Hastings and Rother U3A

Blue Badge guide Clive Richardson’s illustrated talk ‘Dickensian and Historic Rochester’ gave members of Hastings and Rother U3A many reasons to visit the Medway town of Rochester. To celebrate the life of one of its former illustrious residents, Charles Dickens, who died at his home, Gads Hill Place near Rochester, two main festivals are held annually in June and December, attracting many sightseers. People take part in a parade dressed up as Dickensian characters or in Victorian costume. The winter festival has bell-ringers and carol singers plus guaranteed snow from a machine if there is none of the real variety, and the parade is by lamplight. There is also a Chimney Sweeps festival in May.

Rochester also contains fine architecture including Restoration House, once owned by Rod Hull, said to be the model for Miss Havisham’s house in Great Expectations; Eastgate House, which featured in The Pickwick Papers and The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Dickens’ Swiss chalet, where he often wrote, now stands in the grounds and the Guildhall Museum, which has some magnificent ceilings and also a Dickens’ exhibition is also worth a visit.

The castle and cathedral stand as proud reminders of Rochester’s history. The castle has the tallest keep in Britain, and one of its four towers was rebuilt circular instead of square. The cathedral is England’s second oldest, behind Canterbury. It became a major place of pilgrimage in the 13th century following the nearby murder of William of Perth, who was canonised after miracles are reputed to have happened. Part of the medieval city walls still exist today.

Clearly this city is a must to visit.

The next talk will be on Monday June 22nd, at St Peter’s Community Hall, Bexhill Old Town when Melanie Gibson Barton will be speaking about Ten and More Famous Belgians.

The meeting starts at 10.15 and coffee is served from 9.45.

Visitors are welcome to attend two sessions before deciding whether to join. On arrival you will be met by branch greeters. It costs £17 to join and then all the talks are free. You can find out further details about how to join by ringing Sian Trevellion on 07970 727180 or email initialenquiries.hru3a@gmail.com