For centuries the people of Kent maintained a bridge across the River Medway at Rochester. The earliest surviving written evidence assigned responsibility for maintaining the bridge, originally built by the Romans, to 54 parishes, manors, and estates surrounding Rochester.
By letters patent of Richard II these contributory parishes were formed into a commonalty in 1399 and were charged to elect two Wardens to oversee the maintenance and repair of a new bridge, which had replaced the Roman structure by 1392. From 1576 householders from the commonalty assembled each year at Rochester Castle to elect two Wardens, twelve Assistants, and four auditors. This system continued to work for over three centuries, until the Rochester Bridge Act 1908 abolished the annual election and provided for the nomination of the Wardens and Assistants by local councils and the river authorities.
Since 1999, a new Charity Commission scheme has provided for twelve Wardens and Assistants, with a thirteenth added in 2023: three nominated by Medway Council, two by Kent County Council, one by Maidstone Borough Council, and seven Assistants appointed by the Trust from the community. All perform the role voluntarily and are unpaid. The thirteen nominated and appointed Assistants then elect two of their number to serve as Junior Warden and Senior Warden.
Becoming an Assistant
The nominating Councils select individuals to serve on the Trust and they are not required to be current elected councillors.
When a vacancy arises for an Assistant Warden to be appointed by the Trust, the vacancy is advertised on this website, through social media and more widely. Interviews of shortlisted candidates take place prior to a formal election ballot by the Court.
Currently, the following people serve as Wardens and Assistants:
Phil Filmer is an Associate Member of the Institution of British Engineers and company director of Filmer Contracting Limited, a building and civil engineering firm that has carried out specialist works to docks, bridges, and motorways throughout the Southeast, including the Dover docks and the M2 Motorway bridge across the Medway.
He served on Rochester upon Medway City Council from 1991 to 1994 and was elected to Medway Council in May 2000. Appointed to the cabinet in 2003, he holds the portfolio for frontline services with responsibility for highways, waste collection, recycling, and public transport.
He was nominated by Medway Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2011. He was elected Junior Warden from May 2017 to May 2021, and Senior Warden from May 2021 to May 2023. He is a member of the Bridge Committee and the Property Committee.
Ray Harris was born in Strood and has lived there all his life. A graduate of Cambridge University, he worked for the Department for Transport within Operations in Rail and is a committed member of the voluntary sector.
A keen student of military and naval history, he has actively supported the cause of Adult Education through the Workers Educational Association at national and regional level, including a five-year period as WEA South East District Chairman. He was a long-serving school governor, including a period as Chair of Governors at Chatham Grammar School for Boys. His other interests include travel as well as watching county and test cricket.
He served on Rochester upon Medway City Council from 1991 to 1998, including periods as Chairman of the Development Services Committee and Chairman of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link / M2 Widening Committee.
Ray was nominated by Medway Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2013 and currently is a member of the Bridge Committee and the Resources Committee.
Alan Jarrett was elected to Medway Council in 1997, becoming Leader of the Council in 2015 until he stepped down in 2023.
He was nominated by Medway Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2005, and he served as Junior Warden from 2013 to 2015 and as Senior Warden from 2015 to 2017. He is currently a member of the Property Committee.
Away from work and politics, his hobbies centre around country sports. He is an active member of the Kent Wildfowling and Conservation Association and closely involved with its Wild Spaces Fund charity. A published author, he has written 13 books and more than 1,300 articles for Country Sports magazine.
Born and brought up in Kent, Matthew Balfour is a retired Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He spent his working life dealing with a variety of areas of the property market including farms, sporting estates and commercial property.
Matthew was a member of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council for 24 years and of Kent County Council for eight years, serving as the Cabinet Member for Highways and the Environment and as a member of numerous committees. He was a member of the management committee of both the Kent Downs and High Weald Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a member of the Kent Nature Partnership.
Nominated by Kent County Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2021, he is a member of the Education, Grants and Archives Committee. Matthew is a trustee of a number of charitable trusts and a governor of a Special Needs School. In his spare time, he enjoys gardens, the countryside, country sports and, most of all, spending time with his family, particularly his grandchildren.
Sarah Hohler was born in Kent and has lived on the family farm near Wrotham for the past 40 years. After reading PPE at Oxford, she worked abroad in a variety of roles. These included teaching in Ghana, being the Assistant European Sales Manager at Pergamon Press and working for the British Council in Hong Kong, New York and Brussels.
Sarah has represented Malling North at Kent County Council since 1989, and she is now Deputy Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services. She is a member of the Kent and Medway Fire Authority and serves as a trustee of Kent Music, Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in Margate and the Kent Community Foundation.
She was nominated by Kent County Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2015 and currently serves on the Property Committee. Sarah is also a substitute on the Education, Grants and Archives Committee.
As well as four daughters and nine grandchildren, Sarah, who loves reading and gardening, has a cat which looks like a magpie, called Maggie.
Derek Butler was born in Lewisham and moved to the Medway Towns in 1973 and then to Maidstone in 1984. During his career Derek worked for The National Coal Board in the Medical Services and the Treasurers Department and then for The Court Service at The City of London Magistrates Court and finally at Bromley Magistrates Court until his retirement in 2014.
A former Maidstone Borough Councillor and Mayor, he represented Boxley Ward and served on many Overview and Scrutiny Committees and as Chairman of the Audit Committee.
Derek was nominated by Maidstone Borough Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2015. He was elected Junior Warden from May 2021 to May 2023, and Senior Warden in May 2023. He is a keen long distance walker.
Russell Cooper is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and has been running his own practice since 1988. His areas of expertise are construction costs, contracts, and construction dispute resolution.
In 2007 the Rochester Bridge Trust appointed him a trustee from the community following a public advertisement and interviews with a number of applicants. He served as Junior Warden from June 2015 to May 2017 and as Senior Warden from June 2017 to May 2021. He was elected as Junior Warden in May 2023.
A motoring and classic car enthusiast, outside of work Russell also enjoys being in his garden and taking his dog, Teddy, for long walks.
John Farmer is a Chartered Engineer and a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Although now semi-retired, his whole career has been at Kent County Council, working on major highway and development projects. For more than 20 years he was Head of Capital Projects and responsible for the delivery of many schemes across the county, including sections of the Thanet Way; Medway Towns Northern Relief Road; and the Bluewater access roads.
In the late 1980s, John was seconded to the Trust for several years, when he led the delivery of the Medway Tunnel as part of the regeneration of Chatham Dockyard, following its closure. After a 30-year gap, he became a member of the Court of Wardens and Assistants in 2023, and is a member of the Bridge Committee.
His interests include his family, Victorian engineering, and general history.
Lars Lemonius has more than 20 years’ experience in investment banking and financial services. He is a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley’s global principal investments arm and was a founding partner of a specialist financial brokerage firm. He retired early to pursue other interests, including cabinet making and study with the Open University. He is also a keen amateur cyclist and has participated in numerous cross-country races both in the UK and abroad.
In 2018 the Rochester Bridge Trust appointed him a trustee from the community following a public advertisement and interviews with a number of applicants. He is currently a member of the Bridge Committee and the Resources Committee.
Lars lives in a property that was the first marital home of renowned gardener Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson. Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the house’s garden, and its upkeep is a large part of family life.
Dr Anne Logan has lived in the Maidstone area since 1985 and, since her recent retirement, is an Emeritus Reader in social history at the University of Kent, where she researches the history of criminal justice and the history of early 20th century Kent.
A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Historical Society, she is interested in music, ballet and dance, and enjoys taking part in choral singing.
She was nominated by Kent County Council to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 1997 and in 1999 became one of the first appointed trustees from the community. Anne served as Junior Warden from 2007 to 2009 and Senior Warden from 2009 to 2011. She is a member of the Education, Grants and Archives Committee and a substitute on both the Bridge Committee and the Resources Committee.
With many years’ experience as a chemistry teacher and senior leader, including as a Deputy Head, Dr Helen Pascoe is currently Head of Chemistry at Badminton School, Bristol.
She is passionate about enabling young people to understand the role that STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects have on their everyday lives and
has a particular interest in inspiring young women into STEM-based careers. She has also studied the method and practice of teaching. This experience is why she joined the Trust in 2023, in a newly-created role on the Court of Wardens and Assistants that is designed to support the education programme – Helen is a member of the Education, Grants and Archives Committee.
Away from work, Helen enjoys spending time with her family, particularly enjoying the outdoors and learning about local history. She also always aspires to learn new things, and recently developed an interest in particle physics, following a trip to CERN.
Until his retirement Russell Race was a stockbroker with Hoare Govett. He is now Chairman of the trustees of the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Charitable Trust and holds a number of other trustee appointments.
In 2004, the Rochester Bridge Trust appointed him a trustee from the community. He served as Junior Warden from 2009 to 2011 and as Senior Warden from 2011 to 2015. He is currently a member of the Resources Committee and is a nominated Wardens’ Substitute.
Aside from his charitable work, Russell’s interests include classical music – in all its many forms – as well as reading, especially historical subjects and criminology.
Richard Thornby is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and before retiring was the Estate Manager for Medway Ports (now Peel Ports Medway) between 1994 and 2014, having spent the previous 20 years working for Kent County Council and Essex County Council.
A keen gardener, he is kept even fitter by taking his working Cocker Spaniel, Ruby, on long walks. Richard also enjoys listening to music and reading.
He was nominated by Medway Ports to the Rochester Bridge Trust in 1997 until the constitution of the Trust was amended in 1999 and he became one of the first appointed trustees from the community. He served as Junior Warden from 2003 to 2005 and as Senior Warden from 2005 to 2007. He is currently a member of the Property Committee.