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This edited article about the Medway Towns originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 898 published on 7 April 1979.
Do you live in the Medway Towns?
Rochester, Gillingham and Chatham are three towns in Kent which usually go by the name of “the Medway Towns”.
They are situated on the south bank of the River Medway near where it joins the Thames, and the dividing lines between the towns have become blurred. Today, the area is a large conurbation where thousands of people live and work.
This part of England has always been associated with the River Thames and the gateway to the Continent. It has seen invasions launched and been invaded itself.
Rochester grew up around the enormous Norman castle that was built to guard the Medway where it was crossed by the main road from Dover to London.
A few miles away, at Chatham, Elizabeth I provided the basis of the British empire when she founded the Royal Dockyard. For 300 years, the mighty ships that gave Britain her enormous seapower were built in this dockyard. Over the years, it grew in size and importance until it had spread to the borough of Gillingham.
Perhaps the area’s most famous resident was the writer Charles Dickens. He died at Gad’s Hill, just outside Rochester, and many of his books were written about local characters.