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Author Topic: The Royal Air Forces Association Club, Chatham  (Read 9584 times)

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Offline pandy

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Re: The Royal Air Forces Association Club, Chatham
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 21:50:03 »
My parents, both wartime R.A.F., were long standing members of the Chatham RAFA. The first premises that I was aware of were on the Chatham Maidstone Road (number 126 comes to mind although I would not vouchsafe to that) in a large converted house next to the Oakwood Youth Club. I have a vivid memory of walking back home to the Delce in a horrendous blizzard on Boxing Day night, 1962. Towards the end of the sixties the RAFA moved to one of the vacant army huts in South Hill Barracks. The army were still in residence but I suspect it was just a de-commissioning crew tidying up before they vacated. As a by now eighteen year old going anywhere voluntarily with my parents was not considered cool. However I was not averse to occasionally taking a girlfriend or two to take advantage of the club prices for a Babycham with cherry on a cocktail stick. Can’t remember what the girls drank! Beginning of the seventies they again moved to a building (hut) on the raised ground in Dock Road just along from the Town Hall. I remember being conscripted by my father (a builder) to help out in the refitting of this. Had a memorable New Years Eve there with another girlfriend (the word ‘cheapskate’ may be flashing) where, as drunk as a lord, I danced the ‘can can’. That relationship did not survive the cold cruel days of early January. The pictures of the bar in Alan W Collin`s photograph very much mimics the Dock Road bar. I left the Medway Towns when my fiancée`s families pub was demolished (Blue Boar, Rochester High Street) around 1973-4. The RAFA club was then still very much in existence on Dock road.   

AlanWCollins

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The Royal Air Forces Association Club, Chatham
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2013, 18:08:57 »
As of today, The Royal Air Forces Association Club in Chatham is officially closed. The club was homed in Building No. 4 Riverside, in a building dating back to 1805 which was part of the Gun Wharf.



I will create a separate post for the history of the Branch, but the club was originally homed in a hall next to Fort Amherst (I am led to believe that this was called St Michael's Hall - but it was demolished before I was born, so I am not entirely certain) and moved into Building No. 4 in the mid-1980s as the existing hall was marked for demolition. The building was refurbished with the aid of a community fundraising programme at the time and was officially opened by the Mayor Cllr Peggy Saxby in (I believe) 1986.

The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 2004 and its listing (available here: http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1391071) gives the following brief history:

Quote
Built 1805 as an ordnance store for the receipt and issue of all kinds of ordnance from naval ships; this included cannon balls, muskets, gun carriages, clothing, etc. The Chatham Gun Wharf occupied the site of the medieval wharves below the medieval church, and that of the first Royal Dockyard in the C16. When in the C17 the dockyard relocated to a larger site further north (the present Chatham Dockyard), the Board of Ordnance appropriated this land for use as the Gun Wharf, an arsenal and dock combined. This building was constructed under the supervision of Lt Col D'Arcy at a cost of £1,477.16s.101/4d (PRO). In 1851, the northern wing was used for 'binding of carriages' and the southern end as a carpenters and wheelers shop. In 1863, the northern end was in use as a store house, the southern end still a carpenter's shop. Later-C19 descriptions refer to this building as an armoury for the storage and repair of small arms. The northern wing was used as an armoury until the 1950s when the site was decommissioned. In the late-C20, used as a martial arts centre and RAF Association Club.

Many of the features of the building date back to the 19th century. For example, the supporting beams which can be seen in this photo (taken yesterday):



The background of the photo shows one of the 20th century additions - the wood panels behind which was the bar used by the hall (which was available for private hire). Behind the photographer's viewpoint was a door which led to the club members bar, which was adorned with paintings, photographs, memorabilia and, to the left of the second photograph below, a roll of honour. Both photographs were taken in March 2012.




In addition to former RAF personnel, the club was used as a meeting place for the local branches of the Royal Tank Regiment Association, The Submariners Association, The Regimental Association of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and Medway Sub-Aqua Club. Previously it had also been used as a meeting place for other ex-service associations, the Invicta Military-Vehicle Preservation Society and regular jazz nights and other live music.

It was also used by groups for non-drinking purposes. These included psychic workshops, indoor boot fairs, dance groups, martial arts, former work colleagues looking for somewhere to meet, catch up and play bingo and Alcoholics Anonymous.

The nature of the building made maintenance quite costly, and the club could not afford to pay both maintenance and rent to Medway Council. Despite steadily reducing rent arrears in recent years, the club agreed to vacate the premises at the end of the council's financial year (i.e. today).

As far as I am aware, that leaves just one veterans' club left in the Medway Towns - unless anyone is able to correct me?

 

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