Kent architecture

Restoration work on Rochester’s ‘architectural gem’, Chatham House, is underway

A historic Rochester landmark is currently being renovated to restore the Grade II* listed Georgian mansion.

Chatham House is on the corner of Hulkes Lane and, thanks to government funding, is currently undergoing a transformation.

In 2020, Medway Council received £1.6 million in government funding to revitalize a substantial part of Chatham and Rochester.

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The chosen area is between Star Hill and Sun Pier Conservation Area as part of Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme.

At the forefront of this redevelopment is the historic landmark, Chatham House, which will see £200,000 used to completely restore the building’s facade as the first step in restoring the site to its former glory and bringing the building back into use.

The building dates back as far as the 18th century; it was originally built as a mansion for the Hulkes and Arkcoll brewing families.

The front of the iconic Rochester landmark has spent a lot of time hidden behind fences over the years

It was later acquired by Featherstones Ltd who have occupied the building since the 1930s where it housed all furniture, carpets and hardware as part of the local family owned department store chain.

Medway Council is now working closely with Historic England and Featherstones Ltd on the project.

Work has now begun to restore the original porch and railings which were removed in 1936 to create a modern store front.

The 1930s storefront which replaced the front porch of Chatham House was removed in 2003
The 1930s storefront which replaced the front porch of Chatham House was removed in 2003

It is also the first major capital project funded by the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme, which will run until 2024.

Chief Medway Council Cllr Alan Jarrett said: ‘I am delighted that work has begun to restore the facade of Chatham House.

“Medway is steeped in history and I am pleased that we are working with Historic England to help preserve the future of one of our historic main streets.

“I can’t wait to see the progress of the work.”

Sheila Featherstone is very supportive of the project and hopes it will help rediscover the building,

She said: “Featherstones is delighted to have this opportunity to work with Medway Council and Historic England to revitalize this magnificent building.

“Four generations of the Featherstone family have been involved in the High Street, first as retailers and later as caretakers of significant historic buildings, providing work space for various small businesses.

“Despite our best intentions, we have been unable to restore them to their former glory due to financial constraints, thus Chatham House remains in its original form ready to be rediscovered and enjoyed.

Alice Brockway, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at Historic England, said: ‘Chatham House is an architectural gem in a fascinating part of Medway – the area between Sun Pier in Chatham and Star Hill in Rochester has a distinctive historic character shaped by its proximity to the river.

“The exterior repairs are the first step towards bringing this important historic building back into service, restoring the long-lost architectural features of its early days.”