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Rochester is a small City in Kent, the lowest bridging point of the River Medway about 30 miles (50 km) from London. Togethor with Chatham,Gillingham, Strood and a number of outlying villages it makes up the Medway Towns.
The River Medway in England flows for 112 km from Turners Hill, in West Sussex, through Tonbridge, Maidstone and the Medway Towns conurbation in Kent, to the River Thames at Sheerness, where it is the latter's last tributary. The mouth of the river is defined by Garrison Point, between the Isle of Sheppey and the Isle of Grain.
It has a catchment area of 930 miles² (2408 km²): the largest in Southern England. Its tributaries have their headwaters on the North Downs to the north and the Weald to the south.
Rochester itself is home to a number of important historic buildings, the most prominent of which are Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral.
Rochester Castle stands on the east bank of the River Medway, in Rochester, Kent. It is one of the best-preserved castle of its kind in the UK. There has been a castle on his site since Roman Times, though it is the Keep of 1127 and the Norman castle for which Rochester is deservedly famous. With the invention of gunpowder other types of defence became more appropriate, and the military centre of the Medway Towns moved to Chatham.
The Romans under Aulus Plautius built a fort on the site of the present castle to guard the important river crossing, where they constructed a bridge. There is evidence of an earth rampart later replaced by a stone wall. The timber piles of the Roman bridge were rediscovered during the construction of the present road bridge.
The Norman period commenced with the victory of William of Normandy at Hastings. He appointed his half brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, as Earl of Kent. Rochester's first Norman castle was probably of the motte and bailey type – a wooden tower and with palisades – on Boley Hill. This was the castle that was besieged by William Rufus during the Rebellion of 1088.
As a result of this siege, Bishop Gundulf was persuaded to build a stone castle with a curtain wall. It is not known how much, if any, of the surviving keep is his. Gundulf was a talented architect: he had started the building work on Rochester's Norman Cathedral in 1080, and was also responsible for the White Tower of the Tower of London.
Henry I granted the custody of the castle to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William de Corbeil. Corbeil started to build the great stone keep in 1127, much of which survives today. This is the keep which has dominated the city and river crossing for 800 years.
In 1206, King John spent £115 on repairs to the castle and moat. But in 1215, after the signing of the Magna Carta in July, the castle was handed to dissident barons. By mid-October John found himself besieging it. The king's forces entered the bailey, perhaps by catapult attack or undermining the curtain wall, but the keep held out till late November. It was finally taken by undermining the south tower, the mine-roof being supported by wooden props. These props were then set alight using the fat of "forty of the fattest pigs of the sort least good for eating", and the whole corner of the keep collapsed. The rebels withdrew behind the keep's cross-wall but were taken within a few days.
John died the next year, so it fell to Henry III to repair the castle. He spent over a £1000 on rebuilding, with new stables and gateways, and a further ditch to strengthen the defences. A new chapel was built next to the Royal apartments in the bailey. The most notable surviving feature is the new south tower, which was rebuilt according to the latest defensive design and is three-quarters round