My earliest memories of Eastgate House date back to when I was a pupil at The King’s School in Rochester. One of our teachers took the class to visit it, probably around 1960, as we were reading excerpts from Dickens’ ‘Pickwick Papers’ in our English class. I recall we all became far more attentive when we heard that there were reports that ghosts had been seen (or felt) in the building: a lot more exciting to a 12-year-old than descriptions of Elizabethan architecture.
When I left the King’s School, I attended the Medway College of Art, the main building of which was directly across a pathway from Eastgate House in a building now serving as Medway Adult Education Centre. In fine weather, we would often spend our lunchtimes in the little garden that was tucked in beside Eastgate House. It seemed so peaceful there, even though we were only a few yards from the noise and bustle of Rochester High Street.
After leaving college, I lived in Borstal Village and worked in London for a few years but returned to the Medway Towns, taking a job as an artist in the advertising department of the Evening Post, at their office in Chatham High Street near Luton Arches. Not long after that, I emigrated to the United States, settling initially in the Hudson Valley area of New York.
I returned frequently on visits to the Medway Towns, and when I was accompanied by friends from America, I would always take them to Eastgate House after it became the Charles Dickens Centre, because Dickens still fascinates many Americans, particularly due to the many films that have been made from his books. Even if I visited alone, I would always need to stock up on souvenirs from the Dickens Centre to take back to friends in the USA.
Later, after the Dickens artifacts moved to the new museum at the Chatham Dockyard, I returned to Rochester to visit Eastgate once or twice when my sister was exhibiting some of her paintings there as part of a painters’ group to which she belonged.
I am so pleased to know that the fine old building is undergoing renovation and conservation. I am nearly 70 years old now, and so many memories revolve around the times I have spent at or around Eastgate House. I now live in Nashville, Tennessee, and I shall make a trip to Rochester in 2017 to see Eastgate House restored to its former glory.
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