Eastgate_House_open_day_140913 More than 1,200 people took the opportunity to have a look around Eastgate House, Rochester during Heritage Open Days (12 to 15 September). The scheme celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and offers free entry to historic buildings that normally charge for admission or are not usually open to the public.

This was the last chance for visitors explore all four floors of the Elizabethan town house before work begins on a Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve the building and transform it into an exhibition and community space with improved access. The house is due to re-open in 2015.

Eastgate House was built in 1590 for Sir Peter Buck, who was Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham’s Royal Dockyard and Mayor of Rochester. Throughout its 400-year history it has been a family home, a boarding school and a museum, as well as being immortalised in two of Charles Dickens’ most famous novels, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Pickwick Papers.

As well as Medway residents, visitors came from around the UK and even as far afield as the Netherlands, Italy and the USA. Volunteers from the Friends of Eastgate House were on hand to share their knowledge and guide guests around the house’s maze of intriguing rooms and winding staircases.

There was also a chance to have a chat with Sir Peter Buck himself and join in with lessons in the Victorian schoolroom. Many people took part in a unique time capsule by leaving their comments about their visit on a postcard, along with any personal recollections of the house and thoughts about their life in Medway in 2013.

All of the cards, which include drawings by younger visitors, will now be left, somewhere in the house, for future generations to discover. Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “Eastgate House is one of the most stunning historic buildings on Rochester High Street and a much treasured Medway landmark. We are delighted that so many people took the opportunity to visit the house before our conservation work begins next year, and to find out about our exciting plans to fully open the house for the whole community to enjoy in the future.”