top of page

Of Fireships and Iron

Heather Haythornthwaite has produced an installation for the 'Of Fireships and Iron' exhibition, put on by Medway Council to commemorate the anniversary of the Dutch raid on Chatham Dockyard in 1667.

This piece will be on display in the Lady Chapel in Rochester Cathedral from 2nd June until the end of August 2017.

Original prints from the exhibition are available for sale, please Contact Us for details.

Notes on the installation are shown below, click here for Dutch, French and German translations.

Notes on The Installation

‘De Zwakste Schakel’ (Our Weakest Link) is inspired by the daring Dutch raid on the British fleet in Chatham in June 1667. Although this was a resounding British naval defeat, there is still a place for creating beauty out of where we are positioned today. Our differences have been softened by time and our parallel histories are intertwined.  The evidence of how these few days have marked the past 350 years surrounds us. Our national identities are imbued with cross-cultural references.

Map making, fortifications, dockyards, and the many years of trans-global trading by the Dutch and the British shapes our view of this event.


The Prints

1. ‘Ships!’ - The Dutch fleet was observed travelling up the barely defended Medway estuary towards Chatham.

2. ‘Gamechanger’ and 3. ‘Lost’ - The defensive chain across the river broke, enabling the Dutch to sail in, and the sailors abandoned their ships. This chain is shown as breaking, useless, the sailors vulnerable in the water.

4. ‘Diarist’ - A dismayed and astounded Samuel Pepys recorded the disaster.

5. ‘Hij die Durft Wint’ (He who Dares Wins) - In the final images the ships are sailed to the Netherlands.

6. ‘Winnaar Kost Alles’ (Winner Takes All) - The flagship of Charles II’s royal fleet has been taken, and its sternpiece is the tattered evidence of the raid.

7. ‘Upnor Castle’ - This castle stands witness to the raid, silent as moonlight.


Practical evidence

17th Century wood from Rochester Cathedral was used to produce the estuarine mud and tidal watermarks in this print series.

All is scattered on old, stained flags of our two nations and overlaid with evidence our maritime trading histories.

Coins imprinted with 15th Century ships proclaim what is important: wealth, trade and ships.

The fragments of evidence: printed delft, glass and iron were collected from the muddy banks of the Medway estuary.

Chatham and Upnor Dockyards contributed the chain, rope and shells.


Technical information

Printing papers used include Somerset and Hahnemule, Japanese Masa papers.

Inks used were made by Van Son, Caligo and Charbonnell.

Intaglio, relief and letterpress techniques were used to create monoprints.

Vintage Dutch letterpress blocks were used in the print entitled ‘Hij Die Durf Wint’.

Traditional metal plate aquatint etching technique used for ‘Upnor Castle’.

Hand cut lino and Japanese printing techniques used in the majority of the prints.


Thanks to Medway Council, the Guildhall Museum, Rochester Cathedral, Chatham and Upnor Dockyards for their generous support of this set of prints.

These and other prints in this collection are available to buy from The Hazelnut Press.

bottom of page