Sheerness Dockyard was meticulously designed and constructed in a single phase, completed in 1815. Its late-eighteenth-century Georgian-style docks, boathouse, and complementary structures were conceived as an entire landscape. When the naval dockyard closed in 1962, the site was purchased and transformed into a commercial port, which it remains today. Inaccessible to the public, the landscape and architectural ensemble suffered from lack of stewardship and use, while multiple ownership issues affected preservation and accessibility. The history of the dockyard reflects its strategic location on the western tip of the Isle of Sheppey, where the Thames and Medway Rivers converge and spill into the North Sea. Since Roman times, this was a point of defense against naval attacks, as well as a port for even the largest vessels. Yet in 1667, the Isle of Sheerness was invaded by the Netherlands in what became known as the Dutch Raid, making it the only part of England controlled by a foreign power since the Norman Conquest of 1066.
A huge victory towards the preservation of this unique heritage site
Sheerness Dockyard was included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch, our advocacy campaign became more aggressive after plans to demolish a historic structure were revealed. In collaboration with SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the Georgian Group, and other local preservation groups, we helped attract much needed media attention in calling for the rejection of the new development, and making the public aware of the dockyard’s precarious situation. The redevelopment plan was rejected, and in early 2011, the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust acquired the endangered site, made up of Dockyard House and cottage, and Regency Terrace complex. The church rescue campaign received a boost when English Heritage and WMF, supported by the Paul Mellon Fund for Architectural Preservation in Great Britain, funded a detailed restoration and future use feasibility study, commissioned by SAVE Britain’s Heritage. Individual owners restored the Georgian houses. The Dockyard church continues to be affected by disrepair, and other problems. Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust’s acquisition of the site, however, represented a huge victory towards the preservation of this unique heritage site, which continues its search for viable solutions to rehabilitation and conservation.