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Bridge Trust opens its doors for Heritage Open Days

The Rochester Bridge Trust will open its doors to the public for two days this September.

For Heritage Open Days weekend, the Trust will be granting free access to the 14th century bridge chapel and Victorian bridge chamber, offering a rare opportunity for visitors to tour the historic buildings that are the Trust’s working offices.

The Heritage Open Days exhibition in the Bridge Chapel will feature the recently purchased engraving by William Wyllie called ‘Heave Away’, Barges upward bound, shooting Rochester Bridge. Related display panels will illustrate the life and career of marine painter William Wyllie (1851-1931) and the once thriving river traffic carried on by the Medway barges.

On loan from the Rochester Guildhall Museum, some of the trophies and medals awarded in the sailing barge races held in former times and a scale model of a Medway barge will complete the exhibition.

In the bridge chamber documents illustrating the fortunes of Rochester Bridge during the Napoleonic Wars, including an engraving of the Peace Coach galloping over Rochester Bridge in 1815, will also be on display.

Children are welcome. Child-friendly bridge building tasks and activity sheets will be available.

Bridge Clerk Sue Threader said: “While we are an historic organisation our priority is to provide a crossing fit for today’s traffic, which is why employees of Hyder, our bridge engineers, will be among the staff greeting visitors. They will also be joined by some of the young engineers the Trust has supported.

“This will give members of the public the opportunity to learn more about the modern day demands of maintaining a bridge in the context of its historic setting.”

The Bridge Chamber and Bridge Chapel at 5 Esplanade, Rochester, will be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, 12-13 September. Admission is free.


Crossing the Medway from medieval times to the modern day:

1. The Rochester Bridge Trust was founded in 1399 and is the only surviving independent bridge trust that still serves its original purpose. The Trust owns and maintains the road and service bridges over the Medway at Rochester and has contributed to the cost of many other Medway crossings over the centuries. It makes charitable grants and supports other charitable and educational projects in Kent.

2. The Trust’s income derives from 14th- and 15th-century endowments, and assets are carefully managed to provide funds for bridge maintenance and future replacement as well as charitable activities. It provides its services entirely free to the public. The Trust receives no external funding and is regulated by the Charity Commission.

Supporting Engineering Education:

1. Langdon the Lion is a friendly character who guides children through the Trust’s free Key Stage 2-level education packs.

2. Comprising 12 lesson plans for educators, the books and associated website encourage youngsters to get involved with bridge building, trying out different techniques and thinking about the engineering challenges involved.

3. Langdon was chosen as a mascot because of the lion statues on Rochester Old Bridge, while his name was taken from Langdon Manor Farm, one of the original properties bequeathed to the Trust.

For more information:

The Rochester Bridge Trust
5 Esplanade
Kent ME1 1QE
Tel: 01634 846706

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