If we look back further into the past we can see that the whole area adjoining Eastgate House and upper garden was in fact surrounded by an orchard. The orchard stretched as far as the river bank and was later dissected by the railway line in the late 1800s. A spring or well was also located within the orchard and was known as St Augustine's.
Throughout history Rochester has had strong roots in producing exceptional alcoholic products. The Benedictine monks, with their priory situated by Rochester Cathedral, had a long tradition of producing excellent wine, mead and other alcoholic beverages, The Vines being the location of their vineyard. There was also once a steam brewery in Troy Town (Woodhams Brewery, established in 1750), the façade of which can still be seen on the corner of Victoria Street and East Row. Indeed the area of Troy Town was named after a local wine merchant, John Cazeneuve Troy, who owned the land back in the early 1800s. Slightly further on from the old Rochester Distillery towards Chatham Intra is Hulkes Lane. This was not only the site for the Lions Brewery, but it was also the location of the local bonded warehouse - a Customs facility which housed alcoholic products, amongst other things, until excise duty had been paid. It is clear that many of the well known historical sites we see today around Rochester owe some thanks to the distillers, brewers and vintners of the day whose skill, passion as well as finances often strengthened many aspects of the local community. For more information on the history of Rochester's early alcoholic roots why not come along to one of our regular history evenings. Events include guided tour of the main sites finishing off with a tasting back at our distillery. (See Events page for dates available.)
The Roffensis Distillery is situated just a stones throw away from the original Rochester Distillery which supplied, amongst others, the Royal Navy back in the early 1800s. The fabric of the original building can still be seen opposite Rochester train station and is now home to the Medway Little Theatre. This original distillery, number 256, was owned and run by the Winch family with Richard Winch being registered as the distiller. The building was also the family home for at least 67 years - living above a distillery, not a bad spot to be! Should you take a stroll to this building stop and take special note of the arched wooden doors in the raised bank onwhich the building stands. These doors shut off the bonded warehouse found below the distillery and are clearly seen when standing in front of the train station.
Throughout history the Winch family were distillers, wine/spirit merchants and brewers. The Winch family later went on to join with a Maidstone brewing company to form 'Style and Winch' brewers - the ghosts of their brewing days can still be seen on the fronts of many of the local pubs. The Winch family were well known in Rochester - Richard Winch was both magistrate and Mayor of Rochester and is buried in St Margaret's Church just up the road from The Cooper's Arms pub. The gates shown here on the left are located on the High Street entrance to Eastgate House and our distillery. The gates and standards replaced the original brick wall which was demolished in 18**. The gates give an interesting link to past brewing days as they were in fact donated by the Winch family and came from the brewery of of Messrs E. Winch and Sons.