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Faversham Society News - June 2021

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

A kingfisher spotted near the stream between Nobel Court and West Street
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Chairman's Column


We are reopening after lockdown but meetings are still taking place on Zoom. Our AGM will be in September, hoping that we can meet in person, but we are making contingency plans for it again to be online. The Fleur shop and VIC in Preston Street and the second-hand bookshop in Gatefield Lane are open and trading. When you are in town, do visit.

You may have noticed that the partition wall that will create the Visitor Information Centre space in 12 Market Place is being built. We have a small team preparing our new VIC, which we hope to open in August. We shall then begin the process of moving the second-hand bookshop into the Fleur and hope to complete that move by the end of the year.

These moves open other opportunities within the Fleur complex to repurpose some of the space. We’d like to hear your views on some of the ideas we are thinking about. Given the current Covid-19 rules, we need to hold the meeting online. We shall produce a report of the meeting for our July newsletter.

The “conversation” will be hosted on Zoom at 7.30pm on Thursday, 10 June. If you would like to join us, please email me, and I will send you an invitation that morning. This conversation will help shape the board’s view of how the use of the Fleur changes to reflect the society’s priorities

Antony Millett from the society has worked with Faversham Town Council to develop a walking trail from the Western Link to the cemetery, a west-east walk with heritage interest. The Fascinating Faversham trail leaflet can be picked up from the Fleur VIC in Preston Street along with a number of other trail leaflets. Guided town walks start again on 5 June.

The new town lottery is already bringing the society nearly £500 a year from the 16 people who have nominated us as their cause when buying tickets.

At least 60% from each ticket sold goes to support Faversham and district, and there’s a chance to win the £25,000 jackpot every week. Thank you. If you would like to support us in this way, go to favershamdistrictlottery.co.uk/

Swale Council is about to launch a public consultation on heritage listing criteria, to which the society will respond. We shall then look to our members for suggestions for buildings/structures/spaces to be included in the local heritage listing. I spent some time with Matthew Hatchwell, one of our active trustees, and David Carey, chairman of the Kent Tree and Pond Partnership.

The trees in the parish churchyard form a collection of note and deserve care and more visitors. There is still much heritage in the town for the society to conserve and cherish.

I was saddened to hear that Peter Stevens, an important contributor to this newsletter, and author of many books about the town, has died. See the editor’s tribute below


New archaeology website


The Faversham Society Archaeology Research Group is pleased to announce its new website. The old one had become frozen after software update issues. We also have a new web address, favershamcommunityarchaeology.org.

Please have a look at the website: this will boost our rating on Google search.

You can also reach the archaeology 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.

Walking Volunteers


We have been lucky not to lose any guides to Covid, but changes in circumstances and a year without recruiting mean that we now have even more room for new volunteers – even you!

Your perceived lack of knowledge is no barrier. There is no script to learn.

We enjoy showing our wonderful town to friends and visitors while showcasing and supporting the Faversham Society.

“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, (starting again on 5 June). Speak to any of our guides.

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

Our programme of walks

Historic Abbey Street

Historic Abbey Street (click to view full size)

Walking with History Through Faversham

Starting on Saturday 5 June, our accredited guides are again able to offer walking tours of our wonderfully historic town.

It is an excellent tour for residents who have always meant to explore the familiar and the unfamiliar but never quite had the time, as well as for visitors who want to discover more of this ancient member of the Cinque Ports and to discover the characters who have made national and local history.

See beyond our iconic guildhall, through the incredibly preserved Abbey Street, past the original Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and the inspiring parish church to learn about saints, (yes two have actually lived here), sinners, (commemorated in a play still in the Royal Shakespare Company repertoire after 500 years), royalty, (who have visited, voluntarily and otherwise, and left their mark), and commoners, (whose legacies are still in evidence). We have a wide variety of history to share.

Guides Antony Millett and Pat Ross - click to view full size

And there are boats, bangs, bricks and beer, all of which have contributed to our rich heritage.

The tour is subject to Covid-19 regulations in place at the time, and the groups will be small and conducted in a safe way (see below).

We meet at 10.30am every Saturday from 5 June until 26 September at the Visitor Information Centre, 10-13 Preston Street, Faversham, ME13 8NS. Each tour lasts about 90 minutes and costs £5 a head.
Faversham Society members may join the tour without charge (subject to capacity limits).

The Walking with History ticket includes free entry to the Fleur De Lis Heritage Centre Museum on two subsequent occasions, valid throughout 2021 and 2022, although the museum is not expected to reopen until later in 2021.

This Tardis of a museum travels through the town’s ages, with exhibits and displays. Suffused with the history of the people of Faversham, a working, touchable, telephone exchange, schoolroom, Victorian kitchen, a real treasure chest and many eclectic everyday objects from vacuum cleaners and typewriters to a penny farthing bicycle are sure to intrigue, amuse and educate you.

Please check opening times on www.favershamsociety.org.

• What you can expect during your visit – at least until 21 June.
• Group sizes will be limited to a maximum of six “bubbles”.
• Social distancing between bubbles will be required throughout the tour.
• Facemasks required to be worn whenever in a building or enclosed space.
• Handwash available to guides and guests before the start.
• Your guide may choose to wear a visor or face mask. It will be removed when addressing the tour.

Tree Walk

For Faversham Tree Week, David Carey created a guided virtual tree walk along the Westbrook through the middle of Faversham. David chairs the Kent Tree and Pond Partnership which is composed of all the Tree Wardens and Pond Wardens in Kent and Medway, all volunteers whose vision is to improve the trees and ponds in their communities.

Online history talks


It is a matter of great regret that we have no one willing to organise a programme of talks for the society. Clive Foreman’s talk in January Faversham on the Map was a big success and reminds us of our members’ enthusiasm for our talks programme. (The talk is available here favershamsociety.org/faversham-on-the-map.)

However, some talks of local interests can be viewed online. Sheila Sweetinburgh, a trustee of Kent Archaeological Society, talked to KAS president-elect Kerry Brown about the medieval painted pillar in Faversham Parish Church. In her talk Sheila explains the meaning behind the images on the pillar and what it meant to the people who worshipped at the time.

There are two forthcoming talks advertised on the Kent Archaeological Society website and all the talks are available online:

8 June Gold, Garnet and the Treasure Act

13 July Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff in Kent

Death of Peter Stevens


Peter Stevens, a regular contributor to the Faversham Society newsletter and author of many books about the town’s streets, has died aged 91.

He attended the District School and then Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School. He spent 18 years in the prison service, then later the prison commission and the Home Office. His national service, 1947-49, was in the Army Pay Corps, mainly in the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt.

Peter was brought up at 92 Abbey Street and it was this thoroughfare that inspired him to embark on his writing. His research was thorough and brought much to the surface. His Faversham Papers (particularly the one on Newton Road) are by the side of my desk and a constant source of reference.

Often, Peter’s advice was sought: Where exactly was the cattle market? What was such-and-such a shop called in the 1930s? What was Alderman Bloggs’s first name?

We met in the late 1990s when, as assistant curators we were tasked with trying to make sense of the piles of paper that Arthur Percival had deemed important. Peter was unfailingly helpful and unflappable and his loss to the society incalculable.

Here we go round .....

What’s the connection between a mulberry tree in a garden in Abbey Street, the artificial harbours built by the Allies on the coast of Normandy in 1944 and a stained glass window in St Peter’s Church, Oare?

The answer is Allan Harry Beckett. He was the civil engineer who designed the floating roadways and anchor systems for the temporary harbours that made it possible to land troops and equipment on the Normandy beaches in June 1944. See the latest issue of Faversham Life.


A really eely long trip to Faversham stream


Did you know that the Westbrook stream, which now flows from The Knole via Chart Mills and Stonebridge Pond into the creek, but originally rose near Painters Forstal, is one of just 230 chalk streams remaining in the world? As such, it is a natural habitat to be treasured and protected, with the birds, bats, fish, invertebrates and other wildlife that live along it.

This year, juvenile eels have been spotted as far upstream as The Knole. They have migrated back to Europe from the Sargasso Sea, up Faversham Creek, over the eel-passes into Stonebridge Pond, and up the Westbrook to the headwaters of the stream where they will grow to maturity, before returning to the Sargasso to breed. Many of us delighted, too, over the winter at seeing the flashes of kingfishers darting along the stream between Nobel Court and West Street.

Friends of the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond volunteers restore the stream to good health

Restoring the ecological health of the Westbrook over the past seven or eight years has required work on many levels. The Friends of the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond started monthly work parties in the autumn of 2013 which concentrated initially on clearing litter, fly-tipped waste and overgrown vegetation along the stream before starting to plant seeds and bulbs along the banks.

In 2017 they began to install faggot bundles in the stream to improve habitat and naturally narrow the channel and enable the stream to adapt better to the changes in water levels it is subject to. Recent passers-by and residents living near the stream may have noticed a lot of this work going on near Millstream Close. The bundles of twigs and branches have been secured into the stream to provide a habitat for fish to spawn and the more dynamic flow created scours the stream bed, thereby revealing the gravels under the silt – a better environment for aquatic invertebrates.

This year residents of The Knole have been supplementing the work of the Friends of the Westbrook and Stonebridge Pond and other residents by removing litter and obstacles to the flow of water on their property. All of this work, combined with a wet winter, has helped to make the stream and the footpaths alongside it a beautiful natural corridor for wildlife as well as pedestrians.

Heavier work along the stream is generally carried out by Kent County Council contractors. In recent months, this has included work to clear some of the branches and other vegetation that overhang the stream. While such work is essential to allow light to reach the stream and encourage aquatic vegetation to grow, like any other outdoor maintenance work it has to be timed and carried out carefully to avoid affecting nesting birds.

Several residents complained that tree work done by contractors in April this year was poorly timed and so a request has been lodged that such work be scheduled in future to avoid the spring nesting season. The county council has responded positively and is keen to work with groups like the Friends.

The restoration of the Westbrook over the past two years has been helped considerably by the higher water levels that have also been seen in Cooksditch and at the Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park. Plans are under way to install gauge boards in coming months that will enable us to monitor water levels more closely and avoid situations like the one we saw two years ago when the Westbrook above Chart Gunpowder Mill ran entirely dry.


Wilson, Shakespeare’s Jack


If you stand outside the building on the corner of Church Street and Abbey Street you will see a grey plaque high up on the wall saying that on this site stood the house where John Wilson, first Master of the King’s Music was born.

The plaque in Abbey Street

This seems to be wrong! The first Master of the King’s Musick (yes with a “k”) was Nicholas Lanier, appointed by King Charles I in 1626 according to Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. So, who was Dr. John Wilson?

the printed entry for Jack Wilson in Much Ado About Nothing

John Wilson was born 1595 and moved to London in 1614 where he became composer for the King’s Men. a troupe of actors of which William Shakespeare was the leading member, according to the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works published in 1623.

In Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published London: Isaac Jaggard in 1623 (usually called the First Folio) in Much Adoe About Nothing, Act 2 scene 3 on page 107 there is a stage direction “Enter Prince, Leonato, Claudio and Iacke Wilson.”

Edward Francis Rimbault, in his book Who was Jack Wilson?, argues that he was John Wilson of Faversham. Jack was a common familiar version of John. (The most famous example being President John F. Kennedy).

By some typographical mistake the name of the actor Jacke Wilson was printed in the First Folio of 1623 in Act 2 scene 3 of Much Adoe About Nothing on p107 instead of the name of the character, Balthasar. So, it seems that he was playing the role of Balthasar and he probably sang the song Sigh No More, Ladies. The King’s Men had the exclusive right to perform Shakespeare’s plays.

John Wilson became a member of the King’s Musick as lutenist and singer in 1635 and was a favourite of King Charles I. “Giving his Majesty constant attendance, had oftentimes just opportunities to exercise his hand on the Lute (being the best at it in all England) before him to his great delight and wonder.”

He was awarded the Doctor of Musick degree by the University of Oxford in 1644 and became Heather Professor of Musick in 1656 and held the post until 1661. After the Restoration, he became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1662. During his career he wrote songs for various plays. He died in Westminster in 1673. Further details are in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

John Wilson’s works include Psalterium Carolinum, Select Ayres, and Pleasant Musical Companion. Wilson’s preludes for lute and theorbo (also in the lute family of instruments) can be found on sites.google.com/view/another-lute-website/w/john-wilson

Further details can be found in Faversham Paper 122. John Wilson (1595-1674): An Honourable Life by Luke Agati. Price £7.50. Available from our Visitor Information Centre.

Inside the abandoned rail sheds

Trevor Martin has discovered on the internet photographs of the interiors of the engine sheds to the east of Faversham in the triangle of land where the lines to Thanet and Dover diverge.

The photographs were taken in 2012 and reveal the extent and quality of interior space, which could meet a number of community needs – which the society is keen to encourage – if conserved and reclaimed.

You can find these photographs and a lot more online

Was Faversham involved in the Peasants’ Revolt?


A few weeks ago, I read an article on the people of 1381 in the BBC History Magazine. I listened to a BBCHistoryExtra podcast by Professor Adrian Bell, who is running a research project at Reading University on prosperity and resilience.

Further search led me to an article, about the a possible first eyewitness account of the Peasants’ Revolt (www.1381.online/people_and_places/?story_id=32) , which noted that this area of east Kent was much involved in what is usually referred to as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

Why, I wondered, and asked Professor Bell. This is his response:

“One of the issues our database will shed light on is the reason for the geographical distribution of the rising. It is undoubtedly the case that the home counties, particularly Kent and Essex, were the epicentre of the rising, although one of the reasons why it was such a significant event is the fact that there were disturbances across England from Bridgwater to Scarborough.

“It seems that the reasons why Kent and Essex took such a leading role in the rising is that attempts to enforce the payment of the third poll tax were particularly heavy-handed there. Kent in particular was concerned about the threat of raids from the French, with whom England had been engaged in such a long war.

“There also appear to have been significant military levies, and issues with deserters, in the area immediately before the war. James Galloway [a professor of environmental sciences] has also emphasised the environmental impact of rising sea levels around the Kent and Essex coast which had disrupted many traditional livelihoods. There had been a severe storm and tidal surge in May, 1381, which may have been a factor.

“As far as we can tell, the rebel John Quenyld was not an immigrant. His name is a version of the present-day English surname Quinnell which is not unusual in the southeast of England. Indeed, there was another John Quenyld, a justice in Hertfordshire, whose property was attacked during the revolt, so the name is not that unusual.

“The rebel John Quenyld is an interesting character. He had strong military connections and had been an official of one of Edward, Prince of Wales’s commanders, Sir Ralph Basset. Quenyld figures repeatedly in our soldier database and as a fishmonger may have been involved in supplying expeditions.

“Quenyld was also a compulsive litigant and had been accused of fraud in a property transaction. He was in prison in Southwark at the time of the rising, and was released by rebels. He lost no time in spreading the rising to Surrey and Hampshire and was excluded from the amnesty to the rebels for his role in the rising in Winchester. But this doesn’t seem to have stopped him resuming his commercial career.

“Dierlyng de Chalk is more likely to be an immigrant. The name possibly sounds Dutch. He was a barber and was accused of participating in the destruction of the manor of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s steward at Maidstone on 7 June. The list of things he was accused of stealing makes it sound as if he was preparing for a fight: a hauberk, a target, a lance, a bow and two sheaves of arrows.

“If Dierlyng was from the Low Countries, this is striking, given the widespread slaughter of Flemings elsewhere in the rising, but there are one or two hints that a few immigrants may have joined the rising.”

When I moved down to Oare from London about 20 years ago, I met my fellow historian Arthur Percival many times. I was interested in the histories of Faversham (and surrounding areas); he became interested in my research into the presence of Africans here for some 2,000 years. He told me my work took him into a world he did not know existed. I recall asking him about the name “Oare” – not very English, I thought. No, he told me, it was most likely Jute!

I’ve been so busy with the history of Africans here (and people from India) that I have not followed up on the Jutes. What is the ancestry of peoples here? Surely, to return to Professor Bell, Quenyld cannot be an “English” name! What about these two mayors of Faversham before 1381: 1297, Walter le Osderman; 1302, 1305; Roger Urre; 1327, Thomas Le Hert. What language did they speak? After all, the first “British” king to speak “English” was Henry IV, who ruled 1399 to 1413. (Just look on the list of mayors on the walls in Faversham Guildhall for the many, many more mayors with non-English names!)

Professor Bell’s response impelled me to look in some of the books on my overflowing shelves. From Robert Winder’s Bloody Foreigners (2004) I learnt that this small island just off the coast of the continent of Europe, was multilingual, as Celts, Picts, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans had all settled here, as had others who had arrived with the Roman conquerors. (The Roman empire was huge; troops, et al, were sourced from all parts to conquer/rule new areas.)

According to David Miles (The Tribes of Britain, 2005), “Julius Caesar encountered tribes, such as the Cantii, in Kent.” (The Cantii were Celts; the Romans called the area Cantiaca.) After the Romans left, relations were anything but peaceful and raids by Vikings et al increased hugely.

Flemish and Walloon weavers came to settle here, because much wool was produced here, but few did any weaving. According to W. Cunningham’s book, Alien Immigrants to England, some settled in the “neighbourhood of Cranbrook, in Kent” Jews came as Christians declared usury to be a sin; they had to apply for royal permits to set up financial businesses here.

Their “prosperity was hated”, and from c.1180s they began to be attacked. In 1263, 400 were killed in London; in 1264, about 1000 were killed. In 1290 and estimated 15,000 Jews were expelled. Were there any Jews living here in that period?

To put it briefly, the royal families of France and England were related, but there was continuing war between the two countries. The British government increased taxation to raise money for fighting. This was a new “poll tax”. The government checked for poll tax evasion, especially in Kent and Essex, as many had disappeared from the lists.

Why? The peasants set about destroying poll tax records and other documents because they wanted to be freed from villeinage, or serfdom. They were living on land allotted by the local lord; they had to give a certain number of days of labour to their lord, use his corn mill and obtain his permission for their daughters to marry. They wanted to be free to look for paid work elsewhere.

Then, as dissatisfaction with the government increased, the townspeople, craftworkers and owners of small farms joined the peasants and also began to rebel. They attacked Canterbury Cathedral, and then Rochester Cathedral.

The rebels in Kent elevated an ex-serf from Colchester, Wat Tyler, to be their military leader…The rebels turned on foreign scapegoats, especially they singled out the Flemings. They found the archbishop in the Tower of London and executed him. Tyler then met King Richard II and demanded the abolition of all forms of serfdom. The king pretended to agree and also to not increase taxes. So peace. Tyler was then captured and executed.

How much do we know about serfdom here in the Faversham area? About participation in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and the previous ones? About Flemings and Walloons settling here? What do we know about all the mayors with non-English names and the politics of the town at the time of their elections? We must investigate.

Further information on the Peasants Revolt www.1381.online

May 25, 2021

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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
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