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TV show uncovers Tudor shipyard in Medway

The first evidence confirming the site of Henry VIII’s dockyard in Kent has been uncovered by the TV show Pub Dig during a search for Medway’s hidden Tudor shipyard.

The discoveries, which will be broadcast tonight on the UK’s History Channel, also included medieval relics and evidence of a huge storehouse.

Rory McGrath, the host of Pub Dig, and a team of archaeologists spent four days carrying out the first ever search for the original dockyard on the banks of the River Medway.

This area had never been explored before and the team, working for Oxford Scientific Films, uncovered the evidence that proved this was the site of some of the earliest shipyards.

The evidence uncovered included a ship’s hook, nails and tankards used by Tudor ship builders from the time of King Henry VIII.

They also found the foundations of a vast Georgian building that would once have been filled with the cannon that armed ships including Nelson’s Victory.

‘Pub Dig’ is being shown on the History Channel and the second programme features Chatham’s Command House pub, which was once the headquarters for the ‘Storekeeper of Ordnance’ who was responsible for all naval armaments.

Paul Blinkhorn, the field archaeologist on the project, said: “Digging at the Chatham Dockyard was, as an archaeologist, both a thrill and a privilege. To be able to carry out the first formal excavations on a site of such global importance was certainly an experience I shall never forget, and the results were better than we could have dared to hope.”

The manager of the Command House, Keith Stephen, added: “It has been absolutely brilliant – a lot of locals came along to see what was happening and they were really interested to see what might be discovered during the dig. I have always wanted to find out more about the history of the place and this has given me the chance to do that.”

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Rodney Chambers, said: “We are delighted that this team has made such significant discoveries, which have helped increase our understanding of Medway’s great maritime heritage. We hope this will help draw even more attention to our bid for World Heritage Status for the dockyard and defences at Chatham.”

Chatham is the world’s most complete example of an historic dockyard from the age of sail and early age of steam (1700 – 1865) and was instrumental in securing and maintaining Britain’s worldwide influence, leading the world in industrial design, naval architecture and military technology.

The UK can propose one World Heritage Site a year. Chatham Dockyard and its Defences is on the government’s shortlist of 11 sites for future nominations. The next potentially available application date is January 2013.

The programme about the Command House dig will be shown on The History Channel on Friday, 2 December at 9pm. The series will also be repeated on Channel 5 in the Spring.

Click here to learn more about the show Pub Dig

Source: Medway Council, Pub Dig

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