I have had access to some amazing aerial images from Britain From Above. The following black and white images are so evocative and detailed, they tell a fascinating story of our site’s industrial and social history, nothing much of which survives today, except the large crane.
The above image from 1965 shows the Gasworks, Limehouse Wharf, Acorn Wharf (Shipbuildng) Acorn House, RMC Aggregates and Ready Made Concrete, Cory’s Wharf (Coal), Chatham Goods Yard (Railways), Blue Boar Wharf, Furrell’s Wharf – almost all the way to Chatham Intra. So much to be inspired by…
I am collaborating with LUC and BPTW who are leading on the architecture, masterplanning and landscape design.
I am continuing to develop the work I created for Phases 1 & 2 as the site has endless riches to be inspired by. My problem is knowing where to stop the research. Each stone unturned has golden threads to follow. Contextually, we are now on the site of Blue Boar Wharf, in its heyday a major Barge Building site, with two Yards, Upper and Lower occupied by two businesses – William Higham, ran the Upper Yard, where he built 100 Barges between 1876 and 1901 & George Weedon the proprietor of the Lower Yard.
Above: Gyproc Products (Plasterboard), started production on the Rochester Riverside site in 1933, just 3 years prior to this images from 1936 (the large white shed in the centre of the picture). Cory’s Wharf, with its ‘5 Cranes Dancing’, is in the foreground.
Above: The coming of the railways in the 1840’s effectively separated the town from its salt marsh grazing pastures and community centred around The Common. The Cattle & Livestock Market – seen bottom left in this image from 1936 has rooftop graphics – advertising its products – probably for the benefit of train passengers, as the track was raised on an earthen bank and brick viaduct. ‘Thorley’s Food for Cattle’, & ‘Thorley’s Food for all Stock’.
Above: This Postcard must be a very early image of the site, as there appears to be no industrial development of the Riverside site.
There is a great short film on You Tube called the Medway Dock Crane, which show the Blue Boar Wharf site and the whole of Rochester Riverside, prior to development by Countryside as seen from a drone. Click on the above link to view.
My recent trip up to Hardscape at Logistics North near Bolton was a ‘more than hoped for’ brilliant success. This work was conceived with care, skill and emotion. I feel I can honestly say it has been manufactured with care, with enormous skill and equal amounts of emotion. This is what I want to be doing with my time! Achieving beautiful things, creating good work, working with great people. Focussing on craft and natural materials, on age-old skills of hand and eye, fused with technological innovation. I want to work alongside and collaborate with people who are proud of what they do and shout it from the rooftops. –
OK – so with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the day’s outstanding work.
Above: My good friend, the ampersand. ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm. More ‘Tales from Rochester Riverside’…
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with an inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. at top. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with a rectangular block of Carlow Limestone crisply laser etched with the name ‘ADA’ & inset into a slab of Porphyry. An inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’ at top, was also sandblasted and inset with text – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Eleven of the fifteen units being created up at Hardscape are visible in this image.
Above: At bottom, ‘DUNLIN A SALTMARSH BIRD’, with water jet cut, inset, laser etched and sandblasted granite – unit size – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm . At top, an inverted ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
The beautifully detailed DUNLIN in black Carlow Limestone is laser etched, then water jet cut from its slab and inset into the red Shiraz base slab. The letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut from green Kobra Granite and inset into both the red Shiraz and the Black Carlow, bonded in place with a golden yellow resin specially selected for colour. The letter ‘U’ and other visible text is sandblasted. This is highly skilled and complex work. Looks bloody amazing too…
Above: ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ is no less complex, with water jet cut and inset text in Maple Red Granite, inlaid into a Black Carlow Limestone base slab, which is in turn sandblasted with text and laser etched to two depths to create the rippling water effect. See images below.
Above: The laser etched text ‘Watermen’ on the ‘GOOZERS & Watermen’, panel is wonderfully delivered with a deeper etch to the centre and a delicate lighter etch to the outline. This attention to detail and finish it what makes these bespoke units so outstanding.
Above: Detail of ‘SHELDUCK’, Laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab. Letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm
Above: Details of ‘SHELDUCK’ & ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’, just two of our 15 tales from Rochester Riverside. ‘SHELDUCK’, is a laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab with large letter ‘D’ also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm.‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ is a red Shiraz slab base sandblasted to two depths for text and plant motifs. Royal White & Carlow Limestone letters have also been inset into the surface.
Above: Detail of some of the letters of ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ sandblasted into red Shiraz granite.
Above: ‘MARSH COWS GRAZING’..& other tales from Rochester Riverside’ is Unit No. 8 in a sequence of 15 bespoke granite units along with 9 bespoke cast iron units together create a story about the history and use of this site from Medieval times to the present day. The slabs are robust and heavyweight, adding a physical presence to the narratives they embody. The lives and livelihoods of Rochester people are represented here. These histories live on in stone and cast iron.
Above: Detail of letters ‘C’ & ‘O’, bot water jet cut and inset from Maple Red Granite and Porphyry respectively and inset into sandblasted Kobra green Granite.
Above & Below: ‘BLUE BOAR CREEK’ & ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’, 2 more Tales from Rochester Riverside. Large letter ‘B’ water jet cut from Maple Red Granite, inset into Black Carlow Limestone with laser etched detail.
Above: ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’ still has the resin bond material smeared over the surface…the cleaned up version can be seen below.
Above: The large letter ‘S’ is water jet cut from black Carlow Limestone, which has beautiful white shell deposits within its matrix., which are wonderfully contrasting when wet.
Above & Below: ’15 BARGES STARTED THE RACE’ & ‘RUSSET BROWN & OCHRE SAILS’. Both bespoke units exhibit great colour contrast and use of stone. Deliberate use of coloured resin bond to fix water jet cut motifs in place adds another dimension.
Above: Detail of the red Shiraz base slab with sandblasted text into which is inset a 2 colour motif with Maple Red granite and Kobra Green, fixed with a coloured resin bond.
Above and Below: ‘THE FIVE BROTHERS’ & ‘SPRITSAIL BARGE’, share a base slab of Porphyry, with sandblasted text and motifs. FIVE BROTHERS has the word ‘FIVE’ inset in water jet cut Maple Red, whilst SPRITSAIL has three letters ‘S’ ‘g’ & ‘L’ inset in Royal White for contrast.
Above and images below: ‘COAL – METER HEAVER WHIPPER’ & ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD COAL FACTORS’.2 Tales from Rochester Riverside…
Above: Top slab – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm – Crystal Black base slab with sandblasted text & water jet cut and inset Maple Red rectangle with additional inset text in Crystal Black. Bottom slab – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm – Black Carlow Limestone base slab with sandblasted text and motifs with water jet cut and inset Maple Red granite letters and motifs.
I’m travelling up north to Bolton this week to see the final units completed and hopefully sign off the work so it can be delivered to Rochester Riverside for installation. Can’t wait to see them all.
Above: “BLUE BOAR CREEK”…& other tales from Rochester Riverside. Detail of a water-jet cut & laser-etched paving panel in black Carlow Limestone with inset text of Amarelo Real (yellow granite) & Porphyry.
These new images are just in this afternoon thanks to Mathew Haslam of Hardscape – as their skilled stone specialists focus on the applied detail. Water jet cutting, inlaying, sandblasting and laser etching their way through 15 bespoke units destined to be embedded into the landscape of the new housing development at Rochester Riverside for client Countryside.This highly bespoke work needs to be handled with care and demands high levels of craft skills.
Hardscape have been excellent at providing this form creative collaboration. Public Art Strategy & Artists Commissions by FrancisKnight .
Below: This unit is 9 of 15 – ‘SHELDUCK’, a Kobra Green Granite base slab with water jet cut inset motif & text in black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched with surface detail. Further sandblasting of text into the green granite, will complete the work.
Above: The almost completed ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD’.
Above: This is the base slab of black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched first & then water jet cut – but the large letter ‘W’, the ‘&’ and the diamond motif have yet to be chiselled out. See Below –
Above: The water jet cutting removes a series of lines from the granite, which are determined by the CAD programme, which creates the cutting paths. These pathways are interesting in themselves as patterns, but in this instance they have to be chiselled out carefully by hand, to create the void space for the granite inlay to be fixed.
Above: This images shows the void spaces chiselled out from the Carlow Limestone. The letter ‘W’ in Maple Red granite has already been inset and is awaiting bonding in place – the diamond motif is just about to be inset. These images are wonderful for showing process, craft and the mix of skills from CAD technology to work by hand & eye.
Oh my word…we’re on a roll in production up at Hardscape in Bolton.
These images are hot off the press, as skilled stone specialists at Hardscape focus on the applied detail. Water jet cutting, inlaying, sandblasting and laser etching their way through 15 bespoke units destined to be embedded into the landscape of the new housing development at Rochester Riverside for client Countryside Properties. This work needs to be handled with care and demands high levels of craft skills. Hardscape have been excellent at providing creative collaboration .
Above: This is the ‘&’ from ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. Water jet cut into a slab of Red Shiraz Granite 900mm x 300mm x75mm. It is awaiting the inlaying of the circle of yellow Amarelo Real Granite. It looks amazing. WALRUS & NELLIE were the names of two portable aggregate conveyors loading stone and cobbles on and off barges at Cory’s Wharf, Blue Boar Hard.
Above: This is the laser etched ‘DUNLIN A SALTMARSH BIRD’, , waiting to be water jet cut from its slab of beautiful Carlow Limestone & inset into a slab of red granite. See image below, where the DUNLIN has been partially cut out from the block in concentric linear patterns. This is a complex unit, with other letters inlaid. Precision is key. These beautifully crafted objects embedded in the landscape, will be a gentle reminder of the natural, social and industrial history of the site.
The laser etched image of the Shelduck will now be water jet cut out of the Carlow slab and the motif inlaid into a slab of Kobra Green Granite, which has the shape of the bird already cut into the surface.
Interesting to note also that the Carlow Limestone has beautiful fossil shells embedded. Also note that these are not my feet, they probably belong to Pedro, who is overseeing and also working on my project. Without skilled people like this, I would be lost !
Mid-September and it was up to Hardscape, Bolton to see progress on the manufacture of the bespoke inlaid granite paving units. As ever, the works are of a really high quality and Hardscape are always keen to progress & test their creative collaborations.
15 granite units are in production. These vary in size from 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm to 900mm x 300mm x 75mm and are destined to be installed at the thresholds to housing & apartment blocks at Rochester.
This work is achieved via water jet cutting and inlay techniques using colour matched resin to bond granite elements in place. Text and other motifs are also sandblasted at varying depths.
In August all was ready for the casting of the iron units and off I eagerly trotted on the train up to Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax to be present during a famous ‘Casting Thursday’! – I have been up to Hargreaves only once before and Andrew Knight, Foundry & Patternshop Manager showed me around the factory at that time. Even though this was impressive, (& it is !) it couldn’t match being present to witness my own work being cast. It is such a physical, visceral process, fully hands on and dangerous with it. The skill & craft is astonishing and it is this legacy of making, which Hargreaves has in bucketfuls, that I wanted to design into the public art work for Rochester.
Nine cast iron units have now been made, from 5 original cnc tooled patterns manufactured to my designs by Arthur Jackson & Co Ltd, Halifax. These patterns, cnc tooled from a type of resin block are used to prepare the resin sand mould boxes used in the final casting process. The cast units are then hand finished through grinding and polishing methods.
Individual one ton iron weights are used to secure the moulds during casting, such are the pressures of heat during the process. The moulds are constructed from a resin infused black sand, which has been compacted around the master pattern, which is then removed.
What I can’t convey here is the noise, heat, smell & excitement of this process during the critical stages of casting. The experience is vivid and visceral. I am watching something being made which could last for hundreds of years.
The units above and below have now been treated with Nitric Acid to prevent rusting through oxidation. The cast iron is almost black and the relief jumps out very cleanly.
“Staunch and well built though a barge may be, each year sees a toll taken. Some yield at last to the cold embrace of the sea, whose caresses they have so long resisted, others steal quietly up some lonely creek to nose gently into the malodorous mud and settle down into their last berth, gradually to moulder away, forgotten by all save their one time masters, and perhaps, some sentimental fool like myself, who will gaze down on their rotting timbers and imagination see spars clothed with red-brown sails and hulls vibrant with life as they thrash there way round the Foreland.”
Describing the excitement and thrill of the Medway Barge Races – “The course was from Hoo Marshes to the West Oaze Buoy and back to the Sun Pier at Chatham, a distance of about thirty five miles…A strong easterly wind was blowing, and in Long Reach Verona’s bowsprit snapped off short, but the crew cleared away the wreckage and setting a jib topsail as a staysail, carried on to come sixth in their class.” Edgar J March.
Referencing a painting by T.B. Hardy, 1874, Edgar March goes on to describe the Medway as, “When this picture was painted, marine artists had little need to look for subjects. The Medway was alive with sailing craft : dainty little topsail schooners, picturesque collier brigs with apple bows and dingy canvas, barques from Scandinavia, bringing pine-scented timber from the Baltic to Rochester, and above all, barges innumerable, threading their way through the maze of traffic. One hundred a tide was no uncommon sight, and what a joy to a sail-lover that galaxy of russet, brown and ochre canvas must have been, many with various devices emblazoned on their mainsails – Lees’ stumpies had the white horse of Kent rampant on ebony coloured sails – all either hurrying down on the ebb or beating up against wind and tide. Now gone forever.”
…and “In those far-off days, watermen, or “goozers”, to use their riverside nick-name, plied their trade in skiffs”. Edgar J March
William Higham was born in 1838 in Lewes Sussex. On 27/10/1864 he married Fanny Elizabeth Blake in Strood, nr, Rochester. By 1881 they had 9 children.
William was a Barge Builder and they lived in a private house on Victoria Street, Rochester. The location of his Yard is show on the OS map of 1898 on Blue Boar Hard, just above the Pier. ADA & EDITH is just one of many barges built here between 1876 and 1901.
MAID OF KENT
ANNIE & ALICE
HERBERT & HAROLD
ADA & EDITH
‘WALRUS’ & ‘NELLIE’ were two portable conveyors owned by William Cory & Son, Coal Factors, at Cory’s Wharf, used for transporting stone aggregates from Barge to Train. These aggregates were known as Fines, Nuts & Cobbles.
“It has been my privilege to go over and see the marvellous machinery for loading and unloading coal. The five large cranes, when seen at work bowing their stately heads, look like dancers executing a minuet; …when in repose, standing like so many soldiers on sentry duty, with fixed bayonets. What a contrast to see the way a collier is unloaded by these cranes, as compared with the old coal whippers’ days! A coal boat seems scarcely to draw alongside the wharf before it is steaming away again”.Edwin Harris Guides to Old Rochester, Pub. 1930 No. 27 Part 1. (Ref: ROC. 942.23 HAR The Riverside. Harris/Edwin. MALSC).
The five cranes were originally positioned along Cory’s Wharf on the far right hand side of the above OS Map of 1932
The earlier OS Map of 1898 records the same site some 30 years previously as Chatham Goods Yard. The site occupied by Cory’s Wharf is immediately below Blue Boar Pier along the HWMOT line.
Dunlin…A Salt Marsh Bird
‘The Medway Estuary is believed to be the most important area in North Kent for wintering wildfowl in numbers of international significance. The Saltmarsh serves as a roosting area for waders at high tide. Several scarce plant species include: golden samphire, perennial glasswort and one-flowered glasswort. The estuary is one of the best places in Britain for the study of glassworts. The grazing marsh has breeding and wintering birds of interest; the former include lapwing, redshank, pochard, mallard and gadwall, while in winter large flocks of may wildfowl and wader species are present.‘
Ref: Environmental Stresses and Resource Use in Coastal Urban and Peri Urban Regions. DPSIR Approach to SECOA’s 17 Case Studies.
These overwintering birds, along with thousands of others migrating or breeding species have been present on our site, however the numbers of Dunlin and other birds have undergone a decline, ostensibly to do with habitat loss and disturbance, which is of course of great concern.
The Rochester Riverside development aims to deliver 489 homes in Phases 1, 2 & 3. The first show homes are scheduled to be ready by September 2018. I have been researching and developing ideas to embed some of the social & industrial legacy from this site into the new build homes and apartments & not forgetting a new community which is being delivered. The site has a treasure trove of layered history to uncover fed by its unique position between Rochester and River Medway.
Intertidal Salt Marsh
St Nicholas Parish Rochester
Clay & Mud
Ship & Barge Building
Railway Goods Yard
Scrap Metal Merchants
By 2006 almost all the site had been cleared for re-development.
I have to find a way to be creative with the public art budget and to produce high quality, robust interventions, capable of withstanding the wear and tear of a contemporary urban space. My approach to this project has been to work with a series of 2.4m high brick walls, which form the entrances to parking courts on the Central Streets of Phase 1 & 2. I am also embedding work into the threshold entrances of six apartment blocks and numerous private houses throughout the site. Materials being investigated at this stage include granite, cast concrete, cast iron, architectural ceramic & brick. The concept drawings shown below are all subject to change, revision, omission – all the usual ups and downs of project development.
These early concept drawings explore the various combinations of narrative elements which could be developed further. They are rather overstuffed with ideas at this stage – far too many to deliver – but are beginning to explore the legacy of the site via stories created by combining strands of research. Visiting menageries share space with Iron Foundry production and mud and clay trades carried out on the site. The elephant would be sandblasted into the brick surface, whilst adjacent panels of cast iron with relief detail and glazed brick units and polished granite are embedded into the brick structure.
A brilliant time-lapse film celebrating the Chatham Placemaking Project, by the Filmmaker Simon Williams was premiered on the Waterfront Big Screen in Chatham on Friday evening 6th May – and then ran at hourly intervals through Saturday 7th May –
‘A series of films will focus the eye and the heart and have clearly distilled a vision for the project – a reductive process of stripping back and looking afresh. Simon refreshingly admits he has fallen in love with Chatham – he has lived here for 15 years. ‘Chatham, Kent, England’is a remarkable 12-hour time-lapse work beautifully filmed from the roof of UCA at Fort Pitt. Standing in front of the Big Screen, the River Medway can’t actually be seen . The disengagement is clear. The film powerfully makes the case for Chatham to celebrate and acknowledge this enduring and symbiotic relationship. It could be an elegy for a Chatham we have forgotten but which is actually still alive and well and all around us’. Project Lead Artist Chris Tipping –
‘Chatham, Kent, England’, is the first in a series of films being delivered as part of the Temporary Art Programme supporting the Chatham Placemaking Project. They were commissioned by FrancisKnight Art Consultants and myself as project lead artist. ‘These are our Streets’, a collaboration between Simon and Rob Young, Writer, will be the second film in the series to be released.