The Paddock, Chatham 2543

Rochester, England

Brief Description

The Paddock is a public park located in the centre of Chatham opposite the Town Hall. This Edwardian park is a typical example of Chatham Corporation’s early C20 civic activity in creating public open space. Features include a central path, a mature tree avenue and ornamental flower beds.

History

Built on an area of marshland reclaimed in the C16, the site was initially cleared as a defensive ‘field of fire’ but, following the end of the Napoleonic wars, it was no longer needed and was planted with trees, becoming a green space in the centre of the town. A coloured postcard of c.1905 (MALSC) shows the Paddock with sheep grazing under mature trees, some of which appear unhealthy. Postcards, postmarked 1910 and 1919 (MALCS), show that extensive work had been carried out and the name had been changed from the Shrubbery to the Paddock.

Visitor Facilities

This is a municipal site for general public use.

Detailed Description

The Paddock occupies a prime urban site opposite the Town Hall in the centre of Chatham. The land formerly belonged to the War Department.

Although designed for convivial relaxation with seats shaded by trees, and decorative planting in beds on the lawns, the constant traffic movement around the site reduces its appeal. Its true value is environmental, as a foil to the urban landscape, bringing scenic diversity to the city centre.

The great anchor commemorates the presence of the Royal Navy and the Royal Dockyard in Chatham from 1547-1984.

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

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE

This Edwardian park is a typical example of Chatham Corporation's early C20 civic activity in creating public open space. Built on an area of marshland reclaimed in the C16, the site was initially cleared as a defensive ‘field of fire' but, following the end of the Napoleonic wars, it was no longer needed and was planted with trees, becoming a green space in the centre of the town. Because of this continuous use, the site has significant archaeological potential specifically as a source of pre C18 and C19 evidence.

The Paddock survives as an important and highly valued open space for the people of Chatham. Together with the Riverside Gardens, Town Hall Gardens and the slope of Fort Amherst, the Paddock forms a significant landmark feature along the historic approach road past the former Town Hall and St Mary's Church to the Historic Dockyards which are important as a tourist attraction.

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

The Paddock lies on the east side of Globe Lane immediately south of its junction with The Brook (A 231), close to the civic centre of Chatham and 300m south of the parish church of St Mary which, with the Historic dockyard, is visible through its trees. The 0.4 hectare site is roughly lozenge-shaped and approximately 130m by 30m.

Rising immediately to its north the wooded slopes crowned by Fort Amherst form the northward extension of the long chalk escarpment of the North Downs which lie to the south of Chatham. On these heights, sheltering Chatham to the east and south, other defensive structures- the Great Lines, Fort Pitt and Fort Clarence - were also built in C18 for the protection of the town and the dockyard, the last, with the River Medway, forming the setting of the Paddock to the west and north-west.

The Paddock is bordered to the north-east by the Brook on which stands the former Town Hall, now an arts centre and theatre. Its eastern side is bounded by the Military Road (over which loom the 12 storey 1970s Mountbatten House and the Pentagon retail centre) closed off at its northern end by bollards and at the its southern end by a pair of wrought iron gates bearing the arms of the Corporation of Chatham and the date 1993, marking the refurbishment of the streets in the area.

To the west the Paddock is bounded by Globe Lane and the C21 bus station beyond which are Riverside Gardens and the White House (c.1819, formerly the deputy storekeeper's house and now part of the bus station). Further still to the west, it is possible to get occasional glimpses of the River Medway and, from the southern end of the site, Rochester Cathedral and Castle. The southern boundary is abutted by an open tarmacked area (30m by 30m) with three maturing trees (oak, horse chestnut and lime) and an early C19 building immediately beyond.

Although the Paddock is level, the surrounding roads decline slightly southwards, effectively raising it about one metre at the southern end. It is therefore contained by a brick retaining wall (0.3-1m) which inclines inwards to prevent erosion, except on the northern side where the grass is carried up to the road.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

There are three entrances to the Paddock: one at the northeast corner at the junction of the Brook and Military Road, up a flight of seven steps protected by brick walls with cast iron handrails. From the bottom of the steps an alternative second path sloping to the north, bordered by a low shrub border and a brick wall, allows wheelchair access from the same point. Nothing remains of the earlier entrance created at the northern end of the park in 1910-19.

A second entrance on the western side, from the bus station, comprises a gently upward-sloping paved path with 1m brick walls retaining the grassed banks on either side. A network of paved paths links these two entrances with a central north-south path which roughly follows the serpentine path shown in the postcards of 1910 and 1919. This path arrives at the southernmost point of the site where it meets the third, level, entrance onto the Military Road.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

Entering the Paddock from the northern end, it is possible to view the whole site. The central path leads approximately south for 130m. On either side mature trees, set in mown grass, form an avenue; wrought iron and wooden benches are placed at intervals along the central path, together with litter bins. The east side of the avenue comprises all horse chestnut, one of which has a girth of 3.40m and another of 3.20m, making a total of eight; to the west are seven rather younger trees, perhaps planted in the 1960s when the buildings were pulled down and the ground restored. The larger trees appear considerably older and may be survivors from the C19 when the site was known as Shrubbery.

Other mature trees include a yew, a whitebeam, a maple and an ornamental cherry. The most recent planting is of three Ginkgo biloba along the northern border and a further three along the western side, perhaps dating from the street refurbishment of 1993. A C21 beech hedge is planted on the bank along the south and west perimeter of the site beside the bus station.

Three ornamental flower beds in the central area of the park provide some seasonal colour while at the southern end of the Paddock is a large ship's anchor set on granite paving, a gift to the City of Rochester upon Medway by the Royal Navy commemorating their presence and that of the Royal Dockyard in Chatham 1547-1984.

REFERENCES

Books, articles

Cull, F. Chatham Dockyard; Early Leases and Conveyances for its Building during the C16 and 17C (Arch. Cant., vol. 73, 1959), pp 75-95.

Payne, G. Roman Discoveries (Arch. Cant., vol. 23, 1909), p2-3

Kendal, P. The Evolution of The Paddock, Chatham, Medway, Kent (English Heritage, 2007, unpublished).

Crawshaw, J.D. History of Chatham Dockyard (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1999)

MacDougall, P. Chatham Past (Phillimore, 1999)

MacDougall, P. A Century of Chatham (W H Smith 2002)

MacDougall, P. Chatham Through Time (2011).

Joyce, B. Chatham and the Medway Towns, History and Celebration (Salisbury, The Francis Frith Collection, 2005).

Reports

Dynamic Bus Facility, Chatham, Medway, Kent Cultural Heritage Statement (Wessex Archaeology, March 2009).

Dynamic Bus Facility, Chatham, Medway, Kent Archaeological Impact Assessment (Wessex Archaeology, June 2009).

Medway Messenger, 1st June 2009.

Maps

Cull, F. Chatham dockyard; Early Leases and Conveyances for its Building during the C16 and C17 (Arch. Cant., vol. 73, 1959), pp 78, 82

Chatham 1781-1783, Walker, A.B. (MALSC).

Mudge, An Entirely New and Accurate Survey of the County of Kent (1801)

Tithe map for Chatham, 1842. IR30 30/17/80 (The National Archives)

Ordnance Survey 1st edn. 25" map (1864). Sheet 19/7.

Ordnance Survey 2nd edn. 25" map (1897-1900)

Ordnance Survey 3rd edn. 25" map (1907-23)

Ordnance Survey 4th edn. 25" map (1929-52)

Illustrations

Buck, S and N Chatham Dockyard. The West Prospect, 1735

Postcards from the EH Couchman Collection (MALSC) MSS/DE0402 14/32, 14/33 and 17/18

Aerial Photograph, Town Hall and Riverside, 1973, Aerofilms 73/145 (English Heritage)

Aerial Photograph, the Paddock, 2012. KCC Heritage Conservation Group.

Aerial photograph, Fort Amherst, www.chathamworldheritagesite.org.uk

Globe Lane c.1905 MacDougall P. A Century of Chatham, p21

Research by Hugh Vaux

Virginia Hinze (editor)

6th October 2014

Detailed description added 09/09/2015

Features
  • Artefact
  • Description: The great anchor commemorates the presence of the Royal Navy and the Royal Dockyard in Chatham from 1547-1984.
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

This is a municipal site for general public use.
History

Detailed History

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

CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Because the Paddock is built on reclaimed land, it is necessary to consider the many changes which have taken place around the site since Tudor times in order to understand how it has come to be there. Watling Street, a Roman road, runs roughly west to east across the south of the parish of Chatham and, from a common point two miles east of Rochester, two roads had developed by the C16. The first, which came to be known as the Brook (the present A231), ran directly north to the River Medway where the parish church of Chatham, St Mary's, and the town mill lay, while the other ran more westerly to form the present High Street. The c800m long triangle of marshy land created by these two diverging roads provided, after draining in the C18, the site for the centre of the town.

To the north of this marsh, between the church and the river lay a strip of land on which the Tudor dockyard was laid out 1547-67 (Cull), initially repairing and then building ships; the marshy area was probably used for storing masts. The yard became important because of its proximity to London and it was here, in 1588, that the fleet of Lord Howard of Effingham was fitted out before meeting the Spanish Armada. Because of its increasing importance and size, the dockyard was moved northwards to its present position in 1618-22 (Hasted) and the old dock became Gun Wharf, used for the storage of ordnance. By 1633 (probably by 1588) a land wall had been built across the marsh southwards from the dockyard to Chatham High Street (Kendal) which was maintained at a cost to the government (Hasted). This provided a barrier against the river as well as forming a tidal millpond and allowing the construction of a roadway (the present Globe Lane) for easier access to the dockyard from Rochester and London. The land on either side of the wall was gradually reclaimed between 1715-45 (Crawshaw), that to the south providing land for a major new part of the town and that to the north (the site of the mill pond) became New Gun Wharf to be used by the army ordnance.

Following the disastrous attack on the Medway in 1667, fortifications were increased to protect the dockyard. Much of the surrounding land was purchased by the Ordnance Board in 1708 (Cull) and from 1758, a series of palisades and entrenchments were constructed around the whole dockyard, eventually surrounding the parish church of St Mary (Hasted). These changes are clearly shown in the Mudge map of 1801 and it is apparent that by this time considerable building had taken place either side of the land wall both on New Gun Wharf and in Chatham town. The fortifications were further enlarged from 1805-12 with the building of Fort Amherst on the hills to the north immediately overlooking the town and the dockyard to the west (Crawshaw).

At the same time a new road, the Military Road, was built along the land wall parallel to Globe Lane to connect the dockyard and Fort Amherst to the recently built Fort Pitt on the south side of the town. It was on the land between the two roads that the Paddock was laid out c.1805 and initially used as a storage area for timber but by the mid C19 (tithe map, 1842) it is depicted as an open space with well-established ornamental trees of several different species, both conifer and deciduous (poplars being identifiable), which suggests an element of intended design.

The tithe map also shows the fortifications and the two principal entrances to the dockyard which consist of drawbridges over the town ditch, lying immediately to the north of the Paddock (known then as the Shrubbery) together with a similar but smaller area (40m x 30m, no. 1951 on tithe map) immediately north of the Brook. These two, together with a further adjacent site north-east of the Paddock, ‘the old burial ground' (in 1905 to become the Town Hall Gardens) came to form a screen between town and dockyard, its purpose, initially, being to allow an open area for field of fire should the forts be attacked but, later, to provide green spaces for the townsfolk.

Ownership of the Paddock remained with the Ordnance Board who let the land for grazing. During the next 50 years the only change was to its surroundings with the building of two schools, one immediately to the north of the Paddock on the site of previous fortifications and the other, a National School, on the smaller area of landscaped land (tithe map no. 1951), leaving an open area between this and the Paddock (OS maps 1864 and 1897). The town of Chatham became incorporated in 1890 and it was here that the Town Hall was built in 1898-1900, a building (designed by GE Best of Rochester) dominating the Paddock. The new council needed green spaces within the town for recreational areas and, as a result, the Paddock, the old burial ground and Victoria Gardens came to be acquired in the last decade of C19.

A coloured postcard of c.1905 (MALSC) shows the Paddock with sheep grazing under mature trees, some of which appear unhealthy, the Town Hall in the background and surrounded by roads with trams. Another photograph of the same period, from its northern end, shows the trees of the western side the Paddock along Globe Lane and the wall of Gun Wharf (c.4m high) while to the east were shops and houses. Postcards, postmarked 1910 and 1919 (MALCS), show that extensive work had been carried out and the name had been changed from the Shrubbery to the Paddock. Many of the older, apparently unhealthy, trees had been cut down, the fence replaced by (c.1m) iron railings set on a low stone wall and an entrance with gates hung on pillars built in front of the Town Hall. Shrubs and new trees are shown planted in beds along the eastern border of the Paddock while down the centre ran a serpentine path bordered with flower beds.

During the Second World War the Paddock was used as a car park and by 1955 a public lavatory and restaurant had been built on the site (OS map 3rd edition). An aerial photo (1973) shows a line of buildings erected between the trees and occupying most of the site though the site's boundary remains intact.

Other changes took place in 1955: New Gun Wharf and the foreshore, which lay between the Paddock and the river, were sold to Chatham Council and subsequently opened up by the removal of most of the buildings, creating the Riverside Gardens (qv) along the riverbank northwards to the parish church. At the same time the Paddock was restored to a grassed area with ornamental flower beds and a mix of surviving mature trees, mainly horse chestnut. Major changes also took place to the east of the Paddock with the demolition of shops and houses along the Military Road to allow the construction during the 1970s of the Pentagon, the large shopping centre which with Mountbatten House, a large office block, dominates the outlook in this direction.

2011 saw the building of the new bus station (Dynamic Bus Facility) in Globe Lane and on part of Riverside Gardens (former New Gun Wharf) along the western side of the Paddock, thus obscuring its view to the river and to Rochester Cathedral and Castle. Initially planned to occupy part of the Paddock, the finished bus station was moved a little to the west on land within the Riverside Gardens site.

Detailed history added 09/09/2015

Period

  • Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust

  • Hugh Vaux

  • Virginia Hinze