UPDATE: The Bridge Chapel and Chamber, which were due to open for Heritage Open Days and the launch of the new exhibition, will now remain closed for the period of mourning. For information click here.
A medieval charity is opening its doors to the public for the first time since the pandemic, having completed a comprehensive refurbishment of its heritage buildings.
Rochester Bridge Trust, which owns one of the few surviving Bridge Chapels in the country, will be opening its doors free of charge for Heritage Open Days 2022.
The Bridge Chapel on Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1393, at the end of the then newly-constructed medieval Rochester Bridge, where it offered a place for travellers to stop and pray for safe passage. In 1879 it was joined by the Victorian Bridge Chamber, which was the administrative heart of the Trust for more than a century and continues to be used for formal meetings of the Court of Wardens and Assistants.
Alison Cable, Archives and Records Manager at the Trust, said: “The Chapel and Chamber have always been remarkable buildings to visit, and we are really looking forward to opening them up in their newly refurbished state.
“Last time we opened the Chapel and Chamber for Heritage Open Days we were amazed by how popular our buildings were, with visitors queuing along Rochester Esplanade for an opportunity to see inside. This year, to enable people to have more time to view the refurbished buildings and complementary exhibition, the Saturday opening on the 10th September will be the start of a much longer exhibition period.”
As well as the opportunity to explore the two heritage buildings, visitors will be able to view an exhibition, Uncovering the Past: Archaeological findings at Rochester Bridge. This will help to tell the story of many centuries of history in this area of the River Medway.
The refurbishment of the Bridge Chapel and Chamber included measures to ensure accessibility for all, with step-free access to all levels. Heritage Open Days and the exhibition are also free to enter, with no booking required.
Alison added: “An important part of the recent refurbishment works involved the transformation of the buildings in terms of accessibility. Many of the changes will be unnoticeable as they have been conscientiously installed at minimum impact to the heritage while maximising accessibility. The important thing is these changes mean it is now easier for us to welcome the public into the heart of the Rochester Bridge Trust.”
The Heritage Open Days event begins on Saturday, 10 September, from 11am until 4pm. The buildings and exhibition will then be open at the same times on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until the end of November 2022, with the exception of Thursday, 6 October; the first week of November; and Thursday, 17 November. In 2023 the exhibition will re-open on Wednesday, 1 February, running until Thursday, 30 March. For additional changes to opening, check the Forthcoming Events page.