its enormous clock. This building was commissioned by the member of parliament Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell in 1706 as the town's meat market and was only converted into a granary in the 19th century.
Poor Travellers House
A"Dickens house", on the left of High Street, is the Elizabethan Watt's Charity or Poor Travelers House. This was set up by Richard Watts in 1579 as overnight shelter for six poor travelers, and in so doing he established a tradition which lasted right up to World War II. Dickens mentions the house in his Christmas stories.
The High Street goes downhill, past the remains of the medieval town walls, until Eastgate House is reached, built in 1590 for Sir Peter Buck, naval officer and mayor of Rochester. The house now houses the Charles Dickens Centre, in which the writer's works are brought to life by means of modern audio-visual methods. Under the name of "Nun's House" the house also features in "Edwin Drood". In the courtyard can be seen the original Swiss chalet which Dickens was given by the French actor Charles Fechter. Dickens had it installed in Gads Hill and during the summer used to spend most of his time in it.
Chatham - Charles Dickens' House
From 1817 to 1821 Charles Dickens lived at 2 Ordnance Terrace, one of a row of Georgian houses.
In Crow Lane, which leads off the High Street, stands Restoration House, where on May 28th 1660 Charles II spent his first night on English soil after his return from his exile in France. On application at the tourist office it is possible to visit the magnificent interior rooms, which include "Miss Havisham's Room" in Dickens' "Great Expectations".
This is a world-famous 10-day festival celebrating the classic author. The festival takes place in late May to early June and events include plays, recitals, displays, lectures, competitions and street entertainment. Costumed Dickens characters also roam the streets, providing ample photo opportunities.
This annual festival takes place in late August as a tribute to the Norman heritage. Archery, falconry, tournaments, horse shows, concerts and dance performances are only some of the events showcasing Norman England during the weekend.
This is a manor house of the Knights Templar dating to the 13th C. Temple Manor features traces of wall paintings on the first floor hall.
Address: Knight Road, Strood, Rochester ME2 2, England
Opening hours: Mar 31 to Oct 28: 11am-3pm; Closed: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri
Always opened on: Spring Bank Holiday - Britain (last Monday, May), Summer Bank Holiday - Britain outside Scotland (last Monday, Aug)
Entrance fee: FREE
Transit: BritRail: Strood