Published: 14:55, 20 October 2015
It was built more than 200 years ago for dockyard workers, but now university students are set to benefit as another building at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard is given a new lease of life.
The Royal Dockyard Church has been transformed into a state-of-the-art 300-seat lecture theatre and performance space for use by the university’s students, staff and the wider community.
Internally, the space has been completely re-decorated and hand painted, with lighting and sound equipment installed. An excavation of the vestry and the undercroft has created disabled access.
Only minor modifications have been made to the outside of the church, and are in-keeping with the original materials.
The new lecture theatre will be officially opened on Thursday.
Bill Ferris, chief executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, said: “This innovative and flexible use of The Royal Dockyard Church is a great example of how to create a sustainable future for important heritage assets without destroying their character or significance.”
The year-long project is part of the on-going partnership between the University of Kent and Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, which will see the university also using part of the Sail and Colour Loft as a new base for its business school.
The university's art and music departments are already based at the dockyard.
Prof Nick Grief, Dean for the University of Kent’s Medway campus, said: “This partnership, which cements our existing relationship dating back many years will, I’m sure, continue to deliver innovative projects to maximise the full potential of other Historic Dockyard buildings for educational and community use.”
The historic building was designed by naval architect Edward Holl and built largely by the dockyard’s own workforce, it opened in 1808.
It was one of the first uses of cast iron in the dockyard, with an internal gallery supported on slender cast-iron columns, and it now has protected status as a scheduled ancient monument.
The last service in The Royal Dockyard Church took place in December 1981.