A printable PDF version of this newsletter can be downloaded from HERE
Those of us who live here know what a wonderful place Faversham is to live in. Ever since I discovered the town in 1976 and moved here I have wanted to share my new home town with friends but not too many others.
So the Garrington Report (see below) is both gratifying and cause for concern. While waiting for trains at Victoria I would often find a new guidebook to Kent or England in the W. H. Smith and open it, nervously hoping that Faversham would not have received the effusive and detailed entry it undoubtedly deserves. It still hasn’t. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a good number of the new homes are being bought by local people looking for a house to grow into and for parking. The housing is certainly not all going to people moving out from London.
Swale is now consulting on the new Local Plan. As you will know, the Faversham Society undertook a detailed review of all the sites proposed for new housing and concluded that if there had to be new housing it was best built to the east so that traffic could access the A2, M2 and Thanet Way without coming through the town.
I don’t doubt that our representations on this had some effect. We certainly want to avoid any repeat of the Perry Court saga. Our Environment and Planning committees are both looking at the Local Plan and the board will make representations on behalf of the Society.
Please do take a look at the draft Local Plan and comment – the plan can be easily accessed at swale-consult.objective.co.uk/kse
In making its representations the society will be mindful of our motto: “Cherish the past, adorn the present, create for the future”. Our efforts to repurpose and secure the future to Town Quay and TS Hazard and the Engine Sheds to the east of Faversham station have been well received and I remain hopeful that our efforts will be successful. We have had a real meeting of minds with Swale Council over the future of Town Quay. See below.
We are also exploring the possibility of the society contributing to borough reviews of the local heritage list and the conservation area appraisals over the next couple of years. The cultural, natural and built heritage of our town is the society’s core business. I hope that many of you will want to join us in this work of appreciation of our built heritage.
An important reminder: please join the online meeting on 22 February to discuss the next steps in the 20mph scheme across Faversham. Some members have told me that speeds have increased since the trial was introduced. See below
Finally, and sadly, you will have seen from the front page that Jacqi Hitchcock died on Valentine’s Day. It’s impossible to sum up Jacqi in a few words, so I shall not attempt to. A full tribute will appear in the next issue.
Faversham Town Council has reviewed the feedback on the 20mph scheme from the Commonplace engagement platform and is now considering how to improve the scheme.
In doing so, the town council would appreciate the chance to present the feedback received so far and discuss possible next steps with members of the Faversham Society.
You are all warmly invited to a Zoom call at 7pm on 22 February. Town councillors Eddie Thomas, Julian Saunders and consultant Adrian Berendt will present what has been found so far and will then lead a discussion on possible next steps.
If you wish to attend, please register your interest with Faversham Town Council on the link below.
Faversham has been ranked one of the best places to live in Britain. It came 11th out of 1,372 places in a survey by a property-finding company.
For architectural beauty Faversham came 23rd, but 208th for natural beauty and 134th for quality of life. Perhaps that will improve when the 20mph speed limit is properly enforced. The average cost of a family home, Garrington said, was £480,000.
Canterbury came fifth overall and 31st for architectural beauty. Oh well, I suppose it has the cathedral.
The best place to live, according to the survey, is Bath in Somerset, followed by Tenby in Pembrokeshire. Rye, St Ives and Aldeburgh were all in the top 10.Sittingbourne was 175th, Sheerness 228th, Herne Bay 277th, and Whitstable 457th.
Each location was scored on natural beauty for its proximity to open water, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. On architectural beauty, marks were awarded for the number of listed and period homes, as well as modern energy-efficient homes. On quality of life, each area was ranked for its air quality, crime figures and how many farm shops there were within a three-mile radius.
See the link below. What do you think? Have they got it right or is it a blinking cheek?
A year on and it is no exaggeration to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed all of our lives. The Faversham Society has had to adapt, and go many months without being able to do the sorts of things we usually enjoy ever year –holding talks, running events, and being able to have our centres, shops and museum open all year round. We have certainly all missed one another!
With the progress of vaccinations, things are certainly starting to look a little brighter for us all, but life is likely to remain different for a little while. To this end, the board of trustees would like to hear from society volunteers and members your views on what the future holds for the society, how it may need to develop, and how you would like to be involved.
Over the coming weeks, we will be distributing two surveys, the first specifically aimed at volunteers and the second at members. These will be a good opportunity to hear your valued thoughts and opinions and we would really encourage your participation! Lockdown restrictions mean the survey will be hosted online and a link to it will be emailed to volunteers in due course, but anybody who would prefer a hard copy is encouraged to contact me on 07973 940982.
A charming obituary for Margaret Harding in The Guardian reminds us of her master’s degree in medieval and early modern studies at the University of Kent in 2013.
As a member of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group where she became the bone expert. Her knowledge of bone structure from her career as a radiographer was a real asset.
Most recently Margaret was involved in examining and archiving the early Saxon bone dump excavated in the garden of the Market Inn and sorting out Arthur Percival’s archive – a real treasure trove. Her work needs to be continued.
For some time we have wanted to recreate Arthur’s introduction to Faversham evening classes. Sadly nobody thought to record the lectures until he had ceased offering them. For years his winter lecture series introduced our town’s heritage to newcomers and long-time residents alike. Through his weekly talks, and a chat in the back bar of the Bear Inn afterwards, Arthur recruited many members and volunteers.
We have now assembled several sets of lecture handouts and notes from which we believe that we can recreate the lecture series. If you would be interested in helping to recreate the talks, please get in touch.
Many of you will have noticed the enthusiasm there is among young people in Faversham for skateboarding. Perhaps we could connect that to an older sport among the young of Faversham – roller hockey.
In 1910 the Brents Roller Skating Rink opened in a building to the north of the creek on what is now the BMM Weston car park. Roller hockey, which originated in the United States, was enthusiastically adopted in Faversham and by 1920 there were four teams in the town.
In 1930, despite the loss of the rink to fire, five Faversham players, all from Front Brents, were in the England team that won the Cup of Nations in Montreux, Switzerland.
In 2015 Geoff Sandiford produced the musical The Skate Boys of Faversham Town.
Can we link the Skate Boys’ heritage with Faversham’s contemporary skateboarders? We are keen to hear from anyone with ideas and time to encourage this.
The full story of The Skate Boys of Faversham 1910-3, by Fred Poynter, has been published in a second edition as Faversham Papers 61, price £7.50.
The DVD of Geoff’s musical is normally on sale at the Fleur or can be purchased via our online store here
The new Swale Heritage Strategy adopted and published in March, 2020, was welcomed by the Faversham Society. There is much to commend the policy that has raised the importance of our built heritage in Swale’s planning, tourism and economic regeneration plans.
Faversham has a remarkably large number of listed buildings reflecting centuries of history, our maritime trade significance and our location on Watling Street between London, Canterbury and Dover.
The town turned its back on the creek as the agricultural and industrial land on both sides was developed for housing. As Arthur Percival wrote to the town clerk in 2013, objecting to the proposals being developed for the Creek Neighbourhood Plan, the steering group had “chosen to regard the creek as a street, like one in suburban London”. As Arthur reminded the steering group, “the creek is not a street. It is a highway to the sea, and to the world beyond our island. It has served as such for centuries, since Roman and probably also pre-Roman times.” His words were not heeded.
Swale is consulting on a new Local Plan, and our town council is developing a Neighbourhood Plan for the whole parish to help shape the development of Faversham. This provides an opportunity to reconnect the town and port of Faversham. After all, the creek explains our location, much of our heritage and our prosperity until the coming of the railway in mid-Victorian times. These new plans and the highlighting of heritage at risk has created two important heritage opportunities for the town.
The Town Warehouse, which is listed Grade II*, is used by the Sea Cadets and known as TS Hazard. It sits with the Pump House (1911), used by the Creek Boxing Club, on Town Quay. All have been owned by Swale Council since local government reorganisation in 1974.
The Faversham Society is talking to Swale about how these two buildings on Town Quay, itself used for the nautical and food festivals, might be repurposed.
We would like to see a new Maritime Heritage Quarter delivering on conservation, heritage, leisure and tourism objectives and reaffirming the importance of Faversham Creek and maritime trade to the town’s character.
Faversham could be a gateway to the maritime heritage of Swale linked through the Medway to the National Maritime Museum in London and around the coast through the Cinque Ports to Rye. The suggestion of a Cinque Ports Museum was raised with the Lord Warden, Admiral Lord Boyce, in November, 2017, and he was supportive of the idea.
We would like the Pump House to be repurposed alongside the warehouse to create sufficient space in the two buildings to include a natural heritage interpretation centre. The boxing club and the Sea Cadets will be found alternative accommodation.
The Engine Shed and Carriage Shed (1858) between the railway lines east of Faversham station are Grade II listed and have been decaying for many years. We think that there is an opportunity to see them restored for heritage, community and commercial use and that it may be possible to open a footpath and cycleway route across this land for the new developments to the east of Faversham to Station Road and the town centre.
We shall report progress on favershamsociety.org/blog
It’s eight months since Alok Sharma, secretary of state for business industry and industrial strategy granted the consent order for Wirsol Energy Ltd and Hive Energy to develop the massive solar power station at Cleve Hill. Since then we have heard very little, so what is happening?
Well, as far as the Department for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy is concerned, Alok Sharma left his job in January. As far as the developers are concerned, they are saying very little and their last “community newsletter” was in July, 2019. Clearly, since they had been given approval they have felt no obligation to provide local updates on a project that is set to blight the community and primary school with two years of heavy traffic and disruption and could pose unacceptable risks of fire and explosion for decades.
Recently, as reported in Kentonline, the developers have provided indications that despite plans to start construction work this spring they are now talking about “nearer to the end of 2021”.
What we do know however is that Wirsol is still awaiting judgment in a High Court case in which they have been sued for £41 million by Toucan Energy Holdings, another energy company. The case is in relation to 19 solar farms that Wirsol sold to Toucan, of which 15 were “blighted by defects” that made them inoperable due to a failure to meet safety and electrical regulations. Judgment on the case, which ended in November, 2020, is not expected until May 2021.
What was also clearly admitted during the court case is that Wirsol is actively seeking to sell the whole Cleve Hill £450 million project to an unknown bidder. Even though it was never mentioned by the developer in their proposal or at any point in the public examination of the plan, the Faversham Society has suspected this for some time since Wirsol describes itself in its annual accounts as a company that “designs and builds solar parks for resale”. However, this along with the information above serves to illustrate that extreme diligence will be needed to ensure that all obligations are met and all legal, safety and environmental regulations are adhered to in the detailed design and construction phases.
The development consent order is akin to outline planning permission and so the only opportunities to mitigate some of the adverse effects of this outrageous development are through the requirements in the consent order to meet a large number of planning requirements for which the responsible planning authority is Swale Borough Council. These must be made through a series of plans, only one of which (on archaeology) has so far been submitted.
Further detailed plans are required from the developer for Swale’s approval on all aspects of the project. It is expected that as these plans are submitted, Swale will consult widely, including with local bodies such as the Faversham Society and where appropriate consult appropriate expert advisers. Changes at this stage by the developer are common (as technology develops, for example) but they require consultation.
As Faversham Society members are aware, of particular public concern are the safety aspects associated with the proposed battery energy storage system. Lithium-ion storage systems continue to be the source of fires and explosions at sites throughout the world and have been extensively examined in several authoritative official reports.
The lithium-ion batteries proposed for Cleve Hill at 700MWh (megawatt hours) are almost five times larger than the previous largest in the world and therefore their planning must be subject to an unprecedented level of scrutiny.
In a webinar in December, 2020, the solicitor representing the developers admitted that battery safety/fire hazard is one of the biggest issues to be resolved. It is clear that the larger the number of containers, the greater is the risk of an inevitable individual fire and the greater is the risk of it spreading with catastrophic consequences.
All that the developer has produced so far is an “outline battery fire safety management plan” dated August, 2019, which is a sketchy summary of what is required in a final plan, with a list of documents consulted. It also misleadingly suggests approval by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service which the service has denied in writing.
An example of the inadequacy of the approach is the statement that the hundreds of containers that house the thousands of individual batteries will be at least 3 metres apart when it is known from the official report of the most thoroughly documented fire in Arizona that flames of 50-70ft (15-22m) emanated from a burning lithium-ion battery container. The explosion associated with this event also injured nine firefighters.
What is required now is a detailed design and plan which is approved by the Health and Safety Executive and Kent Fire and Rescue Service which covers all fire prevention, suppression and responder access and safety aspects and is specific to a battery energy storage system of this unprecedented scale. Scrutiny, expert input and, if necessary, modification of this document before approval by Swale Council is essential to mitigate the self-evident risks of the Cleve Hill development. In the view of the Faversham Society this should consider safer alternatives to lithium-ion batteries and a complete redesign of the spacing of individual container units as well as a reappraisal
of the scale of the overall battery system.
Having watched the story of the excavation at Sutton Hoo retold, with a little romantic licence, in The Dig, showing on Netflix, I thought: why is the story of the Kingsfield Anglo-Saxon burial site in Faversham not as well known as the story of Sutton Hoo? The finds were certainly greater and richer and revealed much about the peoples living here in the 5th-8th century, the so-called Dark Ages.
While all the Sutton Hoo treasure is now in the British Museum, and the collection can be displayed with story of the excavation, the treasures from Faversham are widely dispersed in many museums including, our own Maison Dieu, the British Museum, the V&A, the Ashmolean, the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as museums in Canterbury, Maidstone, Rochester, Cambridge University, Liverpool, and Birmingham.
Basil Brown, played in the film by Ralph Fiennes, was central to the Sutton Hoo dig and established high standards and meticulously recorded all that was found. The same did not happen in Faversham, with there being no central character responsible; the finds were the result of excavations to lay the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway line, beginning in 1858.
It is estimated that the Kingsfield cemetery contained 600 graves, most of them containing grave goods. This was no archaeological dig. No standards were set and there was no central point where items were recorded. At the time, many antiquarians, local and from across the country, were buying the finds from the workmen. These then went into their private collections, or to auction, and thus there is no definitive record of the total of the finds, and it is likely that there was no one grave where all the finds were kept together in the same collection.
Two of the many diverse antiquarian collectors were from Faversham. William Gibbs acquired a large collection, and this was bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in 1870. This was then transferred to the British Museum in 1895. If you inquire of the British Museum customer service desk as to where they can be viewed, you will be referred to the Sutton Hoo gallery, although I have yet to find a piece from Faversham exhibited. You can, however, view many of the pieces of the Gibbs Collection online, for example a gold tear-shaped pendant set with garnets and blue glass and with filigree rim (see facing page).
William Palmer Hoare was a physician in Faversham from 1838 to 1865. After his death, members of the family emigrated to Australia. A glass beaker from his collection was exhibited at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (now the Power House Museum) in Sydney between 1951 and 1984. It is now in the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
Even if we cannot expect the fame of a film such as The Dig, or even a modest documentary, what can we learn from the Kingsfield treasures?
The period after the Romans withdrew has often been called the Dark Ages. Although the Roman infrastructure would have continued in use for some time, the building material of choice was wood, and these wooden structures have not survived.
There is also very little surviving written evidence from the era. Frequently we read that the Romans considered the tribes occupying the lands outside their borders to be savages and wild men.
In the writings of Bede, (672/3-735) and others, penned some centuries later, we hear of the Jutes, Hengist and Horsa, fighting first for Vortigern, King of the Britons, and later against him. Whether invited or not, the peoples who settled in Kent, and also the Isle of Wight and parts of Hampshire, were predominately the Jutes. The Saxons populated Essex, Sussex and Wessex and the Angles settled in East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumberland.
The Kingsfield burial ground, in use during the 5th to 8th centuries, shows that while they were not yet Christian, they were far from savages. They believed that their worldly possessions were valuable in the afterlife and so the goods that they were buried with reflected their status in life. The finds show that this graveyard was for high status individuals. Many of the men were buried with their ceremonial swords, shields, knives and amulets or body armour and the women with exquisite jewellery. The known jewellery finds includes bracelets, beads, brooches, necklaces, pendants, pins, and rings. High class glass vessels were also found, and we can view some at the Maison Dieu. The Gibbs Collection at the British Museum also includes some Roman pottery suggesting continuity, rather than changes in customs and use.
Some of the finds must have been imported, for example bronze Coptic bowls from Egypt and wheel-turned pottery from southern France. There were cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean and precious stones, (garnets and amethysts), probably from India, which demonstrates that their trade had spread beyond Europe. Other pieces show that many of the designs have influences from various parts of Europe, but the designs and techniques evolved showing that much was also made locally. As some designs incorporate Celtic tradition influences, perhaps this reflects the integration with the indigenous population.
The name Faversham is believed to be derived from the Latin “faber” and/or the Old English “faefer”, conjoined with “ham” giving the meaning “homestead of the smith”. The presence of high-class, locally made jewellery and highly decorated swords and shields, suggests that there were several smiths in the area, including gold and silver smiths as well as the ubiquitous black (iron) smith.
These new residents of our county were therefore good warriors who traded widely and produced crafts of the highest quality. It is a pity that the opportunity to learn more of these people was lost. The evidence that emerges from Kingsfield and Sutton Hoo demonstrates that they were a well-organised society, not savages. Enough has been discovered to show that there was enlightenment during the Dark Ages, and that our corner of England was, and still is, home to highly sophisticated people.
REVIEW BY PAT REID
The Netflix story of the excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship burial covers what is probably the most dramatic piece of archaeology in England. Excavating the form of the ship – the impression made in the ground by long-gone timbers – displays the highest level of excavational skill. The treasures found in the centre of the ship are, in my view, incomparable, even to Tutankhamun’s grave goods.
Sadly, the film The Dig did not do justice to the archaeology itself (the bit where they snatched the 6th-7th century treasures out of the ground must have led to major wincing in archaeological viewers) but the story of the project itself was told in moving detail. The contrast between Basil Brown (a self-taught working man paid 30 shillings a week) and Charles Phillips from the British Museum brought home the profound social class divisions at that time.
In the film these class tensions were eased by a mild flirtation between Edith Pretty and Basil (wasn’t Ralph Fiennes brilliant? Unrecognisable!) but that was fiction. Edith was in fact 55 at that time, plainer and much more distanced from the plebs though she did defend the amazing finds and turn down a CBE award because of her donation of the Sutton Hoo finds to the British Museum.
Another liberty taken with reality was the romance between Peggy Piggott and Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax. Rory is entirely fictional (sorry!). A more subtle fiction was the presentation of Charles Phillips as posh. In fact, he had an impoverished middle-class upbringing with his father committing suicide when Charles was six years old: support from the Freemasons helped his schooling and he went to Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Films, of course, always manipulate and compress the truth. One aspect, though, where this one fully portrayed reality was the coming of the Second World War. The Sutton Hoo finds spent the war in a Tube station tunnel in London. Another reality was the beautiful watery Suffolk landscape (although those weren’t the real Sutton Hoo mounds, which are bigger, grassier and more dramatically sited than the ones in the film).
If this film has caught your interest, then once this pandemic is over Sutton Hoo is not far away. There is a splendid visitor centre that tells you all about later excavations and the theories of what this was all about. Edith’s house is now owned by the National Trust and, under normal circumstances, open to the public. There are also wonderful walks around the grounds and the burial mounds. Forty miles away is a restored early Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow, near Bury St Edmunds. For anyone intrigued by the remarkable 7th century Anglo-Saxon finds at the Market Inn, Faversham, in 2019 visiting these sites is a revelation: as was said in the film, the Dark Ages are no longer so dark.
If you want to read about the Faversham 7th century dig (OA186), go to www.community-archaeology.org.uk
Clive Foreman's talk Faversham on the Map delivered on Zoom on 27th January 2021 was a great success. If you missed it or would like to see it again you can watch it below
Caesar in Kent: Did he land at Pegwell Bay? A talk from the Kent Archaeological Society
Antony Millett has just written a charming piece on Abbey Street published on the VisitFaversham/VisitSwale and VisitKent websites.
He writes: “Abbey Street, Faversham, has been described as ‘probably the finest medieval street in England’. It was possibly the first street in England to have its carriageway narrowed when everywhere else, since the advent of the motor car, was having their roads widened. There are over 50 listed buildings here.”
VisitFaversham & VisitSwale are hungry for more – get in touch if you’d like to write about a part or aspect of our town.
We have the pages of information about Faversham’s history which used to be on the Faversham.org website but have now been removed. If you would like to edit them so that they can be hosted on our website please get in touch.
Faversham Paper No 10, Faversham History Trails, by John Cadman and Arthur Percival, was first published in 1970. Revisions were made by Arthur in 1978 and 1997. An update, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first edition was planned for 2020 but will now appear post-pandemic.
In addition to bringing the walks up to date, I would like to update the biographies of the original authors and I am in need of help. Below is the detail about John Cadman. If anyone can suggest updates, additions or corrections, please contact me: at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Cadman, born and educated in London, moved to Faversham in December,1962, and shortly afterwards joined the Faversham Society. He also became a member of the executive committee of the newly formed Faversham Residents’ Association. He continued to serve on this committee until 1969 and was secretary of the association for two years.
Active work for the Faversham Society began in 1967 when he volunteered to act as the local recorder for the portrait survey, which the County Local History Committee launched on behalf of the National Portrait Gallery. From 1969 to 1971 he was vice-chairman of the Faversham Society and was elected chairman in 1972. He held this post until 1974 when he moved to Nottingham on promotion in his Civil Service department, HM Land Registry.
He remained an enthusiastic member of the Faversham Society and for several years he organised visits to places of interest for Faversham Society members and also guided tours of the town for visiting parties. Until 1974 he also organised Open House events for the society when historic houses and other buildings of architectural and historic interest, not normally open to the public, can be visited. Faversham History Trails was originally written by Mr Cadman in July, 1970, as a contribution to the Festival of Faversham held that summer.
He was also chairman of the Faversham Residents’ Football Club, which played in the Herne Bay and Whitstable Sunday League, and was a member of Swale Footpaths Group, the Sheppey Group, and Kent Archaeological Society.
Our dear colleague and friend Pam Boorman died at 16 January. Pam and her team organised memorable Faversham Society coach trips. In the Visitor Information Centre, Pam helped with ordering books and stocktaking. She was unflappable and even-tempered (no mean feat!) and was always a reliable and knowledgeable steward for Open House. No doubt her people skills were a result of being manager of a bank in Faversham.
Pam, in spite of ill health, remained calm and cheerful and enjoyed life. Her dry sense of humour, warmth and understanding will be much missed.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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