Woodhams Brewery
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Charles II, Charles Dickens And The "source"

Restoration House

There is no finer pre-Civil War town house than this in England - Simon Jenkins

Grade I listed Restoration House gets its name from one of the defining moments of English history - the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. It's also the model for Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations, one of the most iconic novels in all English literature. But the reason the house is here in the first place - just outside the old city wall - is that there was an abundant natural spring just up the hill. It supplied the house with clean fresh water, became the source of the first piped water to the City of Rochester at the end of the 17th century, was used for irrigation in the market garden on part of the estate after it was broken up, and later still led to the founding of a Brewery here in 1750.  And it may well have been that first Brewery building - in a very run down state - that the young Charles Dickens saw as a boy of 12 and used as the inspiration for Chapter 8 of Great Expectations some 35 years later. So in a sense, the "source" of all that history is something very basic: the availability of good fresh water on site. And though the spring and the big brick reservoir built to collect its water have now been destroyed by modern development, we still use the delicious chalky water from the deep aquifer that once supplied it - both to drink and to drive the fountains in the Italian Water Garden.  

Like so many great English houses Restoration House evolved through the desire of the owners to increase their status by turning an older more modest building into something grander, more up to date and more beautiful. And sometimes with the hope that the King or Queen would come to visit on their progress around the realm.

No one is quite sure of the exact sequence but it seems that the current house evolved from a Tudor Hall House and its stables and outbuildings. To begin with a new and grander wing was built to to North - it still has the best carving and panelling in the house - and around 1587 or slightly later that cross wing and the stable block further down the hill were joined up to create a much larger timber framed Elisabethan E-plan house. That's roughly when the large formal garden with its showy diapered brick wall to the north and terraces surrounding a sunk plat seems to have been created too, signalling that the owner - Nicolas Morgan - had both money and taste. Francis Clerk, his son in law and successor as Recorder of Rochester inherited the house and  by around 1630 it had been given its dramatic Mannerist cut-brick facade, which is more or less what you see today. 

Charles II: Charles Stuart landed at Dover on 25th May 1660, to be greeted by General Monck, one of the instigators of the Restoration. No one was completely sure that bringing back the monarchy would be popular, so the plan was for Monck's army to escort the newly restored King by gentle stages to Rochester, where the road to Dover crossed the Medway. Had there been a public outcry against the new king, he would have been able to escape back to the continent from there. In the event, the end of Puritan rule and return of the King were greeted with cheers and celebration all the way from Dover, and Charles knew that he could proceed to London to assume the throne. 

He arrived in Rochester on the 28th May, and is said to have visited Chatham dockyard before knighting Francis Clerk, and stayed with him for the night at what was now the best house in Rochester. At 4am on the 29th he set out to ride into London and reclaim his throne. As documented in John Evelyn's diary and the Parliamentary Intelligencer his progress to London was a triumph, greeted everywhere along the way by wild celebration and ostentatious displays of loyalty and affection. 

29th May, 1660. This day, his Majesty, Charles II. came to London, after a sad and long exile.... This was also his birthday, and with a triumph of above 20,000 horse and foot, brandishing their swords, and shouting with inexpressible joy; the ways strewn with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with tapestry, fountains running with wine; the Mayor, Aldermen, and all the companies, in their liveries, chains of gold, and banners; Lords and Nobles, clad in cloth of silver, gold, and velvet; the windows and balconies, all set with ladies; trumpets, music, and myriads of people flocking, even so far as from Rochester, so as they were seven hours in passing the city, even from two in the afternoon till nine at night.

Though no body knew this at the time, that day also marked the beginning of a new relationship between monarch and parliament, which arguably laid the foundations for a more flexible and innovative society conducive to the growth of commerce and trade, and which ultimately explains why it was in Britain that the first industrial revolution first took off. 

Charles Dickens: was born in February 1812, but the family moved to Chatham four years later and lived there till 1822. This would have been when the young Dickens  - only slightly younger than his hero Pip in Great Expectations- could well have seen the earlier version of the Brewery and garden at Restoration House. In the book he puts the Brewery right next to the house, when in reality it was hundreds of yards away. And he makes it derelict, unused and spooky, as much an emotional symbol as a physical place.  

...I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we started for Miss Havisham's; though I was not at all at my ease regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under that lady's roof. Within a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a court-yard in front, and that was barred; so, we had to wait, after ringing the bell, until some one should come to open it. While we waited at the gate, I peeped in.. and saw that at the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long long time.
A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded "What name?" To which my conductor replied, "Pumblechook." The voice returned, "Quite right," and the window was shut again, and a young lady came across the court-yard, with keys in her hand.
"This," said Mr. Pumblechook, "is Pip."
"This is Pip, is it?" returned the young lady, who was very pretty and seemed very proud; "come in, Pip."
Mr. Pumblechook was coming in also, when she stopped him with the gate.
"Oh!" she said. "Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?"
"If Miss Havisham wished to see me," returned Mr. Pumblechook, discomfited.
"Ah!" said the girl; "but you see she don't."
She said it so finally, and in such an undiscussible way, that Mr. Pumblechook, though in a condition of ruffled dignity, could not protest. But he eyed me severely - as if I had done anything to him! - and departed with the words reproachfully delivered: "Boy! Let your behaviour here be a credit unto them which brought you up by hand!" ...
My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the court-yard. It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication with it, and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the brewery beyond, stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and all was empty and disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder there, than outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind in the rigging of a ship at sea.
She saw me looking at it, and she said, "You could drink without hurt all the strong beer that's brewed there now, boy."
"I should think I could, miss," said I, in a shy way.
"Better not try to brew beer there now, or it would turn out sour, boy; don't you think so?"
"It looks like it, miss."
"Not that anybody means to try," she added, "for that's all done with, and the place will stand as idle as it is, till it falls. As to strong beer, there's enough of it in the cellars already, to drown the Manor House."
"Is that the name of this house, miss?"
"One of its names, boy."
"It has more than one, then, miss?"
"One more. Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, or all three - or all one to me - for enough."
"Enough House," said I; "that's a curious name, miss."
"Yes," she replied; "but it meant more than it said. It meant, when it was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else. They must have been easily satisfied in those days, I should think. But don't loiter, boy."
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The Source: archeology in the formal garden has found some Roman remains and suggests that there  was human activity here for thousands of years. The most likely reason is the presence of the spring at the top of the hill just to the south-west, making it easy to access and use fresh water. The same water was used to supply the existing buildings on Crow Lane - Vines Croft, Vines House and Restoration House. An act of Parliament in the 1690s gave permission to use it to supply the first piped water to Rochester, it was likely used for the market garden run by Nicolas Prentice and was the reason and Brewery was started here in 1750.  

 Although the spring was filled in the late 1970s and two houses built on top, there is a deep aquifer of very good water - filtered through layers of chalk - running below the site. We now use the water to drink, for the fountains in the Italian Water Garden and for irrigation throughout the gardens.