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Chatham Dockyard and its Defences

Date of Submission: 27/01/2012
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
State, Province or Region:
Kent, England
Coordinates: N51 39 47 E0 53 40
Ref.: 5670

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Chatham lies on the Medway in Kent, to the south side of the Thames estuary. In the mid-17th century, it was the Royal Navy's main fleet base, and heightened fear of invasion (following the 1667 Dutch Raid) led to significant investment in fortified land defences. Fort Amherst and the Chatham Lines - a major network of ditches, tunnels, underground stores, barracks, and gun emplacements - were begun in 1756.

From the mid 18th century, fleet anchorage moved westwards down the English Channel, and Chatham took on new significance as a centre for shipbuilding and repair. This led to a vast array of new dockyard facilities, and a resultant increase in facilities for the rapidly-increasing military and civilian workforces (at Brompton Barracks and Brompton Village), as well as the refortification of the Chatham Lines.

The proposed World Heritage Site includes:
• the River Medway (the determining factor for the location of the Dockyard)
• Chatham Historic Dockyard (including dry docks; covered slips; facilities for the manufacture and processing of rope, timber, sails, lead, paint, iron and steel; storage; administrative and residential areas)
• Brompton Barracks (home to the Royal Engineers)
• Brompton Village (founded to serve the needs of the naval, army and civilian personnel)
• Fort Amherst and the Chatham Lines (the continuous permanent artillery fortifications and associated Field of Fire)
• Kitchener Barracks (on the site of the 1757 Infantry Barracks used for recruitment of soldiers for overseas service and for those defending the Chatham Lines)
• Old Gun Wharf (the major ordnance depot)
• Upnor Castle, Barracks and Ordnance Depot (central to the storage of gunpowder for the navy and army).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Chatham Dockyard bears exceptional testimony to the array of shipbuilding and repair facilities which were the result of massive investment in the Royal Navy and to the rapid evolution in technology, architecture and working practices made possible by this investment. Chatham Dockyard and its Defences is an outstanding example of a complete industrial military complex from the heyday of the age of sail (1700 - 1820) and the early period of the age of steam (1820- 1865).

In its early days, dockyards such as Chatham were the largest industrial centres in the world. Today the range of buildings and structures collectively exhibit a superlative survival. It is this completeness of both function and survival which makes the site exceptional as an unrivalled demonstration of the interchange of ideas on industrial, naval and military technology and architecture. Chatham is exceptional testimony both to the long history of investment by European nations in naval power to dominate global trade and shape international geopolitics, and also to the significant stage of history in which superiority at sea was transformed into territorial and commercial advantage.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the site is conveyed by the planning and structures of the dockyard and its associated features. The dockyard buildings, such as the ropery and the covered slips, the ordnance facilities, the fortifications and barrack accommodation for the soldiers all demonstrate the industrial-scale investment, sustained technological innovation and development of defensive techniques, necessary to support a major naval and colonial power.

Criteria met :

(ii) The site exhibits an important interchange of ideas and human values relating to industrial, naval and military technology and architecture at a time when naval power was crucial to the rise to global power of European nations including Britain.

(iv) Chatham Dockyard and its Defences bears exceptional testimony to the significant stage in human history which saw maritime nations transforming strength at sea into territorial and commercial advantage. The comprehensive range and quality of the facilities and structures, and their exceptional survival very clearly demonstrate the facilities needed by a major power in pursuit of home defence and international expansion.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The Site includes within its boundary all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value. Its completeness is represented by the range of buildings, structures and features closely associated with the Royal Naval Dockyard, and its defences and military infrastructure at Chatham during its period of greatest significance. It includes a complete range of shipbuilding and repair and military facilities, and contains the range of buildings and structures that demonstrate the significant scale and technological innovation of the facilities at Chatham, and that testify to the interchange of ideas between naval powers.

The ensemble of buildings, structures and features and the spatial planning and layout of the Site have survived virtually intact and are in remarkably good condition, and there are effective conservation management processes in place to maintain the condition of all attributes that reflect Outstanding Universal Value. The physical fabric of the property has largely not suffered from adverse effects of development or neglect, and change is controlled through statutory protection and enhanced management measures.

Authenticity: the following attributes truthfully and credibly express the Site's Outstanding Universal Value:
(1) The Site exhibits in terms of survival and completeness, the world's best preserved example of a Dockyard and its Defences from the defined period.

(2) The completeness of Site components explains the scale and complexity of the operational and defence requirements of a major dockyard and its associated defences and barracks in the defined period including the multi-phase Dockyard with examples of each of the principal building types needed to construct, equip and repair a major navy; the Chatham Lines as the artillery fortifications created in three main phases for the defence of the Dockyard; the barracks required to house the troops needed to defend the Dockyard, and to act as recruiting and invaliding centres for troops on overseas service; ordnance facilities for both sea and land service; and the civilian settlements that grew up to service government establishments.

(3) A series of important inter-relationships between Site components explain the scale and complexity of the operational and defence requirements of a major defended Dockyard of the defined period.

(4) The Site is a showcase for architectural. technological and engineering innovation.

(5) The Site's geographical location and topographic qualities explain Chatham's rise to significance as a major defended dockyard of the age of sail.

Comparison with other similar properties

There are a number of other dockyard sites on the World Heritage List, but all are significantly different with very different OUV, by reason of date, scale, or character of site. Chatham would be the only naval dockyard, with its defences, of a major naval power in the 18th and 19th centuries. Only France and Spain are able to demonstrate the same cultural tradition of naval operations on a global scale, and Rochefort and Ferrol are represnted on their country's Tentative List for this reason. However, the French and Spanish dockyards today do not have as complete a range and scale of largely intact dockyard buildings, engineering facilities, defences and barracks that can compare with Chatham in illustrating a complete industrial military complex from the defined period, nor a comparable overall survival of historic fabric.

The World Heritage sites of Suomenlinna, and Karlskrona, , Venice and St Petersburg all contain naval dockyards but none are of the scale of Chatham from this period and none belonged to such a major naval power. Dockyards such as Cartagena (Columbia), and Old Havana did belong to a major naval power (Spain) but are more comparable to similar colonial dockyards such as Bermuda than to a major home base such as Chatham.