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Chatham Dockyard ready for its facelift, with Strood firm Raymond Brown Construction to start work

By Lizzie Massey

After three years of planning, a significant project to transform part of Chatham’s Historic Dockyard is due to get underway in less than four weeks.

The Command of the Oceans is an £8.75m enterprise, which will see a new visitor entrance, discovery centre and ongoing archaeological preservation.

Work is set to start on August 14, and will be carried out by local company Raymond Brown Construction, based on the Medway City Estate.

Artist's impression of the Master Navigation Mark - the starting point for various Discovery Trails

Bill Ferris, chief executive of the Historic Dockyard Trust, said: “Having worked on the planning and fundraising for this project for more than three years, it is very satisfying to be starting work according to our programme.

“There will be some inevitable disruption during the implementation phase, but we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact and are confident that the outcome will be well worth the pain.

“This really is a project that I believe Medway will be proud of and one whose legacy will endure for decades.”

The area outside of the north entrance to the site is to have a complete overhaul. What is now partly a car park will become a new visitor entrance and plaza.

Artist's impression of the new free to enter Discover Centre

A Master Navigation Mark centrepiece will map out the entire site and people will start from there on various discovery trails.

There will also be a free-to-enter Discovery Zone in the Wheelwrights’ Shop.

The visitor entrance is part of the initial works and is expected to be finished by March next year, but will not be publicly accessible until the completion and launch of the project in 2016.

Funding for the project has been given by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Homes and Communities Agency, totalling £7.5 million. The government, the Wolfson Foundation and other charities also donated.

Chatham Historic Dockyard

An objective of the Command of the Oceans project is to secure the repair and preservation of scheduled ancient monuments. Work on the discovered timbers of warship Namur is a central element of that.

Galleries, including an interactive Namur exhibition, will be created to reveal the story and significance of Chatham’s Dockyard and its defences during the age of sail.

Work will also include a discovery play area, the excavation of the Brunel Canal, undercover car parking, new pedestrian walkways and exposed archaeological features.

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