About Eastgate House
View of Eastgate House from the High Street in Rochester, Kent.
Eastgate House construction began in the late 1590s for Sir Peter Buck who was Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham’s Royal Tudor Dockyard. This Grade I listed Elizabethan mansion is one of the finest in the country and has a rich and fascinating history.
Originally used as a family home for five generations of the Buck family, it has also been used as a girls' boarding school, a public library and most recently as a museum and centre dedicated to the work of the famous English author and social critic, Charles Dickens.
The Dickens Centre closed in 2004 and since then the house has opened for special events. In 2012 Medway Council secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the house to its former glory, as part of a £2 million conservation project.
The restoration work included essential repairs; the installation of new heating and lighting; and greatly improved access for visitors - a new lift at the back of the building and the reinstatement of a staircase, removed more than a century ago. The project preserved the building’s outstanding historical features while transforming it into a first class visitor attraction and multi-functional community space for future generations to enjoy. Read more about the restoration project.
A brief history of Eastgate House
1590s Construction of Eastgate House began, it was built for Sir Peter Buck, Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham's Royal Tudor Dockyard.
1687 The Parker Family lived in the house.
1750s The Bartholomew Family lived in the house.
1761 Annabel Darwin took over the ownership of the house and possibly let it to tenants.
1791 The house was occupied by James Reed and his wife - who later opened its doors as a girls' boarding school.
1841 The house was used as a girls boarding school and governed by Rebecca Norton. At this time Charles Dickens referred to it as "The Nuns' House" in what became his final novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".
1870s Samuel Shaw, a wholesale coal merchant bought the house and it was used once again as a private home.
1890 The house was used briefly as a hostel for young men.
1903 Rochester City Council acquired the house and opened its doors for use as a municipal library and museum, in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
1923 The museum in the house was extended, the gardens were developed and a cottage was built in the grounds for a caretaker. The work was funded by a legacy from Thomas Hellyar Foord.
1961 The Dickens Chalet which once stood at the former home of Charles Dickens in Gad's Hill, Higham, Kent was relocated to the gardens of Eastgate House.
1979 The house became the Dickens Centre, a museum devoted to the life and works of Charles Dickens.
1982 The formal gardens were replaced with a new design, which is still in place today.
2004 The Dickens Centre closed its doors.
2012 Medway Council's Heritage Lottery Bid was successful and the project was awarded £1.28 million to develop and preserve the house for future generations.
2014 Investigative works began on the house.
2015 Restoration work began in March.
2017 Eastgate House re-opened to the public on 19 July.
This is a view from the rear of Eastgate House where you can also see Dickens' Swiss Chalet to the right.
This is one of the many rooms in Eastgate House with beautiful wood panelled walls and decorative ceilings.
The wood carvings and wall paintings in Eastgate House have fascinated historians and visitors.