Rochester is a historic former city, whose story can be traced back to neolithic times,when a fortification on the banks of the River Medway gave protection to the only
convenient crossing of the river,by shallow ford , on the main road from Europe along North Kent into the interior of Britain.
When the Romans came to this country they recognised the srategic and economic importance of the town and port, building a timber fort on the site of the stone age one.
Later,the Nornans saw the same necessity, when Bishop Gundulph (or Gandolf) was instructed by William to build a castle to protect the ford on the main road from Dover to London through the heavily
wooded county of Kent. Gundulph built the castle, started building the cathedral (on the site of an old Saxon church), designed the Tower of London and founded St.Bartholomew’s hospital, Rochester, as a
hospice for lepers and other incurables. There is a mention in the town archives of 1180 of an appeal by the local Jewish community for shelter and of them being allowed to live for sereval months in the
outer parts of the castle, for safety.
The Castle gardens are now the venue for many civic activities, the keep providing a dramatic backdrop to concerts and firework displays and being the arena for a Noman
festival, at the end of August each year. Several other festival weekends are held during the year, including a Chimney Sweeps, a Charles Dickens and a Christmas celebration.