Seafaring past is preserved for tourists

A SLAUGHTERHOUSE, a bakery and a street lamp are among the latest "monuments" to be given listed building status, it was announced yesterday.

The 170 buildings are all in the Royal Naval Dockyards of Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth and form a major part of Britain's maritime heritage.

The Arts minister Alan Howarth said: "Britain has always been a seafaring nation with a proud and distinguished heritage of boat building and maritime activity. The Government is determined to preserve the best of our heritage for future generations and these buildings and structures are examples of this."

In the 17th century, Chatham, in Kent, was Britain's most important shipyard. Admiral Nelson's HMS Victory was built there and Samuel Pepys mentioned it in his diaries. Daniel Defoe was struck by the size of the factories, which had been built long before the great textile mills of the north, and Charles Dickens's father worked in the pay office. The site has been placed on the Government's list for consideration by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

The yard was closed in 1984 and work is underway to convert part of the site into a pounds 15m naval museum and historical theme park.

A spokesman for Chatham Museum said: "We are proud of Chatham's 400-year- old maritime legacy. The site contains the country's greatest concentration of listed buildings and is the most complete dockyard from the age of sail."

Among the buildings included for listing at Chatham are the Royal Dockyard Church, the smithery and hemp house and spinning rooms.

Jeremy Lake, who carried out the research on the naval dockyards for English Heritage, said many of the buildings were unique. "The royal docks were like little communities. The ships were built and repaired here and the sites had to house not only the shipwrights but the rope and sail makers, as well as having storerooms for the provisions"

He added: "All three ports are extremely important in a worldwide context and trace the history of the British fleet from the early days of sea power right through to the 19th century."

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