In 1903 the Borough of Gillingham was created. Rainham was added to its area of jurisdiction in 1928. Several times since the early 19th century, proposals had been considered to amalgamate the Medway Towns under a single local authority but it was not until the reorganisation of local government in 1974 that any major changes took place. In that year, the City of Rochester, the Borough of Chatham and Strood Rural District joined together to form Medway District Council. The name of this new body was changed to the City of Rochester-upon-Medway in 1982. Finally, in 1998, Medway Council was created when this authority merged with Gillingham Borough Council.
Short Brothers started their aeroplane building business at Leysdown, on the Isle of Sheppey, in 1909. They moved to Rochester in 1914, when the new factory was set up on the Esplanade. The years in Rochester saw production of some of the firm’s best known aircraft, including the Stirling bomber and the Empire and Sunderland flying boats. Short’s long association with Rochester ended in 1946, when it transferred to Belfast.
The presence of the aircraft factory, the Dockyard and the barracks in Brompton led to those areas of the towns being targeted for enemy bombs during both World Wars. On several occasions, bombs and aerial mines missed these targets and devastated civilian housing nearby.
After the Second World War, the Dockyard was restricted to building submarines and refitting ships. Despite the opening of facilities for nuclear submarines, the Dockyard closed in 1984, resulting in many thousands of dockyard workers being put out of work and leading to a period of adjustment for Medway. Houses continued to appear at an increasing rate throughout the area. Industrial estates were developed in all the towns. Medway, despite its green spaces, became the largest conurbation in the south-east outside London. The demand for housing remained high and much open land in north Kent was under threat.
A Century of Chatham: Events, People and Places Over the Last 100 Years by Philip MacDougall. W H Smith, 2002.
Shorts Aircraft by Mike Hooks. Chalford Publications (Archive Photographs Series), 1995.
The Fireman’s Wedding Tragedy. Kent County Library, Gillingham, 1976.
Medway at War: for wartime memories of Medway people see the BBC People's War web site (www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/categories/c1135).
350,000 BC – 43AD
43 – 410
410 – 1066
1066 – 1485
1485 – 1603
Medway in the 17th century
1603 – 1700
1714 – 1830
1837 – 1901
Medway in the 20th century
1901 – 2000
Medway in the 21st century