A printable PDF version of this newsletter can be downloaded from HERE
A kingfisher watches over Westbrook. The stream’s guardians have received a top honour - see below
As I write this, work on the second-hand bookshop is drawing to a close, and the move is likely to take place soon.
Moving our visitor information centre and shop to 12 Market Place has substantially increased the prominence of the Faversham Society in the town and increased footfall. We benefit from being at the entrance to the Faversham Charters exhibition, and our volunteers are working harmoniously with those stewarding the exhibition.
At the AGM there were talks by David Rundle and Angela Websdale. David Rundle is a lecturer in Latin and manuscript studies in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. He is a Renaissance historian and a palaeographer and is very interested in the Faversham Charters. We are working with him and the town council to engage graduate students in research into Faversham’s history.
Angela Websdale is a Faversham resident and mature PhD student at the University of Kent, researching the cult of St Edward the Confessor and its presence at Faversham, Kent. Her talk on the wall paintings in the Becket chapel behind the organ in St Mary of Charity linked Faversham with the Westminster cult of the Confessor. We shall hear more from Angela about the Thomas Becket once she has submitted her thesis.
St Mary On 16 July, Jonathan Carey will be talking about the way the St Mary of Charity Church has evolved through centuries. See below.
Diamond year This is our 60th anniversary year and on 21 May, our president, Richard Oldfield, hosted a tea party at Doddington Place Gardens for our volunteers and cut an anniversary cake. Votes of thanks were made to Richard and those who organised the tea party. Our volunteers were able to enjoy the splendid gardens. See the pictures on this page.
In October we are planning two days of celebration for our members at the Alexander Centre. Details to follow but the dates for your diary are 25 and 26 October.
Anchoress On Saturday, 9 July, the Church of St Mary of Charity, Faversham, will host Georgina Lock’s solo show, The Walled-Up Woman, which she performs in the character of a medieval anchoress.
Anchoresses were laywomen who chose lifelong lone lockdown, usually in a lean-to on the north wall of a church. A bishop approved successful applicants and ceremonially walled them into their cells or “anchor houses”. Living on donations as “anchors of the church”, following the guidebook for anchoresses, The Ancrene Wisse, they prayed for souls – living and dead. Their practical tasks were to sew and to dig their graves in their cells so that, buried close to the altar, they would bypass purgatory and marry Christ in heaven.
Before the English Reformation, when the practice was ended, anchoresses were surprisingly plentiful. St Mary’s in Faversham was home to four anchoresses and one anchorite, who had been the church’s priest.
Georgina (right), a writer-director, actress and filmmaker, researched and wrote the script before lockdown when the show came into its own on Zoom to international audiences. She is delighted to be performing The Walled-Up Woman at the beautiful medieval church of St Mary of Charity whose anchoresses inspired the piece. Entry is by donation to the friends. Doors open at 7pm.
AGM The annual meeting at the Alexander Centre on 1 June attracted a good turnout. Jackie Davidson and Jane Secker were elected to the board. Procedural errors were made in the administration of the AGM, which we explained to the 73 members present and decided to proceed with the meeting. On behalf of the board, vice-chairman David Melville wrote to the Charity Commission accounting for our errors, for which I add my personal apology. See page 9.
The pit at Queen Court Farm near the end of the dig spring 2022. The flint layer is visible in the wall of the pit and the flint feature can be seen at the bottom of the pit
Members of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) were again granted permission to dig at Queen Court Farm, Ospringe this spring. It is unusual for us to excavate in the spring as this session is traditionally used to prepare for our longer, summer season. This year, however, we had questions to answer at Queen Court before we could plan for later work.
The Manor of Ospringe is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and we have been looking for signs of use of this site before the buildings now there. Parts of the house have been dated to 1500 with suggested dates for other elements ranging from the 1600s to early 1800s.
Pat Reid explained the work we did at Queen Court last summer in the October 2021 Newsletter and full results are available at favershamcommunityarchaeology.org. In both of the two pits we opened last summer we found a surface of crushed chalk. Although these appeared similar in the two pits the (rather sparse) dating evidence suggested different dates for each of them. Our main aim in spring 2022 was to find out if these two chalk surfaces were part of a single feature – which the geophysical ground survey results suggested was possible.
Thus, in May we opened another pit, measuring 3m by 2m, in the front garden of Queen Court Farm. The pit was dug between the two excavations carried out last year and with reference to the geophysical survey results.
We found an initial flint surface which was likely to be the feature picked up by the survey, but we did not find a surface of crushed chalk that connected the two pits from 2021. We identified several layers showing different activities and then, in true Time Team fashion, an interesting feature was uncovered just before the end of the exercise. The feature, which was found at almost our maximum safe excavating depth, was a collection of impacted flints that are not naturally occurring – see the accompanying photograph.
We will be returning to Queen Court in the summer to investigate this pit and the surrounding area further and a full analysis of the finds from spring and summer will be carried out later in the year.
Meanwhile, a survey of the back garden at Queen Court shows some features potentially worthy of investigation …
Our thanks go to the landowners: we really appreciate their support and enthusiasm.
I hope you all had the opportunity to visit the Town Hall exhibition space (next to the new Visitor Information Centre at 12 Market Place) recently to see images of items from the Fleur de Lis Museum.
The title was Let’s Have a Right Royal Knees-up and the focus was to show how Faversham and its surrounding villages celebrated previous royal jubilees, showing many photographs and images of several programmes and memorabilia.
The event lasted from 30 May to 12 June. We found many interesting items in our archives and stores. In the picture above, you can (centre, left) see a yellow square that is a handkerchief from the Queen’s coronation in 1953 in almost pristine condition!
Many thanks to Rachel Baynham (and Kit) for arranging this exhibition. Thanks also go to those who contributed to the donation jar.
In the last issue, Michael Sanders asked for information regarding the location of the gallows in Faversham.
He is correct about it being at the junction of St Ann’s Road, Lower Road, South Road and Ospringe Road.
However, the layout of these roads has changed since the gallows was there. If Michael looks at the map of Faversham from Edward Jacob’s History of Faversham, he will be able to see this for himself (the map can be seen online).
The four roads met at the centre of a sort of X-shaped layout, and this was on a small green. The precise position today of where the gallows was is therefore not easy to work out.
My dad, Arthur, thought it might have been where Nobel Court is now.
It would be an interesting research project to investigate this, but I’m not sure anyone would want to know that the gallows was once where their house is now! I certainly wouldn’t want to know.
St Ann’s Road, which was split in two when the railway came, was once called Hangman’s Lane. I have heard the story about the Faversham Arms being the gallows site but can’t shed any further light on it, I’m afraid.
Before the assizes were held at Maidstone, we would be fairly certain that any “special assembly gathered under the authority of the Mayor of Faversham” would have taken place in Faversham Guildhall.
We’re attaching details of a pamphlet, The Witches of Kent, by Kelvin I. Jones (above), to pass on to Michael Sanders.
Although this information is on Kent Witch trials is 17th-century in particular, and he is focusing on the 18th century, they were clearly capital crimes and may provide avenues for him to continue his research.
Editor’s note: thank you. I shall pass on this information.
Arthur Percival once wrote that the significance of our parish church which has for centuries stood at the core of our town.
“Though Faversham parish church was only half the size of the original Faversham Abbey church, it was (and still is) very large by most parish church standards,” he said. “In fact, it remains larger than some of the UK’s cathedrals. Maidstone Parish Church has always claimed to be the largest parish church in Kent, but in fact Faversham is larger, by a whisker.
“The parish church’s transepts were, and are, longer than those at Rochester, and wider than those even at Canterbury, Rochester and Faversham Abbey. I don’t think the church’s large size was any accident; I think it was making a statement about the stature of Faversham – important if you were quarrelling with the abbey, as the council so often was.”
On 16 July, at midday, Jonathan Carey will conduct what he calls a “conversational tour” of the exterior and some of the older interiors of our parish church. This will l will consider how the building has evolved and the ways it has been altered and restored. Jonathan is one of our trustees and is a retired conservation architect who has been inspecting architect to more than 60 churches in the Anglican Dioceses of London, Southwark and Canterbury. Please meet outside the South Porch.
A collection will be made to support the work of the friends in conserving the building.
This month’s extract from Arthur’s letters is from June, 2000, headlined “Faversham’s Sleeping Beauty” and sent to the Faversham Times and the town centre manager.
“If you asked most people in the town whether the elegant interior show in the first picture still existed, they would doubt it. Well, of course it does – it’s the Drill Hall in Preston Street. Peter Stevens has twice suggested in recent years that it should resume its original function as a suite of Assembly Rooms. I am sure he is right.
“The main hall at the Alexander Centre is great for some types of function but for others its square shape makes it unsuitable, and its acoustics are appalling. The Assembly Rooms are not as big but have better acoustics, enjoy natural light and would make an attractive venue for exhibitions, concerts and dances – there is even a musicians’ gallery, though this is at present blocked in.
“Apart from that, the rooms have hardly changed since they opened in 1849. Redecorated in the original style, they would be a great asset to the town. The second photo shows them as they were in 1980 when owned by the Ministry of Defence and used by the army cadets.
“In your new role as town centre manager you might like to consider making it your (long-term!) target to restore them to public use by 2008.”
After years of massive effort by the magnificent band of trustees, we now have our stunningly beautiful Assembly Rooms which take my breath away every time I go in.
Peter Stevens was a local historian and contributor to this newsletter who died recently. It was typical of Arthur to generously acknowledge anyone else’s contribution to an idea he was pursuing.
Toy soldiers, bells, pencils, dolls’ teacups, cigarette cards … these are just a few of the large collections of small items we have been offered for the exhibition later this year to celebrate 60 years of the Faversham Society.
Do you have a collection of sixty items you would be happy to see on display? If so, please email me at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing what you have tucked away!
Dear Sir or Madam
I am writing on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Faversham Society, registered charity No 1135262, to report procedural errors that were unfortunately made in relation to our annual general meeting on 1 June 2022.
I have set out errors made below. The chair and trustees have apologised to the membership of the Faversham Society for these errors. I have also outlined remedial action taken by the Board of Trustees.
Report of errors in AGM administration
We of course also apologise sincerely to the Charity Commission for the errors made in the administration of the society’s AGM. We hope you are reassured that there was no ill intention, and feel satisfied appropriate and proportionate remedial action has been taken. I attached to this correspondence draft minutes of the full AGM on 1st June 2022.
Sir David Melville CBE
Vice-chair, Faversham Society
Friends install a low-flow channel in the Westbrook; a kingfisher keeps watch; a stickleback in the Westbrook; and a migrant hawker dragonfly hovers over Stonebridge Pond
The Friends of the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond, a group of volunteers based in Faversham, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.
The group was formed in 2013 with the aim of bringing a neglected urban stream back to life for the benefit of the community and wildlife. Work has included clearing fly-tipping and litter, enhancing habitats, ecological surveying, water monitoring, improving eel passage, installing bird and bat boxes, planting trees, bulbs and wildflower seeds, improving signage, fundraising, publicity and publication of a historic walking tour of the area.
The Friends also take part in consultations, including on green spaces, water resources and quality, and work with others to promote the value of urban green spaces such as the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond, and the importance of volunteering for individuals and the community.
The Westbrook is a globally rare chalk stream and the Friends aim to raise the profile of this and other chalk rivers along the north Kent coast. Chalk rivers are designated as priority habitats, a range of habitat types that have been identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action. As well as being important for ecology, the Westbrook has a fascinating history as it was fundamental to gunpowder manufacture and watercress growing. Faversham was the centre of the nation’s explosives industry for 400 years and Chart Mills, along the stream, very probably supplied gunpowder for the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo.
The group is working on a project with Swale Borough Council, Faversham Town Council, the South East Rivers Trust and others to tackle the increasing silt levels in Stonebridge Pond, where generations of people congregate to feed the wildfowl.
Matthew Hatchwell, who chairs the group, said: “This award is a tribute not only to the volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain and enhance this rare chalk stream that has played such an important part in the history of Faversham, but also to the broader community and partners who support our work in a multitude of ways. The Queen’s award will give extra weight to our efforts to have the Westbrook and other local streams inscribed on the national database of chalk rivers, to tackle the accumulation of silt in Stonebridge Pond, and to maintain water flow in the face of new house-building and increased abstraction from the chalk aquifer.”
I helped to set the group up in 2013 and am now its secretary. I’m over the moon that the Friends have received the award and it’s all thanks to our incredible and dedicated volunteers and the partners we work with. I have got so much out of my involvement in the group – an understanding of the heritage and ecology of the area, an appreciation of the value of water and green space and the benefits they bring to communities, an increased confidence in the power of volunteering as well as lots of new friends.
I’m particularly proud that we managed to carry on with our work during the pandemic as that was a time when the Westbrook’s value as a space for local people to enjoy really came to the fore.
I would also particularly like to thank Mark Loos of the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership. Without his encouragement the Friends would probably not exist.
We are a very informal group and always welcome new members. Please see the details below.
Please consider saving the society printing costs by receiving your newsletter by email. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All content © the Faversham Society. Reproduction permitted only with the written permission of the editor
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 email@example.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.
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