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UCA students to handcraft iconic chain for 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway

As we approach the 350th anniversary of the famed Battle of the Medway, which occurred during the second Anglo-Dutch War, our staff and students in Rochester have joined forces with two specialist metalwork schools in the Netherlands to recreate one of the battle’s most iconic symbols, the chain across the Medway.

The project captures the enormity of the craftsmanship that went into creating the original chain, which stretched for 300 yards and was used as a tactical device during the battle. Students and staff from UCA’s BA (Hons) Silversmithing, Goldsmithing & Jewellery and BA (Hons) Contemporary Jewellery courses, together with staff and students at the Vakschool, Schoonhoven and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, both in the Netherlands, have been hand-making individual chains which will combine to form the 300-yard long structure. The finished article will be exhibited as part of the Battle’s official anniversary in June.

“This chain, also known as a boom, was an obstacle strung across a navigable stretch of water to control or block navigation,” explains Grant McCaig, a senior lecturer in Silversmithing, Goldsmithing & Jewellery at UCA Rochester. “The original chain was used during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in June 1667 to repel the Dutch Navy. This year marks the 350th anniversary and we are delighted to partner with students in the Netherlands to craft a reimagining of the boom.”

A week of intensive chain-making began on Monday (20 March) with an online meeting of staff and students from UCA and the partner institutions. The handmade items created in the Netherlands are set to be transported to the UK once complete, and the final, assembled piece will then be carried over to the Historic Dockyard in Chatham by students from both nations.

“While the original boom represented division and conflict, our chain will be representative of communities and connection, bringing together the skills, imagination and craftsmanship of students and staff from the three institutions,” Grant adds. “Staff and students have the opportunity to develop and make their own chains, inspired by the historical event and will be contributing to a unique project and artefact that embodies creative thinking and collaboration.”

The official anniversary, featuring the replica boom, will take place between Thursday 8 June and Sunday 17 June, at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, and will culminate in a night of fireworks. The event is also set to include a visit from the Dutch Royal family and a meeting of the Royal Navy and Dutch Navy vessels.