The Guildhall Museum was built in 1687 and is one of, if not, the finest 17th century civic buildings in Kent. The main staircase and principal chamber have magnificently decorated plaster ceilings, given in 1695 by Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell who was a Member of Parliament for the city of Rochester at the time. His portrait can be found in the main chamber, along with those of other notable MPs for the city.
Outside, mounted on the cupola on the roof, is a superb gilded weather-vane in the form of a fully rigged 18th century warship; it is made of gilded copper and lead alloy and has weathered the ever changing climates since 1780.
The building now houses a museum of Medway’s history, where visitors follow a time line through the areas history aided by visual displays and sound effects. The centrepiece of which is a three-tier gallery recreating a prison hulk of the Napoleonic period, illustrating the terrible conditions in which prisoners were kept. There are also superb collections of Victoriania on view to the public in the adjoining Conservancy Wing, together with galleries dedicated to the life of Charles Dickens. Items owned by the world famous author are displayed and a short audio-visual presentation tells the story of his intimate relationship with the Medway Towns.
Closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day.
At the Guildhall Museum you can look at what people made and used so many years ago. Reach back into the past with the help of evidence - from the huge Roman potteries by the river: from the busy farms scattered through the countryside: and from the important Roman town of Durobrivae itself. Look out for: the very latest in Roman technology for the home, 38 emperors, a duck you can wear, and a Roman sandal - for a horse! An excellent and varied selection of paintings and prints of the area may be seen throughout the museum.
Archaeology, Maritime, Social History
Key artists and exhibits
- Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958) - a collection of his paintings, many relating to his family.
- Benjamin Seaton (1775-1834) - his tool chest and contents, one of the most complete surviving examples of an 18th century cabinet maker's kit.
- Magnificent Civic regalia dating from the 17th century representing Rochester, Chatham and Strood.