A neglected corner of Chatham has been given an artistic overhaul to delight thousands of passersby on the A2.
Network Rail joined forces with community group Arches Local and artist Lionel Stanhope to create a unique art mural on the bare walls of local railway landmark the Luton Arches.
The mural features another lost local landmark, the Driver Fountain that once stood on the spot, and the HMS Victory warship, which was built nearby at Chatham Dockyard.
Arches Local’s Stephen Perez said: “We’ve been working with Network Rail on the arches for the last four or five years and we’ve seen lots of improvements in that time. I think [it] is fantastic, it’s a celebration of the arches, the Driver Fountain and of course the HMS Victory.
“I hope that, as with all the work we’ve done with Network Rail, it changes the narrative of the area, and gives people a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, which has sadly been missing here in some ways for a long time. We’re going to enjoy this for years to come.”
Arches Local was formed as part of the Big Local initiative, funded by the National Lottery, to improve areas across the UK, including central Chatham, ending in 2026.
"It’s great to give this area a boost. It gets things moving and makes things happen."
Artist Lionel Stanhope said: “I love the fact we’re so close to the sea here and the blues are lovely and really pop out of the wall, as well as the Victory itself, which was built here. It’s a much bigger, grander structure than the ones I normally work on and you can see this mural from all the way down the road.
“Some areas are really deserving of art and brightening up and it’s great to give this area a boost. It gets things moving and makes things happen.”
Built in 1858, the Luton Arches help the London to Faversham main line over the steep Luton valley – including trains from the better-known Luton in Bedfordshire - and are seen by thousands of people every day on their way in and out of the town on the A2 road.
The Luton Arches themselves were due a major refurbishment this year, although this has been delayed to the 'near future', potentially in early 2021.
As for the Driver Fountain, it was moved from the bottom of Chatham Hill in the 1970s and now sits in Chatham Cemetery, while HMS Victory is in a dry dock in Portsmouth.
Photos: Arches Local and Network Rail