Spotlight on Rochester

Rochester sits close to the river Medway in Kent, 30 miles south-east of London. The cobbled streets of this ancient city have set the scene for some of Dickens's most famous works, while its mix of period homes and riverside flats attract London home buyers, discovers Anthea Masey
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* Property area guide on Rochester with average property prices, current houses and flats for sale, best streets, up-and-coming areas and commuting times

* Rochester
Houses and flats for sale in Rochester
Rochester has a lovely cathedral quarter which is dominated by King’s School and cathedral offices and dwellings. Elsewhere Rochester has a mix of Georgian, Victorian houses and cottages and in recent years modern flats have been built along the river Medway. The most popular nearby villages are Cobham to the west and Aylesford to the south. Higham and Shorne are two large villages also to the north west which have many modern detached family homes.

Travel and commuting from Rochester: Just outside Rochester is where the A2 becomes the M2 motorway to Faversham. The M20 motorway lies to the south of the town. Network Rail is planning a new £26 million station to accommodate an estimated 30 per cent in the number of journeys as a result of the Rochester Riverside scheme.

Rochester is now on the high speed line with trains to St Pancras taking around 34 minutes; there are also trains to Victoria (between 45 and 60 minutes); Cannon Street (around 46 minutes) and Charing Cross (around 75 minutes). The cost of an annual season ticket is £3,672 (£4,596 on the high speed line)

The area attracts: Rochester has a strong local market with people trading up and down, but there is also demand from London buyers especially from south east London.

Fort Clarence
From £390,000: a two-bedroom flat is for sale at Fort Clarence in St Margaret's Street, Rochester, built between 1808 and 1812
Staying power: Estate agent Mark Lockwood from Robinson Michael & Jackson says people are attracted to the town by its history. “The cathedral, the castle, the cobbled high street and the festivals; once people buy-in to the town they tend to stay.”

Postcode: ME is the Medway postcode and the first postcode ME1 covers Rochester.

Best roads: St Margaret’s Street sits on a high cliff overlooking the Medway with many houses constructed to take advantage of the view. The street runs from the town centre right to the outskirts; close to the town centre there are Georgian houses, further up the street there are large Victorian houses and more modern houses.

Estate agents Machin Lane is selling a five-bedroom Georgian house in the street for £750,000. Also in the street is a two-bedroom flat in Fort Clarence converted from a former defensive fort which estate agents Mann Countrywide is selling for £390,000 (pictured above). Another favourite is Priestfields, a long road of 1920s and later detached family houses which has at its centre the beautiful Victorian Foord almshouses.

Rochester: top five high-value streets
Boley Hill, Rochester ME1: £959,818
Wouldham Road, Wouldham, Rochester ME1: £701,270
Cooling, Rochester ME3: £637,537
Minor Canon Row, Rochester ME1: £617,434
Dillywood Lane, Higham, Rochester ME3: £616,403

Rochester castle
Up and coming: Rochester has many two-bedroom Victorian terrace cottages that sell for around £125,000 that are popular with first-time buyers.

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Shops and restaurants: Rochester has a charming high street full of independent cafes, restaurants, boutiques, a butcher and a deli. Worth seeking out are: Thoroughly Wood, for hand-made kitchens; the Deaf Cat Cafe; Hometown, which is plugging into the fashion for sewing and patchwork, and the Francis Iles gallery for exhibitions and art materials.

Tope’s and Oliver’s both also in the high street are two popular restaurants and for fine dining, locals make for Hengist in nearby Aylesford. For high street shopping there is the Pentagon shopping centre in Chatham and Bluewater is only 12 miles up the A2.

Open space: Rochester has parks in the castle and along the Esplanade and outside the town Shorne Woods Country Park has 288 acres of ancient woodland, a visitors’ centre and a cafe; and in Gillingham the Riverside Country Park on the Medway estuary has an eerie beauty.

Restoration House
Restoration House, where Charles II stayed in 1660, also served as the inspiration for Miss Havisham's rand house in Great Expectations
Leisure and the arts: Rochester loves to dress up. There are three major festivals when the streets are peopled with Victorians in frock coats and crinolines. The Dickens Festival starts this year on Friday and runs to 2 June; this is followed in the first week in December with the Dickensian Christmas festival.

The sweeps festival over the May Day weekend features chimney sweeps, morris dancers and folk music. The Guildhall Museum is housed in a fine 17th century building in the high street; it features the Dickens Discovery Room.

The Medway Little Theatre in the high street is the local amateur theatre; the nearest multiplex cinema is Cineworld in the Medway Valley Leisure Park in Chariot Way, Strood. The nearest council-owned council swimming pool is the Strood Leisure Centre in Watling Street, Strood; there are private swimming pools at the Roffen Club in New Road and the Spirit Club at the Holiday Inn in Maidstone Road.

Rochester and Cobham Park Gold Club at Park Pale Farm is the nearest golf club, including local swimming pools (council-owned and in private health clubs).

Council: Medway Council (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2013/2014 year: £1,350.89.

* Which famous novel – not by Dickens – was inspired by a spat in Rochester’s cathedral precinct?
In 1842 the Reverend Robert Whiston became the headmaster at King’s School; he soon fell out with the Dean and Chapter, a tale which inspired the plot of Anthony Trollope’s novel The Warden.

* Which royal meeting in Rochester led not to love but a beautiful friendship?
Henry VIII first set eyes on Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, in Rochester and was reported to find her appearance disappointing. The marriage lasted only a few months before it was annulled although she kept her head and they remained good friends.

* How did a stupid mistake cause Rochester to lose its city status?
A slip by a council official resulted in Rochester being downgraded to a town when in 1998 it was joined with Chatham and Gillingham to form the new Medway unitary authority. The mistake was only noticed four years later and all recent attempts to gain city status for Medway have been rebuffed.

Five-year property price trends: Rochester

Rochester value trends
Value trends UK comparison: 2008-2013

Swiss chalet
The Swiss Chalet was used as a place to write by Charles Dickens
Average prices: buying flats and houses in Rochester
One-bedroom flat: £102,000
Two-bedroom flat: £139,000
Two-bedroom house: £155,000
Three-bedroom house: £196,000
Four-bedroom house: £298,000

Average prices: renting flats and houses in Rochester
One-bedroom flat: £500 to £650 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £600 to £800 a month
Two-bedroom house: £650 to £850 a month
Three-bedroom house: £700 to £1,100 a month
Four-bedroom house: £800 to £1,250 a month
Five-bedroom-plus house: £1,450 to £2,000 a month

Pictures by Graham Hussey

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