Rochester is a town and
former city in
located within the unitary
authority area of Medway and is at the
lowest bridging point of the River
Medway about from London.
is known for its cathedral and castle, and for an
epic siege in 1215. Rochester, together with neighbouring
Chatham, Gillingham, Strood and a number
of outlying villages makes up the Medway
unitary authority area.
name for Rochester
was Durobrivae. This is commonly translated as 'stronghold by the
bridge' or 'stronghold by the bridges'. This could have been a
Settlement or oppidum
, but there was no bridge in AD 43. It was
also known as Durobrovum and Durobrivis, which could be a
Latinisation of the British word 'Dourbruf' meaning
It is recorded as Durobrivis c.730 and Dorobrevis in 844. It was
pronounced as 'Robrivis. Bede
copied down this
name, c730, mistaking its meaning as Hrofi's fortified camp (OE
Hrofes cæster). From this we get c730 Hrofæscæstre, 811
Hrofescester, 1086 Rovescester, 1610 Rochester.
As the name for the city of Rochester contains the Latin
', which is
present in the names of many cities that were once Roman camps
(e.g. Chester Latin
'Deva'), it is assumed that Rochester was a fortified Roman town,
but no evidence has been found of such fort.
street pattern suggest that it was a line of shops and houses built
alongside a road, and systematic fortification did not take place
until after AD 175.
The Latinised adjective 'Roffensis' refers to Rochester.
- Pre-Roman: Evidence of Neolithic settlement nearby at Kit's Coty
House. Belgic remains were found in 1961 by R E
Chaplin under the Roman levels. Coin moulds suggest that this was a
centre of some importance.
- Celtic: Rochester was one of the two oppida of Cantiacci tribe
(the other being the capital of Durovernum Cantiacorum modern day
Canterbury) forming the western administrative centre of the Celtic
- AD 43: The Romans arrived and called the
settlement Durobrivae. On the strength of this name alone, one
theory suggests that there was a 'fortified town by a bridge'.
There was no bridge when the Romans arrived, and no fort has been
discovered by archaeologists. Alternatively, Aulus Plautius set up a small fort, which was
not needed long, as Kent was soon settled. The Roman settlement
provides us with the present High Street and Northgate/Boley Hill.
A bridge was built. There is evidence that the Romans bridged the
river at the same point as the present bridge. They constructed a
substantial causeway, wide, over the marshy ground on the Strood
Side of the river, from the river to the present day Angel
- 190+: Systematic earthen fortifications
- 225+: These were replaced by stone, which
are still extant.
- 427 Romans leave Britain
All this is evidence of an important and thriving continuous civic
- 1077: Gundulf is consecrated
Gundulf commences the new cathedral, on the site between the Roman
wall and Watling
Street, over the previous cathedral.
- 1087: Gundulf starts building the Norman castle. Its curtain wall follow
Roman walls, and its keep is high, × in breadth.
- 1125: Textus Roffensis
- 1130: The Norman cathedral is complete.
- 1215: Besieged by King John. It
fell on November 30.
- 1227: Completion of Early
English quire at the
- 1264: City attacked by Simon de
- 1343: Central tower at cathedral raised.
- 1461: The first mayor.
- 1470: The great window at the cathedral is built.
Rochester Cathedral is one of England's smaller cathedrals, yet it
demonstrates all styles of Romanesque
and Gothic architecture
Tudor and Stuart
Georgian and Victorian
Rochester Corn Exchange
Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical
School, a boys' grammar school, was founded.
- 1850: Thomas Aveling financed by his father in law bought a
small millwrighting shop in Edwards yard, where he set up a
business producing and repairing agricultural plant.
- 1861: Thomas Aveling and Richard Porter move to Strood and
establish Aveling &
Porter, the engineering company which was to become the
largest manufacturer of agricultural machines and steam roller in the country.Of the 12,700 steam
engines which they made, no fewer than 8,600 of them were steam
20th and 21st centuries
The municipal borough and city of
Rochester merged with the borough of Chatham and part of the Strood Rural District including the Hoo Peninsula. The resulting district was the
Borough of Medway. It was later renamed
Rochester-upon-Medway, and the city status
transferred to the entire borough.
the council merged with Gillingham and Chatham to form the Medway unitary authority. The outgoing
council neglected to appoint ceremonial "Charter Trustees" to continue to represent
the historic Rochester area, causing Rochester to lose its city
status - an error not even noticed by the council for four years,
Rochester has for centuries been of great strategic importance
through its position near the confluence of the Thames
and the Medway
. Its castle was built to guard the river
crossing, and the Royal Dockyard at Chatham was the key
to the Royal Navy's long period of
supremacy. The town, as part of Medway, is surrounded
by two circles of fortresses; the inner line of forts built during
the Napoleonic wars are; Fort Clarence, Fort
Amherst and Fort Gillingham. The outer line of
"Palmerston" forts was built during 1860s in light of the Royal
Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom report, these
consisted of Fort
Borstal, Fort Bridgewood,
Luton, and Twydall Redoubts, with 2 forts on
islands in the Medway; Fort Hoo and
During the First World War
' aircraft company
manufactured the first plane to launch a torpedo, the Short Admiralty Type 184
, and during the
Second World War
first four-engined bomber, the Stirling
, and flying boats at its seaplane
factory on the River Medway not far from Rochester Castle.
The decline in naval power and in shipbuilding in general led to
the government abandoning the shipyard at Chatham in 1984, and the
subsequent demise of much of the marine industry. Rochester and its
neighbouring communities were hit hard by this and have experienced
a painful adjustment to a post-industrial economy, with much social
deprivation and unemployment resulting. On the closure of Chatham
Dockyard the area saw an unprecedented surge in unemployment to
15.9%. This dropped to 3.5% in 2004.
and its neighbours, Chatham and Gillingham, form a single large urban area known as the
Medway Towns with a population of about
250,000. However Rochester has always governed land
on the other side of the Medway in Strood.
was known as Strood Intra; before 1835 it was about 100 yards
wide and stretched to Gun Lane. In the 1835 Municipal Corporations
Act the boundaries were extended to include more of Strood and
Frindsbury, and part of Chatham known as Chatham Intra.
Rochester City Council was abolished and superseded by Medway
Borough Council, which also included the parishes of Cuxton, Halling and Cliffe, and the
the borough became Rochester-upon-Medway.
Rochester had long been a city but was accidentally stripped of its
in 1998 through local government reorganisation. This
was not noticed by Medway Council until 2002; it has since written
to the Queen
asking for city status to be conferred again.
Street passes through the town, and to the south the River
Medway is bridged by the M2
motorway and High Speed
There were three parishes within the city of Rochester, St
Margaret's, St Nicholas' and the Cathedral.
is home to a number of important historic buildings, the most
prominent of which are the Guildhall, the Corn Exchange,
Restoration House, Eastgate House, Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral.
Many of the buildings in the town centre
date from the 18th century or as early as the 14th century.
Rochester City Council bought the land at Rochester Airfield in
September 1933 from the landowner as the site for a municipal
airport. One month later Short Brothers, who had started building
aircraft in 1909 on the Isle of Sheppey, asked for permission to lease the land for test
In 1934-5 Short Brothers took over the Rochester Airport site when
they moved some of their personnel from the existing seaplane
works. The inaugural flight into Rochester was from
Gravesend, John Parker flying their Short Scion G-ACJI.
In 1979 the lease reverted to the council. After giving thorough
consideration to closing the airport, GEC
(then comprising Marconi
and instrument makers Elliot Automation
decided to take over management of the airport. It maintained two
while releasing some land for
light industrial expansion.
was for many years the favourite of Charles Dickens who lived nearby at Gads Hill
Place, Higham, and who
based many of his novels in the area.
Descriptions of the
town appear in Pickwick
and lightly fictionalised as Cloisterham in
The Mystery of Edwin
. Restoration house located on Crow Lane was the house on which Charles
Dickens based Miss Havisham's (from
Great Expectations) house,
This link is
celebrated in Rochester's Dickens Festival each June in the
Summer Dickens Festival
and December with the
Dickensian Christmas Festival
. The 16th century
red-brick Eastgate House once housed the town's museum. In the
1980s the museum was moved further west to the Guildhall so that
Eastgate House could become the Charles Dickens Centre.
In the same decade the High Street was redecorated with Victorian
-style street lights and hanging
flower baskets to give it a more welcoming atmosphere.
The Dickens Centre was ultimately unprofitable and shut in November
2004. Medway Council's Cabinet agreed proposals for the restoration
and development of Eastgate House as a major cultural and tourist
facility, and for the project to be recognised as a key cultural
regeneration project on 7 November
Rochester Sweeps Festival
Since 1980 the town has seen the revival of the historic Rochester
Jack-in-the-Green May Day
tradition, which died out in the early 1900s. Whilst not
unique to Rochester, (similar sweeps gatherings were held right
across southern England, notably in Bristol, Deptford, Whitstable
and Hastings), the Rochester revival was directly inspired by
Dicken's description of the celebration in Sketches by Boz
It has since grown from a small gathering of local Morris dance
sides, to one of the largest in
current festival begins with the awakening of the Jack-in-the-Green ceremony, atop
Hill at sunrise on May 1. and continues in Rochester
High Street over the May Bank Holiday
A new library was built alongside the Adult Education Centre,
Eastgate. This will enable the registry office to move from
Maidstone Road, Chatham to the Corn Exchange in Rochester High
Street (where the library was housed). As mentioned in a report
presented to Medway Council's community services overview and
scrutiny committee on 28 March 2006
, the new library opened in late summer
Rochester is the setting of the controversial 1965 Peter Watkins
television film The War Game
, which depicts the town's
destruction by a nuclear missile. The opening sequence was shot in
Chatham Town Hall, but the credits particularly thank the people of
Dover, Gravesend and Tonbridge.
The 1959 James Bond Goldfinger
describes Bond driving along
through the Medway
Towns from Strood to Chatham. Of interest is the mention of "inevitable
traffic jams" on the Strood side of
Bridge, the novel being written some years prior to the
construction of the M2
motorway Medway bypass.
The model and actress Kelly Brook
to Delce Junior School, Rochester, and later Thomas Aveling School
(Formally Warren Wood Girls School) Rochester
, artist, author, poet,
photographer and co-founder of the art movement Stuckism
lives nearby in Chatham and there is also
a growing music scene of Medway
, including Kid Harpoon
and Lupen Crook
University College for the Creative
Arts, formerly the Kent Institute of Art & Design,
can be found on the Rochester-Chatham border.
Local newspapers for Rochester include The News
published by Kent Regional News
and Media; and the Medway Messenger
, published by the
. The town also has free newspapers
in the Medway Extra
(KM Group) and yourmedway
The local radio station for Rochester is KMFM Medway
, owned by the KM Group. The area can also
receive the county wide stations BBC
Radio Kent, Heart and Gold, as well as many radio stations in
Essex and Greater London.
The main sports played in the town are cricket with many teams
playing in the Kent Cricket League, and football, with teams
competing in a Saturday league and a Sunday League. Rochester F.C.
was an old football club but has been defunct for many decades.
Nearby Gillingham F.C.
are seen to
represent the Medway area in football. Rugby is also played, Medway
RFC play their matches at Priestfields. Local team Old
Williamsonians also play nearby, and are connected to Sir Joseph
Williamson's Mathematical School.
Speedway was staged a track in City Way. This opened in 1932.
Proposals for a revival in the early 1970s did not materialise and
the Rochester Bombers became the Romford
- English Heritage Rochester Castle
- The Place names of Kent. Judith Glover.1976 Batsford. 1982
Meresborough Books. ISBN 0905270 614
- Rochester, The evolution of the City. Ronald Marsh. 1974
p&p Medway Borough Council.
- Kelly's Directory of Rochester 1951.
- Rochester, The past 2000 years, Published Privately City
of Rochester Society 1999.
- *The Dutch Raid, published by the City of Rochester Society
- *Discovering Traction Engines, - Harold Bonnett - Shire
Publications (1975) - ISBN 0-85263-318-1
- BBC News 2002/05/02
- BBC News 2008/07/17
- C Humpherey-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish
- *City of Rochester upon Medway Visitors Guide 1996.
- War Game, The