A visit to Rochester Cathedral, Kent, England

In Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

An incredible 1,400 years of history under one roof

The historical town of Rochester sits along the River Medway in the southeast UK county of Kent (we’ll gloss over the fact that Rochester used to be a city, and due to an administrative error, the city status was lost).

However, Rochester is perfect for a family mini-break as there are so many things to do for all ages in Rochester, and especially Chatham Historic Dockyard just down the road.

Looking down on Rochester cathedral from Rochester Castle with River Medway meandering through the landscape in the background.
Rochester Cathedral
Rochester may also ring a bell with many of you for its ancient Norman Castle or that it was home to Charles Dickens for a number of years. However, this historic town is also home to a Cathedral, and this building has some incredible history.

Quick Links

Happy Anniversary, Rochester Cathedral

Centuries of ancient history

Rochester Cathedral dates from the early 7th – century AD604, when the Saxon Cathedral first consecrated the ground, making it the second oldest Cathedral in England after Canterbury.

In 2004 the 1,400th anniversary of the cathedral and the diocese of Rochester was celebrated. And why not, 1,400 years is a long time?

Looking up at the ornate Façade of Rochester Cathedral from outside its main entrance on Boley Hill
The Façade of Rochester Cathedral
The Norman/Gothic style Cathedral as you see it today dates from 1080 when Gundulf a French Benedictine monk was appointed as the first Norman Bishop of Rochester. Gundulf was sent from Bec Abbey, which weirdly we’d visited on our trip to Normandy in 2017.
The side view of Bec Abbey in Le Bec-Hellouin in Normandy, France
Bec Abbey, Normandy, France

An interesting read

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Rochester’s 150-year-old Catalpa tree

Nurturing nature through history

The cathedral appears slightly overshadowed by the castle peering down from above, but I assure you it is striking in its own right.

During the 12th-century due to damage, re-building work was carried out, and this is reflected in the Gothic architecture upon the building.

The 150-year-old sprawling Catalpa Tree, protected by an iron fence outside Rochester Cathedral in Kent
Rochester Cathedral & Catalpa Tree
Standing in front of the cathedral is a 150-year-old Catalpa tree, due to its fragile nature in 2015 a fence was placed around it for protection.

There’s so much more

You’ve probably been tempted to visit Rochester Castle which is run by English Heritage. However, take a look at our 10 reasons to unearth Rochester for more inspiration.

Everyone’s welcome at Rochester Cathedral

Young and old alike
As you step inside, smiley volunteers are waiting to have a chat with you and happy to discuss anything you like to know about the cathedral.
The central nave of Rochester Cathedral with its stone pillars supporting a timber-framed ceiling
The Central Nave
One of the isles along the nave of Rochester Cathedral with its stone walls supporting a timber-framed ceiling
An aisle within the cathedral
Not only is this a place of prayer and reflection but, the church also welcomes school parties to learn more about how Rochester Cathedral played a part in British history.

Rochester on Video

We have created a little YouTube video of Rochester - why not check it out?

Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

A fitting tribute to Armistice Day

Rochester Cathedral’s community spirit
Standing at the end of the central nave above the screen is the pipe organ, which originates from more recent times of 1905.
The ornate, early 20th-century organ of Rochester Cathedral
The Cathedral organ
At this point spin around and take a look at the stained-glass windows standing high above.
The internal view of the central stained-glass window above the entrance to Rochester Cathedral
The main stained glass window
Rochester Cathedral isn’t too far from where we live, and on one of the occasions we visited, it was just prior to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Throughout the central nave there were beautiful displays of poppies, a large number of which had been hand-knitted (not by me I hasten to add).
Banners of hand-made knitted poppies draped from the arches that line the nave of Rochester Cathedral
Inside, decorated with knitted poppies

How to get to Rochester

You can catch a direct train from London St Pancras or London Victoria to Rochester Station, which takes around 40 minutes.

Rochester Cathedral Quire

An enchanting chorus fills the air
Keep wandering along the aisles of the cathedral, and you’ll almost double back on yourselves to see the organ in reverse. Here also is the wonderful quire and where Rochester’s choir boys and girls sit along the wooden panelled pews, to sing their hearts out.
The ornate quire of Rochester Cathedral lined on either side with wooden seating for the choristers, with the pipes of the organ at the far end
The Choir towards the nave

Gundulf and the King’s Engineers

The "father of the Corps of Royal Engineers"

Gundulf, the Bishop of Rochester had an incredible talent for architecture and military engineering while serving under three Kings of England. Gundulf was appointed as the first "King's Engineer".

Gundulf built several castles, including Rochester, Colchester and the White Tower of the Tower of London.

A brass plaque inside Rochester Cathedral to Colonel J.R.M Chard, winner of the Victoria Cross for actions in the battle of Rorke's Drift
Plaque to Colonel J.R.M. Chard VC
Throughout Rochester Cathedral there are plaques and tributes to the King’s Engineers, one of which was to Colonel J.R.M. Chard. Colonel Chard was decorated with the Victoria Cross for his role in the defence of Rorke's Drift in January 1879.

Kent rural road trip

Discover Kent on a rural road trip, lush rolling countryside filled with orchards, vineyards, quaint villages and oast houses, so it makes for a perfick visit.

Rochester Cathedral Crypt

Sweeping medieval arches

In 2016, a restoration project was undertaken in the Medieval Crypt, Vestry and Chapter Library, as part of the Hidden Treasures; Fresh Expression Lottery project.

As you head down the stairs below the vaulted Crypt opens out before you. This is the oldest part of Rochester Cathedral and dates from the 1080s.

The low vaulted ceiling of Rochester Cathedral's crypt
The Medieval Crypt
A window in the crypt of Rochester Cathedral's adorned with hand-knitted poppies in honour of Remembrance Sunday
Tribute in the Crypt
There are beautiful swathes of arches which is now home to a chapel that is directly below the presbytery. Also down here is a lovely exhibition dedicated to Rochester and its bridge across the River Medway. And if you’re feeling a little tired why not enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake in their café?


In 2017, after the restoration project was carried out in the Crypt, a lift was installed for disabled access. So, everyone is welcome!
The chapel in the crypt of Rochester Cathedral's with its low vaulted ceiling
Chapel in the Crypt

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

Off to King’s School

Second oldest school in the world
When Rochester Cathedral was built in AD604, it was also a requirement by the Bishop to build a school, this was for chorister training for the priests. Therefore, King’s School was created in the same year and is still operating today. It is the second oldest continually operating school in the world, after King’s School in Canterbury also in Kent.
A robust stone wall in front of The King’s school.
King's School, Rochester
Would you like to discover the ancient city of Canterbury, have a peek at Our Canterbury Tales post?
A stone cross in Memorial Court, King's School, Canterbury
King's School in Canterbury

Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns & villages,  Why not check out our posts on those we've visited with tips & inspiration to get the most out of your visit?

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Inspired to visit Rochester Cathedral?

Why not make it a mini-break and discover the whole of Rochester, and also Upnor Castle across the River.
Have a peek at the latest offers from Booking.com, our preferred hotel booking website.
The pin image to our post - 'A visit to Rochester Cathedral, Kent, England'

(Why not Pin It for Later?)

If you enjoy what you see, and you’d like regular updates then join us for a monthly newsletter.

Our big monthly newsletter
Weekly round-up
Each new post - on the day it's posted

Share this post

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.