Remarkable Heritage of the High Street Between Rochester and Chatham Recognised
A collection of historic buildings and sites around the High Street that runs between Rochester and Chatham have been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of Historic England.
Hulkes Lane Brewery Buildings, The Cottage on Cooks Wharf, the Jewish burial ground at Chatham Memorial Synagogue, and a significant tomb within it, have all been added to the National Heritage List for England due to their historic and architectural significance.
From the historic brewery buildings behind the remarkable Chatham House, with its newly restored façade, to the rare Jewish burial ground behind the striking Synagogue, with its handsome interior, there is a remarkable breadth of history found along, and behind, the High Street Intra. I am delighted heritage protection has been granted to these sites, building on the energetic and committed work of the High Street Heritage Action Zone partners in championing the wonders of this special place.
As part of the ongoing High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ), delivered by Historic England and Medway Council, Historic England has been reviewing and researching the buildings in the ‘intra’ area where Rochester High Street meets Chatham High Street.
Historically, part of Chatham parish lay within the City of Rochester and the area came to be referred to as Chatham Intra (‘intra’ from the Latin for ‘within’). The area has shifted in character over time, from the location of the medieval St Bartholomew’s Hospital for the poor and people with leprosy, to a melting pot of industrial and commercial activity; then a flourishing high street; followed by a period of decline, and its current regeneration. The Intra area is now understood to broadly cover the land between Star Hill, Rochester and Sun Pier, Chatham.
“…if anybody present knows to a nicety where Rochester ends and Chatham begins, it is more than I do.”
New research on the rich history of this area has been compiled into a free report by Historic England, which provides an overview of Intra’s historical development and the key elements that have contributed to its unique character. This research has led to a greater understanding of the significance of a collection of historic buildings and features, some of which have now been granted listed status as a result.
Hulkes Lane Brewery Buildings – Grade II listed
The Hulkes Lane brewery buildings tucked behind Grade II* listed Chatham House are a group of tightly packed, adjoining and interconnected structures. The complex is the product of piecemeal rebuilding and extension of an urban brewery over more than 200 years. It is an evocative reminder of the dense industry that was once found here.
Records show that brewers were operating in this area by the 17th century. In the 18th century, with the site leased by brewer Isaac Wildash. Wildash was also recorded as running the nearby pub, now the Grade II-listed Ship Inn. Isaac’s son John later went into business with Thomas Hulkes, who took it over in 1795. In 1877, the brewery and its adjoining mansion house were sold to Charles Arkcoll & Co., who renamed it the Lion Brewery. Brewing ceased on the site in 1912.
After various commercial uses, the former brewery was leased by the furniture removal business Curtiss and Sons, whose painted signage survives on the wall of one of the buildings. By the inter-war years, the brewery complex had been sub-let to the Featherstone family, who operated a department store in the area for much of the 20th century.
The earliest structure of the brewery complex is at its centre – a timber-framed building, now built-against on all sides, is estimated to date from the early 18th century but could be even earlier.
The Cottage, Cooks Wharf – Grade II listed
The Cottage is a rare survivor of the type of modest houses and tenements that were once found along the back lanes and wharves between the high street and river. Now one single building, The Cottage was originally a pair of semi-detached cottages built on land that was once part of the St Bartholomew’s Hospital estate.
The good-quality brick construction marks The Cottage as a slightly higher-status dwelling than the timber-clad houses that would previously have stood around it. Historic maps show that it was likely built in the early 19th century, certainly by 1843.
Jewish Burial Ground at Chatham Memorial Synagogue – Grade II registered landscape
A Jewish community in Rochester can be traced back to 1087, but references cease after 1290 when Jews were expelled from England on the orders of King Edward I until readmission in the 17th century. By the 18th century, Chatham had an established Jewish community.
The burial ground on the old High Street is one of only 30 Georgian Jewish burial grounds in the country, and one of the earliest. It pre-dates the Victorian synagogue. In the 1760s the Jewish community were renting tenement houses in this part of Rochester that were used as a synagogue. The burial ground was established at this time. Burial space was considered to be of the first importance for Jewish immigrant communities, and burial grounds were frequently established before a purpose-built synagogue.
Today, Chatham Memorial Synagogue is the only synagogue in Britain to have an attached cemetery, with both elements pre-dating the 20th century. The burial ground contains approximately 200 memorials; their range demonstrates the social mix of those commemorated, as well as the increasing Anglicisation of the community, as English inscriptions come to be used alongside Hebrew on gravestones. The last burial took place in 1982. Today, burials take place in the Jewish section of Chatham Cemetery.
Tomb of Lazarus Magnus, Jewish Burial Ground – Grade II listed
The synagogue was rebuilt by local merchant Simon Magnus as a memorial to his only son, Captain Lazarus Simon Magnus, who died in 1865 at the age of 39. The Grade II* listed synagogue was begun in 1865 and opened in 1870. It was designed by the architect Hyman Henry Collins in an eclectic style combining Romanesque and Byzantine elements.
Lazarus’ tomb became a focal point in the burial ground, intentionally positioned between the new synagogue and minister’s house. There is condition in the synagogue’s deed of trust that it must always be visible from the street; it is now seen through the glazing of the annexe which replaced the minister's house around 1970.
The monument consists of a heavily draped urn on a pedestal. Sadly, portions of the relief have been lost through vandalism. On one side was a panel depicting lightning striking a tree, signifying that Lazarus’ life was abruptly curtailed. Inscriptions note that he was highly respected both for his contribution to local affairs and his dedication to his faith.
The protection of the burial ground and tomb is also part of a national project by Historic England to assess the historic significance of Jewish cemeteries across the country.