A printable PDF version of this newsletter can be downloaded from HERE
The Faversham Society's final letter to Alok Sharma, the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, restating our objections to the Cleve Hill solar park, was sent on 19 May. We had just over 4,000 signatures – it is now close to 5,000 as people signed after the decision to allow the plan had been made.
Public opinion cannot change the decision now. The decision gutted those of us who worked so hard for so long to keep presenting evidence; there are pages of it on the Faversham Society website. I want to thank David Melville and Matthew Hatchwell in particular, but also all those of you who wrote to the secretary of state and signed the petition.
Two barristers have been approached to see if there are grounds for judicial review. We requested:
None was accepted.
We shall work with Swale Council to ensure the most thorough final review of the developer's plans. We shall do what we can, but a large part of our cause is lost, and a national precedent has been set.
Meanwhile, new society member Mark Lewisohn spotted this notice of a compulsory purchase order on a walk around Favesham and wrote to the editor: “Sunday 14 June, 2020. Tied to a post deep in stinging nettles, affixed to railings and gates, further evidence of a future environmental catastrophe flutters in the wind, regarded by few.” Well put, Mark.
As we come out of lockdown, the market and non-essential shops are reopening, as is our second-hand bookshop. Faversham Town Council is planning to recognise the many essential workers, many of them not well paid, who kept the town going through the crisis.
NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby are among the influential figures supporting the idea of celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the NHS on 5 July. They wrote: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the nurses, doctors, physios, porters, cleaners, and countless others who have delivered for patients and their families along with all those in the care sector.
“But we are also hugely grateful to the shop workers, transport staff, delivery drivers, teachers, refuse collectors, farmers, armed service personnel and other key workers who have kept the country going.”
Sir Simon added he wanted to thank the public, in particular, whose support had meant so much – “from the children who put rainbows and NHS signs in their windows, to all those who saved lives by staying at home to slow the spread of this terrible virus”.There are plenty of rainbows in windows around the town, and more recently Black Lives Matters posters have appeared too.
Despite the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre being closed, our work on conserving and communicating Faversham’s heritage continues. The Swale Migration Project will enable us to engage with young people around migration and family history and to be part of creating and contributing to an exhibition which will tour venues in Swale. We are also part of a bid with the National Maritime Museum to catalogue the records of the Pollock shipyard and a series of exhibitions and talks.
The gallery of images of Faversham during the lockdown on the website has some new photos. If you have images or writing you would like to contribute, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are planning a publication in time for Christmas!
Faversham Society AGM Our postponed annual general meeting is scheduled for Thursday, 24 September. If we are unable to hold the AGM in the usual way, we shall hold it using videoconferencing, as we are required by our articles, to hold the meeting by the end of September.
Second-hand bookshop We have worked with Wendy and her team to prepare our second-hand bookshop to reopen on 19 and 20 June. We have a whole gamut of protocols in place to provide for the safety of our volunteers and our customers. As we see how it goes, we shall open on more days and hours. Watch our website and the notices in the shop window for an update.
The Fleur Reopening the visitor information centre, heritage centre and museum is more complex and challenging. We are working with Christine Smith and her team to open the VIC, but some significant works are required to meet current government guidelines.
The museum and gallery present still more intractable problems. We are keeping the Covid-19 guidelines under review. We shall reopen when we can, but you will understand that to do so our volunteers need to be willing to return, and we need to have made some big changes to create a safe environment for them and our visitors and customers.
Under repair This week scaffolding is going up on the Fleur to enable repairs to be made to the roof and new boilers are being installed during lockdown.
Market returns As we go to press the lockdown is easing for non-essential shops. The market has reopened and Faversham is coming back to life in the summer sunshine. There were local day visitors in the churchyard on Saturday.
Norton in early summer Here’s a fine view of St Mary’s church, Norton, taken by Patsy Rogers. Its churchyard is resting place of Prince Andrew of Russia and his wife, Princess Andrew (née Nadine McDougall), who lived at nearby Provender House.
They’re at it again The guerrilla knitters have adorned the post box again celebrating our NHS. Well done, whoever you are!
Pirate no longer ahoy The wreck of the pirate ship that capsized and caught fire on the creek was obstructing navigation. The Peel Ports company has removed the metal superstructure, and all that remains is the hull. Navigation has been improved. The hull remains as a “monument” to the pirate ship.
Mendy the missing marmalade cat became a social media sensation in Faversham over 11 days of lockdown in May, with hundreds of people joining the hunt for her.
Mendy, a five-year-old neutered male, slipped from the front door of his temporary home in Court Street while his guardian, Leonora Dawson-Bowling, was occupied elsewhere. Her anxious hunt for him over the next 11 days gripped the attention of the town, via social media messages appealing for help in finding him.
Leonora, daughter of the retired Faversham GP Dr Paul Dawson-Bowling, normally lives in south London, but was staying with her father in Court Street to support him and be with her mother Elizabeth during the final days of an illness from which she died on 9 April. (See Mrs Dawson-Bowling’s obituary below.) It was on the evening of the funeral on 1 May that Mendy made his successful bid for freedom.
“We were sitting indoors, sharing memories of mum and talking about the day when I spotted a friend of my sister Mel’s drop a condolence card through the letterbox. Mel went out to chat (at a social distance) and it must have been while they were talking that Mendy escaped through the front door. He had got out before, but usually just sat under a car to taunt us for a few minutes and came back in when tempted by treats. I got really anxious when he didn’t come for his food next morning.”
So began 10 days of searching for Mendy, who belongs to Leonora’s friends in London, but was on loan as a comfort during an anxious time.
Leonora toured the streets of Faversham shouting Mendy’s name and put up 150 posters advertising his disappearance and offering a £200 reward for his safe return. She also posted appeals for help on eight town-related Facebook sites – including one called “lost and found ginger cats”. Soon hundreds of messages of support and promises to join the search were pouring in.
“It really gave me hope,” Leonora said. “Everyone was so kind, saying they would look while out on their daily lockdown exercise. I must have walked or run miles around the town, following up on possible sightings – from as far apart Love Lane to the Western Link.”
Leonora was beginning to fear the worst when she got a call from a couple living in Church Street saying they could see a ginger cat on the flat roof behind the Phoenix pub in Abbey Street. The pub was closed for lockdown.
“I rushed straight round and climbed the gate at the back of the pub, to look. I called Mendy’s name and at first he didn’t move, then he began to make a tentative approach and I saw it was him.
“I coaxed him over the gate with treats, scooped him up and burst into tears.”
Mendy was taken back to Court Street. He was thinner and slightly timid, but otherwise none the worse for his time away.
“Within about half an hour he was back to normal, had eaten a huge meal and was enjoying cuddles with the family,” Leonora said. “I let him sleep in the bed with me that night and it was just so good to have him home.”
Next day, Leonora received hundreds of messages cheering news that Mendy had been found. Among them were the following:
Leonora said she had also heard from a man saying he was going to tell his young sons of Mendy’s safe return and knew they would be “stoked” by the news because they had been asking every day whether he had been found.
“It has been a wonderful example of how Faversham comes together to face a challenge. It was really mobilised by this unexpected lockdown project,” Leonora said. “I am so grateful to everyone for their love, help and support. The warmth and response was unbelievable.”
To top it all, the couple who found Mendy refused to take the cash reward, although Leonora sent them a hamper of goodies from Macknade to say thanks for bringing the tale to a happy ending.
As you have no doubt concluded, members of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) are unable to do any digging or surveying this year. Apart from catching up on report-writing and internet-based research, our normal work is on hold. We cannot even go into the Fleur or Kent Archives to do research or to our artefact archive to further rationalise it.
There are ways to keep the archaeological research active. For several years, Caroline and I have helped Ann and Nick with their allotment. As we are all in FSARG we have been picking up archaeological finds that pop up on the allotment and stored them in pots in the shed. (Ann and Nick’s allotment is not far from the FSARG dig at Ravenscroft in 2012, which found a similar range of artefacts.)
The plot is on the Stonebridge allotments above the pond, just below the “N” of Davington on the 1865 map below.
Now seems to be a good time to have a look at what we have found, so down I went to the allotment with my bag for life, to collect all the containers and carefully carry them home. One container at a time, we put the finds in a washing-up bowl and carefully scrubbed or wiped them clean. After sorting into types, we bagged them up and labelled the bags. Then we had a closer look at what we had found.
The most obvious things we spot when digging are white fabric, glazed pottery and clay tobacco pipes, plant pots, glass and building materials.
A few pieces of Germanic mottled brown salt glazed pottery were also obvious.
The pottery we are most interested in is harder to find; it is the medieval sandy-ware pottery from Tyler Hill, near Canterbury. These sherds don’t look impressive; they vary from reddish-brown to grey in colour. Most are unglazed, some have spots of splash glaze. The easiest way to identify these is from the gritty feel of the surface, almost like a fine sandpaper.
We are yet to confirm the identity of a few other pieces of early pottery we found. The two green pieces, and the creamy grey piece are possibly Stamford Ware (from the 10th to 11th century) and the unglazed but well finished grey piece possibly Ipswich Ware (6th to 9th century).
We have accumulated many dozens of worked flints. The photograph below shows some of the better examples. These date from Mesolithic, through to the Bronze age.
From the map we can see that in 1865 the site was a formal garden, and it is likely that the clay tobacco pipes and plant pots come from that period. Some pottery dates from this period, but most of it is earlier so there must have been a house near the site from at least medieval times. Looking at our map we can see that there is a large house at the top of Brent Hill above the allotment. This is Ravenscourt, built in the 15th century and still there – the dumping of the midden from this house and the surrounding cottages would explain some of the pottery.
The Tyler Hill pottery, 13th to 14th century, predates the current house, and there is a great deal of it. The sherds may have come from the 12th-century Davington Priory or an older house or settlement at the top of the ridge. It is noticeable that the pottery edges are still well defined: this would not be the case if the soil had been ploughed or dug for hundreds of years. The midden would be used to fertilise the soil, not dumped on unused land, so the land is likely to have been used for agriculture for a brief time in this period.
The complete lack of Iron Age pottery is a little surprising. There are many Iron Age pottery fragments on the other side of Dark Hill.
The large quantity of worked flints show that this was a place occupied by Prehistoric people. Imagine activities like spinning, leatherwork and basket-weaving. Would you not choose to sit on a nice sunny, south-facing slope, overlooking the stream and out of the wind on a spring morning? It is still a great spot to be to this day!
If you have an allotment (or garden) anywhere in Faversham and feel inspired, make your own archaeological collection, FSARG would be more than happy to look at what you find.
Here are some extracts from the lockdown diary being kept by Dorothy Percival:
29 March So we have got to the end of two weeks out of who knows how many. Highlights of this week include finding lost gloves behind the washing machine and two mince pies in the bottom of the freezer. Also the last for the moment of selling some of the remaining Arthur’s books by post and getting nearly £100. Can’t ask helpers to post parcels when it isn’t essential, so that will have to rest for a while.
I’ve put half the table tennis table up against the wall in Arthur’s old “study” to play solo like we used to with a tennis ball in the playground. The author Harold Jacobson (my senior fantasy squeeze) learnt like that as a boy using a book as he didn't have a bat. His house had Anaglypta wallpaper, so the dimples made unpredictable ricochets which he claims developed a very fast reaction.
9 April Highlight of the week so far is that today I am the proud possessor of a whole dozen eggs and THREE tins of chopped tomatoes. Not quite sure how that happened exactly. Despite careful lists, famine or feast seems to occur in odd bits of the shopping without any action on my part. I keep counting the eggs like the old miser in Silas Marner.
Also have managed to make some facemasks for our gallant band of shoppers, in case they want to wear them. I know opinions differ as to their usefulness, which seems mainly to protect other people. But then if everyone wore them it would help to protect everyone, it seems to me.
Helen has embraced inventive cooking and is starting to rival me in the using-up-of-every-little-scrap department, which is my style in normal times. Before I got a fresh veg delivery arranged we found some old tins of broad beans. I hate tinned veg, but she concocted something very edible with some mashed potatoes, flavouring, cheese and an egg. And it USED IT UP, which was the great thing.
Today in the i newspaper there’s an article headed “Could you manage with these rations?” and the wartime amounts were listed. Didn’t look too bad to me and I could certainly do it now. Some of the recipes did resemble the potato peel pie in the film, but at least it was fair for everyone unless you were a real rogue working the black market.
Have managed a 40-strike solo table tennis rally, which was very pleasing.
21 April Food deliveries continue to arrive and it’s funny to see how other people’s reading of my wish list can go a bit awry. With the best will in the world they go for it, bless them, but I realise I haven't sometimes described helpfully what I actually want because I just go round Tesco’s taking the same things each week almost without looking.
So, for long-life milk I got a tin of evaporated milk, which will get used in that time-honoured childhood “afters” of tinned fruit and “evap” as my aunties always called it! Usually peaches – in syrup of course!
Received the nice surprise of three Premium Bond wins, but how to get them paid in? Can I really ask one of my helpers to go into Nationwide? Is it essential? Moral dilemma to be decided in due course.
Have got on to WhatsApp and discovered that I can see friends on it, a bit like Skype. Not quite sure I’ve got the measure of it yet, but seem to learn a bit more each time.
The new link will be useful as, joy oh joy, our landline has been down for 10 days. I can usually do free calls for up to an hour on it as part of my package, so have gone way over allowance on mobile and have had to move up to a more expensive tariff, which of course I won’t normally need after the troubles are over.
My provider has arranged for calls to the landline to go automatically to the mobile, which is helpful as I was getting panicky messages when the landline wasn’t being answered. They also took us through checks on the line within the house, which involved a lot of plugging and unplugging of floor-level sockets while hanging on to the mobile. That was fun.
I’m 99% sure the fault is outside, but Openreach reported back that they had done “a quick check”, but might need a hoist. Why do a quick check when they could do a proper one? Hoist? Sounds like something from a care home. I naively presumed they had the equipment for raising themselves off the ground as standard. They won’t do anything until the second week in May as they may have to “enter the property”. Well, they will be OK. We haven’t been anywhere for four weeks and can easily keep our distance.
Our evening walk takes us past the telephone exchange round the corner where we see a little row of Openreach vans parked in the evening. I feel like standing there and hijacking an operative by sitting on the bonnet till they come round. Even more droll is that this house was Faversham’s first manual telephone exchange, from 1908 till 1938. You would think it might be under something resembling a lucky star . . .
Chunks of the week have been spent hanging on the end of mobile, trying to get through to various places like the Co-op Bank, after failing miserably to get on their online banking. Succeeded with Nationwide in 10 minutes. Brilliant site. The Co-op, dreadful. So have got to pour myself a virtual stiff whisky in a minute and join the queue on which we are so important to them.
29 April Exciting news is that the landline is back on. Due to be done second week in May, was the last we heard but to cut a long story short I managed by a cheeky stroke of luck to get under the bureaucratic radar. I stuck a jokey note under the windscreen of one of the Openreach vans parked round the corner by the telephone exchange (see above) saying how frustrating it was they were so near yet so far as it were.
Lo and behold! Next morning I got a call from a lovely guy who said my note had given them a good laugh and they would come and do it that afternoon. Was it a wind-up? NO. They turned up and when I asked why we had been given a date so far in the future we got one of those shrugging of the shoulders that said “our management, don't ask” type of thing, so I didn't.
We then had quite an entertaining time involving much gelling of hands, beeping of testing equipment and identifying exactly where the break was. Impressive. The younger and fitter of the two then shinned up the telegraph pole while various neighbours came out to view the fun and we held our united breaths. Then it was bottoms in the air by a ground level junction box, fault finally found and mended. The two men formed one of those teams who had clearly worked together for years and had a comedy duo repartee that really was such a nice human touch.
I couldn’t thank them enough as they had put common sense and kindness before paper-passing and people who do that are real stars in my view. They assured me they wouldn’t get into trouble and refused my offer of a pint of Sheps each on me.
12 May Still haven’t spotted the red kite I’m told circuits about 4.30 every day. Neighbour said she was digging when her husband shouted “there’s that bird”, but by the time she unbent it had gone. That’s the story of birdwatching for me, which is why I prefer wild plants that keep still. We now have magpies for the first time and a jackdaw.
We have finally started on some decorating. At the start I thought there would be so much time that my target room for the year would be done in a flash. But somehow there has been so much else to do till now although hard to recall what. Painting did not start well. I reached down a long-stored full tin of magnolia (you can laugh but I find it a good all-purpose shade). Sadly, this was indeed a tin, not a plastic pot, and time had not been kind to its bottom, which sprung a leak and even a rapid lunge for the back door failed to avoid an almighty mess. I stuck it in a bucket in the hope of retrieving some and a tedious scrubbing and swearing session followed with Helen doing most of the work.
Luckily this little drama was in the basement where the ancient floor covering has had everything spilt on over the years, so could have been worse and in the end just added to the historic action painting effect. Anyway, since then progress on a quick freshening up of the chimney breast in Helen's bedroom and a good start on the target room upstairs. An hour or so a day will slowly get it done.
30 May I have had some “distanced” tea and biscuits with two friends separately, in the garden. With the alley entrance, no problem and it seemed to me safer and more under control than the park. Two more visiting tomorrow. That has been so heartwarming. I knew I was pining for human contact, but hadn’t realised quite how much. For a short time the world seems normal. Really worth it, despite the big bump down to reality afterwards.
Started to watch a transmission from the National Theatre of a play called The House, (as in Houses of Parliament) set in early 1970s at the time of the hung parliament. Really enjoyed it so far, with two-thirds still to go. Has the quality of Yes, Minister to some extent.
Thinking of politics, which I’d rather not, I am predicting that various new phrases will come out of the year of the plague. One I’ve heard is “coronacoaster” to describe the up-and-down states of mind we are all going through. One day things aren’t too bad and there seem to be advantages to be had in the lockdown, the next the only choices appear to be gin for breakfast, cake for lunch and a good cry for tea.
What about the phrase “doing a Dominic”? I can think of so many situations where this new expression could be tempting. Some of them involve yellow lines, parking tickets and not having the right driving glasses, for example, and I’m sure there is huge scope for invention here.
To be continued . . .
A renowned harpsichordist and specialist in Baroque music who took the Faversham community to her heart for 40 years has died aged 78.
Elizabeth de la Porte, who lived in Court Street with her husband, the retired Faversham GP Paul Dawson-Bowling, was born in Johannesburg in September, 1941, and died on 9 April. The funeral on 1 May was held at Barham Crematorium under lockdown rules that allowed only 10 family members to be present. It was livestreamed and is available privately on YouTube. The family is happy to give details.
Elizabeth inherited her musical talent from her mother Betsy, an opera singer. She won a scholarship to the Vienna Academy of Music at the age of 18 and studied there for three years. It was while singing with a madrigal group in the city that she met Paul, who was on a gap year before university. The relationship blossomed and Elizabeth moved to London to continue her studies at the Royal College of Music and to be nearer Paul, who was studying in Oxford.
The couple married in 1966 and moved to London, where they had Sebastian and Melissa, before moving to Faversham in 1979, where their third child Leonora was born and Paul developed a career as a family doctor at the health centre.
Elizabeth taught for 55 years at the Royal College of Music, as well as at several schools in Canterbury. She was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 2016, receiving the award from Prince Charles.
Leonora paid tribute to her mother’s warm and loving nature, describing her as “a firm anchor with a liberal streak”, devoting time to family and friends, including countless hospital visits to spend time with patients. She added: “Mum derived great joy from little daily interactions with strangers, too, and many of the warm and fruitful relationships Mum and Dad have developed overseas started as a result of Mum reaching out kindly or conversationally to a neighbour at a church or concert.”
Referring to Elizabeth’s “phenomenal musical intellect”, Leonora – a professional singer – said her mother’s love of music and harpsichord were “an integral part of who she was”. A recording of Elizabeth at the harpsichord performing the slow movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto was played at her funeral.
With Historic Swale and partners in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, we are part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project working with young people to enable them to discover more about their family history and to share it with others. The project will create an “exciting exhibition of 100 objects to Swale, sharing and celebrating our family stories and rich cultural history across the past 250 years”.
All the activities are free, plus there are trips and unique opportunities to gain work experience and accredited training across a range of arts, culture and heritage organisations. Young volunteers can work towards a level one arts award qualification. Older volunteers are needed for your wisdom, experience and stories to help us create this project. Click here for more details.
Young people are frequently criticised for not taking lockdown regulations and social distancing seriously, but two Faversham teenagers were certainly doing their bit in the week before mask-wearing became obligatory on public transport.
As a bus approached the stop in Wildish Road one sunny Saturday morning in early June, the young women each fished in their shoulder bags, produced a mask and put it on, ready to board when their transport came to a stop. An excellent example to the idiots who somehow think that the regulations don’t apply to them.
Can you or a friend or relative help? Did you live in rural Kent during the war? Do you remember shopping, growing your own and eating meals made from rations?
Perhaps you went hop-picking or apple-picking with your family? I am Jacie Cole, a PhD researcher gathering memories of food in the home during the Second World War in rural Kent. Anyone who has memories of living and eating in Kent during the war, please consider filling in a questionnaire, which I can email or post to you. My email address is email@example.com.
Details of the latest plans considered by the society’s Planning Committee can be found here.
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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