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The following is taken from The Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM AND SETTING

Eastgate House and its garden lie towards the eastern end of Rochester High Street, 0.5km south-east of Rochester castle, in a dense urban area mainly defined by Georgian and Victorian buildings with some earlier, mainly C17, buildings. The river Medway forms a boundary to the city to the east and to the north.The approximately 0.3ha garden is bordered to the south-west by wrought-iron railings, the south-west elevation of Eastgate House and the south-west elevation of the Foord annexe building, together with a link building, all immediately adjacent to the High Street. To the north-west it is bordered by the north-west elevation of the Foord annexe building, an approximately 2.5m brick wall and the panelled, brick-faced, south-east elevation of a casino. To the north-east it is bordered by an approximately 2.5m brick wall enclosing it from the adjacent Corporation Street (A2) which incorporates two shelters on its street face. The south-east boundary is formed by the north-west elevation of Medway Community Hub, a brick wall, and a 2m high beech hedge adjacent to the north-west elevation of a neighbouring, Victorian, property.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Eastgate House garden may be approached from either High Street or Corporation Street, the entrance from High Street being the main one. This comprises early C19 wrought-iron double gates set into the boundary wrought-iron railings (listed grade II); the uprights have palmette heads and cast-iron newels with pineapple finials (English Heritage listing). The second entrance, from Corporation Street, is formed by an opening in the brick wall flanked by 4m-high brick piers. The entrances are connected by a straight 70m path forming a public right of way for pedestrians.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Eastgate House (listed grade I) is a substantial C16 Elizabethan town house, built in a series of stages from the late C16 to the end of the C17, possibly on an earlier medieval site. It has an asymmetrical form and is mainly built of brick, with some rubble ragstone, and Kent tile roofs. The jettied south-west side elevation and rear wings are brick and timber-framed. Unusual features include an exterior brick stair turret which would have provided a vantage point towards the river and the ships moored on it (English Heritage listing and Griffiths).

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

There are four main areas of the garden: the first and second occupy the south-eastern third of the site and form both an ornamental setting for the pedestrian path and front gardens for the house and the Community Hub building; the third and fourth form an enclosed garden and lie to the north and north-east.

The first area (0.07ha), which forms the front garden to Eastgate House, lies to the south-west immediately inside the High Street entrance. The pedestrian path, here some 5m wide and laid to York-stone edged with terracotta tiles, runs in a north-easterly direction for 17m and is terminated by two approximately 1m high, black-painted bollards set into the path and flanked on each side by decorative, arched brick walls. The walls form part of the late C19 to early C20 restorations and are around 2.5m long and some 1m high, each with seven arches. They are supported by 1.5m high brick piers, with concrete spheres placed above, and extend on the north side to the south-east elevation of Eastgate House, and on the south side to the north-west elevation of an adjacent Victorian property. To the north of the path, flanking the terracotta-paved entrance to Eastgate House, lie two ornamental, stone-edged, raised beds, some 7x2.5m. To the south of the path, an ornamental bed bordered by a 2m high beech hedge extends for 17m from the High Street entrance.

The second area (0.09ha) lies to the immediate north-east of the Eastgate House front garden and forms the front gardens to the Community Hub building and to Dawber's caretaker's cottage. The approximately 5m wide pedestrian path, here with tarmac surfacing, continues through the centre of the garden for 53m to the12Corporation Street entrance. To the south of the path, immediately in front of the north-west elevation of the Community Hub, lie four areas of rectangular-shaped lawn edged by a low (0.28m) stone wall with stone coping; the lawns are intersected by paths leading to the main and side entrances to the Community Hub. To the north of the path, opposite the Community Hub, lies a small car park and to the west of the car park two further areas of lawn, edged with a low stone wall, flank the front entrance to the caretaker's cottage. The brick-built cottage, which faces south-east, is two storeys high and two bays wide, with three-light, iron-framed leaded casements. The central door is six-panelled, with a rectangular four-paned fan light. Above the entrance, an oval plaque is displayed with the City arms. During the late 1920s, the front garden to the cottage was laid with ornamental plants and shrubs (Medway images). Within this second area of the garden, little of the early C20 ornamental planting survives apart from two specimen copper beech trees, around 100 years old, situated to the east and west of the garden.

The third area (0.07ha), forming the garden originally designed by Dawber but significantly altered in the mid-1980s to the present layout, lies immediately to the north-east of the house. It is approached from the south-east via an approximately 1m tarmac path lined with Sarsen stones (relics from the museum), and double wrought-iron gates set into palmette-head wrought-iron railings, listed grade II. The garden is laid out formally and defined by raised beds, box parterres, lavender hedges, fish ponds and York-stone paving.

Immediately inside the entrance to the garden, a York-stone path is flanked by two areas of rough ground, formerly lawns, 63 metres square, on which stand two former museum exhibits: a section of a medieval road and a well-pump, formerly owned by Charles Dickens.

Beyond the former lawns, to the north-west of the entrance, lies an area paved with some 500 square metres of York stone surrounding two T-shaped ponds planted with water lilies and water iris. The ponds, connected by a water channel beneath a stone bridge, form the focal point of the garden. They replaced Dawber's original sunken octagonal pond. The first pond, to the north-east, is 54m square and is surrounded on three sides by a stone wall, around 45cm high and varying in width, containing lavender beds. Open post and rail fencing forms a barrier on the fourth side. Two rectangular box parterres containing box topiary, lavender and pelargoniums flank this pond; the first to the south-east is 2.5m wide and 6m long and the second to the north-west 3.5m wide and 6m long.

The second pond, around 34m square, lies to the south-west of the first, and is similarly surrounded on three sides by a stone wall containing lavender beds, with open post and rail fencing forming the fourth side to the north-east. The walls to the north-west and south-east are also some 0.45m high: the wall immediately to the south-west is approximately 0.83m high and forms a retaining wall to a terrace above. The terrace may be approached on either side of the wall (to the north and the south) via two sets of four stone steps flanked by plain iron railings which ascend to a platform of York-stone paving on which the Dickens chalet (listed grade I) stands. The chalet is timber-framed, two storeys high, and has an overhanging roof with decorative barge boarding supported by shaped brackets (English Heritage listing).

Immediately to the front of the north-east elevation of the chalet, wrought-iron railings with palmette heads form a barrier across the terrace. These railings replace the white-painted picket fence erected during the 1960s. To the south-west of the chalet stands the link building to the Foord annexe; both buildings form the south-west boundary of the garden.

To the north-west of the ponds, the garden boundary is formed by Dawber's approximately 2.5m-high brick wall built 'in Flemish garden-wall bond, with steep brick ridges above a dentilled course' (Griffiths). In the centre of the wall and approached by three ascending York stone steps, an open-fronted garden house stands on a York-stone platform. It has a 'hipped tiled roof with dentilled cornice, supported by round stone columns with simple moulded bases and capitals' (Griffiths). The platform with its garden house and two approximately 2.5m-wide flanking shrub borders survive from the alteration in the 1980s of Dawber's original, much wider (some 7.5m) upper terrace. The borders are planted with a variety of trees and shrubs including magnolia, viburnum and berberis; a specimen copper beech, around 100 years old, stands in the north-east corner. The borders are retained by a 30cm-high stone wall (probably erected during the 1980s) and a narrow strip of open ground lies immediately to the south-east of the stone wall.

The north-east boundary of the garden is formed by a further surviving section of Dawber's approximately 2.5m-high, Flemish-bond brick wall, with identical brick decoration to the north-west wall, including steep brick ridges laid above a dentilled course. To the far south-east, an oak door set into the arched wall provides an entrance to the fourth garden area beyond. Set into the centre of the wall stands Dawber's surviving open-fronted shelter, with a hipped, tiled roof. Between the oak door and the shelter, the wall is clothed in wisteria. To the far north-west of the wall a secondary, open, arched entrance also leads into the garden beyond. This entrance did not form part of Dawber's 1920s design but was created during the 1983 alterations and it appears that some bricks were removed from the 1920s wall to form the arch above.

This entrance gives access to the fourth area of the garden to the north-east of the house. Informal and sloping, its 0.11ha are mainly laid to lawn with surrounding and intersecting 3m-wide York-stone paths, some specimen trees and ornamental planting. The approximately 40m-long boundary wall to the north-west is formed by the south-east, panelled-brick external wall of a Victorian building now (2013) used as a casino. Along the base of the wall is a 1m-wide ornamental border mainly planted with geranium and specimen trees including magnolia and Garya eliptica. The north-east boundary is formed by aa approximately 35m-long brick wall adjacent to Corporation Street along the base of which is a densely-planted shrub border, some 2m wide, including more Garya eliptica, hypericum and mahonia. Built into the centre of the wall and facing into Corporation Street stand two brick-built shelters around 3m apart, the backs of which project into the garden. Each shelter has a hipped, tiled roof, echoing the design of Dawber's 1920s shelter in the formal garden. Between the shelters a wooden bench stands on a raised stone platform.

The south-east boundary is formed by the public lavatory building (now, 2013, closed) and the north-west elevation of Dawber's garden cottage, between which are wrought-iron railings with palmette heads; identical railings lie between the lavatory building and the Corporation Street boundary wall into which a locked wrought-iron gate is set, providing views into the garden beyond. Densely-planted herbaceous borders, including romnya, perovskia, lavender and geraniums, enclosed by box hedging, surround the public lavatory building; a York-stone path leads to a passageway which forms a tunnel through the centre of the building with wrought-iron gates at each end, allowing a further glimpse of the garden beyond. The single-storey lavatory building is constructed in red brick with a tiled roof; the projecting brickwork and dentilled cornicing, once again reflecting Dawber's work at the Foord annexe and the cottage.

The south-west boundary is formed by Dawber's brick wall supported by buttresses. A narrow ornamental border runs the length of the wall. Dawber's garden shed, as shown on his plans, no longer survives, but its imprint remains visible in the brick discolouration.

Detailed history updated 23/01/2015  

REFERENCES

Books and articles

E. Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume IV (1797-1801)

Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume 6, page 55: Quotation from England's Farewell to Christian IV, by H. Roberts (a contemporary account) in the article, Visits to Rochester and Chatham made by royal, noble, and distinguished personages, English and foreign, from the year 1300 to 1783 by William Brenchley Rye

E. Harris, Recollections of Rochester, no.10, printed in the Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham Observer, May 1932

H.C Hughes, Surrey Houses by Mr Guy Dawber, in The Works of E Guy Dawber, The Architects' Journal: Volume 64 July-December 1926 p.803

Special issue, Work of Edward Guy Dawber, The Architect, 1925 part 2, July - December

A. R. Fox , An Appreciation (of Guy Dawber), The Builder, April 29th 1938

Times Obituary, Sir Guy Dawber, 25th April 1938

Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), November 1937 to October 1938, Vole XLV, third series; Tribute to Guy Dawber and lists of works, 9th May 1938 p.633

J. D. Crawshaw, The History of Chatham Dockyard, Isabel Garford, Newcastle-upon Tyne, 1999 (Volumes 1 and 2)15

R.Austin, M.Jagger, S Sweetinburgh, J Wilson, Eastgate House High Street Rochester Kent: a conservation statement March 2004, revised with additional figures June 2004, Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2004

M.S. Briggs, Dawber, Sir (Edward) Guy (1861-1938), revised K. Bagshaw, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

P. Salter, The City of Rochester Society: The Newsletter, August 2005, p.13.

R. Griffiths Architects Eastgate House, Rochester - Architects' Report for Stage 1 HLF bid, August 2010

Eastgate House Draft Conservation Management Plan - 2012, Medway Council

Maps

Rochester, John Speed, 1608-12 (private collection)

A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, F. Baker, 1772 (MALSC)

A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, R. Sale, 1816 (MALSC)

Tithe Map and apportionment, 1841 (MALSC)

City of Rochester, 25" OS map, 1866

Ordnance Survey map: 25" to 1 mile:

1st edition (1862-75)

2nd edition (1897-1900)

3rd edition (1907-1923)

4th edition (1929- 1952)

Illustrations

Couchman Collection (MALSC ref. DE402/5, images: 23L, 24L, 25, 26L, 27, 28u, 29, 32L, 32r, 33L, 34r, 35L, 36u, 38L, 49, 50u, 51, 52, 53)

Medway images, (MALSC)

Site survey photographs (August and September 2013)

Archival items

Will of Sir Peter Bucke, 1625 (National Archives)

Assignment of mortgage (relating to Eastgate House) to attend the inheritance parties, Mary Parker of Maidstone, Robert Parker, Richard Thompson of16Rochester, and the Reverend Charles Whitehead of Ash, near Ridley, 25th March 1775 (MALSC ref. RCA/T1/176/01)

Abstract of title of the surviving trustee of the will and codicils of the late William Clements, 1904 (with references to earlier indenture of 1829) (MALSC ref.RCA/T3/06/03)

Rochester Technical Institute - maps, plans and drawings, 1904/5 and 1907 (MALSC ref. MP/B/14/01 and 04)

Rochester Corporation, Library and Museum Committee minutes 1911-1926 (MALSC ref. RCA/A2/10/2 pages 248, 251, 253, 256, 261, 266 and 272)

Manuscript notebook of Edwin Harris entitled Anecdotes of Rochester Book III November 8th 1910, essay on Eastgate House (MALSC ref. Accessions DE series DE0517)

Historic Buildings in Rochester and Area - papers comprising MS notes and drawings by Canon S. W. Wheatley c 1925-35, specifically the note on the title deeds of Eastgate House (MALSC ref. DE053/01/119/37-49)

‘Eastgate House, Rochester - New Museum Extension, Foord Bequest, New Garden'. Eastgate House, new garden and cottage, plans, sections and elevations, Architect E. Guy Dawber, 1922 (MALSC ref. MP/B/04/10)

Plan of house and gardens by architect Guy Dawber, dated (incorrectly) 1924 (MALSC ref. MP/B/04/01)

Letter from Guy Dawber to Rev. S. W. Wheatley at Rochester City Council, 17th April 1928 (MALSC ref. 0751/100/DE0921)

Architects' drawings of Eastgate House, including plan of house and garden by L.S Middleton, RIBA testimony of study final drawings (1933-4). Pen and ink drawing of Eastgate House by Hanslip Fletcher, 1929 (MALSC ref.EI/LEI/LIM/GM/01/83)

Medway Borough Council Recreation and Tourism Committee - minutes of the site meeting held on 4th October 1982 (MALSC ref. CT/ENG/219)

Medway Borough Council, Technical Department files (MALSC ref.CT/ENG/219) 

 

The following description is taken from earlier research, which is now out of date. It has been retained for historic interest:

This elaborate example of late Tudor brick architecture now houses the Dickens Centre which is open to the public. The entrance gates once stood in front of the Guildhall.

The garden to the rear was remade in 1983, the major feature being Dickens' chalet which was brought from Gad's Hill Place after his death. Its image is reflected in the two formal pools in the paved garden below, which is brightened by beds of seasonal planting. Through a gate in the north wall is an informal garden with a pergola walk and arbour.

Owner: Medway Council

Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent

Principal building:

house

This is an elaborate example of late-Tudor brick architecture.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Grade I

External web site link: http://www.ukattraction.com/south-east-england/eastgate-house.htm

External web site link: http://www.visitmedway.org/places-of-interest/eastgate-house

External web site link: http://www.kentgardenstrust.org.uk/what_we_do/research/projects/Medway/Eastgate%20House.pdf