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News series of exhibitions marks 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway

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A new series of exhibitions this summer will tell the story, from both sides, of the Battle of Medway - the formative moment in the establishment of the modern British Navy.

A major international exhibition at the Historic Dockyard Chatham presents the story of the decisive battle which ended the second Anglo-Dutch war, whilst further exhibitions at historic venues around Medway in Kent will bring the battle to life, and reimagine events from an contemporary perspective.

Breaking the Chain at the Historic Dockyard Chatham features a spectacular display of British and Dutch art, literature, historic manuscripts and objects on loan from a number of national and international cultural institutions, including the Rijksmuseum, both British and Dutch National Maritimes Museum, The British Library, National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Collection.   
 
 
Items announced to date include:
  • The original manuscript of John Evelyn’s diary on loan from The British Library; a contemporary of Samuel Pepys, Evelyn provides the only eye witness account of the battle, which he witnessed from the ‘hill above Gillingham’
  • ‘Holmes Bonfire’ by Willem van de Velde the Elder, on loan from the Royal Collection
  • A stunning velvet briefcase from the Rijksmuseum, which belonged to the Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter who led the raid

The Battle of Medway

The Battle of Medway is one of the most important battles in the UK’s history. In 1667, the Dutch launched an assault on the British upon the River Medway, destroying their fleet and stealing the HMS Royal Charles, whose stern piece is on display in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The battle had great national and international significance, triggering a chain of events that brought the Second Anglo-Dutch War to an end.

The battle and its consequences were recorded painstakingly by one of Britain’s most famous diarists, Samuel Pepys, who worked as a naval administrator at the time. Coming after the Great Plague (1665) and the Great Fire of London (1666), the blow of the defeat led to a period of rebirth: Pepys was spurred by the Dutch victory to transform the British Navy through huge investment in new ships and dockyards. 

The Journey to Chatham at the Guildhall Museum tells the story of the Battle of Medway from the Dutch perspective, featuring original Dutch broadsheets and engravings alongside modern recreations of the battle.
 
Of Fireships and Iron will see Five Medway-based artists show new work inspired by the Dutch Raid at Rochester Art Gallery. Visitors will experience sculptural pieces and installations using historic found objects, printed ceramics, hybrid images on sailcloth, tactile surfaces, and printing on and with iron. 
 
Finally, a permanent new addition to Upnor Castle will illustrate the pivotal battle, which took place in and around the castle itself.
 
Exhibition details
 
Breaking the Chain 
9 June to 3 September 2017 (10am – 6pm daily) 
The Historic Dockyard Chatham, Church Ln, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE; website.
£24/£21.50/£14.00 (tickets entitle visitors to a year’s entry to all Dockyard exhibitions) 
 
The Journey to Chatham
6 May to 12 November 2017 (10 am – 5pm Tuesday to Sunday) 
The Guildhall Museum, High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1PY
Free
 
Of Fireships and Iron 
Lily Dudle / Laura Dunnage / Heather Haythornthwaite / Xtina Lamb / Adam Newton 
2 June – 26 August (10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday, 10.30am – 5pm Sunday) 
Rochester Art Gallery, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1LX
Free 
 
Battle of Medway Exhibition
Open to public from 1 June 2017 (10am – 6pm daily) 
Upnor Castle; website.
£6.40/£4/Free for English Heritage Members 

Image credits: John Evelyn’s Diary © British Library Board; Namur Gallery © The Historic Dockyard Chatham; Upnor Castle © Medway Council; The Naseby (1655); Warship; 80-86 guns © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
 
For more events around the UK, read the diary dates section of Family Tree magazine.

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