Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust was honoured to welcome His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to The Historic Dockyard Chatham on Wednesday 2 February.
This visit was made primarily to show support to the award-winning museum and visitor attraction in advance of its 2022 visitor season opening. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who has been Patron of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust since 2013, accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lady Colgrain, met with Trust Chairman Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL and Richard Morsley, Chief Executive as well as The Mayor of Medway Councillor Jan Aldous, Mayor of Medway; Neil Davies, Chief Executive, Medway Council; and Kelly Tolhurst, Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood.
Walking through a honour guard made up of the Sheppey and Medway Sea Cadets, His Royal Highness met and spoke to members of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust’s Board of Trustees before taking a tour of the Command of the Oceans galleries. These award-winning galleries, telling the story of Chatham through the Age of Sail, opened in 2016 and were under construction during His Royal Highness’ last visit to The Historic Dockyard Chatham in 2013.
He visited No.1 Smithery to view new, temporary exhibition Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744, a partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust and Bournemouth University. The immersive exhibition showcases objects and findings from the Diving Deep: HMS Invincible archaeological excavation, a project which was supported in its infancy by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
As the first visitor to the new exhibition, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was taken on a tour by Curator, Eileen Clegg, where key objects including 18th century wig curlers and rope still smelling of the tar painted on it in 1758 were shown. His Royal Highness also met with a group of volunteers who were recently awarded the Marsh Award for Museum Learning recognising their outstanding contribution to the exhibition during the pandemic. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 12 February.
The final stop for the historic visit was to the Trust’s collection of historic warships: HMS Gannet, a sloop of the Victorian Royal Navy; HM Submarine Ocelot, the last Royal Navy warship built at Chatham, celebrating her 60th anniversary in 2022; and HMS Cavalier, the National Destroyer Memorial commemorating the 11,000 lives and 142 Royal Navy Destroyers lost during the Second World War.
His Royal Highness spoke with volunteers from the Royal National Lifeboat Association (RNLI) about the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats they care for, before being presented with a gift of Dockyard Honey from the Historic Dockyard’s apiary.
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE DL, Chairman, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust said: “It was an honour that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was able to find time in his busy schedule to visit us and we were especially pleased that his visit has coincided with our 2022 season opening and the launch of our new exhibition, Diving Deep: HMS Invincible 1744.
His Royal Highness has taken significant interest in our work since becoming Patron in 2013 and has been particularly supportive throughout the difficult conditions created by the pandemic. Despite the challenges of the previous two years, the Trust remains in a strong position for the future and has several exciting new developments on the horizon. We look forward to sharing our continued success with His Royal Highness over the coming years, during which time we hope to welcome him back to see progress for himself.”
The Mayor of Medway, Cllr Jan Aldous, said: “It was a great honour to welcome His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to Medway. Through the centuries, Medway has made some of the greatest contributions to our nation’s history and we are incredibly proud that the Historic Dockyard Chatham is one of Britain’s leading maritime heritage destinations. We hope to welcome His Royal Highness back to Medway to see more of its fantastic visitor attractions in the future.”
His Royal Highness began his association with Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust on a visit to open the new Royal Dockyard Library in 2006. He then became Patron to the No.1 Smithery project in 2007 during its initial development. Following a visit to officially open No.1 Smithery, his patronage was extended to the wider work of the Trust in April 2013. During his Patronage, there have been a number of significant projects delivered including the Command of the Oceans galleries (shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture 2017) and, more recently, the completion of the Fitted Rigging House (RIBA South East Sustainability Award 2021).