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.
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.
Since the Watch
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 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 WMF’s Paul Mellon Endowment for British Heritage, 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 conservation of this unique heritage site.
In 2014 the Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust was awarded a Start-Up grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin the transformation of the currently derelict Dockyard Church into an exciting community space for the Isle of Sheppey.
The Grade II* listed church stands within Sheerness Royal Naval Dockyard and Blue Town Conservation Area, and was built in 1826-8 for dockyard workers and service personnel. It closed in 1970, and was used as a sports hall and store before suffering a devastating fire in 2001.
The new Trust celebrated the launch of the restoration project with a community open day to introduce the people of Sheppey to the church and to involve them in the plans for its future. Local school groups and more than 400 general visitors came along to show their support and see inside the original 1828 interior of the church before restoration work commences.