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Faversham Society News - June 2022

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

Chairman's Column


This year is both the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Faversham Society’s 60th. The platinum jubilee will be celebrated in the heart of the town and on the Rec.

Ben Simon provides some of the history of celebrations on the Rec (see below). For our 60th, we have organised a garden party for our volunteers and, later in the year, there will be an exhibition in the Fleur. In October, we plan an event for all our members, details soon.

As we reach 60, it is vital to be looking forward and thinking about the future of the society and our priorities for the next decade.

Professor Catherine Richardson delivered an excellent talk on Arden of Faversham to a packed Guildhall on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23 April. It is fair to say that she has rekindled people’s interest in the play – plans are forming.

Post-Covid, we are reverting this year to the traditional AGM together in the Alexander Centre. We have arranged for the bar to be open in the break between the business of the AGM and the two talks we have arranged. So, there is an opportunity to socialise and meet trustees in the interval and afterwards. This is an excellent opportunity to share ideas among ourselves. Details of the AGM and its business are below. We have two guest speakers, both from the University of Kent: Dr David Rundle, a Renaissance historian and a palaeographer, and Angela Websdale a PhD researcher. David will talk about how we can best develop a relationship with the historians at the university and encourage the use of Faversham’s archives for research and publication. Angela will talk with slides about the importance of the paintings in Becket’s Chapel behind the organ in St Mary of Charity.

Do not miss the opportunity to hear these two talks about how Faversham gains from working more closely with historians from the university and to hear a little of what the future might hold.

Finally, pupils at Davington Primary School have conducted an investigation into the Great Explosion at Uplees that killed at least 108 workers in April, 1916. See below.

The Explosives Loading Company (ELC) and its neighbour, the Cotton Powder Company (CPC) were working full out to meet the demands for ammunition during the First World War. The two factories comprised a vast complex — bigger than the City of London — of wooden huts and occasional brick buildings connected by rail lines and served by jetties on to the Swale.

The ELC chiefly filled artillery shells bound for the British Army and the Royal Navy. The CPC’s business was concerned mainly with making explosives: gun­cotton, cordite, nitroglycerine and Tonite. Both used amatol, a mix of TNT and the less expensive ammonium nitrate. Amatol was a fairly new invention, latched on to as a cheaper product than pure TNT.

Fire broke out at the site that Sunday morning, causing the one of the greatest blasts witnessed in the British Isles.

Davington school’s report was put together with the help of the children’s author Neil Tonge, a former teacher who has also contributed to the Horrible Histories series of books.

You can read it here: favershamsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/GreatFavershamExplosion-3b.pdf


AGM Business

The 2021 annual general meeting will be held at the Alexander Centre, Faversham, on Wednesday 1 June, 2022.

The AGM agenda has been in previous editions of the newsletter and can be found on our website, favershamsociety.org/agm-2022, where the annual report may also be downloaded.

We have two board vacancies. Mike Henderson and Sophie Kemsley have both resigned. Katie Begg, Andrew Holden, Brian Kelsey, Laurie McMahon, Anne Salmon and Tim Stonor are all standing again and are nominated. Harold Goodwin has been nominated to chair the society board and David Melville as vice-chair. There have been no further nominations for officers.

Trustee nominations are now closed, and we have new nominations from only two: Jackie Davidson and Jane Secker. They are therefore likely to be elected at the AGM. As in previous years, our president will conduct the elections by a show of hands (for and against) unless a procedural motion is moved to require a secret ballot and it achieves a majority.

As there are no resolutions or motions to be debated and voted on and the meeting merely receives and notes the annual reports and accounts, we do not need proxies. However, the proxy form is available if you want to nominate someone to vote on your behalf. Use the link above.

Here are Jackie’s and Jane’s personal statements:

Jackie Davidson “I have been a member of the society for about 20 years. I first started as a museum guide on Saturday mornings, then I moved to work in the VIC and then on to the bookshop, where most of my time is now spent researching the value of books. I am also a member of the IT team.

“From 1998 to 2000, I was a trustee for a charity in Medway, where my time was spent calculating the savings to the local government of every jobseeker getting work. I gained a working knowledge of finance and statistics while working for the Central Statistical Office and Ministry of Defence.

“Although I live in Sittingbourne, I spend a great deal of my time in Faversham and want to help to improve the service that the society gives to the town.”

Jackie was nominated by Wendy Clarke.

Jane Secker “I have been volunteering for the Faversham Society since February, 2020. Before that I served as the secretary of Bromley Civic Society for seven years, supporting the work of the chair, preparing papers for the AGM, running events such as historical walks and updating the website and social media platforms.

“I am a senior lecturer at a London university specialising in digital education, online learning and developing digital and information literacy skills. Before that I worked for 15 years as a copyright adviser and have a particular interest in the open licensing of cultural heritage and educational resources.

“I can offer expertise to the society in education-related projects, particularly to using new technologies to engage the community. I am an experienced writer and speaker and my first degree was in history. I am also a qualified librarian with strong links to those works in the library and archive sector as well as in higher education. I edited a professional journal for several years and have a solid understanding of publishing, digitisation and copyright issues. Most importantly, I love Faversham and its wonderful people and history and would be honoured to serve on the board.”

Jane was nominated by Harold Goodwin. The motivations for those standing for re-election can be found on favershamsociety.org/trustees

Our religious recluses

This engraving of a brass in St Mary of Charity Church shows William Thornbury, a Vicar of Faversham who in 1472 was preparing to be an anchorite, a religious recluse.

Georgina Lock will be performing a riveting solo show, The Walled-Up Woman, at the Parish Church of St Mary of Charity, Faversham, at 7.30pm on Saturday, 9 July

Georgina – a scriptwriter, film maker, actress and scholar of theatre history – explores the medieval anchoresses of Faversham who voluntarily entered lifelong lockdown, walled-up in a sealed cell at the side of a church, to pray for the souls of all.

Archaeology update


At the beginning of each year the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) runs a training day to prepare new volunteers for the season ahead and some of the current members in need of a refresher.

This year we concentrated on finds processing. A gathering of a dozen or so met at the Fleur hall for an instruction session. At the end of the day, it was suggested that one or two might like to provide some feedback. Jim Laslett responded:

“I have just got back from a pleasant day spent with FSARG run by Nick Wilkinson and Pat Reid. I was introduced to the group by a friend at Faversham Badminton Club.

“The day started off with a mini-seminar on how the group carries out its archaeological works, telling us what materials are likely to survive burial and explaining the sequential order going back to the Stone Age. The seminar included a brief mention of geology, sea levels and other things that might affect the context in which an item might be found.

“In the afternoon we were shown how archaeological sites are selected, focusing on the Faversham area. Then we were shown how finds were processed – counting, weighing, measuring, drawing, describing and cataloging finds.

“They are a friendly bunch of like-minded people with a positive outlook and a plethora of archaeological knowledge. For anybody looking to get into archaeology, who – like me – didn’t have the opportunity through further education, or would just like to get involved, this is a great way to experience what it is like to be in an archaeological team and may be lucky enough to discover some rare find.

“If you are interested in history or archaeology, I would highly recommend joining the group. You can do as much or as little as you like and get experience of every aspect from geophysical and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) surveys to digging, finding and processing finds.

“This first introductory seminar was packed full of very useful and interesting knowledge delivered in an efficient and direct way which was not boring! It got me really thinking about how we lived in the past and has inspired me to get involved.”

Thanks, Jim. The group’s early season was back at Queen Court Farm, Ospringe, where we dug last year. There are a few queries that required resolution in the front garden before we move to the back. We carried out a resistivity survey of the back garden which will be compared with the results of a map regression to decide where might be the most suitable place to excavate. This area was for many years the farmyard and the foundations of former pig sties, cattle sheds and other outbuildings are best avoided. Mind you, the area between promises to be a succession of perhaps tarmac, flint or chalk surfaces, so some hard digging can be expected!

Jubilee on the Rec


Coronation of George V
In 1911, Faversham celebrated on the Rec for the coronation of George V

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will be celebrated at Faversham Recreation Ground from 2pm to 4pm on Sunday, 5 June, when Faversham Mission Brass Band will perform in front of the lodge.

This free family event is a contribution towards the countrywide Big Jubilee Lunch, so put the date in your diary, bring a picnic, relax on the lawns, and enjoy the afternoon to the sound of brass.

This will be the latest in a line of royal celebrations at the Rec. Perhaps the most spectacular was in March, 1863, when upwards of 5,000 people gathered by the lodge to mark the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

The festivities included artillery volunteers performing a feu de joie (rifles fired in rapid succession, making a loud rat-tat-tat sound), followed by a train running over and detonating 21 fog signals placed on to the nearby tracks to imitate a 21-gun salute.

Crowds also came to the Rec for the golden jubilee and diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The golden jubilee, held on 20 June 1887, was said to have attracted the largest gathering in Faversham, with thousands of adults and children witnessing athletic sports on a course that had been roped off and steam-rolled for the occasion.

For more information, please contact Ben Simon, activity co-ordinator, Swale Council, at 07925 148303 or at favrec@swale.gov.uk

Guide to Faversham


The way Faversham is presented in guide books plays an important role on who visits our town.

Take the Bradt Guides, which use the strapline “travel taken seriously”. The main photograph, of West Street, may convey the message that Faversham is a great place to invest in property. It is not the image I would have chosen.

Our museum gets an approving mention, however: “For a greater appreciation of Faversham’s rich history and pointers on all things of interest in town, start your explorations at the Fleur de Lis Museum. Around a five-minute walk from the train station, the fascinating, artefact-stuffed displays are arranged inside a 15th-century building that was once a pub.”


A project with a bang!


Teachers Jo Manning-Press, Emma Beard and Clare Halson of Davington Primary School, were engaged with their Year 5 classes in the study of the Great Explosion in April, 1916. Supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund with contributions from Anderson Development and the Faversham Society, pupils investigated the reasons and horrific consequences of the huge blast at Uplees that killed 108 people.

Miss Halson’s class is pictured at the Faversham Cemetery memorial.

There was much in the gruesome story to both fascinate and inform the children of this seminal episode in Faversham’s history. Pupils’ senses were “attacked” from a variety of curriculum directions. In the course of their investigation, they encountered Captain Rawles, who enrolled them in the Uplees militia and East Kent Regiment after first getting them to determine for what reasons and values they were defending their country.

At Chart Mills, they encountered Mary Picton, a “munitionette”, and asked her about working conditions and why she had such a sallow and yellow complexion. She explained that this employment, dangerous as it was because of accidental detonations and toxic chemicals, at least provided some economic freedom for her.

Jim Ransom led the children on a gunpowder trail of Faversham and visits to the Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park led by Anna Bell provided an enlarged view of the importance of the gunpowder industry to Faversham. John Breeze and colleagues at the Faversham Society deserve a huge mention for the research they have conducted on this subject over many years and Chris Wootton, Paul Jesset and Anna Bell for their promotion of country park.

Pupils traced the victims of the explosion on a search of Faversham Cemetery where they recorded information from headstones, made a rubbing of the same and investigated further information about their individual victim using census material and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission internet site. At the end of the project pupils expressed their responses to what they had seen and heard in creative art work, led by Janis Milne. At an initial base line assessment of pupils, few if any, knew of the explosives industry in Faversham and the remains that can still be found in the town. At this point, I was reminded of an observant and precisely detailed book by a Cumbrian farmer, James Rebanks, in which he described loathing history at school because it told him nothing about who he was and how his community had evolved.

In later life he corrected this gap in his childhood knowledge through self-education and studying at Oxford University. This eventually culminated in his book The Shepherd’s Life: A People’s History of the Lake District.

The hope from this project is that pupils now have a more developed sense of the history that made them and the town in which they live and, equally important, that they had fun finding out!

Faversham Gallows


Here’s a cheery subject. Society member Michael Sanders, who is researching the 18th century for a creative writing project, would like to find out about public executions in Faversham.

He believes the gallows stood at the junction of St Ann’s Road, South Road, Ospringe Road and Lower Road.

Well, that’s certainly what I understand. One pub website also claims that it stood in Ospringe Road on the site of the former Faversham Arms, adding: “The original name of the location was Hangman’s Field. This changed its name in the 17th century to Gallows Hole Field.”

Michael would also like to know where trials for capital crimes in Faversham would have been held – I presume this is before the assizes held at the Sessions House in Maidstone. I’ll pass on any information readers can provide.

A traveller's tale


At the end of April, I set sail from Dover on a Hurtigruten Expedition Cruise feeling a little nervous. The weather was fine – just one day of rain– and seas were calm. The Itinerary was wonderful: Fishguard, Rathlin Island, Iona, St Kilda, Stornoway, Fort William, Isle of Man, Waterford, Isles of Scilly, Fowey and Portland.

Unfortunately, I hurt my knee two days before I departed and this got progressively more painful during the trip, and I was unable to take part in a lot of hikes.

Mostly the ship moored at sea and we had to go ashore in rubber dinghies which held 18 people maximum. I had a bit of a melt-down over this.

Coincidences, yes, quite a few. One evening sitting next to a table of four ladies, I listened to them chatting and they mentioned Brogdale at Faversham, so I interrupted them and said that I came from Faversham and I used to work at Brogdale in my younger days.

I could go on but I think this is enough...

Garden stewards


Don’t forget that the Fleur garden in Preston Street will be open as part of the Faversham Open Gardens scheme on Sunday, 26 June.

We shall need more volunteers to be stewards and anybody who can help may leave a message for me or Jan West at the VIC, 12 Market Place.

May 26, 2022

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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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