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I am delighted that we have been able to reopen both the Visitor Information Centre at the Fleur and the second-hand bookshop in Gatefield Lane. We are very grateful to our volunteers, without whom this would not be possible.
We still have gifts available in the Fleur and the 2021 calendar is an excellent present for friends and family if you wish to brag about living in Faversham. Mary Ransom has taken some stunning photographs of the town. You can also now buy online from the Faversham Society’s online shop.
There is a rumour that Geoff Sandiford is developing a further musical, this time about Faversham Creek. Geoff is already famous for the Skate Boys and Our Beautiful Town. If the rumours are correct – not all Faversham rumours are – we have a treat in store for 2021.
The Swale Heritage Strategy has identified the Town Quay and the Town Warehouse (also known as TS Hazard) and the engine sheds and turntable to the east of the railway station as significant heritage. The Faversham Society will be launching a campaign to conserve and find sustainable uses for these important parts of our town’s heritage.
Work on the Neighbourhood Plan progresses. I hope that you have taken the opportunity to express your views through the household survey. We are working to ensure that the conservation and enhancement of our natural and built environment is a significant part of our town’s plans for the future. We also have a small group working to create some short walk films to introduce residents and visitors to our heritage.
2020 has been a grim year, and as I write, there is no telling how long Covid-19 will continue to dominate our lives. There have been many false dawns already. There will likely be more.
Many will be feeling very isolated over Christmas, so please pick up the phone when you can. Take care, have the best Christmas and new year you can. Next year will, no doubt, bring many challenges, remember that this time, too, will pass. But make the most of it.
Faversham’s new creek crossing may be a lifting bridge, a meeting has been told.
The news came as representatives from Kent County Council, Faversham Town Council, the Faversham Society, the Faversham Creek Trust and MP Helen Whately met to discuss progress on the creek bridge since their last meeting on 18 September.
KCC reported that engineering design work was progressing on the new bridge, gates, sluices, electrification etc. Site work was now taking place and initial findings indicated that the abutments were less capable of bearing the weight of a new bridge than had been hoped. This work is essential before going out to tender for the new bridge. Design and engineering work so far still indicate a swing bridge – but a lifting bridge has not been ruled out.
Long-term running and maintenance costs are being estimated with a view to minimising these with an appropriate design. Design work is in progress on the opening gates and sluices with consideration of the possibility of automatic sluices linked to tides. Peel Ports, the statutory harbour authority for the port of Faversham, has been kept informed at every stage of the work.
A positive meeting has been held recently between KCC and the town council on the future operation and maintenance of the bridge. The county council can operate the bridge remotely from Ramsgate, maintain the roadway, and organise the maintenance of the whole structure. However, the county council would wish the town council to be responsible for the bridge other than its traffic/transport responsibility.
The town council reported that it remained committed to making a financial contribution to a new bridge but would need to know far more about the cost and resource implications before it could make a commitment to managing the bridge in the future.
KCC reported that design work would take until March or April, followed by tendering and contractor selection.
Ms Whately reported that the maritime minister, Robert Courts, has still not received a reply to his letter from Peel Ports. She met the previous minister, Kelly Tolhurst, who agreed to raise this with Peel Ports.
I was interested to see Ben Simon’s request last month for information about the cattle market in Whitstable Road.
Faversham Cattle Market Ltd was formed in 1865 and town trade directories for the 1930s show that the market in Whitstable Road was run from its registered office, which was at 20 West Street.
In 1939 the directors were F. Ivo Neame (chairman), C. G. Neame, T. Read and J. P. D. Barnes. Guy Tassell was secretary. Mr Barnes was preceded by W. Pierson.
The Faversham Society has, in its collection, some good photographs of the market showing cattle remover Arthur Partis’s van.
Not all cattle and sheep were transported. The drover took them through the town on foot to the slaughterhouse in Flood Lane and folklore has it that there were several reported cases of cows or bullocks running amok into shops. One known drover was George Goatham of 85 Abbey Street.
The market closed in 1955 and is now the site of Bob Amor Close.
Faversham’s other market was what the locals called the chicken market but its proper name was, I believe, the fur & feather market.
Markets were held off Bank Street on land that is now Central Car Park with cages permanently round the outer perimeter. In his 1,000 Years of Faversham History, Herbert Dane records that the municipal car park in Cross Lane was provided in 1952 at a total cost of acquisition of £4,051.
Part of the site was the property of Faversham Corporation and part belonged to Faversham Municipal Charities. For years it was a meadow rented by the proprietor of the butchery business at 12 Market Place to accommodate cattle and sheep temporarily. During the 1914-18 war it was used for allotment cultivation, and after that a poultry market was conducted there for several years by an Ashford firm of auctioneers.
The 1934 trade directory lists Faversham & District Fur & Feather Fanciers’ Association. Among the officials, the secretary was responsible for cage birds, one assistant secretary for poultry and another for rabbits and cavies.
My mother, Phyllis Broyd, died on 15 November after a short illness. She was 93.
Phyllis moved from Sidcup to Faversham in 1985. Widowed in 1981, it was a place that she, and her husband, Dennis, had always loved. She lived for several years at Tinbridge Oast, then Willement Road, before moving to Deans Mill Court in Canterbury in 2016.
Phyllis immersed herself in the rich history, traditions and culture of the Faversham area and greatly enjoyed all aspects of her membership of the Faversham Society. All her visitors were directed to spend a morning or afternoon at the Fleur de Lis Museum and Heritage Centre. For some years Phyllis was an enthusiastic volunteer at the Maison Dieu, and she also volunteered over the annual Open House weekends.
She has instilled in her three children (one of whom lives in Hernhill), and her seven grandchildren, a great love for Faversham and its surroundings. She had one great-grandchild and, at the time of her death, knew that two more were on the way.
They, in time, will also be introduced to the area, so beloved of their great-grandmother, a remarkable and much loved lady who is very greatly missed.
The Prince’s Foundation has just published a report on “walkability and mixed-use planning” in which Faversham features.
The town is noted for its wide range of non-residential land uses, its highly permeable street/footpath network and the apparent correlation of these features with its relatively high rateable property values.
This is an important reminder for future developers that long-term commercial value is driven by the design of the mobility network, along with the construction of the shops, surgeries, studios, hardware stores, undertakers etc that make a “real” place.
Faversham Life has carried a great piece by Justin Croft that begins with two oyster shells in the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre that were found during the excavations of Faversham’s medieval abbey in 1965.
The largest shell (right) contains a bright vermilion red pigment, the smaller one, a greenish-yellow colour, and very bright green in a few areas towards the rim. These are traces of paint or, more probably, ink. These traces have been analysed microscopically, showing that the red one is cinnabar (a mercury compound) and the green one probably ground azurite (a blue copper-rich stone) mixed with yellow lead pigment. You can find out why here
Jean Duchin was a stalwart of the Faversham Society and, as a founding member of the Arden Theatre Group, enjoyed many performances with the Group and other local amateur dramatic societies, playing roles as varied as Lady Bracknell, Jean Brodie, Margaret Thatcher and Madame Arcati, all to critical acclaim.
What is now the Arden Theatre was originally the coach house, which stood in the grounds of the Tassell family home (in Victorian times), which later became the offices of Tassell and Son, now Tassells Solicitors in West Street.
For more than 180 years the Tassells lived in or near Faversham, so Jean, born in 1945, was one of our residents with a long family history in the town; not only being a Tassell, but also was x6 granddaughter of the first Shepherd to own the Shepherd Neame Brewery.
Between 1850 and 1970, Jean’s Tassell ancestors held all the key legal positions in Faversham – then much more independent than it is today: town clerk, rural clerk, clerk to the justices, clerk to the tax commissioners and clerk to the navigation board. Her father, Bryan, was the last in a long line of Tassell solicitors to hold such a position of authority.
Some say that Jean’s passion and commitment to the Faversham Society were in her genes, as her father kept regular correspondence with Arthur Percival. Jean was widely knowledgeable and passionate about Faversham and its residents. I never managed to come up with any question to which she did not know the answer; others tell me how much she enjoyed ferreting out answers to queries raised by customers in the Fleur. She always enjoyed showing children around the museum and was “head buyer” of the gifts we sell in the Fleur. Indeed she designed one of the popular mugs we sell with the wording There is England and there is Faversham, a saying that goes back a long way in the family.
Always good-humoured and with a winning smile, Jean was a real pillar of the society. She will be sorely missed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, and the Faversham Society now has an online shop. The shop will grow with time.
We are also selling membership online through the new Faversham Unlisted website favershamunlisted.co.uk.
Meanwhile, we are still very much functioning in person. We have had three very successful Saturdays talking to people about the Neighbourhood Plan as well as selling 2021 Calendars and other gifts from a stall outside 12 Market Place, where a masked Gulliver Immink and Linda Ireland are pictured.
The name of Faversham, as you probably know, suggests that it was a settlement where in the earliest of Anglo-Saxon times, fine metal objects such as jewellery were made. Vera Evison, the archaeological glass expert, thought this was where superb glassware was made (you can see two splendid examples of this in the Maison Dieu Museum).
In the Market Inn excavation in the summer of 2019, we found large amounts of iron slag and metal items of many kinds, backing up the metal working ideas. All this, however, raises the question of where the raw materials came from for all this activity and how did it get to Faversham? The remains were found of at least five well-made pots imported from Frankia (France). How did they get here?
The dump dates from about 650-699. At that time, Kent, along with the rest of the relatively newly settled Anglo-Saxon England, was entering a prosperous and peaceful stage which lasted until the early 800s when Vikings started preying on the east coast. By the ninth century, Kent had been assimilated into Mercia (the Midlands Kingdom), then about 820 into Wessex.
During the middle period, Christianity spread gradually but comprehensively across the country, with the first conversions and church foundations in Canterbury, followed by Rochester and London.
This is a fascinating period, but for now we will concentrate on the settlements that grew up at points on the coast to act as both entrepots (centres for exports and imports for a hinterland) and centres of manufacture. These are the places known as wics.
Lundenwic (London) is particularly well known, along with Hamwic (Southampton), Gipeswic (Ipswich) and Eorforwic (York). Wics grew up near, but not inside, ruined Roman cities such as Lundenburgh – what wics needed was a nice, sheltered beach for ships to come ashore, well-drained flat land to build the settlement, and good connections with the hinterland, especially with the main city.
Lundenwic was in that part of modern London occupied by the Strand (which translates as beach), Covent Garden and the Aldwych (Old Wic). Until about 550, the kingdom of Kent had some control over the early Lundenwic but then lost it to the ever more powerful Mercian kingdom. So where did the Kentish settlements turn to for their wic? Especially, through which wic did Faversham, the “king’s little town”, import and export its goods?
This is a mystery. For Kent, various wic sites have been suggested such as Sandwich, Fordwich and Sarre, all three using the Wantsum Channel (the waterway between the Isle of Thanet and the mainland) as a conduit for trade. But in spite of considerable efforts, no mid-Anglo-Saxon port-type archaeology has yet been found in or near these places.
Much further down the east Kent coast near Hythe, a small version of a wic called Sandtun has been identified, which probably served Lyminge but is much too remote for Faversham. Canterbury may well have used Dover – early-mid Anglo-Saxon archaeology has been found at Dover – but again this seems unlikely for Faversham.
So, at last, we come home. In two charter documents, one of 699 and one of 814, a “port” near Faversham is mentioned in passing. This is Cilling, not a placename that any of us recognises nowadays.
In 1934, however, Gordon Ward used his considerable knowledge of local landscape features in the Mid-Anglo-Saxon period to identify a likely site for Cilling as on a protected beach on the curve of Faversham Creek just south of Nagden. No archaeology has ever been done there.
There is another suggestion, this one more recent. In the Domesday Book, Seasalter, owned by the monks of Christchurch, is described as a “borough”. Faversham, although a far more valuable property (£80 as opposed to Seasalter’s puny 100 shillings) is owned by the king, but not named as a borough.
When investigating the Seasalter puzzle, yet another borough name emerged that has in modern times been lost for that area and anyway isn’t even in Domesday: Harwich … now that is a “wic” name!
To cap a possible link between Faversham and Seasalter and the mysterious Harwich, John Blair, a top Anglo-Saxonist archaeologist, suggested in a 2018 book that the place name Graveney means “dug river” and indicates that an early canal was built to link Faversham via Graveney to Seasalter/Harwich.
This is an extraordinary new idea!
In this short article we have come a long way but have ended with more questions than answers. The image on the previous page is a map setting these questions into their geographical locations. The snag is that the geography has changed continually since the Mid-Anglo-Saxon period. Relative sea level has risen due to the subsidence of this part of Britain and also humans have made drastic changes.
An event that fills many of us with horror – the building of a giant solar power station on the Graveney Marshes – may yield a better understanding of the evolution of those marshes because of the major archaeological project that, by law, must accompany it. Who knows, the archaeologists may find a miniature version of Lundenwic on the shoreline of 1,300 years ago. We can but watch and hope.
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