If you love Faversham, join us. We seek to Cherish the Past, Adorn the Present, Create for the Future

Faversham Society News - July 2021

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

Three examples of wildflowers that flourish in "God's acre" - the parish churchyard: blue tansy, cornflower, and a mixture of colours by the south chancel - learn more

Chairman's Column


When I became chairman, I discussed with Jan West what our priorities should be, and we agreed that, with the support of the board, our volunteers and our members, we would take responsibility for future-proofing the Faversham Society for the next 20 years. Among our future-proofing was our roofing and I can now report that the roof of the Fleur in Preston Street is now in good order and some leaks have been stopped. It should be good for a few more decades.

Faversham Town Council is creating a small museum exhibition of the town’s charters in the ground-floor back room of town hall at 12 Market Place. This is an unusually rich collection, and it will attract visitors.

As I mentioned in the May newsletter, our visitor information centre (VIC) and Fleur shop will be moving to the town hall and when that is open, entry to the charter museum will be through the shop.

By the autumn, Faversham will have four museums: the charters, Kent Police Museum (at the police station in Church Road), the Maison Dieu in Ospringe, and our own Heritage Centre in Preston Street. One of the functions of the VIC and the new exhibition space, which the town council will run, is to make a reality of Faversham Museums Together (a group that, pre-Covid, the society initiated) and promote Faversham in the context of Swale.

The visitor economy is increasingly important to the town and the society must be at the heart of that, enabling residents and visitors alike to appreciate what is special about our heritage. Work done for the Neighbourhood Plan has revealed that young people, too, care about our buildings, green space and history. The society still has much to do in engaging young people, and we need to use the technologies with which they are familiar.

You may have seen through the town hall doors that work has begun on the new VIC, which will be a self-contained room with an exhibition space to the left as you look in. We hope it will open in mid-August for the same hours as it is in Preston Street. The shop and VIC will be shuttered so that the exhibition and meeting space can be used when the society’s shop is closed.

We hope to see a resurgence in work on the history of Faversham with the charters and Doddington Library in the town hall and a growing archive of papers and maps in the Fleur in Preston Street. I hope we can create a study centre in the Fleur open to local people, school pupils, students from the three Kent universities, and academics wanting to do research. We need to attract more visitors to the museum and encourage repeat visits by regularly having fresh displays.

We are planning to publish a large-format newsletter later in the year, which we shall have delivered to every letterbox in Faversham. We want to draw the attention to long-standing residents and those new to the town, of the society’s work and to invite them to consider joining us.

Our treasurer and the finance committee continue to exercise careful control over income and expenditure. I assure you that we are not taking risks with the future of the society: quite the contrary.

The volunteers in the second-hand bookshop and the overwhelming majority of those volunteers who staff the Fleur shop and VIC support the move; many of them are very enthusiastic about the move and the way in which it will raise our profile. More of all this in future newsletters and at the AGM in early September. We shall try this year to run a “blended AGM” with an opportunity for attendance in person or online.

Swale Council is now consulting on the criteria for a local heritage list to promote awareness of the area’s assets and to highlight their importance. We shall be working with Swale conservation officers and Faversham town councillors in the coming months, and we hope that many of our members will want to join us in this work.

Several groups are working to rewild parts of Faversham – the churchyard of St Mary of Charity is one example. Enjoy it. See below.


Walking Volunteers


We enjoy showing our wonderful town to friends and visitors while showcasing and supporting the Faversham Society – and now we need more volunteers.

“Training” takes place at your own pace. You will join walks with different guides so that you pick up their take on our history while developing your own. When you feel ready, you will take over for parts of a tour and, eventually, you will fly solo. Most guides will lead a group about four times in a year.

Our guide for guides includes 30 to 40 places of interest that can be included but, in an hour and a half (ish) you have to edit this down. Thus, each tour is unique and allows the guide to express their own personality and use their individuality to make the scenes enjoyable and educational.

If this sounds interesting, what do you do next? Please join one of our weekly tours, which started in June Speak to any of our guides.

Call or email me, Antony Millett, on 07771 184 441, or email favershamtownwalks@gmail.com

Our industrial past

The Faversham Society has long drawn attention to our town’s industrial heritage, particularly gunpowder and bricks. We are now working to bring the engine sheds back into community and commercial use to conserve these listed heritage buildings.

One of our members has drawn to our attention the importance of the Cardox Abbey Works on Abbey Fields (below). Cardox still makes detonators, although without explosives. This is the last business in the town with a link to our gunpowder heritage. There is also the machinery that used to operate the old swing bridge, some of us which we may wish to conserve and exhibit.

If you are interested in industrial archaeology or know people who are or who might have useful contacts, please email chair@favershamsociety.info

New archaeology website


Do have a look at the new Faversham Society Archaeology Research Group website. You can find it at favershamcommunityarchaeology.org and every visit will boost our Google page ranking.

You can also reach the website from the Faversham Society website home page. If you have any comments or want to join us when we can meet again, please contact us on our new email address, Archaeology@FavershamSociety.com. Further improvements will be made to the website over the next year.

Our charters are the best!


An expert has looked at Faversham’s copy of Magna Carta as well as the town’s charters and considers them to be the best in England, an online society meeting of trustees and staff was told last month.

Also at the meeting, chaired by Harold Goodwin, a trustee said Faversham Town Council’s footfall survey revealed that two-thirds of people went from Central Car Park to the market through Back Lane on arrival in Faversham and one third used Cross Lane to arrive in Preston Street. Therefore, footfall to the new visitor information centre at 12 Market Place would increase.

Storage there will be provided by cupboards to be installed in the town hall. Space will be provided for the Doddington Library.

In the future, it is hoped that the costume collection will be displayed; more space for gunpowder artefacts will be found and the reception desk (museum) will be moved to the front of 12 Preston Street.

Peter Stevens, a real gem


I was saddened to learn from the June 2021 issue of the Faversham Society newsletter that Peter Stevens had died.

Peter was an absolute gem of a man who produced and posted me any snippets of information regarding my ancestors – the Faversham ones having the name of Rickard.

Briefly, my grandfather (Harold Rayner Rickard) was one of the ones who came to Scotland with family when the gunpowder mills closed in the mid-1930s.Our association must have been for almost 20 years.

Peter, I am sure in more ways than one, will be sorely missed. My condolences to the family.

Boost from lottery


Faversham’s community lottery is potentially an important source of funding for the society. We have eight supporters nominating the society to receive the cause element of the lottery ticket, 50p per ticket purchased.

In May, the society received £38.50, one of our supporters won and reinvested his stake in tickets, again supporting the society.

We are forecast to receive £520 annually with the current number of supporters buying tickets in the Faversham & District Community Lottery. If you are buying tickets and supporting local charities, please remember us.


God's acre in Faversham


The beautiful chamomile

Churchyards have long been known as “God’s acre”. They aren’t just a place to lay loved ones to rest, but are places of contemplation, where we can step aside from the busy street and think. Increasingly, over the past 50 or so years, they have also become sanctuaries for wildlife and wild flowers.

Among the headstones and monuments in various stages of grandeur and decay we can find foxes, rabbits, squirrels, mice, bats, slow worms and various reptiles. Many species of birds – both those which would once have been considered common and the more threatened – find a haven and thrive.

At St Mary of Charity – where the churchyard has been closed to burials for more than 100 years now – there were just over four acres to tend. Some of the sections are locked since the graves had railings that were cut down during the Second World War in one of the many “drives” for raw materials for war work. The stumps of the railings lie hidden in the grass and mean that care has to be taken when negotiating the northwest sections.

In the 18 months before Covid struck, the main section of the churchyard was cleared by Community Payback teams and volunteers were able to step in to create wildflower meadows and insect and wildlife habitats. The people who manage a lot of this work – Brian J, Brian R, Jody H and Yana – can often be found in the churchyard, weeding and planting.

We have to be careful where we put plants (Swale Borough Council is responsible for the grass-cutting but doesn’t “cut around”) but there is plenty of scope along the railings. If you would like to offer a green finger or two you would be most welcome, but even more welcome would be any plants you may have if you have divided perennials or the results of sowing a whole pack of seeds when half would have been too many!

Do say hello to the Brians, Yana and Jody (and Poppy if she’s about) if you are in the churchyard! Community Payback will be returning soon, and so the churchyard will become more accessible again, but let’s hope we won’t lose any of our special wildings.


Garden leader needed


Sarah Harvey is stepping down from the chair of Abbey Physic Community Garden, one of Faversham’s gems. If you are at all interested in succeeding her or know someone who would, please contact the email address below.

Sarah has been a trustee since 2015 and chairwoman since 2017. She says she feels it’s the right time for someone else to enjoy this position and support the organisation in the next phase of our development.

“It’s been such a privilege to be part of the community garden and to see it grow,” she said. “The garden has changed so much over the past seven years. I am very proud to have been involved in that journey, with a wonderful team of staff supported by an incredible set of trustees. I know the organisation is in very capable hands going forward.”

This is a hands-on role and Sarah’s replacement will regularly attend the wonderful garden in Faversham. They will be supported by our trustees, seven staff members, and 180 members.

Two of the trustees, Helen Carr and Lucia Dello, are co-ordinating the applications, which should be emailed to lucia_dello@hotmail.com as soon as possible.

Boundary stones revealed

The boundary stones that survive around our parish boundary evidence the expansion of our town; we have a project under way to map and conserve the stones and create a walk. One member told us of the one on the creek bank opposite Oyster Bay House. Others are in Bysing Wood. If you know of others or would like to join us in this initiative, please contact chair@favershamsociety.info

Ever wondered why some town names end in wick?


Pat Reid’s article in the January issue on the search for a “wic”, or entrepot, associated with Anglo-Saxon Faversham was fascinating.

In modern English, an entrepot is a warehouse for commercial goods. Historically, it was a port, town or trading post where goods could be important, stored or traded, and often exported again.

The concept of a port/manufacturing/commercial centre distanced from the residential/administrative settlement is reflected on a smaller scale by “wicks” that were recorded on the Essex, Kent and East Sussex marshes well into the 20th century. In the singular, a wick can be defined as an isolated building for special purposes, in this instance a shepherd’s wick within a shepherd’s “look” (the area that was his responsibility).

The most basic shepherd’s wick was usually a one-room building of wood or brick with a thatched or tiled roof, built out on the marshes where shepherds could store their equipment and sleep over during the lambing season when tending their flocks.

The more developed wick stood within an area, known as a “platt”, bounded by a ditch with pens to isolate suspect ewes and their lambs and a brick-built sheep dip. Later wick buildings had fireplaces for heating, cooking and preparing milk for lambs, wells and wind pumps. Some wicks on Romney Marsh had a byre to house a cow to serve orphaned or sickly lambs.

Shepherding on the Thames, Medway, Swale and Romney marshes was very specialised not least because of the incidence of marsh ague or endemic malaria. Those born and bred on the marshes maintained a level of immunity compared with incomers. Consequently, wages were higher compared with surrounding upland areas.

Skills were passed from father to son and family reputations were known and respected. One such family were the Crouchers who, through four generations, graduated from the fresh marshes of Small Hythe to Romney Marsh, Sheppey and the Cooling Levels on the Hoo Peninsula.

A search of sources presently available to me revealed 10 wicks in Essex south of the River Crouch, and 17 on the Hoo Peninsula.

The earliest known wick in Kent was St Werburgh’s Wick (Werburginwic) at Hoo, recorded in 823 and 840. A wick might be named for the landowner or the current shepherd or a shepherd from the past – Parker’s, Solomon’s, Martin’s, Rowes; its surroundings – Willow, Bush, Flee; or its location – North, East, Further, Last, Vades, relative to the marsh, manor or farm house. The study of deeds and tithe documents bears witness to changes in ownership but marsh, field and wick names mentioned therein may bear little relation to those used on the ground.

Many of the early wicks are known to have been used for making cheese from ewe’s milk, such as Chiswick in Essex. Cowick, also in Essex, relates to cattle; Gatwick and Gotwick to goats, Berwick to barley or grain generally, and Honeywick to beekeeping – all in Sussex.

Other wicks evidence activities of a different nature. Red Wick on the Isle of Grain and Burntwick in the Medway Estuary were almost certainly connected with salt production. Salt was essential in the preservation of meat and fish before refrigeration and “salt licks” for cattle increased milk yield.

Martin's Wick on the Cooling Levels, Hoo Peninsula, in about 1950

The lack of wicks on the south bank of the Medway may be explained in that the island marshes of the estuary – Slayhills, Greenborough, Millfordhope, Burntwick and Elmley on Sheppey – had shepherds resident with their families. A further explanation might be that the fresh marshes of the Swale are relatively narrow and were “inned” – that is, reclaimed – later than those of the Thames and Medway.

On many of the Kentish marshes a shepherd denoted one employed by an individual farmer and a “looker” as one who was self-employed and performed the same function for more than one employer. Around Milton Regis, lookers also tended cattle being fattened for the London market by “out-dweller” graziers.

The term “looker” predominated on Romney Marsh where the word wick appears only four times on recent Ordnance Survey maps of the marsh. Many references to “sheep fold” and “sheep wash” probably indicate former sites. In 1870 there were 356 looker’s huts on the marsh, 230 in 1900, about 50 in 1950, and 23 still standing in 1973. In 1983 only three huts remained in use. Today some huts have been rebuilt and are used for holiday lets.

June 25, 2021

Faversham Society Newsletter

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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
Registered in England and Wales No 7112241

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