Grade 1 restoration & alteration
Eastgate House, an impressive Elizabethan home immortalised in two Charles Dickens novels, has been awarded a grant of over £1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to fully open it up to the public. The imposing Tudor town house – on historic Rochester High Street – is a draw for hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year to see Rochester’s rich heritage, old world charm and links to the famous author.
Eastgate House – a Grade I listed building - was built in the latter part of the 16th century for Sir Peter Buck, the Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham Dockyard. It was lived in by five generations of the Buck family. During the 18th and 19th centuries it had many uses, perhaps most notably as a girls’ school. It featured as Westgate in Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and as the Nun’s House in his work The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Now, as the bicentenary year of the great writer’s birth comes to an end, the property has received £1.28million of HLF investment to transform it. Medway Council is contributing a further £700,000 towards the project, which will cost a total of £2.1million to complete. The work will start next year and be completed in 2015.
The Heritage Lottery Fund Grant will be used to transform the property and the way it can be used. The money will help support, in partnership with Medway Council and other funding partners, the repair and conservation of the building’s fabric, from the roof, to the windows and floors. New heating and lighting will be installed, removing unsightly pipework and wiring and providing services more sensitive to the 16th-century interior.
Access for visitors will be greatly improved with a new lift at the back of the building, which has received planning permission, and is being sensitively designed in consultation with English Heritage and local residents. A staircase, removed by the museum at the turn of the century will be re-instated to allow easy access from the first to the second floor. The project will help tell the story of Eastgate House, for the first time, focusing on the house and the people who have made it their home, for over 400 years. This project will create new jobs, new ways for people to get involved as volunteers and other supporters, and will secure the future of this much loved local landmark.