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The weather has been grey, Christmas was shortened, and many of you spent it alone. And now we are back in lockdown. I know that it has been a difficult month for many of you, and it is far from over.
The Fleur has closed again, and we are meeting online. We know not everyone can Zoom and we look forward to holding meetings and hosting talks in the traditional way, post-pandemic. But after the success of our AGM with record attendance, we continue to experiment with online talks.
I am looking forward to Clive Foreman’s on our town’s history in maps, not to be missed. Registration details here.
I am privileged in that I can work from home, and I have much to keep me busy. The pandemic has strangely levelled my world. As many of you know, I work on responsible tourism around the world. With Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp I can speak to friends and colleagues in Dubai, India and South Africa as easily as I can talk with friends and our members in Faversham.
When I first found Faversham, I arrived for an evening meeting. Jack Harris walked me to the Sun Inn within 20 minutes of my meeting him at his home. Jack introduced me to Gerry, the landlord, as a friend, and asked him to treat me as a local. He did, and so did so many others.
The next morning Jack went to work at BMM Weston and left me to wander the town before I dared drive back to the “other side”. I was living in Ashford at the time.
That was October, 1976. I recall standing at the traffic lights and deciding that Faversham would be a good place to live in difficult times and that I’d like to spend my life here. I have spent my life here, and Faversham has never let me down. We are a strong community, and much of it is beautiful. It is neither twee nor perfect, but it is a great place to live, made so by generations of people. The Faversham Society seeks to “Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Create for the Future”.
You may have encountered us on the three Saturdays before Christmas selling calendars and the Our Beautiful Town DVD outside 12 Market Place. It was an opportunity to make some sales; we sold close to £300 in stock each week. The footfall in Market Place is so much greater than it is in Preston Street. Following the example set by our second-hand bookshop, we have also begun to sell online on our own site, and on favershamunlisted.co.uk.
Our members’ meetings, held online to discuss efforts to work with Swale to secure and repurpose listed buildings in Faversham that are in jeopardy, were successful before Christmas.
We are beginning to campaign and would welcome your support. Contact me if you would like to help with our Save our Heritage efforts. There are two areas where we think progress can be made over the next few years: Town Quay & Hazard and the railway sheds and turntable to the east of Faversham station. See page 7.
Stay safe, look forward to longer days, sunshine and the pandemic being brought under control. We owe so much to the frontline workers who have done so much for us.
Let us say farewell to 2020 and look forward and make resolutions that will improve us and the world around us. I hope that you all enjoy 2021 to the full and migrate into your “new normal” seamlessly, and with much more contact with family and friends.
I have long held the view that people will not join you in your misery and that being upbeat is the more likely way to ensure that you do not end up lonely. The same applies when seeking help. No one will join failure and are more likely to join in where there is laughter and where they can do good.
With these thoughts in mind, I invite you to join me as a volunteer within the Faversham Society. Your skills, or even your lack of them, will always make a difference and I promise you that you will make new friends, have fun and improve that all-important feelgood factor. Some of our activities are already operational, administrative activities never cease while others still have time to prepare.
I have several roles within the society, including organising the “walking with history” outings, liaising with groups who wish to visit the museum and being a museum steward on half a day each week. As well as having room for more help with these roles, Christine and Wendy will always appreciate additional hands to help in the Visitor Information Centre or the second-hand bookshop.
The Fleur Gallery is good for those who want a sedentary position, but which, nevertheless is essential if we are to be a showcase.
Similarly, the receptionist in the museum is also an essential, and sedentary, position. In the background there is plenty of work, whether it is with Heather and the curators or with Jan and Maria in the administration of the society.
You may have other skills, or ideas, that will take us forward. Are you involved in the film industry and can help us promote ourselves? Do you have website skills and ideas that could improve and extend what we have? A marketeer, accountant, solicitor, electrician, carpenter, plumber, handyman? The list is endless.
2021 will be another year when the Faversham Society raises its standards even higher and you could be the catalyst in any one of many areas. If you wish to talk over ways in which you can help, or to jump straight in and volunteer, please contact one of the following:
Please make, (and act upon), your resolution today, make contact and come and have (safe) fun.
Margaret Harding died on 2 January from a stroke. She was 88 years old, an age that seems impossible to those of us who knew her energy, humour and determination to complete tasks, however demanding: at the age of 80 she completed an MA in medieval and early modern studies at the University of Kent.
Margaret started a career as a radiographer in the early 1950s, but soon met and married Alan Harding. They went on to have five children in six years and ended up living in London. Once the children were grown up, Margaret returned to her radiography, working in Woolwich Military Hospital. After retiring, she accompanied Alan on long trips abroad to exotic places such as Washington DC and Chile, which she enjoyed enormously.
In 1974 Alan and Margaret bought a house as a second home on the Front Brents in Faversham. They were both very fond of the town and Margaret spent as much time as possible down here, increasingly so in her later years.
She became a regular participant in the Faversham Historians group, chaired by Arthur Percival, and in 2006 she joined the relatively new Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG). Margaret became our animal bone expert, seeing all the found bone through the stages of identification, entry into a database, and contributing to discussion on what the bones told us about the lives of past Faversham people – everything from tanneries to what fish they ate to rats poking around in rubbish to now-extinct aurochs roaming the Westbrook valley.
In 2017 Margaret took on yet more major responsibility on behalf of the Faversham Society, this time tackling the mountain of archives left by Arthur Percival: her MA must have been indispensable. This task was a huge undertaking, where her calm and systematic approach (to quote her colleague) paid dividends – in about two years Margaret has archived about 40% of this Himalayan pile of documents.
Margaret’s last task for FSARG took place in the summer of 2020, socially distanced in my garden overlooking the creek, where we worked our way, for a couple of weeks, through the animal bone found in the grounds of the Market Inn in the summer of 2019.
This was an early Anglo-Saxon rubbish dump and contained huge amounts of bone including that of deer and wild boar. Margaret’s specialised knowledge was invaluable for this assemblage, the most significant animal bone collection found so far in Faversham, and she will be given full credit in subsequent publications.
Remembering those sunny days in 2020, analysing bones in the garden, though, is to remember that there was much more to Margaret than her undoubted skill, intelligence, organising skills and willingness to work. Margaret was great company. You only have to look at the photographs above to see the twinkle in the eye, the sense of humour that was only absent when something was serious – in which case she would give solid support, and sympathy if that was needed.
We will miss Margaret enormously in terms of her contributions to the Faversham Society and FSARG (boy, would she tell us off if we dithered about replacing her, though with that twinkle ...) but more than anything we will miss Margaret as a good friend and colleague, gently merry a lot of the time but calm, serious and supportive when that was appropriate and always willing to give things a go. What more can you ask?
Oare Marshes will feature on the BBC2 programme Winterwatch at 8pm on Thursday, 21 January.
The marsh is a part of an episode that “concentrates on the sense of winter – the touch, smell, sounds and sights that make up the most magical of seasons”.
In the Oare segment, wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones tells how the marshes have been transformed from a explosives-making site to a wildlife haven. The explosion site is pictured (above) in 1916 and (below) a century later
The photographs of the Uplees Works and the aftermath of the Great Explosion of April 1916 come from the Faversham Society’s archive.
The programme will also be available on iPlayer ... or you can head out for brisk, socially distanced exercise at the Oare Marshes Reserve and nearby remains of the explosives works and loading quays on the Swale.
Faversham Town Council has reviewed the feedback on the 20mph scheme from the Commonplace engagement platform and is now considering how to improve the scheme.
In doing so, the town council would appreciate the chance to present the feedback received so far and discuss possible next steps with members of the Faversham Society.
You are all warmly invited to a Zoom call at 7pm on 22 February. Town councillors Eddie Thomas, Julian Saunders and consultant Adrian Berendt will present what has been found so far and will then lead a discussion on possible next steps.
If you wish to attend, please register your interest with Faversham Town Council on the link below.
The Town Quay area was identified in the 2012 Faversham Creek Streetscape Strategy as having “great townscape potential which should be enhanced.” The Swan and Harlequin, formerly the Coal Exchange and now the Quay Hotel, is Grade II listed. In the Streetscape Strategy a new square was envisaged encompassing Town Quay and Quay Lane.
Faversham became of a limb of the Cinque Ports in the 13th century providing a vessel to Dover. TS Hazard is named after the vessel that Faversham supplied to the fleet to fight the Armada in 1588.
The vision is a new maritime heritage quarter, delivering on conservation, heritage, leisure and tourism objectives and reaffirming the importance of Faversham Creek and maritime trade to the character of Faversham. It would be a gateway to the maritime heritage of Swale, linked through the Medway to London and around the coast through the Cinque Ports to Rye.
We might envisage:
1 A Cinque Ports museum able to link north and east to Sheerness, Chatham Historic Dockyard and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and east and south to the Cinque Ports. The maritime heritage quarter could deliver as a gateway to the enjoyment of the Faversham Creek and Swale’s maritime history. The suggestion of a Cinque Ports museum was raised with Lord Boyce, the lord warden, in November, 2017, and he was supportive of the idea. The maritime heritage of Swale should be included.
2 A glass fibre replica of the Graveney Boat could be “hung” to create visual interest in the square and to remind residents and visitors alike of the town’s maritime and trading heritage.
3 As the Faversham Society’s Archaeological Research Group has documented, the Westbrook has been at the heart of Faversham’s development, oyster fisheries, watermills, gunpowder and maritime trade and evidence of Roman and Saxon settlement. The Westbrook is a historic chalk stream running from springs in the Downs through Lorenden, Water Lane in Ospringe, Stonebridge Pond and into Faversham Creek before reaching the marsh and the Swale.
The Friends of Westbrook Stream and Stonebridge Pond have already developed an interpretation leaflet for a self-guided walk. There is scope for a heritage interpretation centre combining for educational and tourism purposes a treatment of the natural, cultural and commercial heritage of the town.
Railway sheds and turntable With large numbers of houses being developed to the east of Faversham and with almost no community building in that area, there is a need for community space accessible on foot. There is potential access from Windermere, the Long Bridge and Jubilee Way.
The Swale Heritage Strategy recognises the importance of the engine shed and engine turntable built when Faversham was a terminal station. The railway station (Faversham’s second, built in 1898) is listed Grade II as are the engine shed and carriage shed, which were both built in 1858.
The goods shed in Jubilee Way has been restored for commercial use and the water tower in Station Road has been restored and is now a home.
If anyone has any unwanted, unused and still sealed DVD/CDs/cassettes, minidiscs or videos we would be happy to come and collect them to sell on behalf of the society. Call 01795 529166.
Don’t forget! I shall be giving an online talk, Faversham on the Map, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 27, January. Email chair AT favershamsociety DOT org for a Zoom link.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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