Whilst The Friends of Rochester Cathedral exists to raise money for the repair and restoration of the Cathedral, as a diverse and friendly community of people, we also have a calendar of social activities throughout the year.
Recent social events
Click on the pictures below for larger images of some recent highlights.
Social activities programme
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Other day tours that are still being considered include Bodiam Castle and the Kent and East Sussex Railway, and another to a selection of churches in the Tunbridge Wells area.
Further details of all of the above are available from the Friends' Office
Report of social events held in 2011
Visits in 2011 began in beautiful April weather with a trip to Westenhanger Castle, a scheduled ancient monument. Dating from Saxon times, it has been owned by Henry VII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I but fell into neglect until 1996 when the Forge family purchased it and began sensitive restoration in conjunction with English Heritage. We particularly noticed the 15th century great hammer-beam barn, one of the largest of its kind in the country, and the Castle round tower, now a dovecote for over 400 birds.
Our guided tour of the mansion and castle concluded with an excellent buffet served in a marquee.
Our five-day residential visit in May was to Falmouth, in a comfortable hotel a few yards from the Gyllyngvase Beach. We stopped en route at the magnificent Elizabethan mansion of Montecute House to have lunch and explore the house and gardens. Next morning we were taken to Redruth’s Cornish Mines, where our enthusiastic Welsh guide showed us a variety of primitive mining artefacts. A film about the history of tin and copper mining brought home the hard life and work of the miners. Their average day began with a walk to the pithead and descent by rope ladder, in darkness, down a winding tunnel sometimes 1,000ft or more long, with just a candle in their helmets for illumination. Young boys, just beginning their life’s work, would be chained to an experienced man to reduce the risk of falling. Pumping out water from these depths was achieved by Richard Trevithick, a Cornish mining engineer, who invented the Cornish boiler in 1801. We were shown where three enormous steam boilers once stood before visiting the massive engine house. After bringing great wealth to Cornwall for so long, the industry declined as other sources of copper and tin became more competitive.
We travelled on to Lanhydrock, a stately home once part of the estate owned by the Priory of St Petroc in Bodmin. Parts of the house had benefited from the wealth of the mining industry. In the dining room was a magnificent centrepiece of pure Cornish tin, in the shape of a camel resting under date palms. It had been presented to the family of the estate by the Redruth miners “in grateful thanks for the setting up, and maintaining there, of an infirmary”.
On the Saturday morning we drove to the Eden Project, the remarkable conservation set in a Cornish clay pit near St Austell. Its vast biomes, one kilometre long and 60 metres high, house examples of four climatic regions (Mediterranean, rainforest, semidesert and sub-tropics) constituting a databank of all major plant species across the globe. Later we drove to Truro to catch the service bus to Malpas, where we boarded a boat on the river Fal for the hour-long trip to Falmouth.
At the Sunday morning service at Truro Cathedral we were welcomed by the Dean and Pam McLeod, the Truro Friends’ Secretary. A guide gave us a short history and time to look at the Cathedral, after which we had lunch in the refectory with some of the Friends and Cathedral clergy. On returning to our hotel those who wished to went on a scenic drive to Marazion. We returned to Rochester on Monday, stopping for lunch at Barrington Court before arriving home in the early evening.
On a rather grey and wet day in June over 100 Friends boarded at Gravesend for a five-hour cruise to London and back. The Princess Pocahontas was named after the native American who died in Gravesend and who has a monument at St George’s Church. Captain Potter gave an interesting commentary en route, pointing out many sights including the Thames Barrier, Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral. Mrs Potter provided a tasty Ploughman’s lunch and cream tea.
In July 60 Friends were welcomed at the Tower of London by Yeoman Warder Colin Smith, who gave an interesting tour before taking us to the Warders’ Club for a welcome buffet supper. We later watched the ancient Ceremony of the Keys which takes place each evening.
In October we gathered at the Rochester Visitor Information Centre for an illustrated talk by the Tower of London Yeoman Warder. He covered aspects of the Tower’s history that were not covered in our June visit, describing the daily life of a Yeoman Warder. He explained the circumstances under which free admission can be obtained; how a Warder’s tights were specially tailored and how the right to be a Warder had been extended to include former members of the Royal Air Force.
The Advent Lunch at Upchurch Golf Club on 23 November proved as popular as last year’s. After an excellent meal our Chairman introduced the guest speaker, the Rt Revd Dr Stephen Venner. After serving as Bishop of Dover for many years he had been asked to become Bishop to the Forces and Falklands Islands. Bishop Venner gave an interesting and very thought-provoking talk about his work with the Forces, serving in this country as well as abroad. It made a fitting end to an altogether enjoyable and convivial social calendar.
Mary Woodfield, Chair of the Social Committee
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