Summer Gathering 2016
at the Chatham Historic Dockyard
7th August 2016
Queen Elizabeth I established Chatham as a royal dockyard in 1567, and visited seven years later. The first ship, HMS Sunne was launched in 1586. HMS Victory was also built here in 1765, showing that she was 40 years old when she was Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar.
For 414 years Chatham Royal Dockyard provided over 500 ships for the Royal Navy, and was at the forefront of shipbuilding, industrial and architectural technology. At its height, it employed over 10,000 skilled artisans and covered 400 acres (1.6 km²).
At the turn of the century, 12 submarines were built, the first in 1908. Submarines were also the last ships built here, with HMS Ocelot being the final one.
Chatham dockyard closed in 1984, and 84 acres (340,000 m2) of the Georgian dockyard is now managed by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust.
The three remaining wet docks house the WW2 destroyer, HMS Cavalier, the last submarine built at Chatham in 1962, HMS Ocelot, and an 1878 naval sloop, HMS Gannett.
The covered slips date back to 1838, and were the largest clear span structures at the time.
After months of preparation, the weekend for the Summer Gathering arrived. 80 cars had pre-entered and we were hoping that a similar number would turn up on the day to enjoy the various attractions that the Dockyard and ourselves had laid on.
A handful of stalwart helpers turned up on the afternoon before to erect the tents, set out the parking zones and route directions. It was pretty windy, so we attached one end of the marquee to a convenient lamp post. However when the marshals turned up on Sunday morning they were faced with a gazebo and marquee that had both blown over in the wind during the night, breaking some spars on our new gazebo. By the time the first cars arrived we had the tents back in place, but still needed additional restraint from the Chairman’s car, as well as some sandbags and a dustbin!
The dockyard’s original parade ground was the location for our gathering and was split into four parking zones. One was for the 16 Pride of Ownership entrants and the two Concours entrants, the second area was for pre-1955 cars, another was for the MGFs, and the post-1955 cars filled in the rest of the area. We counted 105 cars altogether, with exactly 200 people in total.
We had arranged a one-hour walking tour of the site with a dedicated tour guide; this was so well supported that we had to add a second tour – one in the morning and the second one in the afternoon. The spare places were soon taken up, and we had to turn away quite a few people after the 50 places had gone.
By the start of the event at the 10am opening time, the marshals were all ready for the invasion, and the sliding entrance gate was slid open. We had a total of 25 marshals to help make the Gathering run smoothly; each marshal was only required to do a 2-hour stint in exchange for a free entry, as this was felt to be a reasonable length of time to be on duty. However this meant that we needed more marshals to cover the whole day, and our marshal organiser, Andrew Mitchell, had a hard job collecting enough volunteers.
The dockyard also organised tours of the submarine Ocelot, and the ¼ mile long Ropery that has been making ropes for 400 years, since its inception. Both of these had to be pre-booked, as the number of people were limited due to the confined spaces.
The other two preserved ships could be accessed at any time. These were the World War II destroyer, HMS Cavalier, and the 1878 naval sloop, HMS Gannett. There was also an extensive display of lifeboats from the RNLI collection.
A new reception area had only recently been finalised in the old Upper Mast House, where there was also a café/restaurant. This could be accessed direct from the parade ground, with the entry ticket bar code supposedly allowing re-entry via the electronic barriers. Unfortunately we had a bit of a hiccup here, as the bar codes had been dated for the week before and didn’t allow re-entry, but with the dockyards help and announcing the change on our loudhailer, we managed to overcome this problem.
As well as the walking tour, we had arranged for those who were not too interested in the dockyard to take a tour of Dickens’ Rochester, suitably guided by our member, Chris Leigh, who has done this tour for many years. So quite a few people jumped on the local open topped tour bus to take them to Rochester and back, for the 2-hour round trip.
The results of the Concours and Pride of Ownership competitions were announced soon after 4pm, and the Car of the Show was Richard Thorpe’s well-known ZR 160, while Nigel Scutt’s MGF took the Concours award. The Pride of Ownership competition was a T-Type benefit with John Harrington’s TF beating Ray Windle’s TD. A rare entrant was the MG Metro of Lee Staples. John Dutton’s impressive and very rare WA drophead coupe was much admired and came a creditable 4th.
All in all we were pleased with the event, and many people have contacted us to say how much they enjoyed the day, which is always satisfying after all the hard work that has gone into organising these gatherings.
Car Of the Show Richard Thorpe ZR 160
Concours winner Nigel Scutt MGF
Pride of Ownership
1st John Harrington T
2nd Ray Windle TD
3rd Michael Wacher MGA de luxe
4th John Dutton WA dhc
5th Mick Loynes MGB V8
6th Bob Willett MGF
7th Tony Atcheson MGB
8th Ian McCullock TF
9th Lee Staples Metro
10th Chris Jones MGF
11th Gary Johnson MGF
12TH Jamie Blair MGBGT
13th Colin Lee J1
14th Rosemary Bayne-Powell NA Allingham
15th Simon Warner MGB
16th Nigel Croxford MGF
Click on pics to enlarge