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Despite a terrible weather forecast, a baker’s dozen of us braved the elements and set off from Faversham Guildhall on Boxing Day morning. OK, so we got wet and rather muddy, but that didn’t deter us.
We made it safely, risking life and limb across fields, the railway line (twice) and across deep rucks made by tractors, to St Bartholomew’s Church, then on to Nagden and back along Faversham Creek.
By the time it really started raining heavily, we were happily ensconced in the Garden Café by the creek enjoying hot drinks and cake.
The walk is very well signposted, and if you want to do it have a look at Ordnance Survey map 149, where the Swale Heritage Trail is clearly marked. Finally many thanks to Chris Wootton, for sorting out my camera so that the photo at the start of the walk could be downloaded.
As I write this I hear rave reviews of Our Beautiful Town performed to a packed audience in the Guildhall. Geoff Sandiford has evoked many memories for those involved in the early days of the Faversham Society’s work and celebrated what is special about our town. Geoff and his group of musicians is planning to put Our Beautiful Town on again during the July Open Faversham festivals. May will wish to see it again, if you missed it now be sure to get a ticket for a July performance.
A members’ and guests’ meeting will be held in the Fleur hall on Thursday, 30 January. Come along and share your ideas and please encourage anyone you think might be interested to come along – we want this to be a community festival with music, drama and dance as well as exhibitions, talks, guided walks and an opportunity to see inside some of our heritage buildings. More details below.
At the end last year Swale Borough Council published its draft Heritage Strategy. It is out for consultation until 31 January. The society’s board will be considering the draft at its meeting on 28January and we shall be submitting our comments as well as posting them on our website.
There is much to be applauded in the new strategy, not least the priority being given to conservation and its contribution to regeneration. The strategy and two supporting appendices (including the action plan) can be accessed online at www.swale.gov.uk/heritage-strategy. Take a look and take this opportunity to comment on it.
The Society has objected to plans to develop housing on Abbey Fields. (see below). The view across the marsh and fields to St Mary of Charity is iconic. It is now the only view which places Faversham in its rural and agricultural context. That view is particularly important to our sense of place. We shall be campaigning against the Cleve Hill Power Station proposal from February. We are waiting to see who will be the responsible minister after the cabinet reshuffle expected in February.
I was surprised and flattered to see a national analysis of leading 591 UK tourist attractions. More than 170 of them are losing money and expected to fail. You will be relieved to know that Faversham is not among them: in fact we are among 249 tourist attraction companies rated as strong and we are the 508th largest in the UK market.
For this we must thank the teams which run the Visitor Information Centre, the second-hand bookshop, Open Houses and Open Gardens, all of whom have been successful in ensuring our financial strength essential to enable us to maintain the Fleur and to enhance the heritage of our town.
19 January The whole of the Faversham Society complex at 10-13 Preston Streetwill be closed for essential maintenance today
30 January Open Faversham members and guests, Fleur hall, 7.30pm. No ticket needed.
14 February-2 March Hernhill Art & Craft, Fleur gallery
6-30 March Doddington village history exhibition, Fleur gallery
21 March One-day Historic Swale conference on the Swale, Swale and our Identity. Plus heritage fair, Appleyard, Sittingbourne
28 March Quiz, Fleur hall. Details to follow next month
Come along and hear more about these new festivals. If you know of others who many be interested please invite themalong to the Fleur hall at 7.30pm on Thursday, 30 January.
After 50 years of Open Houses, and a spectacularly successful year in 2019, we recognise that it is time to refresh this educational celebration of Faversham's heritage. Our thinking has been stimulated by how Open House London has grown to encompass streets, streetscapes, buildings, open spaces, talks and cultural activities. In the capital, there is something of a mini-festival across the city. Faversham is good at festivals.
So Open Faversham will each year invite residents and visitors to share in a celebration of our heritage through guided walks, visits, music, drama, talks, displays and exhibitions. The themes will change from year to year and will repeat perhaps every four or five years. We are planning two weekends each year in mid-July. We hope to attract people from further afield and to create opportunities for evening talks and performances.
Like the Faversham Food Festival, we plan to encourage anyone who wishes to join the Open Faversham Festival Weekends by organising their own events – we'll help with marketing. Our ambition is to create a community festival, to celebrate our cultural and natural heritage, our architecture and living culture around a range of themes. An opportunity for Faversham to share its past and its present with fellow citizens and guests. The Society will run some events its self, it will partner with others to run some and it will advertise some events run by others. We would like as may groups as possible to be part of this community festival.
This an opportunity for those in the Faversham Museums Together group to be part of a town-wide festival and we shall begin to use the Heritage Map we have been talking about for some time – the maps will be useful throughout the year and provide a new way to share knowledge of our heritage and to communicate it to young people.
For 2020 we are planning two weekends with opening events, talks or performances, on Friday evening.
11 July The Coming of the Railway to Faversham for railway buffs and social historians. The Railway Station, the Railway Inn, Water Tower, the Engine Sheds, and a walk down to Standard Quay along the line of the railway line.
12 July Victorian Faversham – houses, streets, public buildings and the Recreation Ground. An Open House style opportunity to visit and see the interiors of Victorian buildings, industrial buildings, places of worship, schools, the Assembly Rooms – a dance and/or Victorian feast. The Recreation Ground and the new housing in Faversham before and after the coming of the railway. The Cottage Hospital and the cemetery.
18-19 July Gunpowder in the town – the industrial archaeology, the housing for the workers, the owners and the managers. Gunpowder works on the marsh and the great explosion, the cemetery, Uplees, Davington Light Railway.
The bookshop staff would like to thank everybody who donated goods so generously to the pop-up second-hand gift shop in the gallery just before Christmas and also everyone who came in to buy gifts.
We ended up with a wide and colourful variety of bargains, something for everyone and a vibrant thriving atmosphere in the shop that made more than £900 for the society.
Feedback was positive. Many people loved it and said why would it not continue especially as there are now more antique shops around the town and the antiques market every month. Others mentioned the importance these days for recycling goods and enecyclivironmental awareness. In fact, a few people said they were buying only second-hand presents for Christmas and the shop was therefore just perfect.
And we noticed that at the right price nearly everything would sell in the wonderful town centre location.
These days, of course, charity shops have sprung up everywhere, generally people love to donate to a good cause and also they love a bargain. Is it not perhaps time to think of opening our own permanent Faversham Society charity gift shop somewhere on the main complex, to complement the bookshop?
The Faversham Society has written to object to JB Planning Associates’ plan to build 180 homes, “internal access roads, footpaths, cycleways, open space and landscaping, drainage, utilities and service infrastructure works” at Abbey Fields.
We have major concerns:
Access The developer’s notice in the newspaper says that “All detailed matters are reserved for subsequent approval except for access to Abbey Fields”. Has this access already been agreed?
Access is difficult through Abbey Fields or would require a new bridge over the railway line. Abbey Fields is narrow and in poor condition and exits on to Whitstable Road at an already dangerous junction with poor sightlines.
The setting of the town. Faversham is a traditional market town set within an agricultural landscape. This setting has been lost to the south and west of the town through housing developments. From the Saxon Shore Way there are views of Faversham in its creek setting. The views across Abbey Fields to St Mary’s of Charity are important to Faversham’s sense of place.
Flood risk. This area flooded in 1953 and with climate change and the plans for managed realignment the risk of flooding is heightened. The developer should not be permitted to develop housing leaving the costs of flood defences and post-flood restoration to the public purse or other householders through increased insurance changes
Conservation. The site is next to the conservation area, listed buildings and part of the site is within the locally designated Abbey Fields Local Wildlife Site. It lies within the Goodnestone Grasslands landscape character are and is adjacent to an area of high landscape value within the Swale and surrounding marshes, a status reconfirmed in the 2019 study.
Landscape sensitivity. We dissent from the assessment of the site as “moderate-high overall sensitivity to future change from residential and employment development”. In our view, the site is highly sensitive and important to Faversham’s identity as a historic market town at the heart of a high-value agricultural area.
Development constraints. In the unfortunate event that that permission is granted then all of the Guidance on page 342 of the landscape sensitivity assessment on the agenda of the Local Plan Panel Meeting of 27 November, 2019, should be applied.
We spotted this in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It communicates brilliantly the length and richness of the town’s history and guides people to see the different periods both spatially and temporally. Could something similar be done for Faversham with the creek and the Watling Street at its core?
“What a great evening, I wouldn't have missed it”. “Id forgotten what hard battles we fought back then.” “I learnt such a lot from that.” “So lovely to see those old faces again.”
These were remarks I overheard as I came out of Geoff Sandiford's very enjoyable January performance of his new work, Our Beautiful Town. This delightful presentation, an intriguing pastiche of songs, photographs and well-researched historical stories of Faversham from the 1960s onwards made a great hour's entertainment.
Inspired by a chance reading of Christine Rayner’s book marking the Faversham Society’s golden jubilee, Geoff has put together a very affectionate record of events gleaned from our first 50 years.
Our Beautiful Town and his earlier work, The Skate Boys, will themselves become part of the town’s recorded history, and no doubt have many future performances from time to time. Both were meticulously researched and I saw for myself how much care Geoff took in making sure that everyone he could possibly find from the early days was interviewed and appreciated for what they did.
So, many thanks to Geoff, his wife Jeannie, the band and all the interviewees who searched their memories diligently to remember how it all started, and what we have achieved.
The Faversham Society has always been able to call upon very dedicated volunteers and today is no different. To ensure that this happy state remains we need to continue recruiting while we have sufficient people to show newcomers the ropes.
Joining us in volunteering need not be an arduous process; our aim is to enjoy ourselves, otherwise why would we do it? This is why we are introducing an initiative aimed towards existing volunteers. If you are not already a volunteer in some capacity, but would like to find out more, my details are at the bottom of this article and I will be pleased to talk with you.
To all of our volunteers, please join us in a Bring a Friend Scheme and help us to add to the number of our volunteers by introducing a friend or family member.
Until Easter, please bring a friend to work with you and let them observe what you do and what else is going on. They do not have to attend for the whole shift, and they do not have to be a Faversham Society member. If they want to return on another occasion and observe another area of our work, that is fine.
As a volunteer, you are in a better position to advise on the requirements, and also to give advice when the inevitable questions arise. The only requirement that we have, for insurance purposes, is to record your friend as a museum visitor, free of charge.
Listed below are some of the areas where help is needed. If you, or a friend, can offer help in these, or other areas, we will be pleased to listen and work with you.
Customer service People to staff our Visitor Information Centre and shop, second-hand bookshop, museum reception and gallery steward. Previous experience is not essential.
Stewards Our Museum and the Chart Mills Gunpowder Works both need stewards to assist members of the public. Familiarisation and training is not onerous and will be provided.
Town guides There is no script to learn. Enthusiasm for our town is enough. Training proceeds at your own pace and you are encouraged to include your own anecdotes and personality. If you don’t enjoy it, our customers won’t either.
Curators, archivists, historians, librarians and archaeologists Enthusiasm and an interest will get you started; any training necessary will help you, and us, to proceed. Any previous skills and experience will be gratefully accepted.
Media communication skills Experience and contacts with all media areas , whether in print, broadcast or online are especially welcome.
Admin and IT support Come and hide around the back and make the front appear most efficient. We are always grateful for assistance with minute-taking. Committees meet monthly during the day time and evenings. Giving up two hours a month will make these meetings run so much better.
Social media Skills on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and website update or design, will enable us to interact better with customers and potential visitors.
The Faversham Society Newsletter is edited by Stephen Rayner, who is independent of the board.
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The Fleur de Lis museum at 10-13 Preston Street, Faversham, is now closed for reorganisation, refurbishment and repairs. Our reopening is planned for spring 2022.
The Fleur de Lis visitor information centre and book and gift shop are open 10am-1pm Sunday to Thursday and 10am-4pm Friday & Saturday. 01795 534542 email@example.com
The Fleur de Lis second-hand bookshop at 1a Gatefield Lane is open 10am-3.30pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sundays. 01795 590621
Chart Gunpowder Mills in Nobel Court, off South Road, is open 2pm-5pm Saturday & Sunday from 25th September to 31st October only