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21st November 1999

Sheerness is a commercial port and main town of the Isle of Sheppey and owes much to its origins as a Royal Naval dockyard town.

Samuel Pepys established the Royal Navy Dockyard in the 17th Century and would probably have become one of the foremost naval bases in the country had it not been flooded during construction. It served the Navy until 1960 and has since developed into one of the largest and fastest expanding ports in the UK.

John Rennie was the 19th Century engineer who surveyed and designed a new Dockyard for Sheerness, which was completed by his son after his death.

Work commenced in December 1813 and the completed Dockyard was formally opened on 5th September 1823 by the Duke of Clarence who later became King William IV.

According to contemporary accounts one million piles were used in the construction and many of the Rennie buildings survive today including the more visible Naval Terrace. The works cost 2,586,083 in 1823.

Before any work commenced a scale model of the whole dockyard was constructed to aid the builders in their work. The model has survived and was stored for many years in the old Boat House in the Docks before being salved and restored by English Heritage.

It is now stored at Fort Brockhurst, in Portsmouth. The complete model requires an area of at least 1600 square feet. The model was displayed for many years in the Boat Store in Sheerness Docks.

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Good morning Peter.

Thank you for providing such an informative site. I must however correct you on the history of Naval Terrace. The Terrace is a later addition to the Rennie docks completed by one of his apprentices. J L Taylor. in 1826. The dockyard church is the second on the site, the Rennie church (as in his model) was exactly the same, save for parapets instead of gutters. This was destroyed by fire in 1888, and the present one rebuilt! (Fire for the second time around!) An interesting note is that J L Taylor was also the architect for Holy Trinity Sheerness built in 1840. Naval Terrace is significant in architectural history as it has the last terrace of Georgian coach houses in the country at its rear. The houses were built for the most senior officers in the dockyard with the deputy to the admiral living at what is now numbers 1&2, who was a knight. Another interesting note is unlike other Georgian townhouses, they only have one staircase, and not a second one for servants. This was due to the servants entering through the front basements living not at the top of the houses, but in blue town!

Hope that enlightens you further.....

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