Heritage Open Days – The Old High Street Intra

Back for a second year following the brilliant response to last year’s trail.

Sun Pier House has been re-commissioned to develop and coordinate The Old High Street Intra Heritage Open Days Trail, as a ‘one-stop shop’ listings page and map to promote the sites, events and ‘hidden histories’ across Chatham Intra, as part of the national Heritage Open Days.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture. Taking place every year in September, heritage sites and organisations open their doors and offer unique free experiences to celebrate Britain’s heritage and community.

This trail across Chatham Intra is produced by Sun Pier House, in partnership with the Cultural Consortium for The Old High Street Intra, supported by Historic England and Medway Council’s ‘High Street Heritage Action Zone’ project.

The 2022 Sites and Venues

Chatham House -351 High Street

JT Featherstone’s invention of credit, the Featherstone Way led to 351 as ‘everything for the home’ department of Featherstones Ltd. Meet Squire Hulkes in his parlour and explore the history of this beautiful Brewery mansion.

JT Featherstone came to Intra in 1904 with his innovative idea which resulted in departments all along the High Street. Also known as Chatham House, this Georgian building was built as a mansion for Isaac Wildash in 1740, complete with a working brewery behind it. James Hulkes (MP for Rochester), continued the Lion brand brewing. Come and see him in his parlour. Brewing stopped in 1912 when Arkolls sold up and the complex was used for furniture storage and sale. Featherstones Ltd added a fine shop front and offered furniture and carpets in room settings from here – you may remember it?

Retailing ceased in 1983, and this beautiful building was neglected and placed on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register. Historic England and Medway Council have partnered with Featherstones Ltd to revitalise this building as part of the Intra rejuvenation and Heritage Action Zone. On the 13th of December 2021 the scaffolding was erected for Phase 1 – to renovate the front elevation. It was removed in June 2022 revealing a restored front portico. Come and learn the story of renovating this historic building and Featherstones and share ideas of what could happen next. Brewery tours may be available (no brewing).

Saturday 10th 10am-4pm

Sunday 11th 10am-4pm

Saturday 17th 10am-4pm

Sunday 18th 10am-4pm

St John’s Chatham Open Days

St John’s Chatham is a ‘Waterloo Church’ with important artefacts including war memorials and stunning stained glass. The church reopened in 2021 after a long period of closure. Heritage Tours will explain the heritage and history of this site

St John’s Chatham is one of the most prominent buildings in Chatham. We are pleased to introduce its delights to a new generation of residents and visitors and to welcome long term residents back into the building. The scale and heritage of the building is something that we want to share with the whole community particularly through the Heritage Open Days.

A church congregation is established in the building, opening the place multiple times every week and reaching out to the local population. It is a magnificent building built 200 hundred years ago. It was the first electrically lit public building in Chatham and it houses important war memorials as well as some beautiful stained glass windows. Come and visit St John’s Chatham.

Saturday 10th 10am-3pm

Tuesday 13th 2pm-5pm

Saturday 17th 10am-3pm

Hospital of Sir John Hawkins

Built on the site of Kettle Hard, a part of Bishop Gundulph’s Hospital of St Bartholomew, the almshouses today are a square of Georgian houses dating from the 1790s. They replaced Hawkins’ Tudor period buildings.

The Governors of this Elizabethan naval charity invite visitors to see the boardroom that contains artefacts relating to the history and career of Sir John Hawkins, an important English admiral in the 1580s and 1590s, and to the establishment and continuity of the charity which provides homes for needy and disabled mariners and shipwrights and for other ex-service personnel. The charity has been providing accommodation on this same High Street site to eligible service personnel and civilians since 1594. The precincts of the Almshouses occupy a corner of the former St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the delightful small garden gives a good prospect of the River Medway, making a pleasant spot in which to enjoy some refreshments.

Saturday 10th 11am-4pm

Sunday 11th 11am-4pm

Saturday 17th 11am-4pm

Sunday 18th 11am-4pm

Chatham Memorial Synagogue

Visit this unique and exceptional historic Grade II* listed site; experience the finest substantial example of a late 19th Century British Synagogue in the Romanesque style with its exceptionally richly decorated interior and unique attached cemetery

Chatham Memorial Synagogue is considered to be of exceptional significance, and is, quite literally, the only one of its kind in the world! It is exceptionally beautiful inside with its blaze of colour and distinctive stained glass windows including the renowned Holocaust Memorial Window designed by Hilary Halpern.

The finest surviving example of HH Collins’ work, the current Synagogue sits on the site of an earlier building. The cemetery predates even this earlier building with graves going back to the mid-1700s. This is the only Synagogue in the UK which has an attached cemetery, making the site even more significant.

Learn about the Jewish community in Medway, compare religions, look at “Leper’s Walk”, or just admire the beauty of this wonderful building- just don’t miss this rare opportunity to visit!

Sunday 11th 10.30am-5pm

Sunday 18th 10.30am-5pm

Chatham Unitarian Church

Chatham Unitarian Church is a Victorian rebuild of the previous chapel with high ceilings and impressive east and west windows. A small alcove and handpump can be found beside the old organ. This non-designated Heritage building is the latest (1889) evolution of a church that started life in a private home on Hamond Hill in 1650. Its history is tied in with that of the Medway Towns: the fire in 1800 necessitated rebuilding the 1703 church; the Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton was built by Joseph Seaton, a minister of this church; Dickens and his father frequented the Mitre Inn whose landlord attended the church and with whose children Dickens played; and much more…

Saturday 10th 9am-5pm

Saturday 17th 9am-5pm

St Bartholomew’s Hospital Project

Discover the incredible history of healthcare in and around the Old High Street Intra, including St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Fort Pitt Hospital and the pharmacy run by Henry Gardiner Adams. Listen to rare stories, see photos, handle objects and learn interesting facts at this pop-up exhibition by Creatabot and Future Chatham.

Saturday 10th 9am-5pm

Saturday 17th 9am-5pm

Walks & Trails

History walks have been developed for the Old High Street Intra Heritage Open Days Trail by Robert Flood, local historian, Chair of the City of Rochester Society and Vice-Chair of the Friends of Medway Archives.

WALK A – Star Hill to the Nags Head

On this walk you’ll learn about the cinema, Bourne and Hillier Dairy, circus, Mission to Seafarers, Medway Little Theatre, Bath Hard Lane and Richard Dadd.

Saturday 10th 10.30am

Sunday 11th 10.30am

Sunday 18th 10.30am

WALK B -Bath Hard Lane to St. Bart’s

On this walk you’ll learn about Chatham Central Station, Doust & William Gill Shipyard, Bethel Chapel, the Synagogue, Hulkes Brewery, Featherstones and St. Bart’s Chapel.

Saturday 10th 2.30pm

Sunday 11th 2.30pm

Sunday 18th 2.30pm

WALK C – Anchorage House to Sun Pier

On this walk you’ll learn about the Empire Theatre, Theatre Royal, the Great Fires of Chatham, Sun Pier and the river industries of Chatham Intra.


Saturday 17th 10.30am

Saturday 17th 2.30pm

Old High Street Intra Ghost Trail

Take part in the Old High Street Intra Ghost Trail to learn about the fascinating residents, influencers and workers of the area.

Pick up a map from one of the Heritage Open Day venues on the Old High Street Intra and try to find all the ghosts! Take your completed sheet to any of the participating venues to collect a special sticker!

Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th 9am-5pm

Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th 9am-5pm

What is ‘Chatham Intra’?

“Into Rochester or Chatham… Because if anybody knows to a nicety where Rochester ends and Chatham begins is more than I do!”

CHARLES DICKENS, The Seven Poor Travellers

The word ‘intra’ comes from the Latin for within. This is the area roughly bounded to the west by the railway bridge over Rochester High Street, just after the Nags Head public house, and to the east by the Chatham boundary sign outside the John Hawkins Hospital. Strictly speaking, Chatham Intra is just the area on the north side of the High Street but here we will include both sides of the road. Traditionally, people living in this area (usually river workers) paid rates to either Rochester or Chatham. Today, Chatham Intra is in Rochester.

Download this unique Heritage Trail to discover forgotten histories about Chatham Intra

Since 2020, the area was given a new name, with the adjoining High Streets from Sun Pier, Chatham to Star Hill, Rochester now referred to as The Old High Street Intra.

Festival of Chatham Reach – Saturday 17th September

As part of Heritage Open Days and The Intra Heritage Trail, The Festival of Chatham Reach revives the historic river and Pier in Chatham. The event creates a country fayre atmosphere, focusing on the heritage of the River and historic river vessels.

Find out more at Tiller and Wheel.

History films about The Old High Street Intra

A History of The Old High Street Intra

The Great Fires of Chatham

When The Circus Came to Town

This project is supported by: