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Maritime Kent conference 2024

A full day conference organised by the KAS Maritime Kent Special Interest exploring the topic of Kent and shipbuilding will take place at Chatham Historic Dockyard in the autumn of 2024.


Ships Laid Up in the Medway - looking from Chatham towards Rochester c.1675.NMM BHC 0832.

Call for papers

Kent as a maritime county has been a centre for ship and boat building since the earliest times, with the Bronze Age boat discovered near Dover in 1992 having a claim to be one of the oldest seagoing vessels in the world. Ships have been built in the county for hundreds of years using local timber and iron to serve both the navy and the county’s many maritime-based industries, businesses and activities.

This View of the Town & Port of Dover - from Robert Dodds `Seaport' set of prints, 1793 NMM PAI7087.

Some of the Royal Navy’s most famous ships were built at Chatham, including Nelson’s Victory, and yards like James Pollock & Sons in Faversham supplied ships and boats for customers across the world. Thriving local fishing businesses led to the construction of custom-built boats that are unique to Kent, like the Whitstable Whelk boats and the Medway Doble and Gravesend’s role as the entry point for the Port of London led to the development of a specific type of boat, the Gravesend Waterman’s skiff, to ferry passengers, pilots and customs officials back and forth to the ships at anchor off the town. Similarly, Deal Galleys were designed specifically to take people and goods out and back to ships anchored on the Downs.

Home from the Brazils - by Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923). Showing a schooner in the yard of W.G. Gill & Sons on the River Medway in Rochester NMM BHC 4236.

Held in the year of the 40th anniversary of the closure of Chatham Dockyard, this conference seeks to highlight and explore the wider story of Kent’s shipbuilding heritage and so we are seeking proposals for papers on all aspects of ship and boat building in the county. This includes ship design and construction, both naval and merchant; the history and operation of specific ship and boat builders/yards (especially those producing innovative and locally used craft); places with a particular connection or history to shipbuilding; how archaeology has contributed to the understanding of ship and boat construction; the social and economic impact of shipbuilding on both people and places; and Kent shipbuilders and yards in the context of the UK’s shipbuilding industry over time.

Plan of the Lark a 32-gun, Fifth Rate Frigate - initialled by Israel Pownoll Master Shipwright, Chatham Dockyard NMM ZAZ3110.

Please send a proposal for a paper (max 300 words) and a short biography (max 150 words) and/or any queries to Stuart Bligh by Wednesday 31st January 2024. Please note that papers should be no longer than 25 minutes.


Proposals will be assessed by the Maritime Kent SIG steering committee and you will be notified if your proposal has been successful by 29th February 2023.


We regret that at this stage in planning we cannot offer to cover any costs or expenses.

Plan of a 12 oared 30 ft Pinnace with a De Horsey Rig, 1884 signed E. C. Warren Chief Constructor, Chatham Dockyard, NMM ZAZ7232.


Plan of the Cumberland a 70-gun Third Rate, two-decker, as fitted at Chatham Dockyard in 1842 signed by John Laire Master Shipwright, Chatham Dockyard.NMM ZAZ0923.


Contact email
Stuart Bligh
Chatham Historic Dockyard
Event Type