If you’ve seen one of the new City of Rochester Society Membership Application forms, you may well have been intrigued by the pictures illustrating our 10 Great Reasons for joining the Society. Each of these numbers is located somewhere in the historic centre of Rochester, some easy to find, some not so obvious. Here’s a breakdown of their locations;
1) Share in our passion for the heritage of Rochester and the surrounding Medway Towns.
A relatively easy one to start with, our number one is from No. 1 The Esplanade. Sandwiched between one of Rochester’s oldest drinking houses, the Crown Public House (albeit a rebuilt version dating from the 1860’s) and the Georgian elegance of the Castle Club, No. 1 The Esplanade houses the healthcare practice of Doctors Hubbard and Redman.
2) Learn more about Rochester
Slightly off the beaten track, this should none-the-less be fairly straightforward to identify for those interested in the theatrical history of Rochester. This number comes from Minor Canon Row, an outstanding example of 18th Century domestic architecture built 1722-23. No 2 Minor Canon Row was the childhood home of the actress Dame Sybil Thorndike from 1886 to 1892. Minor Canon Row has recently been the subject of a comprehensive restoration project by the Spitalfields Trust and with its great views of the Cathedral, is one of the most desirable addresses in Rochester.
3) Participate in the community
A number you’ve walked passed a hundred times and never taken a second look at. No.3 College Yard is one of those buildings that has truly witnessed the history of Rochester. Dating from the 16th Century with many modifications over the years, No.3 is situated adjacent to Chertsey’s gate (also known as Cemetery Gate, College Gate and to Dickens lovers, Jasper’s Gate House) and houses the Precinct Pantry.
4) Explore the neighbourhood
Another easy one albeit upside-down from the way you’d usually view it, our No. 4 comes from the Corn Exchange Clock. The present circular clock dates from 1771, replacing the original square shaped dial. The Corn Exchange clock and ‘re-fronting’ was a gift to the City from Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell in 1706. The current clock was not loved by Dickens who described it in the “Uncommercial Traveller”- “There was a public clock – which I had supposed to be the finest clock in the world: whereas it now turned out to be as inexpressive, moon-faced, and weak a clock as ever I saw”.
5) Help to conserve our past
Back to the Esplanade for No. 5. The Bridge Chapel was originally erected in 1397 by Sir John de Cobham and was designed principally for travellers. This chapel was called Alle-solven or All Souls and it appears to have fallen into disrepair during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st when it ceased to be a place of worship. The chapel and Bridge Chamber were restored in 1937 and are owned by the Rochester Bridge Trust who open them to the public on Heritage Weekends.
6) Protect the future of Rochester
Probably the smallest of all our numbers, No. 6 is from the City of Rochester Society plaque on the wall of Restoration House in Crow Lane. No other explanation is required than a picture of the plaque.
7) Extend your knowledge
A tough one to find as the weather is gradually doing its worst and eroding the soft sandstone. Just south of the main doors of Rochester Cathedral is a gravestone commemorating the memory of John Dunbar Dorrett, who died on 21st October 1837, and that of his wife Rebecca and sister Fanny. Perhaps Charles Dickens, wandering past, seeking inspiration, converted their surname into that of Little Dorrit?
8) Help us to lobby
Walking west along the High Street passing the Corn Exchange clock on your right and then Cloudesley Shovell House on your left, you’ll soon come upon one of the largest and best stocked Oxfam shops in the country. If you can draw your eyes away from their window display and look above the shop sign, you’ll see a pair of carved stone lintels. The one to the right states “Here Lived Joe Specks. Uncommercial Traveller”. And the one to the left gives you the source of our No. 8.
9) Meet like-minded souls
Our number 9’s literally lie under your feet all over Rochester, indeed all over Medway and probably the country. This particular No. 9 comes from the pavement just outside the Francis Iles art shop in Rochester High Street. It’s from a cast iron water main cover. This particular cover says “C&D WW 1938” – Chatham & District Waterworks 1938.
10) Celebrate everything that is great about Rochester
Rochester’s very own Number 10. But it’s not Mr Cameron hiding behind this black door. Instead you’ll find the warm welcome afforded by Gordon & Jean Bradshaw, the landlord and lady of the Coopers Arms. The Coopers is one of Kent’s oldest pubs, dating from the 12th Century. More importantly, they serve a cracking range of real ales.