Rochester, Kent

A history of Rochester

Ancient remains have been found in the area around Rochester. The town has been occupied by Celts, Romans, Jutes and/or Saxons. In the Celtic era it was one of the two administrative centres of the Cantiaci tribe. During the Roman invasion of Britain a crucial battle was fought at the Medway close to Rochester. The first bridge was then constructed early in the Roman period.

Later Roman era

During the later Roman era the area was walled in stone. King Ethelbert of Kent set up a legal system which has been maintained in the 12th century Textus Roffensis. In AD 604 the bishopric and cathedral were founded. During this era, from the recall of the legions until the Norman Invasion in 1066, Rochester was sacked about twice and besieged on a separate occasion.

The medieval era saw the construction of the current cathedral, the building of two castles and the founding of a significant town. The simple street plan was formed, constrained by the river, Watling street, the castle and the priory.

Rochester has given us two martyrs: St John Fisher, who was executed by Henry VIII because he refused to condone the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and Nicholas Ridley, executed by, Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary I as an English Reformation martyr.

Rochester was raided by people from the Netherlands as part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch, under the command of de Ruijter, broke through the chain at Upnor and sailed to Rochester Bridge capturing and firing the English.

Local boroughs

The ancient city of Rochester in the heart of Kent combined with the borough of Chatham and part of the Strood Rural District in 1974 to form the Borough of Medway. It was later redubbed Rochester-upon-Medway, and the city status transferred to the whole borough.

In 1998 another merger with the other Medway Towns created the Medway unitary authority. The outgoing council neglected to elect ceremonial "Charter Trustees" to continue to represent the Rochester city, causing Rochester to forgo its city status.

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Rochester Castle

Strategically placed on the London Road, protecting an important crossing of the Medway river, this powerful looking fortress has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. Today it stands as a strong reminder of the history of Rochester together with the cathedral and cobbled steets.

The Norman tower-keep of Kentish ragstone was constructed about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the assistance of King Henry I. Built of three floors above a basement, it stands high at a towering 113 feet. Attached is a tall protruding forebuilding, with its own set of fortifications to pass through before the keep itself could be accessed at first-floor level.

In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, Rochester castle survived an epic siege by King John. Having first undermined the outer wall, John used the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine under the keep, bringing its southern corner crashing down. But even after this ingenious attack the defenders held on, until they were starved out after resisting for two whole months.

Reconstructed under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century.

Upnor Castle

Set in tranquil grounds adjoining a riverside village, this rare example of an Elizabethan artillery fort was started in 1559 and redeveloped in 1599-1601, to save warships moored at Chatham dockyards. In spite of a valiant attempt, it entirely failed to do so in 1667 when the Dutch sailed past it to burn or capture the English fleet at anchor.



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