As part of the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project, all the drainage underneath Rochester Esplanade has had to be replaced, and if you’ve got to dig an area up you might as well improve it when you put it all back together.
Which is why you’ll have noticed some changes to this area. The granite wall next to the benched area of the Esplanade has been removed and the stone set aside for reuse elsewhere, allowing the area to be opened up and transformed into a more welcoming place.
A series of nine granite benches has been commissioned, seven for this area and two more a little further along the Esplanade, that will be appearing later. The area has also been re-paved with natural Yorkstone, a high-quality, durable natural stone from a British quarry, that blends in with the old paving materials. Combined with some low-maintenance planting, the area is designed to be an open, relaxed space where people feel happy to sit and contemplate the view.
They are deliberately installed to match the gradient of the Esplanade. This nicely follows the flow of the land and works well from a comfort and safety point of view: if we were to make the benches exactly horizontal it would require us to step the area around each bench because otherwise when sitting on the slope one of your feet would be on the ground, the other swinging freely. Following the gradient allows people to sit comfortably with both their feet reaching the ground at the same point. It also means there are no trip hazards and no nooks and crannies for litter to gather.
This means less time thinking about sitting, and more time thinking while enjoying the view.
There has been a bridge at Rochester for almost 2,000 years, and the benches themselves have been designed to inspire thoughts of that long history. Seven benches include information about a different bridge, highlighting the changing nature of the area’s river crossings, from the Roman bridge, to its medieval replacement, to the modernised medieval bridge, Victorian, Old, Service and finally the New Bridge. The two remaining benches focus on the Bridge Chamber and Chapel, and the coat of arms of the Rochester Bridge Trust.
The benches include simple engravings of the shape of the bridges, the name of the engineer responsible (where known), and a sample of the principal material used to build each structure. There are also relevant quotes for you to ponder.
This combination of information and elements is designed to help visitors visualise the bridges that have been such an important part of connecting Rochester and Strood – and beyond as the crossing sits on the Roman route of Watling Street.
We hope you will enjoy sitting on the benches, contemplating the view and learning a little something from the rich history of Rochester Bridge.