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I have been away working in South Africa for three weeks and missed the arrival of spring; everywhere is much greener than it was when I left on 24 March. Time away always reminds me that Faversham is a great place to live.
I arrived back just in time to visit the museum during its Easter opening and enjoy the exhibition of costumes in the Gallery (see below). I hope this exhibition will be open, at least occasionally, for a few more weeks, so that more people can see it.
Work continues fitting out the new second-hand bookshop at the Fleur. We have taken the opportunity to restore some of the grates and fireplaces; work continues in what has become a huge refit. The new Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place is working well and our volunteers tell me that we have increased footfall.
We have recruited some new volunteers and people appear happy with the move. When the Charters Exhibition opens on 28 May, entry will be through the society’s shop. With the town council, the Faversham Society and Faversham Museums Together now have a new Heritage Map of Faversham – and you can pick up free copies from the VIC. The Faversham Museums Together Exhibition next to the VIC ran for three weeks and was well received. I hope we shall do more later in the year.
Preparations for the AGM on 1 June are well in hand, and we have two speakers. Dr David Rundle, a Renaissance historian and a palaeographer, will be talking about how the historians at the University of Kent see the opportunities to undertake research in Faversham. Angela Websdale, a Faversham resident, will be talking about her PhD research on the Thomas Beckett Chapel in St Mary of Charity Church. See below for details of the AGM.
On 9 July, the Friends of St Mary of Charity Church are hosting The Walled-Up Woman, a play about the medieval anchoresses of Faversham. See below and save the date.
You may have noticed that work has finally been done on the roof of the Town Warehouse (aka TS Hazard) to secure it against the elements. Sadly, Swale Council has neglected this iconic Faversham building on Town Quay since it was transferred to the authority as part of local government reorganisation in the 1970s. As you may have seen from the town council’s newsletter, our councillors have written in very strong terms demanding action. The Faversham Society’s board will be considering what we can do to secure the future of the Town Warehouse and Town Quay.
Back in January, we wrote to Michael Gove, the housing, communities and local government secretary, (favershamsociety.org/open-letter-to-michael-gove) asking four specific questions about the government’s housing policy. We have now received a reply to our letter, but our four questions remain unanswered. You can find a link to the reply on our policy blog on our website.
Graham Setterfield and Matthew Hatchwell prepared and submitted a response with the support of the board to the Water Resources South East (WRSE) Consultation. You can find our submission on our policy blog (favershamsociety.org/water-supplies). On behalf of the board, I commented on aspects of the master planning and housing mix on the Fernham Homes Lady Dane planning application (favershamsociety.org/submission-on-lady-dane).
The society remains concerned about the planning application for housing on Abbey Fields, concerned enough to retain counsel to prepare a submission on our behalf. You can read our objection on our policy blog (https://favershamsociety.org/submission-on-abbey-fields/). Simon Bell worked with Jonathan Carey and Ray Harrison to develop the submission on our behalf.
David Melville has written for us a review of what is known about the battery fire and explosion in Liverpool in September 2020; this was an explosive destruction of a mere 5MWh. At Cleve Hill we can expect a 700MWh battery. When the developers of the Cleve Hill solar power factory submit their final planning application, Swale Borough Council will have just eight weeks to determine it. Council planners will have to take account of all of these issues before granting final planning permission for an installation that could result in serious consequences for the residents of Swale. This constitutes a huge challenge for Swale Council to insist that risks are minimised for the future safety and well-being of the residents of Swale. You can read his full article on favershamsociety.org/battery-explosion-and-fire-in-liverpool.
The Faversham Society’s AGM will be held in the Alexander Centre at 7pm on Wednesday, 1 June. Nomination forms for board membership and the chair and vice-chair are available online or from the VIC. They must be returned by 3 May. Nominations, proxy forms, and all papers for the AGM will be online by 17 May.
When I first moved to Faversham eight years ago, I knew I wanted to volunteer with a society or charity but wasn’t sure which one. I was interested in the history of the town and the surrounding area. When I joined the society and received the Faversham Society’s newsletter, I saw an appeal for a volunteer interested in photographs who would like to help organising and using the society database. This opportunity was right up my street!
My first love is Victorian photography and second is history. And, having worked in libraries most of my life, I had gained skills that I soon learnt could be adapted to the organisation of the photographic collection.
I was so pleased when I met and was welcomed by Clive Foreman. He guided me through how the photographs were arranged on the database. Training was also given by an expert on caring for the photographs and their storage. My first job with Clive was to do a stock check, a mammoth task but we finished and found quite a few anomalies.
At the moment I’m working on digitising – electronically copying – all the museum’s photographic collection to a database that will eventually be accessed by the public. This will probably take a couple of years or so for me to complete as there are more than 5,000 photographs and postcards. Maybe there is someone out there who has the same interests and would love to volunteer to help me?
I look forward to when the database goes “live” for all to see. We have some extraordinary photographs with lovely stories attached and I have chosen just one of my favourite stories to give you a taste of what’s in store. The photograph above shows the house at the corner of Saxon Road and Norman Road, which was bombed during the First World War. The occupier of this property was blinded and during the Second World War, when the authorities all over the Britain were removing metal fences, railings and gates “for the war effort”, these railings were left.
On the back of the photograph is written “the authorities left the railings outside his house during WW2 and at the other end of Norman Road and Roman Road so he could always be guided back to his house by feeling for the railings”, so he always knew where he was and how far he was from his house.
It is so important to write – carefully, don’t press too hard — on the back of photographs any information including names and dates. We have many photographs and postcards in the collection with either no information, or very little, which is sad. Writing it down is the only way we can record these wonderful photographs and history of people and places from Faversham.
If you have any damaged photographs, never be tempted to stick them back with Sellotape. The tape degrades over the years and leaves a yellow stain on the photograph. And never use paper clips, which rust and leave dents on the prints. It is best to just pop the damaged photographs into an envelope for safe keeping.
These photographs and stories are so exciting and I’m learning more about the history of the town too. I’m very proud to be able to volunteer and look after such a wonderful collection. It really is great to be able to use my skills and give back to the community.
So maybe this has piqued your interest and perhaps you would like to volunteer to help me digitise this collection. You never know, it could be right up your street too!
More than 100 people visited the Fleur museum during its three-day opening in April. Among the attractions was an exhibition in the gallery to mark the Faversham Society’s 60th anniversary.
The exhibition, organised by the museum’s costume curator with contributions from 10 volunteers, was called is Life Before the Faversham Society: a look at Faversham and the world through clothing, photos and items from our archives. Exhibits are pictured.
Children who visited the museum entered a competition to find the eggs, many of them using magnifying lenses.
Comments in visitors; book included: “Well worth the visit”, “Brilliant visit – will be returning with husband”, “Great time!”, and “Absolutely fascinating”.
A riveting solo show by Georgina Lock – a scriptwriter, ﬁlm maker, actress and scholar of theatre history – exploring the medieval anchoresses of Faversham who voluntarily entered lifelong lockdown, walled-up in a sealed cell at the side of a church, to pray for the souls of all. 7.30pm on Saturday, 9 July, Parish Church of St Mary of Charity, Faversham. Retiring collection
For every day spent digging by archaeologists there are many more days given over to washing, measuring, weighing, drawing, recording and researching their finds. Most archaeologists have a favourite period whether it is prehistoric, Roman, Anglo-Saxon etc. Some specialise in flints, pottery or perhaps glass, others study coins.
Certain discoveries that deserve special attention are classified as “small finds” and are set on one side in a plastic bag marked with an identification number and the exact position within the excavation at which they were found. At the end of the dig, they are individually researched. It could be a coin, a button, a pin, a buckle or a thimble. With the aid of reference books and search websites the find is researched, usually in an attempt to find an accurate date.
My specialism is clay pipes. It is generally accepted that a clay pipe-maker traded his wares within a radius of about 20 miles of his workshop. My experience in Faversham is that pipes from Canterbury or even Sittingbourne are rarely found. However, around the creek pipes from further afield are found because they were dropped by the barge trade and visiting merchant seamen.
A few years ago, the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) had a stall at the Artists in the Woods at the Oare Gunpowder Works and undertook to clean up a small brick building that had become overgrown.
We cleaned the walls and cleared out debris that had accumulated inside through the roof, the remains of a brick arch. Little was found which deserved “small finds” status apart from a clay pipe bowl. Pipes, tinderboxes, matches etc were strictly prohibited within the bounds of the gunpowder works, so it attracted particular interest.
The shape of the bowl and the size of the bore indicated that it was probably from the 18th century but didn’t quite fit into the generally accepted pipe typography. The heel of the pipe was stamped with the letters AE surmounted by a crown, not a mark which appeared in any of my reference books.
Inquiries through the Society for Clay Pipe Research revealed that the pipe had been made by one Abraham Eling at Gouda, Holland, between 1707 and 1730-35, which raised the question as how it had arrived at the gunpowder works.
Faversham in the early 18th century was famous for oysters, gunpowder and smuggling. The most famous visitor to the town in this period –1724 – was Daniel Defoe whose comments always bear repetition:
“… We come to Feversham, a large populous, and as some say, a rich town: Tho’ here is no particular remarkable trade, either for manufacture or navigation; the principal business we found among them, was fishing for oysters, which the Dutch fetch hence in such extraordinary quantities, that when I was there, we found twelve large Dutch hoys and doggers lying there to load oysters; and some times, as they told us, there are many more…
“I know nothing else this town is remarkable for [other than gunpowder], except the most notorious smuggling trade, carry’d on partly by the assistance of the Dutch, in their oyster-boats, and partly by other arts, in which they say, the people hereabouts are arriv’d to such a proficiency, that they are grown monstrous rich by that wicked trade.”
So who was the owner of our Gouda clay pipe? A Dutchman negotiating the purchase of powder – all above board, or a smuggler recently returned from Holland intent on becoming ‘monstrous rich?’
During two weeks last summer, the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) were privileged to dig two pits in the front garden of Queen Court Farmhouse, Water Lane, Ospringe. From one of the pits a spur was discovered, photographs of which were sent to the Royal Armouries to assist with dating. Eleanor Wilkinson-Keys of the Royal Armouries replied:
“The spur appears to be 15th century, possibly mid to late, and for the left foot (the partial buckle being on the outside, with the sides curving downwards beneath the ankle bone).
“It has the characteristic long neck, angling slightly downwards, common in western Europe, which developed because of a change in riding style. By the 15th century it was common for knights and men at arms to ride with a high saddle, with the legs straight. The longer neck therefore accommodates the new distance between the rider’s heel and the horse’s flank.
“Towards the rowel the neck divides into two to form the rowel box into which the rowel (the spiked revolving disc at the end of a spur) is housed and is attached by a rivet pin. The rowel is small, indicative of the period, and has eight petal-shaped points. Where the neck joins the heel there is a small crest, which is a built-up point at the back of the heel.
“Some spurs displayed very prominent and sometimes curled crests. Yours appears to be fairly subtle but it is a very common feature of spurs of this period. Typically, the ends of the sides would terminate in a figure-of-eight ring, and I am fairly certain from your images that this is the case here.
“A lovely feature, and very nice that this has survived, is the little fleur-de-lis-shaped hooked tab beneath the buckle. There may be another attached at the other side, but I am unable to make this out clearly. Spurs of this type tended to have two hooked tabs on one side and one on the other, with the buckle. These are to help with the attachment of two straps, one which would fit under the instep, the other which would secure the spur around the ankle.
“There may be a different kind of hooked tab to the one on the other side, perhaps a flattened disc or square shape, it is impossible to say from the images, but it isn’t uncommon to see several different shaped tabs on one spur. The buckle on your spur appears to have broken, retaining only one side of its double D-ring form, although I do see that the pin survives. Spurs of this type could be iron or copper alloy (yours appears to be ferrous) and ranged from very plain and undecorated, to elaborately decorated and sometimes gilt.”
FSARG is looking into the feasibility and cost of conservation of the spur.
Many of you will be familiar with the stone window tracery pictured above. There are two identical examples in the Fleur garden. Does anyone know where these came from? I am assuming they were placed there when the Georgian shopfront was installed (c. 2000) but I may be wrong.
When Open Gardens takes place – this year it’s on on 26 June – visitors always ask about the stones, but I can find no information about them in the museum archives or records. It would be great this year to give some background about them. Please let me know by dropping a note to the VIC addressed to me or by email email@example.com.
Most stories have a happy ending some just take a while to get there! At the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020, Mr Evans from Ospringe rang the Museum to see if we could identify a piece or rock (or was it a metal?) he had found locally.
The rock (pictured) has angular cracks and clearly intrigued us.
The expert we would normally ask, Jim Reid, geological adviser for the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group, could not be contacted. He was coming back from a cruise via the Mediterranean and did not know when he would be back as most ports were refusing entry to the ship!
I suggested that Mr Evans contact us again “when all this had ended”.
So, at the beginning of April this year, Mr Evans contacted us again and as soon as the museum reopened he brought in the stone.
That day, Jim was passing the museum and identified it. Mr Evans was surprised to get a phone call the same day he had left the rock with us. So what is it? This is a septarian rock, which is found in London Clay and is very heavy due to its iron content — pyrite.
Mr Evans has donated the stone so the archaeologists now have a good example of something that looks like it is manufactured but is natural.
If you want to fly a (good idea) kite make sure you provide appropriate strings. This month’s extract from Arthur Percival’s correspondence is a good example of how to do this. The necessary “strings” needed are the what, the where, the why and the how. Research, time and thought are needed and Arthur was never one to shirk in those areas.
This extract is from a letter to Swale Council about replacing lampposts in Napleton Road.
“I can well understand that replacing the street lighting columns with brackets may be unavoidable but could I put in a plea for the iron columns not to be scrapped? As you will see from my photo [We’re still trying to find it – Dorothy], these were cast by a local founder, Thomas Seager, whose foundry was adjacent.
“One of the buildings still survives in Fielding Street. I would guess the columns originally supported ‘Windsor’ gas lanterns and were given their graceful swan-necks when the Faversham Borough Council opened their power station in 1904 and converted street lighting to electricity.
“There are also two good Seager drain covers and it would be nice if those could not be scrapped. It would be good if some of the columns and drain covers could be retained within the conservation area, or at least reused somewhere else in Faversham.Other enclosed photos you may like to have for your files show the iron columns and the area in general.”
“When was I so long in killing a man?" Black Will asks in desperation towards the end of Arden of Faversham.
The play, based on the true story of the murder in Abbey Street of Thomas Arden, a former mayor of Faversham, by his wife, her lover and accomplices in 1551, is one of the earliest domestic tragedies and has continued to thrill audiences since its first staging.
Catherine Richardson, who lives near where one of the many murder attempts takes place, has spent the past five years editing the play. She, too, wondered whether she would ever finish the job.
In a talk, at Faversham Guildhall on Saturday, 23 April, at 7.30pm, she tries to pin down the enduring popularity of Arden of Faversham, and takes a trip through, among other subjects, its performance history – by both human actors and even puppets – and the latest, controversial thinking about the play’s likely authorship.
Professor Richardson, is director of the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Kent.
Tickets are available online (favershamsociety.org/store) or from the VIC.
Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 2pm - 5pm, 15 April to 30 October. Adults £4, Children free, Concessions £2. English Heritage members free.
Roger Blake was treasurer of the Faversham Society’s youth section in the mid-1960s, and a life member has come across a letter from Arthur Percival still in its original stamped envelope. In his letter, Arthur apologised for being out of stock of the Christmas items which Roger had ordered but offered “as a tiny consolation prize” – make sure you at least look at, and preferably save, the stamp on the envelope – one of only 20 printed. The Creek picture was also used on one of the Christmas Cards.” Do you have one of the other 19?
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The Faversham Society Newsletter is edited by Stephen Rayner, who is independent of the board.
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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