April 2020 marks fifty years since the first public guided tour of the Royal Navy Dockyard at Chatham. The Historic Dockyard Chatham is seeking participants of the 1970’s tours to get in touch with their stories of tours they took. The Dockyard will then share these stories on their website and social media to celebrate the anniversary on Friday, April 3.
The Dockyard’s original monthly newspaper, Periscope, states the tours began at Pembroke Gate (now the site of the University of Kent). There were three tours of ‘the Yard’ each day, lasting 55 minutes in length and timed to meet public alighting off buses. Despite a slow start, with only one visitor on the first tour, 100 or more visitors were accompanied around ‘the Yard’ each day. By August 1970, the 1000th visitor was welcomed and presented with a framed certificate.
When the tours began in 1970, the original Dockyard site was over 300 acres. It covered not only the current site of The Historic Dockyard but also what is now known as Dockside Outlet Centre and St Mary’s Island.
Since the closure of the Dockyard in 1984, The Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust has been responsible for the preservation of 80 acres of the original site and over 180,000 members of the public enjoy access to the site and its collections annually.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first public tours, the Trust is seeking participants of the original 1970’s tour. Any members of the public who took a tour between 1970 – 1984 are urged to contact the Trust to share their experience.
Richard Holdsworth, Director of Heritage, Public Engagement and Learning, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, said: “It is extremely important to capture oral history from first-hand experiences so we can preserve this history for future generations. This is a great opportunity for us to meet, speak and collate history from people who partook in an original tour.”
If you took a Dockyard tour between 1970-1984 please get in touch with the Historic Dockyard’s collection team with a paragraph about your memories of the tour.
Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org