|Borough of Medway|
|Region:||South East England|
|Admin. HQ:||Chatham, Kent|
- Total (2008 est.)
1320 / km²
1.0% Chinese or other
|Leadership:||Leader & Cabinet|
|MPs:||Paul Clark (L)
Robert Marshall-Andrews (L)
Jonathan Shaw (L)
Medway is a conurbation and unitary authority in South East England. The Unitary Authority was formed in 1998 when the City of Rochester-upon-Medway amalgamated with Gillingham Borough Council and part of Kent County Council to form Medway Council, a unitary authority independent of Kent County Council, though still within the ceremonial county of Kent.
It was colloquially known as The Medway Towns, however the city, villages and towns at the mouth of the River Medway have gradually merged. Over half of the unitary authority area is parished and rural in nature. Because of its strategic location by the major crossing of the River Medway, it has made a wide and historically significant contribution to Kent, and to England, dating back thousands of years, as evident in the siting of Watling Street by the Romans and by the Norman Rochester Castle, Rochester Cathedral (the second oldest in Britain), and the Chatham naval dockyard and its associated defences.
The main towns involved in the conurbation are (from west to east in terms of geographical position): Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, and Rainham. Many smaller towns and villages such as Frindsbury, Brompton, Walderslade, Luton, Wigmore etc, lie within the conurbation. Outside the urban area the villages retain parish councils. Cuxton, Halling and Wouldham lie in the Medway Gap region to the south of Rochester and Strood. Hoo St Werburgh which hosts the Kingsnorth power station, Cliffe, High Halstow, Allhallows, Stoke and Grain lie on the Hoo Peninsula to the north. Frindsbury Extra including Upnor borders Strood.
Medway includes parts of the North Kent Marshes, an environmentally significant wetlands region with several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Other similar areas of conservation include Ranscombe Farm on chalk grassland and woodland between Strood and Cuxton, with rare woodland flowers and orchids.
Medway is one of the boroughs included in the Thames Gateway development scheme. It is also the home of Universities at Medway, a tri-partite collaboration of the University of Greenwich, the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University on a single campus in Chatham.
Rochester was established by the Romans, who called it Durobrivae (meaning "stronghold by the bridge"), on an Iron Age site to control the point where Watling Street (now the A2) crossed the River Medway. The first cathedral was buillt by Bishop Justus in 604 and was rebuilt under the Normans by Bishop Gundulf, who also built the castle which stands opposite the cathedral. Rochester was also an important point for people travelling the Pilgrims' Way. Pilgrims' Way stretches from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. Pilgrims' Way crossed the Medway near Cuxton. Rochester became a walled town and under later Saxon influence a mint was established here.
Rochester has many fine buildings such as the Guildhall (today a museum) built in 1687, among the finest 17th-century civic buildings in Kent; the Corn Exchange, built in 1698, originally the Butcher's Market; the small Tudor house of Watts Charity endowed by Sir Richard Watts to house "six poor travelers" for one night each; Satis House and Old Hall, both visited by Queen Elizabeth I, built in 1573. In Medway there are 82 scheduled ancient monuments, 832 Listed buildings and 22 conservation areas. Parts of the Roman city wall are still in evidence.
The Royal Navy opened a dockyard during the reign of Henry VIII; it shut in 1984. It was protected by a series of forts including Fort Amherst and the Chatham Lines, Fort Pitt and Fort Borstal. The majority of surviving buildings in the Historic Dockyard are Georgian. It was here that Britain's most famous wooden warship HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar, was built and launched in 1765. Sir Francis Drake learned his seamanship on the Medway; Sir John Hawkins founded a hospital in Chatham for seamen, and Nelson began his Navy service at Chatham at the age of 12. The river was further protected by such fortifications as Upnor Castle which, in 1667 in varying accounts says it was partly successful in thwarting the Dutch raid on the dockyard, or the commanding officer fled without firing on the Dutch.
Another warship built at Chatham that still exists is HMS Unicorn (a 46-gun "Leda" class frigate) laid down in February 1822, and launched 30 March 1824. She never saw active service and has been restored and is (as of 2005) preserved afloat in Dundee, Scotland.
There have also been other naval disasters in Medway other than the Raid on the Medway.
On 25 November 1914 the battleship HMS Bulwark was moored at buoy number 17 at Kethole Reach on the River Medway. She was taking on coal from the airship base at Kingsnorth, on the Isle of Grain when an internal explosion (most likely the result of cordite charges stored alongside a boiler room bulkhead and failure to follow guidelines on the storage of shells) ripped the ship apart. In all, the explosion killed 745 men and 51 officers. Five of the 14 men who survived died later of their wounds, and almost all of the others were seriously wounded. There are mass and individual graves in Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham for the Bulwark's dead, who were mostly drawn from the Portsmouth area. The explosion could be heard from up to 20 miles at Southend and Whitstable. In terms of loss of life it remains the second worst explosion in British history.
Less than six months later there was a second explosion. This time it was the Princess Irene. She was a 1,500-passenger liner built at Dumbarton in 1914 for Canadian Pacific. Before she could leave Britain she was commandeered for war service and became HMS Princess Irene, and was used as a minelayer. After several trips she was back in the Medway for a refit when on the morning of 27 May 1915 another huge internal explosion tore through the vessel, shaking the ground for miles around and showering the surrounding villages with remains of bodies and debris. There was a great mushroom cloud from which the ship disintegrated. 278 died, including 78 workers from nearby towns and villages. In one Sheerness street there were ten who died. Once again sabotage was suspected, but it would seem that the mine charges were unstable and awaiting replacement.
For a complete history of the dockyard, including its closure in 1984, see Chatham Dockyard
The Royal Marines also have a long association with Chatham. The Chatham Division was based in Chatham until the closure of the Dockyard. A small museum dedicated to the Royal Marines can be found at the dockyard.
Medway is expected to grow to have a population of 278,000 by 2020. Central government has worked with Medway Council and private enterprise to regenerate Medway with a total investment of over £1 billion over a 20 year period. Some of the projects include:
The Medway Waterfront Renaissance Strategy is a 20-year plan for the redevelopment of up to seven miles (11 km) of waterfront along the River Medway. This project will create 6,000 to 8,000 homes and 8,500 jobs. There are five main areas designated for development:
Gillingham will get another 150 parking spaces, as well as a new town square within a new shopping area, a new cultural and leisure venue, improved connections and use of the Great Lines and Black Lion open spaces, plus improved pedestrian facilities.
In Rochester, a 74-acre (30-hectare) brownfield site between the river and the railway line is being developed with high-quality high-density housing. Up to 50 homes per hectare will be built. There has been little to no provision for the subsequent increase in demand for local public services which will be required by the approximately 1000 new residences which are expected to house over 2000 people. The site has accommodated a wide variety of industrial, commercial and maritime activities since the beginning of the 19th century but has become largely disused in recent years.
Chatham town centre is the main commercial centre of Medway but has notorious traffic problems and much of the transport system will be redeveloped. In the early autumn of 2006 the "one way" system was turned into a two way system. In early 2009 the Sir John Hawkins flyover was demolished. The council believes that this will open up Chatham Waterfront, an area long marked for redevelopment though there is debate as to the new road system actually harming some businesses in Chatham. Chatham Waterfront is the area between Rochester railway station and Chatham Dockyard — numerous residential and commercial developments are planned in this run down area including two 20 story residential towers designed by architect Ken Yeang.
Redevelopment including new homes and a landscaped play area were completed in the 1990s but now there are plans to extend this further along the river past Strood railway station. Another 500 to 600 homes will be built, and the waterfront will be developed with new recreational and leisure facilities (although there has been little to no provision for the subsequent increase in demand for medical, police, or educational services), improved open public space, better access to the railway station, the town centre and the Medway City Estate industrial area.
This 70-hectare area (formerly a Templar farm) — between the river and Morgan's Timber yard in Strood — is commonly known as "Morgans" or "Morgan's field" and is often used illegally by off-road motorcyclists. Under the plans, 600 homes will be built along with 15,000 square metres of commercial space and a new two-hectare site for Morgan's Timber, however there has been little to no provision for the subsequent increase in demand for local public services.
This is not under the Medway waterfront scheme, but it is a major development under way in Strood between Medway Valley Park and junction 2 of the M2 motorway. Much of the development is inside a large unused chalk pit and requires massive landscaping efforts to make building possible. A small field which was hidden from the main road has also been landscaped. Many problems such as new schools and amenities to accommodate the new homes seem to be still unresolved.
Throughout the 19th century there had been proposals to join the Medway towns under a single authority. By 1903 moves began to take place: that year saw the creation of the Borough of Gillingham, to which, in 1928, the adjoining parish of Rainham was added.
In 1944 a Medway Towns Joint Amalgamation Committee was formed by the borough corporations of Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester, to discuss the possibility of the towns forming a single county borough. In 1948 the Local Government Boundary Commission recommended that the area become a "most purposes" county borough, but the recommendation was not carried out. In 1956 the Joint Amalgamation Committee decided in favour of the amalgamation and invited representatives from Strood Rural District Council to join the Committee. In 1960 a proposal was made by Rochester Council that the merger be effected by the city absorbing the two other towns, in order to safeguard its ancient charters and city status. This led to Gillingham Council voting to leave the committee, as it believed the three towns should go forward as equal partners. On March 9 the committee held its last meeting, with the Chatham representatives voting to dissolve the body and those from Rochester voting against. The motion to disband was passed on the casting vote of the chairman, Alderman Semple from Chatham.
Under the Local Government Act 1972, the City of Rochester, the Borough of Chatham and part of Strood Rural District were amalgamated to form the Borough of Medway, with Gillingham remaining separate. In 1982 the district was renamed Rochester-upon-Medway, and Rochester's city status was transferred to the district. In 1998 Gillingham and Rochester-upon-Medway were merged under the local government review, to form the Borough of Medway Towns (soon renamed the Borough of Medway), which became a unitary authority, administratively independent from Kent. Medway applied for city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions, but was unsuccessful.
The council currently comprises 55 councillors representing different wards. The current political make-up of the Council (after the 2007 local elections) is;
Parts of the unitary authority are parished, chiefly the rural areas. There are currently 11 parishes;
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Medway at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of pounds Sterling.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added[note 1]||Agriculture[note 2]||Industry[note 3]||Services[note 4]|
Watling Street (the A2), the Roman road between the Channel port of Dover and London, runs through Medway. This route became particularly congested and led to the building of the M2 to bypass the Medway Towns to the south in the 1960s and was subsequently widened extensively at the turn of the 21st century. The A2 through the Medway Towns varies from single carriageway to dual carriageway to "one way" systems. In places it deviates from the original route of Watling Street.
The A2 leaves the main route (which bypasses Medway by either the Northern Relief Road — The A289 or the M2) at the Three Crutches junction. The road descends through Strood towards the river. During the descent, the road to Gravesend, the A226 joins. In Strood the High Street is bypassed by the one-way system to the north and south encircling the High Street. The A2 crosses the Medway via two bridges in a dual carriageway (see Rochester Bridge). One bridge is Victorian and in the position of the original Roman bridge. The second bridge is more recent and build upon the piers of the original LCDR main line railway bridge (the Chatham Main Line uses the SER's) branch line's bridge). In Rochester the High street is bypassed to the north by the dualled Corporation Street. The A2 then crosses the high street, climbs Star Hill and follows New road by Fort Pitt / Jackson's Field to bypass Chatham to the south (by the Station, via a flyover known as New Cut). As it approaches Luton it is a dual carriageway for a short stretch, where a major junction lies with the railway (Chatham Main line) passes overhead — this is known as Luton Arches. It then climbs Chatham Hill (to Gillingham) now has a separate bus lane. The A2 / Watling street traditionally bypasses central Gillingham which lies to the North. From the main road to Gillingham (Canterbury Street), the A2 is dual carriageway. Here the Northern Relief Road (A289) rejoins at the Will Adams roundabout. This is swiftly followed by the Bowater roundabout where the A278 Hoath Way leads to the M2 to the South, this is so named and distinctive because of the former paper mill Bowaters at this location that left a giant water tower. A large Tesco supermarket currently inhabits the site. As the road progresses into Rainham it becomes single carriageway again.
The A228 runs along the west bank of the Medway, through Strood. Intersecting the M2 at its second junction, crossing the A2 through the centre of Strood and meeting (and encompassing for a short stretch) the Northern Relief Road (A289). The road then carries on to the Isle of Grain. Through out it passage through Strood it is single carriageway, but the stretches to the North are dualled partially toward Grain. The road to Grain was an accident black spot, this and increased traffic from the major port of Thamesport which is located to the north-west along the Medway Estuary prompted the construction of a new dual carriageway. The A228 Main Road to Ropers Lane project was provisionally approved by the government in December 2001. Design work started in March 2000 and in February 2004, contractors got under way with moving services such as water, gas and fuel pipes. This work was vital, as the pipes actually supply the Hoo Peninsula and the power station at Grain. The largest water main that was moved was 24 inches (610 mm) in diameter and the largest gas main 36 inches (914 mm). The road cost £19 million and is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) long.
The A229 starts from the A2 at the junction at the top of Star Hill alongside Jackson's Field / Fort Pitt, it follows City Way to the South where at Fort Horstead / Rochester Airport / Mid Kent College it meets the branch from Chatham (the A230 which starts at Chatham Station / New Cut). From here it continues south, becoming dual carriageway and meeting the M2 at its third junction, which also provides access with Walderslade. This road then proceeds down Blue Bell Hill (from the summit of the North Downs) to the county town of Maidstone and the M20.
The A278 Hoath Way links the A2 at Gillingham to its southern suburbs (Hempstead, Wigmore and Parkwood) to the M2's fourth junction. It is dual carriageway throughout.
The A289 was built in the 1990s as the Medway Towns Northern Relief Road. Constructed in three stages, firstly it bypasses Strood with a dual carriageway from Three Crutches (M2 J1) to the A226 and the A228 (The Wainscott Northern Bypass). It then joins the A228 (as The Wainscott Eastern Bypass) — these two part are dualled. A dualled link road leads to the Medway Tunnel to the Chatham Dockyard. Here it meets Dock Road (A231) that leads to Chatham. The A289 continues between northern Gillingham and the river, and then turns southwards through Gillingham Golf Course to rejoin the A2 at the Will Adams roundabout.
The A2045 is the A289's counterpart, however it is largely unbuilt. The Medway Towns Southern Relief Road was proposed to link the (then) new developments to the south of Chatham (Walderslade) and Gillingham (Hempstead, Wigmore and Parkwood) with M2's J3 and the A229 to the east and the M2's J4 and A278 in the west. A single carriageway road was built south of Walderslade to access the Walderslade Woods and Lordswood developments. At the other end a small section was built to access the Hempstead development and its shopping centre. However, the key middle stretch was left unbuilt, a link road to central Chatham via Luton, the B2156 North Dane Way was also left incomplete with no road to link to. The removal of Medway from Kent (which the incomplete section would lay in) and the recent widening of M2 leaves the proposed project with little chance of completion in the foreseeable future.
The vast majority of local bus routes throughout Medway are centred upon the Pentagon bus station in Chatham, located at the Pentagon Shopping Centre. Most bus routes are run by Arriva Southern Counties, which took over the locally-owned Maidstone and District bus company in the 1990s. Other local bus companies including Nu-Venture provide certain services, some under contract to the local authority. A Saturdays 'park & ride' service is run from a car park constructed on Rochester Airport to Chatham/Rochester on behalf of Medway Council.
Bus links to London and other parts of the south east can be achieved via Bluewater shopping centre, near Greenhithe, which has extensive bus routes to London. Commuter coaches runs from various parts of Medway to a selection of London destinations using the M2/A2. Operating companies include The Kings Ferry and Chalkwell.
The owners of the Thames and Medway Canal tunnel that linked Medway (specifically Strood) with Gravesend turned half their canal into a railway bringing the first rails to Medway. They were soon absorbed by the South Eastern Railway whose North Kent Line linked Strood with Gravesend, Dartford, and then London (London Bridge). Subsequently SER extended their branch from their main line to Maidstone to Strood — the Medway Valley Line. Stations were built on the Medway Valley line for the villages of Cuxton and Halling.
A rival company, the LCDR, built a railway between Chatham and East Kent. Unable to secure a connection and running rights over the SER's North Kent line they built their own main line to Bromley where they connected with the West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway to gain access to London Victoria. This railway became known as the Chatham Main Line. It had stations at Rochester Bridge which was actually in Strood, Chatham and New Brompton which was renamed Gillingham. The line was extended through Rainham to the Kent Coast (Thanet and Dover).
In reaction to this strong rival the SER built a small branch alongside the LCDR over the Medway on a parallel bridge to Rochester and built a terminus called Chatham although it failed to reach Chatham.
The strenuous competition between the two companies resulted in their merger into the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in 1899. Subsequent rationalisation saw the closure of the LCDR's station in Strood and the SER's branch to Rochester and Chatham (although the bridge was retained and is used to this day).
Post World War I saw the big four grouping and the SECR was merged into Southern in 1923. This led to electrification of suburban services (750v DC third rail) which by World War II had seen electric traction reach Gillingham on the Chatham Main Line and Maidstone West (via Strood and the North Kent Line) on the Medway Valley Line.
Post war (1948) saw nationalisation into British Rail, which under its 1955 modernisation part saw the completion of Southern's electrification efforts in Kent as a key target. Thus Rainham was reached as part of this programme. It also saw the extension of platforms on the Chatham Main Line to 12 cars, leading to the closure of two of Chatham's four platforms. Rochester retained four platforms, while Strood and Gillingham kept three. Rainham has only had two platforms.
Extensive goods yards existed at Strood, Rochester and Gillingham. Strood had engine sheds, while Gillingham still has carriage depots. A freight branch to Chatham Dockyard also exists. The network within the dockyard has been extensively curtailed since the dockyards closure.
Rail services generally consist of North Kent Line services (to London Bridge and beyond — Charing Cross and Cannon Street) starting from Gillingham. The Medway Valley line receives a shuttle service up and down terminating at Strood for transfers to the North Kent Line, although some services run through to Tonbridge and even Gatwick. The main services are on the Chatham Main line, with stopper services from Faversham (ie they stop at local stations, running fast from Bromley) and fast services from Kent Coast (ie they run fast from Medway to London). Services are currently operated by Southeastern.
The completion of High Speed 1 has seen domestic services operating on the rail link, which includes a stopping service starting at Faversham running to Strood and Gravesend before joining the High Speed line at Ebbsfleet. From there it travels at high speed to Stratford International and St. Pancras International.
The rail service is extensively used by the residents of Medway to commute into London.
The River Medway is not used for local transport purposes (it is extensively used for leisure) however cargo ships still sail to the cement works to the south at Halling/Cuxton, by Union Transport of Bromley. Part of the closed Royal Navy base is now used as a cargo port, with facilities of Ro/Ro, cargo that comes in ranges from paper pulp to dredged material but this only occupies one of the three main basins. There is also a ship repair located in the basin. Thamesport handles the shipping of containers and fossil fuels, located on the edge of the Medway Estuary on the Isle of Grain. Kingsnorth Power Station has coal shipped in from Dunkirk, also Scotline who operate a fleet of coasters for the import of wood have a wharf on the River Medway. There is also a wharf on the river called Eurowharf which deals with dredged material. In addition, there is a shipping company based on the river, formerly known as Lapthorn Shipping and now as Coastal Bulk Shipping. Coastal Bulk Shipping ceased trading at the end of 2008.
There is one small airport, Rochester Airport, but this is a "grass strip" and used for leisure purposes. For air travel, Medway residents must use Kent's main airports Kent International (Manston) or Lydd but these lack extensive passenger facilities or routes, thus the London airports are used the vast majority of the time (mainly Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted)
See sections in the constituent towns.
MEDWAY, a river in the south-east of England. It rises in the Forest Ridges, S.W. of East Grinstead in Sussex, and, increased by many feeders from these picturesque hills, has an easterly course to the county boundary, which it forms, turning northward for a short distance. Entering Kent near Ashurst, its course becomes north-easterly, and this direction is generally maintained to the mouth. The river passes Tonbridge, receiving the Eden from the west, and later the Teise and Beult from the south and east, all these streams watering the rich Weald (q.v.) to the south of the North Downs. These hills are breached by the Medway in a beautiful valley, in which lies Maidstone, generally much narrower than the upper valley. The characteristic structure of this part of the valley is considered under the heading Downs. Below Maidstone the valley forms a perfect basin, the hills descending upon it closely above Rochester. Below this city the river enters a broad, winding estuary, passing Chatham, and at Sheerness joining that of the Thames, so that the Medway may be considered a tributary, and its drainage area of 680 sq. m. reckoned as part of that of the greater river. The length of the Medway is about 60 m., excluding its many lesser windings. The estuary is navigable for sea-going vessels drawing 24 ft. up to Rochester Bridge. A considerable traffic is carried on by small vessels up to Maidstone, and by barges up to Tonbridge, the total length of the navigation being 43 m. The marshy lowlands along the course of the river have yielded extensive remains of Roman pottery, a plain ware of dark slate-colour.