An Industrial Museum for the Medway?

The following article was published as an insert in Rolling Issue 138. Unfortunately Production problems led to one of the paragraphs, at the bottom of the first page of the article, being truncated. The full text of the article is published below.

A plan for the possible destruction of an original Aveling & Porter building which served as offices of the firm on the River Medway waterfront at Strood, across the river from Rochester, was brought to the attention of members who attended the AGM at Swindon.

It should be pointed out to those members who are not aware at this time, that Aveling’s works were actually located in Strood, rather than in the better known city of Rochester over the river, despite the legends borne proudly on worksplates and around wheel hubs by Aveling & Porter products which were exported round the world.

An appeal against this planned act of Council-led vandalism in the name of progress has been made to Friends of Medway Archives (FoMA) by Councillor Sue Haydock, a Vice-President of the Friends and a person very active in trying to preserve the historical heritage of the Medway Towns. She said,

There are many in the area who think these buildings, occupied by Messrs Winget after Aveling’s moved to Grantham in the mid-1930s, would make a superb Industrial Museum for the Medway Valley - and all power to their elbow in that respect. Some local Councillors have been calling for more museum space in the area and, following local representations, these important buildings have a reprieve for the time being.

Medway has aspirations of being a City of Culture, and culture and heritage is one of its core values. But there are a huge number of people, including local Councillors, who are not aware of the significance or historical importance of these buildings - nor of the opportunity that is now presented to make a first class presentation of the area’s very significant industrial past.

It may be recalled by those with long memories that in 1982 the RRA was instrumental, on the centenary of the death of Thomas Aveling, of the erection of a commemorative plaque on the end of the Aveling & Porter offices, at that time Winget’s offices. Winget’s helped tremendously in this, as did Aveling-Barford - for the latter provided ‘a hundred years of rollers’ for the Centenary Road Run on the Sunday after Saturday’s Annual General Meeting in Strood which took place on 7 March – the exact day on which the great man died in 1882. The A-B contribution included presentation shields and the participation of their 1882 steam roller and a newly-produced 1982 diesel-engined version among several other entries in the road run to Aveling’s grave. It was therefore a significant date in the overall scheme of things in the history of steam road vehicles – especially steam rollers. It was equally significant that the 2009 AGM at Swindon was also held on 7 March!

It would therefore be appreciated by your Committee if you would make your opposition to the proposed demolition known and provide your support for an alternative use of these premises - by emailing the Medway Council leader, Rodney Chambers at Rodney.chambers at medway.gov.uk.

In addition, would you also please contact local industrial archaeologist Jim Preston at james.m.preston at btinternet.com or on 07712 618004 so he can gauge the strength of reaction from RRA members. It may be recalled that Jim is the author of the little history book entitled Aveling & Porter Ltd – a valuable asset to owners of Aveling & Porter products. Perhaps local members will form themselves into a body of like-minded people with a will to save the buildings?

Jim has indicated that they need all the help they can get from both home and abroad. He says that the more people that write in, the better. He knows that support has already been forthcoming from some national bodies such as the Victorian Society, Road Locomotive Society, and National Traction Engine Trust and it is now up to Road Roller Association members to offer their support, as well as all the various local societies who have already done so.

This worthy proposal provides a unique opportunity to commemorate the industry of the whole Medway district. Not only the well known activities of Aveling & Porter but also the cement, brick-making, brewing and paper-making enterprises between Strood and Aylesford, need greater representation to the public at large. In addition, there has also been a large influence in the area with the associated river traffic of barges and the like which are of national importance.

Further, in this respect, the firm of Lafarge has the remaining archive of the Thames and Medway cement factories currently stored locally in a large container and this is therefore not available for research. In the small local museum there is no room to do more than show occasional selections of such material but a larger museum could provide proper facilities for exhibition and research and could attract much of the clientele visiting the Historical Dockyard at Chatham.

With the help of RRA members, let us hope there will be a successful outcome to this on-going problem. Please email if possible – and if this arrangement is not available to you, please write a letter to the Leader of the Council and send it in an envelope addressed to Rodney Chambers, Leader of Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR.

Please show that by your active participation in this request, the RRA can make a difference!

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