English Rochester is a city in southeastern England, located in the county of Kent. The city is about 50 kilometers southeast of London and has a population of about 62,000.
Rochester has many historical sites, including Rochester Castle, which was built in 1088 and is now a tourist attraction. The city is also home to the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rochester, which was founded in 604.
Rochester is also known for its festivals, including the Dickens Christmas Festival, held annually in honor of the famous writer Charles Dickens, who was born in this city. The city is also home to several museums, including the Guildhall Museum, which tells the story of the city and its people.
For centuries, English Rochester has remained the second most important city and port in Great Britain. This is primarily because it sits on the banks of a large estuary, a sea bay formed by the waters of the River Thames. The estuary is so large that several other rivers flow into it, and Rochester itself settled at the mouth of one of them, the Medway.
In fact, Rochester served as a naval outpost, providing a direct route to London, the country’s main city. It is clear why Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral have become one of the main attractions of England: the fortress protected the way to the interior of England, was so large and powerful that war and time had no power over it and it is well preserved. The imposing cathedral has become the “face” of England, seen by those who travel to London from the sea.
Rochester is also important because historically it has been one of the few places with “the lowest bridge” – the traditional English term for the last bridge on the river before it empties into the sea. Such places were usually the most important trading towns, to which roads from all over the country converged.
Rochester is in the county of Kent, the ancient center of all England, and the site of some of the most momentous events in the country’s history.
The land where the city stands today was originally settled by Celtic tribes. The ancient history of these places is reminded by well-preserved monuments associated with the rites of the Druids: earthworks, shafts, stoned circles and artificial grottos on the shore.
Near future Rochester in 43 year the Roman legions with great losses have broken the resistance of Celts: the bloody battle on the banks of the Medway lasted two days, which was quite unusual for the era when the Romans easily defeated the “savages”.
In the same year, the Romans built a stone bridge – one of the first in England – and founded the settlement of Durobrive, which became the historic core of what is now Rochester. Until the 5th century, when the Roman Empire was waning and the legions left Britain, the Romans worked tirelessly to defend the city: in 225, they replaced earth fortifications with stone ones that remain to this day.
After the Romans, Rochester lost none of its importance: it housed the port warden – in fact, the head of the city, appointed by the King of Kent, which included the city.
From the 6th century onwards, Rochester was constantly attacked by kingdoms neighboring Kent; in the 9th century it was sacked by the Vikings.
After the conquest of England by the Normans in the 11th century, Rochester witnessed countless raids on the city. Rochester witnessed countless executions, poisonings and assassination attempts on bishops and relatives of kings. Having survived the Victorian era and both World Wars, the city retained its medieval image and became one of the main historic centers of England.
For nine hundred years Rochester wore the proud title of “city” – prestigious, and nothing more. Having lost the right to be so called, Rochester nevertheless remained a city, but the citizens still feel disadvantaged in the right to preserve the historical tradition.
The origin of the name Rochester is not precisely established, but according to a popular version, it came from the transformation of the Roman Durobriv into Durobris, and then into Robrivis, Rovchester, and finally into Rochester.
In modern times, the city has lost its strategic importance, but has retained its transport: it is an important transit point on the Dover-London rail and road routes.
There is probably no other castle in the world about which so much has been written as about Rochester Castle. It was built in XI-XII centuries, when there was a desperate struggle for division of England by the Normans. The castle – then still wooden – was stormed by King William II the Red (circa 1056/1060-1100), second son of William the Conqueror. Determined not to repeat the mistakes of his enemies, the king ordered the construction of a stone castle by Gandalf of Rochester (?-1108), the best defensive builder of the time, who had previously built the White Tower of the Tower of London.
To make the castle impregnable, Gandalf built it where a solid city wall had survived since Roman times, and built all other fortifications directly into the wall. King Henry I (1068-1135), younger son of William the Conqueror and a superstitious William, had already built the castle and loaned it to the Archbishops of Canterbury in 1127. The bulky and overwhelming donjon (the main tower) was built by one of the archbishops, fulfilling the king’s wish to make “a fortification or a tower that would last for ever and ever”.
Since then, the castle has only been attacked three times in its history. Once, during the First Baronial War (1215-1217), when one of the corner towers was blown up. It was rebuilt later by King Henry III, but on an obscure royal whim, the tower was built round, unlike the other three square ones. In this form it has survived to this day. The castle was last captured and plundered in 1381 by peasants under the leadership of Watt Tyler. After the troops began to use gunpowder, the castle lost its defensive value. From the 17th century to the present day Rochester Castle has been a major attraction in Rochester and Kent.
Another famous building of the city is Rochester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Virgin Mary, built in Romanesque style in XI-XII centuries.
The city’s famous Rochester Bridge, a direct descendant of the bridge built by the Romans, is especially revered by its citizens. That bridge collapsed after the Romans, for a long time there was no bridge at all, then in the X century was built wooden, in the XIV century – stone, and in 1914 was created a new bridge of metal structures.
The city is also known for the fact that the great English writer Charles Dickens (1812-1870) lived nearby, making Rochester the setting for many of his novels. In honor of Dickens, the city holds two annual festivals – in June and December.
But the city’s most famous festival is the Chimney Sweep Festival, which was revived in the 1980s after years of neglect and brought the Renaissance dance moresca back to the city’s streets.
- Location: south-east of the island of Great Britain. City in the county of Kent, England, UK.
- Language: English.
- Ethnic composition: white (majority), mestizo, Asian, Afro-British.
- Religions: Christianity (Protestant and Catholic), Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism.
- Currency unit: the pound sterling.
- Biggest river: Medway.
- Important airport: London Heathrow International Airport.
- Population: 27,000 people (2001).
- Height of center: 15 m above sea level.
- Location: 45 km east of London.
Climate and weather
- Temperate sea.
- Average temperature in January: +4.5°C.
- Average temperature in July: +17.5°C.
- Average annual rainfall: 750 mm.
- Relative humidity: 70%.
- Industry: mechanical engineering (electrical engineering, motor industry).
- Services: tourism, transport, trade.
- Historical: Rochester Castle (1089-1127), Rochester Bridge (1914), House-Museum of Charles Dickens (Gadeshill).
- Religious: Rochester Cathedral (1080-1130).
- Architectural: Restoration House (1454, 1502-1522, 1640-1660).
- The 34-meter high main tower of Rochester Castle after its construction became a symbol of the city and in the 13th century was even depicted on its seal. Its construction went on from 1127 to 1138, at the rate of only three meters a year.
- The English writer Charles Dickens mentioned Rochester Castle in his novels Notes of the Pickwick Club and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, noting that the castle was “a glorious heap of rubble, tilted walls, rickety arches, dark corners, crumbling stones”.
- Between World Wars I and II, the Rochester Castle environs were turned into a testing ground for new aircraft. Here the first British aerial torpedo biplane, the Short Admiralty 184, and the Stirling four-engine bomber were created and tested.
- To raise money to build a stone bridge in 1391, two wealthy citizens founded the Rochester Bridge Society, but they needed the personal approval of King Richard II himself to own the land to build it, and in the future to collect a fee for the use of the bridge. In a slightly modified form, the Rochester Bridge Society still exists today and enjoys the same privileges.
- The builder of Rochester Castle, Gandalf of Rochester, is the founder of the Corps of Royal Engineers, a military engineering unit of the British Army that still exists today.
- According to records in the “Book of the Last Judgement” – a set of documents from the first general land and property census in medieval Europe, taken in England in 1085-1086 by order of William the Conqueror – Rochester Castle was among the 48 most privileged castles, and in it, as in a particularly important fortification, was a permanent garrison of 60 paid knights.
- Rochester is home to the King’s School, founded in 604 – the second oldest school in Britain after the Canterbury school of the same name.
- In 1870 Rochester City Council leased Rochester Castle from the then-owner Lord Jersey and organized an amusement park in it. In 1884 the castle was purchased from the landlord for £6,572. Since 1965 the castle has been on the register of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, and since 1980 it has been managed by English Heritage.