The Tudor Yard: Chatham Chest
By October 1588, the threat of invasion from the Spanish Armada was over and the English fleet once again returned to Chatham to over-winter on the Medway. Nine months of active service in the small ships of the Elizabethan Navy had, however, exacted a dreadful toll on their crews, with ship-fever (most probably Typhus) ripe throughout the fleet. The consequent death toll was large and had a profound impact on Elizabeth's naval commanders.
In 1590, determined to help, Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake founded the Chatham Chest a national fund for the relief and support of injured and disabled sailors from contributions taken from the wages of all English seamen. The Chatham Chest (as seen in the Museum of the Royal Dockyard in the above right photograph) continued in being until its amalgamation with the Greenwich Hospital in 1802. From 1623 the funds were kept in a large iron strapped chest with five locks, each key held by a different person. This chest, on loan from the National Maritime Museum can be seen in the Museum of the Royal Dockyard.
The Chatham Chest was not the only naval charity founded in the aftermath of the Spanish Armada campaign. In 1594, Sir John Hawkins founded the Hawkins Hospital in Chatham (see left photograph) – now the world's oldest surviving naval charity the original building can still be found in Chatham itself.