Category Archives: Medway, Swale and the Kent coast

Medway, Swale and the Kent coast

Sheerness Dockyard Church wins lottery funding

Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust (SDPT) officials have won a £4.75m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to rescue and re-purpose the Grade II* listed former Dockyard Church at Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey. (Photos © Matthew Andrews)

To be specific, the trust has received a round 1 pass from HLF for a heritage enterprise grant, which unlocks £500,000 of development funding, with a further £4.2m becoming available on the successful completion of the development phase. Over the coming months the Trust will be appointing a professional team and embarking on
£200,000 of urgent works (joint-funded by Historic England and Heritage Lottery Fund) to secure the fabric of the building.

The aim is to repurpose the Dockyard Church to include a new enterprise centre (including facilities and support for young people starting businesses) and a permanent display space for one of the great wonders of British naval history, a vast model of Sheerness Dockyard created in the early 19th century and measuring 40ft square when fully assembled.

SDPT chair William Palin said the grant represented a great moment for the Dockyard Church. ‘This is a building which just a few years ago appeared to be on the brink of collapse, with no future and no hope, standing as a melancholy reminder of the changing fortunes of this once proud naval Dockyard and community. Now it will become the focus of major investment to restore its dignity and give it a new future at the heart of the life in the region. At the end of the project, its monumental classical portico will once
again give entry to a building bustling with life.’

Bird of Dawning is relaunched, after 80 years

Bird of Dawning is one of the delights of sailing on the Swale – a pleasing and elegant example of the kind of yacht East Coast smack builders would sometimes build when not building vessels for fishing, shrimping or oystering. She lives just off in Oare Creek, just off Faversham Creek, and is a regular on the water.

Julian Mannering wrote this week to say she has been relaunched after some major work, and included a photo from this week’s relaunch together with a shot from her original launch at Paglesham, in July 1937. Here’s what he had to say:

‘Julian and Amanda Mannering’s Bird of Dawning was relaunched at Hollowshore, off the Swale, on Monday 24 April after extensive repairs and refitting.

Bird of Dawning was originally launched 80 years ago this year from the yard of Frank Shuttlewood at Paglesham on the river Roach and was built on the lines, above the waterline anyway, of a Paglesham smack.

‘Time inevitably takes its toll and considerable work had to be carried out this winter on her decks, covering boards, stem and stern to bring her back to strength. Tie bars were fitted under the side decks and some 500 bronze screws employed to refasten her original Siberian larch decks which were then recaulked with oakum and payed with a locally-made pitch. Finally, a new iroko capping rail was fitted and a little sheer added astern.

‘The work was carried out in the black shed at Hollowshore by Dan Tester, owner of Hollowshore Services, and Nick Relf who between them did a brilliant job finding solutions for tricky problem wherever they were encountered. They truly breathed new life into an old ship.

‘She looks like a new vessel now and is fit and ready for many more years sailing.

‘Once back in commission Julian and Amanda plan for some East Coast cruising, including a short cruise up the Medway in July to show a group of military historians the route of de Ruyter’s attack on Chatham 350 years ago. The Swale Match is in the diary for 29 July and then it’s hoped to have a summer cruise to the near continent.’

For the Old Gaffer’s Association’s list of vessels built by Shuttlewood, click here. There’s a recent photo of Shuttlewood’s shed here, and some scraps of history here and here.

The Dutch are coming…

The Medway folks are celebrating the Battle of the Medway with various events climaxing in fireworks at Upnor Castle on the 17th June.

It looks great if you can do it on foot, though my plan to sail there to watch the fireworks has been shot away, as it seems great flotillas of Dutch yachties have booked all the nearby berths that can be found! Duh!

Over that weekend and the one before there’s quite a lot going on besides the fireworks, including living history events at Upnor Castle, Dutch and British warships, a a fun fair, food and drink stalls and a river pageant sail past the Dockyard and Upnor Castle. There’s also live music, walkabout entertainments and clog dancing performances will run throughout the evening. Check the leaflet for details!