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Faversham Society News - April 2024

A printable PDF version of this newsletter can be downloaded from HERE

Chairman's Column

Harold Goodwin

Big news! Our representations raising safety concerns about the batteries and the battery safety management plan at Cleve Hill, Graveney, convinced the Swale Planning Committee not to approve the developer’s plans. Whether the developers will appeal or submit a different plan to Swale remains to be seen.

Without Sir David Melville’s work, his scientific background, and his professional contacts, we could not have successfully made the case. You can see the series of submissions drafted by Sir David on our planning pages on the website. Our barrister assisted with the legal arguments, and we convinced the planners to reject the application.

As we wrote in a post on 12 March: “We are grateful to the planning committee members who shared our view that there are serious health and safety issues with Bess [the battery energy storage system] and, therefore, declined to approve the developer’s proposal.”

The planning application for the southeast Faversham Duchy development has reached the Swale Planning Portal, and the society’s Environment and Planning Committee has begun a detailed review of the application. The Neighbourhood Plan has been with the independent examiner since early January. We await his conclusions.

Faversham’s Neighbourhood Plan already carries considerable weight in determining planning applications; if and when it is approved at the referendum due later this year, it will preclude speculative development. The Ham Road application has been subject to several challenges regarding flood risk, and a decision by Swale planners has not yet been made.

May I remind you that I am stepping down as chair of the society at the annual general meeting on 12 June – the notice of the AGM can be found at the end of this newsletter. Please put the date in your diary.

I wrote last month that I had been informed that the £200,000 that Swale put aside to contribute to the Creek Basin Regeneration scheme had been removed from the accounts. I now understand that the money is still there.

Plans for Open Faversham (17-25 August) are developing well; there are many anniversaries to mark this year. (See below.) Open Faversham will be producing a brochure to go through every letter box in Faversham and to focal points in the villages. We are keen to extend to the villages this year – if you have ideas or know people who may be interested in organising something during Open Faversham please get in touch through the website below


Art plan for stinky subway

The editor

The Faversham Society is supporting a project to restore Faversham underpass – also known as the railway subway – that links Station Road to the Mall.

Network Rail, West Faversham Community Centre and Faversham Town Council are all involved. The project is being run by Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid-Kent.

“A multi-thousand-pound bid” was successfully made to the Southern Green Fund – a Network Rail pot of money for initiatives that will deliver direct benefits for the environment and communities.

It will be used for a full deep clean, and to install a mural celebrating the town’s history.

A public meeting will be held at Faversham Guildhall at 7pm on 11 April with the artist designing it, so townspeople can feed in ideas for the design.

Historical note: the subway was created in 1898 to replace a footbridge over the line. It coincided with the completion of the new station, which replaced a building at the top of Newton Road that had opened 40 years earlier. It has been plagued by vandalism and flooding and was shut for several years in the 2000s for refurbishments.

Conversations about Faversham’s Future

In May and June, the Faversham Society will host a series of conversations in the Alexander Centre on four subjects of vital importance to our community and the future of our town. This series of conversations has been organised by the Environment and Planning Committee of the Faversham Society in furtherance of the society’s aim to “Create for the Future”

See the Faversham Society website ticketing details or sign up at the Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place. The bar will be open after each event to enable attendees to talk further with speakers and other participants. Here are the topics to be discussed:

1 But Can It Be Safe? Cleve Hill solar park and the battery energy storage system, Wednesday, 15 May, 7pm. Host: David Melville. The solar park is now under construction but the safety and management plan for the proposed battery energy storage system (Bess) has been turned down by Swale Council’s Planning Committee. As one of the largest such batteries in the world it raises huge concerns about the danger of fires, explosions and toxic fumes threatening nearby communities.

2 Medieval Heritage and Town Centre Regeneration: Town Quay and the Town Warehouse, Wednesday, 29 May, 7pm. Hosts: Harold Goodwin and Jonathan Carey. The ownership of Town Quay and the Town Warehouse (TS Hazard) has just been transferred by Swale Borough Council to Faversham Town Council. A number of schemes are proposed for the land, including creation of a Cinque Ports museum and environmental education centre highlighting local features such as chalk streams and tidal marshes.

3 The Future We Want: Faversham Neighbourhood Plan, Wednesday, 5 June, 7pm. Hosts: Harold Goodwin and Matthew Hatchwell. Neighbourhood plans provide a powerful set of tools for local people to set the development priorities for their community. The Faversham Neighbourhood Plan will be the subject of a local referendum in coming months and, if approved, will give the town a degree of control over – among other things – the type and location of new housing that takes place.

4 Faversham Healthy Futures: Acting locally to safeguard vital health and care services. Date and time to be confirmed - please check the main Society web site for details. Hosts: Laurie McMahon and Gill Wagstaff. The goals of the interactive Faversham Health Futures event are to review the way NHS and care services are delivered, explore the need to localise and integrate services, and give the people of Faversham and surrounding villages a say in how local health and care services should develop in future.

Open Gardens cancelled

Leigh Allison

Faversham Open Gardens for 2024 has been cancelled. This is due to insurance issues which we are working hard to address and should be sorted very soon, but not in time to be able to run a successful event this year.

We are disappointed to have to do this as it is such a popular Sunday in the town’s calendar, but we are determined that Faversham Open Gardens 2025 will be bigger and better than ever.

Please put the date in your diary for next year: Sunday 29 June, 2025.

Tribute to composer

This year is the 350th anniversary of the death of John Wilson, principal composer for the King’s Men, who is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Born in Abbey Street in 1595, near St Mary of Charity church, he was probably a chorister there. He was most likely the Jack Wilson alluded to in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (1623). He was made a doctor of music at Oxford in 1644. He composed more than 300 songs, and many were published in 1652.

The early music group Galliarda will perform this celebration of the life of John Wilson with voices, viol, lute, and recorder to mark the 350th anniversary of the death of this great English lutenist and song composer.

The concert, at St Mary of Charity, at 7pm on Saturday, 25 May, will bring together Wilson’s songs and vocal works from all periods of his life, along with pieces by Wilson’s close friends and associates: Robert Johnson, Nicholas Lanier, Henry Lawes, John Jenkins, and Matthew Locke.

Tickets cost £10 and can be bought from OpenFaversham.Info

The guerilla knitters from Gunpowder Women’s Institute have been clicking their needles again with this delightful Easter scene for the pillar box at the main Post Office in East Street

1,000 years of the market

Claire Windridge

Faversham town centre will be transported back across the centuries on Sunday, 26 May, in celebration of a thousand years of Faversham markets.

Fabulous entertainment has been organised in Market Place from 10am to 4pm for all the family including hands-on activities, dressing up; live music; birds of prey; local food and drink; historical displays and of course a wonderful Faversham market.


2024 anniversaries

80th anniversary of D-Day

60th anniversary of Faversham Pools

460th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare

50th anniversary of Faversham being absorbed into Swale at local government reorganisation.

350th anniversary of the death of the great English lutenist and song composer, John Wilson of Faversham

1,000th anniversary of Faversham’s charter market

460th anniversary of the birth of Christopher Marlowe

30th anniversary of the reopening of the Royal Cinema

Bricks and pics

Leigh Allison

Conservation architect Jonathan Carey is repeating the brick walk he conducted during Open Faversham last August.

He will show us some of the town’s fabulous architecture and reveal the secrets of the different types of bricks used throughout Faversham. It will set off from the Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place at 6pm on Friday, 19 April.

Chris Wootton and Ian Montague, part of our team of volunteers who spend their time cataloguing, digitising and looking after our treasure trove of old Faversham images will be giving an illustrated talk at the Alexander Centre at 7pm on 4 April.

Both of these events are free to Faversham Society members and £5 to non-members. Places for both these are strictly limited, so you will need to book either at the Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place or by the website below.


On safari for August

Katie Begg

Faversham Safari is an annual townwide street market, always held on the first Sunday in August. This year’s event — on 4 August – marks the 10th anniversary of this wonderful community initiative.

A £6.50 registration fee allows Faversham residents to appear on the list of those participating. All registration fees go to the Creek Trust, a charity in Faversham dedicated to protecting the maritime heritage of the creek as an asset for all the community to enjoy and learn about.

More than 200 households usually sign up, selling a variety of clothes, household goods, cakes and more. Stallholders can keep what they make or choose to donate any proceeds to charity. Registrations open on 1 June for anyone wishing to take part and a list of sellers will be published on 27 July.

An indoor safari will also be held at the Alexander Centre on the day. The indoor event has regular charities and organisations taking part. This event is all about getting to know your neighbours, raising money for charity, and bringing people together in our lovely town, as well as offering a great opportunity to grab a bargain! For more information, please visit the website below.


Ham Road housing plan

This map shows where 250 homes are planned off Ham Road, Faversham. The website link below gives fuller details and allows you to air your views.

Gladman Developments has provided easy access to a series of maps showing the growth of Faversham from 1877 to 2006 and shows the scale of their site on each of the five maps.


Lees Court treasures

A display of finds made by Kent Archaeological Society on the Lees Court Estate, Sheldwich, is on display in the Fleur de Lis Museum gallery space until 29 June.

The society has uncovered evidence of Bronze Age and earlier, neolithic, activity on the site.

Discoveries include hoards, prehistoric pottery and hand-axes. These are artefacts from the earliest inhabitants of Britain, about 150,000 years ago.

The image above shows a neolithic flint borer (about 6,000 years old), a Middle Palaeolithic hand-axe (up to 150,000 years old) … and a washer from Rigden’s brewery at Faversham (rather more recent).

Hidden hand-axe revealed

The Editor

A small flint object reliably dated to be up to 300,000 years old was centre of attention at a Faversham Society talk in the Assembly Rooms.

The broken hand-axe once discarded by a Neanderthal workman on a hill overlooking Faversham was discovered on a dig in Vicarage Lane, Ospringe by a member of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group. It was brought along to the talk by the owner of the site where it was dug up and lovingly passed around the audience of about 100 people.

Dr Pat Reid, founder of the archaeology group was guest speaker at the talk, organised by the Faversham Society for those who missed out on tickets to her appearance at the town’s literary festival in February.

Again, she was interviewed by journalist Christine Rayner, who took her on an hour-long “gallop through the ages”, following the text of Pat’s book, Hidden Faversham, now in its second edition.

The talk was illustrated by slides of objects found in Faversham over the years, including several fine Anglo-Saxon brooches discovered by workmen building the railway in the mid-19th century and an ancient boar’s jaw bone dug up in the garden of the Market Inn in East Street.

Hidden Faversham is on sale in the Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place, £9.99 or you can purchase online via the Society website

Memories of Arden’s House

Peter Quince

It must be one of the most impressive, iconic houses in Faversham, certainly one of the best-known, and it has an amazing story to go with it, an historical event as lurid and captivating as any other in this corner of the country.

I had the good fortune, back in 1980, to meet and befriend Roy Pleasance, the owner and resident of Arden’s House.

It began like this. I undertook some extensive supply teaching at the Lady Capel School for Girls (later re-invented as the Abbey School) nearly 45 years ago. I was persuaded, against my better judgment, to take a major acting role in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. I was to play the part of the Rev John Hale. That’s when I met Roy, who was also involved in the production. Through The Crucible we became acquaintances and, to my great delight, eventually he invited my wife and I to dinner at his house, the former home of Thomas Arden. It felt like a great privilege, an invitation to step back in time.

I had walked past Arden’s House so many times on my way down to the creek. I had stood and admired it, read and re-read the wall plaque, absorbed the solid beauty of the building, the stonework blending with the later wooden structure, the way it all seemed of a piece. I had often wondered just what this building, this private house lived in by the ill-fated Thomas Arden 430 years ago, looked like inside. Was it as impressive as the exterior? I never imagined that I would be given the opportunity to see for myself. It came as a revelation.

Thomas Arden, a former mayor, met a sticky end in 1551.The story of his murder – and the Jacobean play based upon it – is too well known to relate here. However, having visited the murder scene, I became even more fascinated by the house. Evidently, it was built shortly before the Reformation to accommodate visitors to Faversham Abbey. Part of the abutments of the abbey’s outer gateway form an imposing corner of the present structure; the rest of the gateway was demolished in 1772. More’s the pity, because visual reconstruction of the outer gateway shows it to be an impressive entrance.

Roy Pleasance, genial host that he was, gave us a guided tour around the house. In the stone-built corner section, the remains of the gateway itself, he took us up a narrow staircase to the top room. There we saw a small space that was used as a chapel, with medieval wall paintings still well preserved. There, I imagined the devout people who prayed in that space, pilgrims perhaps, themselves reflecting on the dreadful onset of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Roy then took us into the massive space on the first floor that must have been used as some kind of civic reception room. It had a window at the back that looked down on the garden. He pointed out the probable route of the murderers who dragged the body of the dead or dying Arden across an extensive lawn to the doorway at the back of the garden into what is now the narrow alley between Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and the Abbey Physic Community Garden. Did that gang include Thomas Arden’s wife, Alice?

Roy directed my attention to the massive ceiling timbers in that first-floor room and pointed out the carpenters’ marks scratched into them in Roman numerals. All these timbers, he said, would have been cut and assembled in a Tudor builders’ yard and then disassembled and transported to Abbey Street by horse. Roy proved to be a fount of knowledge and charmed us with tales of the spectacular house in which he lived and which he had clearly researched.

We had an evening meal in the ground floor room which fronts Abbey Street. I recall the massive fireplace, all that dark wood and stone and high windows. In recollection I think of everything in Arden’s House being eye-catching, absorbing, at times overwhelming and, most of all, steeped in history.

In the late 1950s Abbey Street was a slum and faced demolition. It was saved only after Faversham Borough Council, and the Historic Buildings Council, recognised the street’s importance. Thank goodness for that!

March 31, 2024

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The Faversham Society Newsletter is edited by Stephen Rayner, who is independent of the board.

Contributions are welcomed, and should be received by midday on the 15th of the month before publication, by email to favnewsletter@gmail.com. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Faversham Society or of the editor. All contributions will be edited and the editor’s decision is final.

Faversham Society Opening Times

Opening times for The Visitor Information Centre, Book & Gift Shops, Fleur de Lis Museum and Chart Gunpowder Mills vary throughout year.  The latest opening times can be found on the right-hand panel of every page on the Society's main web site

The Faversham Society is a Registered Charity No 1135262 and a company limited by guarantee
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