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Britannia's Magical History Tour
Stop 21: Rochester, Kent
Rooves of Rochester
Situated about 25 miles southeast of London, on the north side of the River Medway at its lowest fordable point, the city of Rochester controls the main road from Dover on the Channel coast to London. It enjoys a strategic importance which has been appreciated since pre-Roman times. The Romans built a walled city, here, which was then refortified by the Anglo-Saxons in their time.

In 604, Augustine established Rochester as England's second bishopric (Canterbury was the first) and consecrated the cathedral at that time. The present cathedral building was begun around 1080 by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, and has been added onto in almost every century since. It is a small building, as English cathedrals go, but beautiful and very well kept.

Rochester Castle from the east William the Conqueror recognized Rochester's importance and ordered that a castle should be built to defend it. The work was begun by Gundulf, who had had previous building experience at the Tower of London, and at Rochester Cathedral, but was probably not finished until around 1140. Today, the wall is intact as is the impressive great tower. Also known as the keep, the tower is 70 ft. square and 125 ft. high and still conveys the impression of power and solidity.

A highlight in the history of the castle came in 1215, the year Magna Carta was signed, when the castle was held by the rebel barons against King John. There was a great siege which ended when the forces of the King undermined the south turret. It collapsed, allowing his troops to enter and take the castle.

Rochester's most famous resident was Charles Dickens, who lived at Gad's Hill Place for many years prior to his death in 1870. Many of the local houses and inns feature somehow in Dickens' many novels. In the High Street, there is the Charles Dickens Centre where, through creative use of sound and light, the displays of Dickens' characters seem to come to life.

You have now reached the end of the Magical History Tour. We hope that you have enjoyed it!

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