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Bradshaw’s Guide


The castle, Rochester, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress

At Rochester, which has a population of 16,862 and returns two members, some projecting gable houses are to be seen in the High Street, with an old town-hall, built 1687; Sir C. Shovel’s clock-house; Watt’s alms-house for poor travellers, “not being rogues or proctors;” Henry VIII.‘s grammar school; and St. Nicholas Church, built 1421.

It is an ancient borough town in the county of Kent, having been a British town before the Roman invasion, and stands in a rich vale on the banks of the Medway, on an angle of land formed by that river. On the cast it is connected by a continued range of buildings with the town of Chatham, and on the west by the village of Strood. The three places form almost a continuous line of houses, and are often collectively called the “Three Towns.”

The Cathedral has a half-ruinous look outside, but contains some excellent Norman work, especially the west door and the nave, lately restored by Cottingham; the pinnacled tower, 186 feet high, is of later date. Total length, 306 feet, with a double transept – one 122 feet, the other 90 feet long. With the exception of the west front and the great tower, the exterior of the cathedral is destitute of ornament; its plain massive walls presenting a remarkable contrast to the highly decorated and varied appearance of its-great rival at Canterbury. There are effigies of bishops, including Gundulph, and the founder of Merton College, Oxford; service at 10½ a.m. and 3¼ p.m. on week days. Close at hand are remains of a chapter-house, cloister, &c.

The Castle of Rochester, of more remote origin than the cathedral itself, attracts the notice of the traveller by its venerable and majestic appearance – magnificent even in ruins. It stands on a rock over the river, and is 70 feet square and 102 feet high, in four stories, with turrets at the corners, like the Tower of London, of which Bishop Gundulph was also the founder. Much civility is shown to visitors. A gallery runs all round the keep, and seats are placed at intervals here and there in the different stories, to afford views of the splendid prospects that keep breaking upon the sight in all directions with increased extent and grandeur as you wind round and round to the top, whence the whole panorama is exposed to view without, interruption; admission, daily (Sundays excepted), 3d. each. The Medway, at high water, here appears a fine broad stream between green sloping banks.

An amphitheatre of hills encircles the beautiful landscape. The Medway below serpentines round the castle, and then the cathedral and the bridge, all combining to render the whole a complete picturesque panorama.

Rochester now consists principally of one long street, called High Street, which crosses it from east to west, terminating on the river a little below the new iron bridge.

In the vicinity are Upnor Castle, a fort built by Queen Elizabeth to guard the town (1½ mile); Cobham Park and Hall, (3 miles); Gad’s Hill, (2½ miles); and Blue Bell Down on the Maidstone road, a walk over which, crossing over Aylesford Bridge, and back by the banks of the river, will be found interesting and alluring, for its varied prospects.

Distances of Places from the City
To: Miles.
Bairborough 3
Bridge Wood 2
Cliffe 5
Cobham 4
Cole Harbour 5
Cowling 4
Cuxton 2
Gillingham Fort 2
Hooness Fort 4
Lower Hailing 4
Luddesdown 4
Luton 3
Mortimer Farra 3
Mulling Wood 5
New Hythe 6
Park Woods 5
Rainham Park 4
Rauscombe 1
Red Wood 4
Snodland 5

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