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Faversham Society News - August 2023

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

We must stop this plan. Now


July has been a very busy month for planning and conservation. Along with Faversham town councillors, Liberal Democrat and Labour members, we convinced the Swale Planning Committee to reject the application for 180 houses on Abbeyfields.

If the developer decides to appeal, the Faversham Society board will need to decide whether to commit further resources to fight to save this critical setting of the Abbey Barns, the integrity of the conservation area, and Faversham’s remaining agricultural connection to the Abbeyfieds and across to Thorn Creek where the royal abbey had its wharf.

A further planning application has been put in for Ordnance Wharf, and our small planning team worked long hours to articulate our objections. You can find our submission, which ran to many pages on the policy blog on www.favershamsociety.org. Our submission includes photographs of Ordnance Wharf covered in wildflowers before it was torn up by the developer, with views from the public footpath behind the Morrisons supermarket across to Davington. This is an important part of the conservation area, worthy of a much better design.

A second application has been made for development at Brogdale. While the plan is ostensibly for holiday rentals, the applicant may come asking to convert them to residential if they fail to find a market. Housing south of the M2 would breach the new natural limit to Faversham since the A2 was breached, and put more traffic pressure on the A2. We are working on our objections.

The Faversham Community Land Trust was formed a few years ago to ensure more affordable housing for Faversham families. We put in a “preapp” – a submission to the planning authority before an application to consider details – to create access to the engine sheds east of Faversham Station between the lines to Thanet and Dover. We hope to be able to rescue the listed engine sheds for community and commercial use, create a pedestrian, buggy, wheelchair and cycle route to the railway station and the recreation ground, and build some locally affordable housing. It will take time and a lot of effort, but the preapp approval is the essential first step.

The same small group of members has worked for three months on the Conservation Area appraisal, which has now gone to Swale for public consultation. We have submitted about 60 objects ranging from buildings to street drainage on the local list to ensure their conservation.

If any of you have skills or knowledge in conservation or planning, please do get in touch, we have been very stretched over the past couple of months.

Over the past six weeks, plans for Open Faversham have come together with 50 performances, talks, guided and self-guided tours, places of interest and exhibitions, skills development and activities for parents and children. Look out for the programme which should be in the visitor information centre at 12 Market Place at the beginning of August. The details are being uploaded on to www.openfaversham.info now.


Roll up for the Wikithon


We are running two Wikipedia events in connection with Open Faversham on 16 August (at 2pm) and 17 August (at 10am), Both are at the Umbrella Centre in Court Street and both are free of charge,

These are aimed at anyone with an interest in local history and culture. Participants will learn Wikipedia basics and make their first edits. No previous Wiki experience is required. The plan is to improve the information about Faversham and its history on Wikipedia.

You are welcome to attend both sessions: identical training will run at both. You will be asked which session(s) you are attending on your registration form.

If you have attended Wednesday’s session and would like to drop in on Thursday for some supported editing, you are most welcome!

We encourage you to bring your own laptop if you can, however Umbrella has 10 standalone computers that are available for participants. You will be asked in your registration form if you would like the use of one of these computers. This is to help us make sure we have enough available.

A similar session was held at Faversham Library in October.

Booking is essential and can be done by clicking on www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/connected-heritage-faversham-society-wikithon-for-open-faversham-tickets-670637122687

Two bookshops, one mission


Although I love working in the Fleur Bookshop, reincarnated in Preston Street, I retain fond memories of our former premises in Gatefield Lane, which has been reborn as Grain & Hearth.

Comparisons between the two bookshops are interesting, although some people say that comparisons are odious. I’m sure other long-term volunteers who, like me, spent a number of years in the Gatefield Lane premises, cannot help making such comparisons. It is an interesting exercise in nostalgia and, in a certain way, logic.

The old bookshop, which I might call Fleur One, possessed a definite Dickensian feel about it. It’s a word I do not use pejoratively, for that to me was a large part of its charm. Customers often entered Fleur One for the first time and gazed about in wonder, to declare: “How delightfully old-fashioned!” Sometimes I felt we were existing in a time-warp.

The present, revamped bookshop – Fleur Two – looks and feels much more modern and is certainly more spacious, but it forms part of an ancient building. That, I suppose, is part of the trend in Faversham as elsewhere: period buildings with modern interiors. But Fleur One looked vintage, shall we say, inside and out.

The Gatefield Lane bookshop felt, when working there, either “cosy” or “cramped”, depending on one’s feel for the place. The Preston Street incarnation sweeps spaciously around each side of a more-or-less centrally placed desk. Unfamiliar customers enter and sometimes look bemused – there are two ways to go, either to the left of the desk or to the right. It feels a little like directing traffic. “To your left, madam, down that corridor, you will find fiction and classics – and a delightful courtyard garden.” Or, “To your right, sir, we have all the non-fiction.”

Another big difference concerns what shopkeepers refer to as footfall. Preston Street is a main thoroughfare; Gatefield Lane is a bit of a backwater, if a charming one. We attract considerably more custom in Fleur Two simply because far more people pass by and become aware of our existence. It also has a much wider window display.

Some things, of course, never change. The allure of the second-hand bookshop remains, a cornucopia for those who wish to browse, chat, absorb the atmosphere, buy a book or two (or preferably 10), and go their way. Many customers, especially if they are locals, return on a weekly basis; one gets to know them as valuable acquaintances as well as valued customers.

I appreciate the undoubted benefits of Fleur Two, although there will always be a special place in my heart for Fleur One, perpetually locked in its time-warp – even though it now sells coffee, cakes and bread rather than books.

Our horrible new history


A fantastic new Faversham Society publication, Murder, Mystery & Majesty, tells the story of Faversham from the earliest times and spotlights some of the gruesome goings on in our not so quiet little town.

Written by local author Neil Tonge (who wrote Terrible Tudors, part of the Horrible Histories series), this history of Faversham is aimed at younger readers and, we hope, the colour and the humour will capture their imaginations.

It has some delightful illustrations by Ellie Beer, a local artist, which really bring it to life.

The new book will be available from the Visitor Information Centre from Monday 7 August, priced £6.99. Neil and Ellie will be signing copies there on Saturday, 12 August, from noon to 2pm.

Murder, Mystery & Majesty can also be purchased online via our e-store

 Get yours early to avoid the rush!

Open Faversham: your guide to events

Open Faversham is an initiative of the Faversham Society and the Friends of St Mary of Charity to showcase and celebrate our town’s rich built, cultural and natural heritage. These are now the summer holidays, and although some of us will be away, many will be having a staycation, and families will be home with children looking for things to do. Faversham attracts many tourists and day visitors in August, and many of us have friends and families come to stay.

St Mary of Charity is at the centre of the town and of Open Faversham

More details can be found on the openfaversham.info website and some events and activities need to be pre-booked.

St Mary of Charity has been at the heart of our town for centuries. The friends group works to raise money to maintain the fabric of the Grade I listed church and the churchyard. Originally medieval, the classical nave dates from 1755, the Georgians gave us the distinctive spire, the Victorians reordered the interior. We are raising funds to provide a small kitchen and accessible toilets and to equip it to be used more often and more extensively by community groups.

Open Faversham demonstrates how the church can be used for exhibitions and events. As you will see from the programme, we have Geoff Sandiford’s Charmed Life of Arden, and we are showing A Sideways Launch about Pollock’s shipyard. For children, there is brass rubbing and a pirate story to be found, and there are guided tours of the church, and a bat walk.

 Open Faversham opens in St Mary of Charity Parish Church at 10.30 on Saturday, 12 August. There will be guided tours of the church and the exhibitions, and a display of the church silver. Justin Croft will be talking about Katherine Parr’s 1545 Prayers and Meditations (see pages10-11), the first book in English published by a named woman author. There will be a demonstration of flint-knapping in the churchyard at 11am. A café will be in the north transept, and in the Trinity Chapel there will be a series of photographs of Pollock’s Shipyard from the National Maritime Museum, along with a small exhibition about the Mulberry Harbour that played an essential part in the Normandy Landings in June, 1944, and is connected with our town.

Faversham Gunpowder Women’s Institute displays its first two knitted post box toppers from Christmas 2019 to this year’s summer display – “they put a smile on people’s faces”. Dean Ramsden’s video about the church – filmed from within the church and above – will be showing in the church.

From Wednesday, 16 August, to Saturday, 18 August, the Faversham Society is displaying a series of maps and aerial photographs showing the expansion of Faversham from Edward Jacob’s 18th-century Accurate Plan of the Town of Faversham in the County of Kent. An Ancient Member of the Cinque Ports, through the decades to the contemporary flood risk maps.

There are four Faversham Society talks and two walks by Jonathan Carey, one with Antony Millett. Here’s what else is on offer:

Mary English, a Freedom Fighter from Faversham, 7pm, Saturday, 12 August, Faversham Guildhall. Tickets £3. In this, Patricia Diaz, writer, introduces her novel (to be published in 2025) on the life of the adventurer and explorer Mary English, who was born in Faversham in 1789, a docker’s daughter. In Colombia she was known as the Belle of Bogota, a supporter of Simon Bolivar, a landowner, trader and farmer who had many husbands. She died in poverty in 1846.

The Charmed Life of Arden by Geoff Sandiford and his group, St Mary of Charity, 7.30pm, Tuesday, 15 August. Tickets £7.50. The story of Thomas Arden, the former Mayor of Faversham, whose murder in Abbey Street was turned into a 16th-century drama by an anonymous playwright,

Faversham Streets, Houses Owners and Occupations 1672-1840, Guildhall, 7pm, Friday, 18 August. Tickets £3. Based on 40 years of original research, John Owen talks about the development and changing trades and ownership of houses in our town’s historic core. His talk will be illustrated with rarely seen watercolours and the earliest known photographs.

All about Eels, Guildhall, 7.30pm, Saturday, 19 August. Tickets £3. Matthew Hatchwell, former director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, will talk about the ecology, cultural significance and conservation of critically endangered European eels in Kent, the only critically endangered species that occurs commonly in north Kent and the most illegally trafficked animal in the world.

Talk and guided walk, Oare Gunpowder Works, off the Western Link, 1pm, Saturday and Sundays 12, 13, 19, and 20 August. Meet at the Visitor Information Centre, 12 Market Place.

St Mary of Charity, the Evolution of the Church We See Today, 7pm, Monday, 14 August. Tickets £3. Jonathan Carey, retired conservation and church architect, will lead a conversational walk around the exterior and interior of the parish church, looking at the evolution and construction of the building as we see it today.

Gunpowder Influences in Faversham, 11am, Tuesday, 15 August. Tickets £3. Antony Millett, our Walking with History guide, will lead this stroll through Faversham pointing out those buildings that remain or have been influenced by our gunpowder heritage, including a visit to Chart Mill.

Faversham Bricks, 7pm, Tuesday, 15 August. Meet outside the Fleur de Lis Museum, in Preston Street. Jonathan Carey, retired conservation architect, will lead a walk exploring the many and varied bricks made in Faversham and used in buildings and boundary walls over the past three centuries.

The Geology of Faversham’s Streets, 3pm-4pm, 12, 16 and 20 August. Tickets £3. A tour around the centre of Faversham looking at the stone that is beneath our feet and used in local buildings, discussing Faversham’s role as a trading centre and how the remains of prominent buildings are still present in the townscape. Meet at Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place.

A Walk Along the Westbrook, 2pm, 17 and 19 August. Tickets £3 (children free). An introduction to the history, ecology, and conservation of this rare chalk stream, which once powered the gunpowder industry. Faversham exists because of this stream.

Thames Sailing Barge Repertor, Faversham Creek, 11am-1pm, 12, 13, 19 and 20 August. Tickets, £3. Now carrying passengers, the Thames sailing barge Repertor is typical of those that used to supply the town and collect its produce.

Faversham Charters and Magna Carta Exhibition, Town Hall, 10am-4pm, 15 to 19 August; and 11am-2pm, 13 and 20 August. Faversham is one of the few English towns with a medieval version of the Magna Carta, revered the world over as one of the foundation documents of liberty and democracy.

Dress-up Medieval-Style plus art and craft, 11am-3pm, 15, 17 and 18 August. Free. A drop-in for accompanied sixes to 12s to dress in medieval-style clothes or join an art and craft session.

Kent Police Museum, Church Road, 10am-4pm, 17, 18 and 19 August. Free. Solve a crime and sit on a police motorcycle!

Shepherd Neame Brewery, Heritage and Archives Exhibition, 18 Court Street, 10.30am-4.30pm, 14 to 18 August. The exhibition displays fascinating records and ephemera from England’s oldest brewer.

Doddington Parish Library, 10am to 4pm, 19 August. A unique collection of 400 volumes from 16th to 19th centuries are on display. Enter via the Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place. Viewing in small groups.

Faversham Themed Pop-Up Art Exhibition, Creek Creative, Abbey Street, 10am-4pm, 19 August. Outdoor art show celebrating some of Faversham’s faces past and present, created by Jason Cox and Heidi Schaffner. Works of art will be displayed in the courtyard daily from 8am to 8pm throughout Open Faversham and the rest of August.

The Story of the Expansion of Faversham through Maps, St Mary of Charity, 10am-4pm, 17, 18 and 19 August. Maps show the expansion of Faversham from the 1774 Jacob map into the future.

Guided Tour of the Former Marsh Gunpowder Works, location on application, 2pm, 14 August. A rare opportunity to visit the Grade II listed buildings: the refining, earth, melting, proof, gate and crystalising houses, and the office, stores and house. A tour and discussion about their conservation and future use.

Free family activities on Faversham Rec. Bowling open days, Saturday 13 August and Wednesday 16 August; tennis club open day Friday 18 August; evening bat walk, Sunday, 20 August. Walks to discover heritage on Friday, 18 August; and trees, Saturday, 19 August and Sunday, 20 August. www.openfaversham.info

Pirates, free holiday fun for kids, Fleur Museum, Preston Street, 11am-3pm, 12, 15, 16, 18 and 19 August. Why are pirates called pirates? Because they AAARRRR! The Faversham pirate John Ward, the “greatest scoundrel that ever sailed” will be visiting every day except 16 August. Children can try on fabulous Tudor costumes to see how they would have looked 500 years ago and make their own treasure map.

Pirate Harry Paye and brass rubbing, St Mary of Charity, 14 to 19 August. Harry Paye, privateer and smuggler: come along and see his 1419 brass and try brass rubbing in the church. Nobody has yet found his grave – can you?

Kids’ juicing workshops, Brogdale Fruit Collection, 15 and 16 August. Visit Brogdale during apple harvesting season and walk through our orchards where you will see more than 3,000 varieties of fruit trees including apples, cherries, pears and plums.

Medieval-style seal making, Visitor Information Centre, 16 August. A free event for accompanied children aged eight to 12, where they will be guided to make their own medieval-style seal from clay.

Summer fair, Faversham Umbrella, Court Street, ME13 7AT, 10am-2pm, 18 August. Craft stalls and free balloon-making.

The Assembly Rooms, Faversham’s Hidden Gem, 10am-4pm, 13, 19 and 20 August. Free. View Faversham’s Assembly Rooms, destroyed by fire in 1848 and now restored to their Victorian glory.

Belmont House and Gardens, Self-guided tours, 1pm-3pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, guided house tours at 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm, Sundays and bank holiday Mondays. An elegant 18th-century house designed by Samuel Wyatt, the family home of the Lords Harris, displaying three collections of clocks, paintings and armoury. www.belmont-house.org

Brogdale National Fruit Collection, daily guided tours 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday, plus accessible tractor-trailer tours and pick your own plums. www.brogdale.org

Chart Mill, 2pm-5pm, 12, 13, 19 and 20 August. Free tour of Chart Mill. Oldest gunpowder works in the area, part of the Home Works dating from 1530. Walk along the Westbrook from Stonebridge Pond. www.favershamsociety.org/chart-gunpowder-mills

Doddington Place Gardens, 11am-5pm, 13, 16 and 20 August. Tour the lovely 10 acres of landscaped gardens set in the grounds of an imposing Victorian mansion, recognised by English Heritage as being of historical importance. www.doddingtonplacegaradens.co.uk

Faversham Umbrella Building and historic Court Street, 10am-3pm, 15 and 16 August. View the display showing the history of our Grade II listed building.

The Old Grammar School, footpath between the parish church and Abbey Place, 10am-4pm, 12 and 19 August. Tickets £2 (children free). The Old Grammar School, with original furniture, wooden panelling and schoolboy graffiti, was built in 1587 and is now a Masonic lodge. Unsuitable for those with mobility problems.

The Maison Dieu, Ospringe Street, 2pm-5pm, 12, 13, 19 and 20 August. Tickets £4, concessions £2, children free. Originally a medieval hospital, the Maison Dieu houses exquisite Roman, Saxon and medieval collections.

The sculpture and stained glass of St Michael and All Angels, Throwley, 10am-4pm, 14 to 18 August. Throwley Church has a fine local collection of stone and alabaster carving, 15th and 16th-century tomb chests, 17th-century figures, tombs, statues and more.

Shrine of St Jude, Tanners Street, 10am-4pm, 16 and 18 August. Donation requested. The shrine is a place of welcome, prayer, peace and hope. The development of Faversham into a centre of devotion to St Jude arose out of the work of the Carmelite Press, founded in 1938. www.stjudeshrine.org.uk

Connected Heritage and Faversham Society Wikithon for novices, Faversham Umbrella, 2pm-5pm, 16 August or 10am-1pm, 17 August. For anyone with an interest in local history and culture to learn Wikipedia basics. The sessions are free and no previous Wiki experience is required. For those who have previously done a course, there is, on 17 August, a drop-in session for upskilling.

Shakespeare in Faversham, Fleur Museum, 12 to 20 August (check website for opening hours). Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Shakespeare’s plays in 1623 – and its connection to Faversham (see pages 14-15).

Processing archaeological finds, 11am-3pm, 12, 15, 18, 19 and 20 August. The Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) will be processing their finds from the summer season digs. Come along and see what they have found. Entrance via the Fleur in Preston Street or through the yard off Gatefield Lane.

Art class with a local artist, Umbrella Centre, Court Street, 11am-12pm, 16 August. Free art class focusing on rooftops and the historic buildings of Faversham.

Picture the Rec chalk drawing workshop, Faversham Recreation Ground, 11am-4pm, 19 and 20 August. Join Andy Evans for his workshop on the avenue by Whitstable Road on the Saturday or by the Rec playground on the Sunday.

An evening bat walk, St Mary of Charity, 8.30pm, 16 August. Tickets £3. A walk around the church, looking for, and listening to, using bat detectors.

Insects: Forgotten Pollinators, St Mary of Charity churchyard, 11am, 18 August. Tickets £3. Brambles, nettles, and wild flowers attract and sustain the insects, an important part of the web of life.

Look out, also, for photographs in some of the shops in town, showing them in a previous incarnation. Three pubs – the Bear, the Quay, and the Ship Inn at Ospringe Street – will be displaying images about their history.

Full details of all events can be found at www.openfaversham.info

From our attic: a Tudor prayer book’s royal secret


Left to right: the title page of Katherine Parr – first book in English to have a female author;
Prayer for King Edward VI – dating Psalms and prayers to 1547; the Anti-Catholic and Pope statement; and the note on the flyleaf

A very rare and exciting Tudor prayer book has been discovered in the Faversham Society attic.

The book comprises large sections of three Tudor prayer books bound together. The first book is missing the title and first pages but has 190 surviving pages and starts at page 51 but is identified as the Primer set forth by the kinges maiestie and his clergie and is known as the King’s Primer.

It is in English and was authorised by King Henry VIII. It was first published anonymously in 1545 but was written by Thomas Cranmer who had been influenced by Protestant ideas. This copy has a prayer for Edward VI – Henry’s son by his third wife, Jane Seymour – and so probably dates from 1547.

The next book is identified as Psalms and prayers taken out of holye scripture which had been published anonymously in Latin by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, in 1529. However it was translated into English by Queen Katherine Parr – Henry’s sixth wife – and first published anonymously in 1544. It concludes with a prayer for men going into battle and a prayer for King Edward VI, thus our copy dates from his reign of 1547-53. Our copy is missing the title page and first pages, but has 156 surviving pages.

The third book – the most exciting discovery – has the title page and the first 28 pages. It is Prayers or medytacions wherein the mynd is stirred … by Queen Katherine Parr.

This the first book in the English language by a named female author. It seems probable that these three books all in English were originally bound together – perhaps for economy. The present binding is 19th century. We know that because where the leather spine had been split, a 19th-century paper under spine with advertisements of the time was found.

But now the surprise element! On the fly-leaf there is a inscription in blue pencil: “Found hidden away in an old chimney 1881 Geo Johnson.”

The 1894 Faversham Directory has an advertisement of George Johnson, a builder and decorator of St Mary’s Road. Further, there is a folded letter, dated February, 1900, from the vicar of St Catherine’s Church at Preston Vicarage, to Mr Johnson identifying the book as the King’s Primer and suggesting it had been hidden away during the time of Queen Mary I.

Agreed! Why was this hidden? The Kings Primer has a paragraph “From all sedition and conspiracy, from the tyranny of the Bishop of Rome and his detestable enormities, from all false doctrine and heresy ... good Lord deliver us.”

Furthermore, Katherine Parr was a leading Protestant and so during the reign of Catholic Queen Mary (1553-58), who actively persecuted Protestants, possession of this could have ended in death at the stake.

There are examples of books hidden away during the reign of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. For example, a copy of another book by John Fisher was found hidden under floor boards at Oxburgh Hall.

Where was it hidden? It had been hoped there might have been a report indicating where it was found. The British Newspaper Archive has no mention of this in the Faversham News, Faversham Times, or the Faversham Institute Journal.

The book was hidden in a chimney, yet there is no trace of soot so it is suggested it may have been hidden in a salt niche. Inglenook chimneys sometimes had a double wall with a cavity. This could have an alcove 30cm tall and a shelf extending sideways into the cavity. The niche was for a storage of a jar of salt to keep it dry. It would be possible to hide the book at the end of the cavity and hide the item behind bricks and further put a decorative jar of salt in the alcove.

So this little book is a memorial to bigotry and intolerance.

I should like to thank Justin Croft for his support and advice. Thanks also go to Chris Wootton for photographing the books.

400 years of Shakespeare … and the First Folio’s link to Faversham


This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays in 1623.

In all, 36 plays were gathered from manuscripts and prompt books by two of his friends and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell and published under the title Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories and tragedies. Without this initiative half of Shakespeare’s plays would have been lost to us.

What has this to do with Faversham? If we turn to Much Adoe [sic] About Nothing, page 107, act 2, scene 3, at the base of the page there is the stage direction “Enter Prince, Leonato, Claudio, and Jacke Wilson”.

By mistake, the printer has printed the name of the actor Jacke Wilson instead of the character Balthazar.

According to Edward Rimbault’s book Who was Jack Wilson? and Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Jacke Wilson was actually John Wilson. He was probably a stage singer who took the role of Balthazar and sang Sigh No More Ladies.

John Wilson was born in 1595 in Faversham and came from the house on the corner of Church Street and Abbey Street. There is a plaque on the later building occupying the site but it wrongly says he was the first Master of the King’s Music.

He joined Shakespeare’s company and played roles in Shakespeare’s plays. He was a composer and lutenist and became a musician at the court of King Charles I and King Charles II and became a favourite. Eventually he was appointed professor of music at Oxford University and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

July 26, 2023

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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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