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Eastgate House - High Street, Rochester, Kent, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 23.227 E 000° 30.372
31U E 326483 N 5695826
Quick Description: Eastgate House is an Elizabethan town house located on the north east side of Rochester High Street. It was built in the 1590s.
Location: South East England, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 3/17/2013 10:01:15 AM
Waymark Code: WMGKR8
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Dragontree
Views: 3

Long Description:

The plaque on the south corner of the house reads:

City of Rochester

Eastgate House
Built by the Right Worshipful
Sir Peter Buck 1590-1
'Westgate House' 'Pickwick Papers'
'The Nun's House' ' Edwin Drood'

The Visit Medway website [visit link] tells us:

"Eastgate House is a grade one listed building of exceptional interest. It was built in the late 1590s by Sir Peter Buck, Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham Dockyard and is an excellent example of an Elizabethan town house.

Subsequently five generations of Bucks lived in the house and made their own changes and additions to the building. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the house had many uses, notably as a girls' school. It features as Westgate in Dickens' novel, Pickwick Papers and as the Nun's House in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

The house is set in its own gardens and the site also encompasses an annexe building and cottage designed by Sir Guy Dawber in the 1920s. In addition, it is home to the Swiss chalet where Dickens used to write. This was moved to Eastgate in the 1960s and was previously sited at nearby Gad’s Hill, where Dickens lived from 1856 until his death in 1870.

In the late 19th century the house was bought by the Corporation of Rochester and turned into the city museum. In the 1970s the building became the Charles Dickens’ Centre, which closed in 2004.

Eastgate House is currently used for the following activities:

• art exhibitions of contemporary and traditional art;
• local history exhibitions supported by Medway Archives and
Local Studies Centre and the City of Rochester Society;
• weddings and civil ceremonies;
• educational visits for such subjects as history or drama;
• special events such as Heritage Open Days and the summer and Christmas Dickens Festivals."

Eastgate House is a Grade I listed building with the entry at the English Heritage website [visit link] telling us:

"Eastgate House 24.10.50 GV I Formerly a large private town house, now a museum. Substantially of 1590-1, built by Sir Peter Buck, Clerk of the Acts in the Navy Board, extended and refurbished in the C17; it is possible that the house incorporates some earlier work. Main range of brick; side elevation and rear wings brick and timber framed; some rubble ragstone. Kent tile roofs. Plan: the removal of internal partitions in the C19 and the likely demolition of a range to the E makes reconstruction of the original plan uncertain. Ground floor hall entered by a porch (S) probably into a through passage (opposing entries in situ, screen removed); one room to the left (W) with high status chambers above served by an S stair turret (which forms an important element in the main front) although both turret and W rooms appear to belong to a slightly different building programme to the main range (see change in plinth details).

These rooms are largely timber-framed and the side elevation (W) with much jettying forms a secondary show front towards the street. To the right of the hall is another room. A long set of windows in the rear wall, along with a rubble plinth, extend beyond the line of the present end (E) wall into what is now a low lean-to, and this must indicate that the house originally extended to the E. Until the addition of the C17 stairs (situated to the rear of the former through-passage and contained within one of 3 separately gabled wings all of the same date), it is difficult to see how the upper floors of the E and of the house were adequately served and it is probable that the now demolished E part of the house contained a second S stair turret balancing that mentioned above and thereby forming a roughly symmetrical S front.

Exterior: S front: 3 storeys and attic. Asymmetrical. 2 storeyed porch is flanked by a gabled bay. The porch has a hipped roof, 1st floor windows to S and E (2 lights with double-ovolo moulded brick surround, mullion and transom); pediment over doorway with pilasters on panelled plinths; stone 4-centred arch has shields in spandrels and large bar stops set high. Each bay has a tripartite window arrangement; 2-light windows to each floor connect with a central 3-storeyed projecting bay, polygonal to left, canted to right, giving continuous glazing across the wings. All windows with timber mullions, transoms and surrounds; most of the woodwork is renewed. To the left the polygonal stair turret with single- light windows under cambered arches, all-brick moulded, moulded string-courses between floors, and projecting gabled roof. To the left again, the plain end wall of the street front, plain brick, but containing a plaque with the herladic device of the Bucj family and 2-light window under hood mould to ground. High Street elevation: 3 storeys and attic, all jettied, with 2 gables. Brick end well corbelled and moulded with a decorative zig-zag vertical strip to 1st floor.

Uninterrupted 14 light ground floor window with king mullion, set high under jetty. Similar to 1st and 2nd floors but here broken by - at 1st floor - a 7-light oriel on console brackets and - on 2nd floor - 2 3- light oriels. These long ranks of windows set very high to each floor are presumably intended to light the fine plaster ceilings: see interior. 2-light gable wall windows, decorated bargeboarding and apex and pendants. To the left the side wall of the W rear wing considerably later (see masonry joint and absence of plinth); brick, 2 storeys, with 4-light windows to each floor (that to the 1st floor slightly projecting). Diamond leading. String course. rear: 3 gabled wings, half-hipped upper storeys and attic; 2, 3 and 4-light windows to 1st floor (that to E wing with large mullions, lighting stairs), 2-light windows to gable walls.

Interior: although considerable amounts of woodwork, including the porch inner door, are brought from elsewhere, there is some fine plasterwork, and the stone fireplaces appear to be in situ. Hall: wall panelling, fire- surround with pilasters, panelled overmantel with caryatids (not in situ) and inserted ceiling beams. Doorways with cyma moulded surrounds and bar stops set high. Right-hand room with ovllo- moulded ceiling beams; wall panelling, fireplace with stone surround with pulvinated frieze, and Jacobean overmantel not in situr. Open well stairs, C17, turned balusters, square-section newels with finials. 1st floor. Right-hand room with dentil cornice, some panelling and simple fire surround with fluted pilasters. Chamber above hall with fine fire surround (not in situ) with fluted term pilasters and elaborate panelled overmantel. Wall panelling. Between these two rooms is a pierced wooden panel designed to distribute borrowed light: evidence for others exist elsewhere.

The most significant interiors are in the W rooms where good plaster ceilings survive to all floors. These are single-ribbed with a variety of geometric patterns (quatrefoils, diamonds, squares etc) with stylised foliage, and heraldic devices. The heraldry (and a rebus to 2nd floor) indicate that they date from Buck's time (ie the 1590s) and as such are a remarkable set of early plasterwork ceilings. Stone fireplaces with 4-centred arches, dated 1590 and 1591. In the attic is some simple line-drawn patternwork on plaster (much remains to be exposed). Side purlin roof; the High Street range is separately roofed."

Earliest Recorded Date of Construction: 1/1/1590

Additional Dates of Construction:
Extended and refurbished in the 17th century.

Architectural Period/Style: Elizabethan

Type of Building e.g. Country House, Stately Home, Manor:
Town house.

Interesting Historical Facts or Connections:
Home to Sir Peter Buck when built. Now a museum.

Listed Building Status (if applicable): Grade I listed

Main Material of Construction: Brick and ragstone

Private/Public Access: Private/some public access during exhibitions

Related Website: [Web Link]


Architect (if known): Not listed

Landscape Designer (if known): Not listed

Admission Fee (if applicable): Not Listed

Opening Hours (if applicable): Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Tell us about your visit with any details of interest about the property. Please supply at least one original photograph from a different aspect taken on your current visit.
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dave-harris visited Eastgate House - High Street, Rochester, Kent, UK 9/13/2014 dave-harris visited it