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Eastgate House in Rochester opens to public after revamp

By Jess Sharp

Historic Eastgate House is fully open to the public for the first time in more than 30 years after a £2.1m revamp.

The Elizabethan building in the centre of Rochester is famous for references in Charles Dickens’ novels, such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

It has been the focus of a two-year long conservation project.

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Eastgate House is now open to the public
Eastgate House is now open to the public

Built in 1590 it was originally the home of Sir Peter Buck a senior officer at the Royal Tudor Dockyard.

It was also a Victorian boarding school for girls governed by Rebecca Norton.

The restoration discovered many artefacts including a small folded note beneath the floorboards which is thought to be an exchange between two students.

There was also a farthing dated 1923, a toothbrush made of bone and a window with messages etched into the glass.

With the house being filled with dainty details, there is even a room dedicated to looking at the ceiling.

Visitors can enjoy The Mystery of Edwin Drood exhibition, a school room and will even be able to watch a team uncover paintings from walls of the building as they go around.

Members of the Friends of Eastgate House have worked tirelessly in aid of the project.

The work was funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant given to Medway Council.

The gardens behind Eastgate House
The gardens behind Eastgate House

Now, as of today, the centre is open for visitors to explore and discover more about Rochester’s history.

The restoration was carried out by Buxton Building Contractors Limited on behalf of the council.

Some of the work included repairs to the roof, windows and flooring as well as the reinstatement of a staircase that was removed more than a century ago.

Buxton director Pauline Warnes said: “As main contractors we are proud to have been part of the team working on the sensitive restoration of such a prestigious historic building.

“Eastgate House is a landmark building and we hope the community and other visitor groups from far and wide will now be able to enjoy its unique story and rich history.”

The building has been brought into the 21st century slightly, with additions such as a heating system, new lighting and a lift to the upper floors.

Recreated food in the Grand reception room
Recreated food in the Grand reception room

Medway’s portfolio holder for community services, Cllr Howard Doe, said: “It’s very exciting to be fully opening the beautiful Eastgate House to members of the public again.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved with the building and hope many visitors will enjoy visiting and learning about the house.

“Eastgate House is just one of the many assets which links Medway to Charles Dickens, and we think it’s important to conserve the area’s rich heritage for future generations to enjoy.

“I’d like to thank Buxton for their expert work on such a delicate restoration, and thanks also needs to go to the National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund, who have made the project possible.”

The restoration experienced some delays in the process after the original contractors pulled out.

Cllr Doe added: “It was always going to be a difficult project but now we have even better quality from Buxton which is even better.”

  • The house will be open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Ticket cost £5.50 for an adult, £4 for concessions, under 5s are free, and a family ticket is £15.

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