Home   Medway   News   Article

Couple launch ambitious plans for old minesweeper at Gillingham Pier

A former Royal Navy ship is being transformed in to a coffee house with a twist.

Minesweeper HMS Tongham arrived at Gillingham Pier at the end of July and will be permanently moored next to the Medway Queen.

Owners Chris Beer and Janet Fischer, who live near Medway Bridge Marina, will be using their talents to restore the vessel.

The former HMS Tongham, a Royal Navy minesweeper, has been bought by Chris Beer and Janet Fischer
The former HMS Tongham, a Royal Navy minesweeper, has been bought by Chris Beer and Janet Fischer

Ms Fischer, 35, said: “We both love the water and thought it would make a really interesting space that we could restore and continue to grow over time.

“It’ll a bit of naval history for people to enjoy too. It’s a bit quirky and niche and something you are more likely to find in London with the vegan menus and high quality coffee.”

The coffee house will offer high quality coffee, snacks and a vegan menu.

They will also create a yoga room and three music teaching studios, offering tuition in singing and a wide range of musical instruments.

Ms Fischer is a professional opera singer and has always wanted to have a teaching space.

Chris and Janet on the bridge
Chris and Janet on the bridge

Her partner, Chris Beer, trained as a marine engineer on a similar ship to the HMS Tongham.

Chris spent many years sailing the high seas before returning to the UK and settling in Borstal in 2011.

He has recently worked for homelessness and arts charities and has spent much of the last three summers in East Greenland, skippering open boats up the world’s longest fjord.

Ms Fischer’s expertise is in the musical side of the venture, having appeared for two years in the West End musical The Phantom of The Opera.

The officers quarters, including original woodwork and bunks
The officers quarters, including original woodwork and bunks

She is the managing director of Fulham Opera and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music before singing a number of leading roles.

Both have experience in running businesses. Mr Beer has previously owned a whale watching company and Ms Fischer has a Master of Business Administration degree.

She said: “HMS Tongham is such an amazing, character-filled vessel and we are excited to share her with people who can come aboard to study music, get fit, enjoy her historic charms and eat delicious locally sourced, fresh, healthy food.

It's hoped to open the ship to the public next year
It's hoped to open the ship to the public next year

“Our predominantly vegan-based menu will showcase the best of local ingredients but will still allow non-vegans to upgrade, or downgrade, depending on your perspective.”

The ship will soon have to travel to Felixstowe for a hole repair.

The coffee house will be open for business in summer 2018 and music lessons will begin that autumn.


More by this author


This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More