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Faversham Society News - March 2023

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

Flooded homes in Faversham remind us that the town on is on the edge of a marsh where mosquitos breed. Note the builder on his makeshift raft

Chairman's Column


You may have seen the photograph of flooded houses in the Neighbourhood Plan, a reminder that Faversham is on a creek at edge of the marsh.

Marsh ague, or fever, now known as malaria, was a major killer. The last case of homegrown malaria was recorded on the Isle of Sheppey in 1952.

On 31 January, 1953, a storm over the North Sea combined with a spring tide brought flooding along the Kent coast from Sheerness to Deal and surged up the Medway as far as Maidstone. More than 500 people were killed on land and at sea in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

A tidal surge in December, 2013, overtopped the sea defences and the odd sailing boat ended on the marsh on the wrong side of the seawall at Oare.

Extensive flooding in Faversham and campaigning by Hilary Whelan, among others, subsequently resulted in the bund on the creekside. Further works are planned as the threat worsens, with sea level rise and increasing storm activity associated with climate change.

It is good to see our Heritage Centre opening for half-term, and our publications team is producing some attractive and informative books, and updating Faversham Papers with new illustrations.

Planning for Open Gardens in June is beginning. The town will again be buzzing with people passing between the gardens, map and guide in hand. This annual event brings great joy to the garden owners and visitors alike and contributes significantly to the Faversham Society’s funds, for which we are very grateful.

We were planning two linked Open Faversham weekends in July, 2020 – then came Covid and lockdowns. The Faversham Museums Together group, along with many other groups and organisations in the town, will be participating in an Open Faversham week running across the town from 12 to 20 August. We shall be celebrating our town’s cultural, natural and built heritage with residents and visitors alike. If you are interested or know people who may be, come along to the first planning meeting at the Assembly Rooms on 9 March at 7pm.

You can read more about mosquitoes and why the marshes matter on favershamlife.org/maligned-marshland


The Faversham Conservation Area under appraisal

Vital conservation plan


The Faversham Conservation Area Appraisal is under way. In the Neighbourhood Plan there are frequent references to the importance of new development not damaging Faversham’s conservation areas, so reviewing the existing conservation area is important in maintaining our town’s built heritage.

The Faversham Conservation Area was created in 1971 and has not been reviewed since. The review is important to ensure that the conservation area can be defended and used to ensure that development is sympathetic to our townscape.

An exhibition will be held in the Town Hall from 20 March to 5 April. It will include drawings of the streetscapes of Faversham town centre done by Anthony Swaine Architects at one-eighth scale for the Faversham “facelift” scheme, modelled on the Civic Trust’s pioneering project for Magdalene St Norwich.

There is a Zoom session from 7pm to 8pm on Tuesday, 21 March, for you to hear about the conservation area appraisal process and ask your questions. To join the Zoom meeting, use this link

These are some of the delicate Edwardian and Victorian Valentine cards we have in our collection. They are on display at half-term, to inspire our visitors to create some Valentine-themed crafts of their own.

Museum reopens for half term


With a thanks to the cleaning efforts of society volunteers, the Fleur Museum will be opening from Monday 13 February to Saturday 18 February.

You can admire our gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian Valentine cards (above) and make your own Valentine-inspired craft in our dedicated area. Or, to tie in with the Faversham Literary Festival, take a look at all the literary connections we found and have featured in a display in the museum gallery area, as well as some real Tudor treasures.

Children can also design their own book covers in the craft area.

Museum entry and craft activities are free for all and just the thing to keep the kids entertained this half term.

The fall and rise of Abbey Street


An abbey Street home before restoration || The formidable-looking Florrie Gowers with Sheldwich girls in 1910. Not all the girls look pleased to be there! || cricket is still played on Sheldwich Lees today

This month we have a new Faversham Paper – The Story of Abbey Street, by Dr Nigel Morgan.

Nigel recently updated the Arden’s House and Cottage paper, and has now written a fascinating story of the whole street – which has been described as the finest medieval street in England – from earliest times, through precarious times when it fell from grace and was almost demolished – up to the present day.

Nigel’s style is very readable and he has crammed it full of detail of the lives of some of the former inhabitants.

The 90 pages includes “then and now” photographs of many of the houses, showing the love and care that has gone into restoring them.

You can buy it as a downloadable PDF, priced £6 from our website. Or, if you prefer a printed copy, these are available at the Visitor Information Centre, priced £9.

If you live outside Faversham, we can post them to you with a small additional charge to cover postage. Please see website for details.

In addition this month, a popular paper written by Mike Johnson, uncovering the long history of Sheldwich, is also now available direct from the website as a downloadable PDF, priced at £3.80. It also includes some information on the nearby villages of Badlesmere, Selling, Throwley and Leaveland. The paper has almost 200 photographs, and viewing it online makes it much easier to see the detail. Here is a link: favershamsociety.org/product/faversham-society-papers-a-history-of-sheldwich.

Wonderful gardens open


Are you proud of your garden? Enough to allow us to open it to the public?

We are asking garden-owners – long-time residents or new to the area – to take part in the Faversham Society’s Open Gardens Day in June. It’s a wonderful day for the town. No matter how big or small, as long as you love your garden, then we’d love you to take part on Sunday, 25 June.

Thirty gardens took part last year, and about 1,500 visitors enjoyed many types of gardens – wildlife, courtyard, walled and waterside – across the town.

You can also follow us on Instagram at @favershamopengardens and on Facebook under Faversham Open Gardens.

If your garden has access other than through your home, is within reasonable walking distance or a very short drive from the town centre and you would be happy to show it to visitors, please contact favershamopengardens@gmail.com for more information

Blue Waller: a wartime love story


A woman entered the Fleur Bookshop carrying a small blue plastic wallet which was bulging with documents. “Would you like this as a donation?” she said. Ann and I stared at the wallet, bemused, speechless for a few seconds. We accept donations of books, of course, as well as other non-bookish items from time to time – but a plastic wallet?

“OK,” I said. “What’s in it, if I may ask?” (Intrigued, Ann was already in the act of removing and examining a few choice items.)

“A bit of family history. Young couple. Second World War. Diaries, letters, fragments of a love story, I think. Not my family,” the woman hastened to add. “I bought it.”

That was particularly intriguing. Why would anyone buy a plastic wallet stuffed with personal documents that did not involve members of their own family – and then decide to donate it to the Fleur Bookshop? The plot thickened. The woman, satisfied when we kindly accepted this rather unusual donation, thanked us and promptly left the shop – but not until we had thanked her, despite a degree of scepticism on our part.

Ann and I pondered, and then discussed it. What do we do with these documents? The first thing was to examine a few at random but in some detail. We were delighted with what we had discovered. There were indeed diaries, two tiny ones full of tiny handwriting in black ink and green ink and pencil (1930 and 1945); a cache of letters between the members of two families (variously dated); a wedding invitation; a New Testament; The Gospel of St John (Active Service Edition, 1939); a driving licence; and a Liverpool Victoria insurance policy (1935). A veritable puzzle of seemingly ill-fitting pieces.

Ann and I agreed that I would take the blue wallet home and study the documents in greater detail before returning them to the bookshop which, of course, I would do in due course. This did not seem like a collection that anyone would buy, but rather study and attempt to arrange logically to reveal a story that may well be heart-rending.

It struck me after a preliminary examination that these documents, jumbled as they were, constituted the remaining fragments of a love story between two young people clearly besotted with each other before, during and after the Second World War. They lived in the area of Stoke-on-Trent and expressed their mutual devotion when the young man was abroad on active service. It includes a wedding and a honeymoon, and the final words of the young woman’s diary of 1945 reads: “Arrived Blackpool … heavenly honeymoon … happiest week of my life …” That revelation moved me, despite the passing of the years: perhaps because of the passing of the years.

Perusing these documents, which I have done only superficially so far, I feel an uneasy sense of prying into others’ lives; but perhaps their story should be told, as much as it can after 80 years, and not entirely lost to history. I would like to write a book of social history focusing on this young couple, partly to honour them in the bright and loving days of their youth, even though I never met them, and have only the contents of a small blue plastic wallet to go on.

It seems a pathetic thing – all that’s left – but it clearly meant so much at the time and possibly still does.

I must return the wallet to the Fleur Bookshop and hope that others may develop an interest in it. The contents are, after all, a reflection and a celebration of two young people in the quick of life under the shadow of war. May their memories remain, perhaps cherished by their descendants, as well as locked in these documents.

Pioneering Perambulation


The Faversham Society library has the second edition of William Lambarde’s A Perambulation of Kent published in 1596. It has a later leather binding.

The book includes history of the towns of Kent. It is the first county history in Britain and became a model for other county history books to follow. It includes the first published history of Faversham and has a folded map of Kent, the first printed map of the county. Instead of showing roads it displays the location of beacons which were to be lit at time of national emergency such as the Armada. In the case of Faversham, this was on Telegraph Hill, the hill before Syndale coming into town.

Perambulation also features the first printed and published map of Britain, which shows the seven Saxon kingdoms.

Mormon migration


I want to thank John Breeze for his excellent database of those who worked at the gunpower works (Newsletter, February, 2023).

I am an avid family historian and have followed many of the Faversham families through the records. John’s database is new to me.

It might be of interest to know that one of those in the database, Isaac Stephens/Stevens (favershamsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/GunpowderDocuments/GS013.pdf) – listed in the 1861 census as “Lab in Powder Works” and living on Tanners Street – cannot be found in Faversham after that as he and his large family emigrated to America on the SS Manchester in 1862.

They were part of a great Mormon migration out of Kent around this time. Isaac lived until 1901 and there are a great many descendants of this family in the United States today.

Thirty volumes for sale


The Fleur second-hand bookshop is selling a collection of Archaeologia Cantiana, the Kent history archaeology/ history books.

These are the first 30 volumes and run from 1858 to 1911. They did not appear every year.  An extra volume in 1906, Testamenta, is included.

Each volume is consecutively numbered and contain illustrations and several pull-outs.

They are a mix of acceptable to good condition, with some fading of the blue boards, general wear and tear and a few with loose binding. Price: £150, can deliver.

For further details please contact me, Wendy Clarke, on 01795 529166.

February 11, 2023

Faversham Society Newsletter

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The Faversham Society Newsletter is edited by Stephen Rayner, who is independent of the board.

Contributions are welcomed, and should be received by midday on the 15th of the month before publication, by email to favnewsletter@gmail.com. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Faversham Society or of the editor. All contributions will be edited and the editor’s decision is final.

Faversham Society Opening Times

Opening times for The Visitor Information Centre, Book & Gift Shops, Fleur de Lis Museum and Chart Gunpowder Mills vary throughout year.  The latest opening times can be found on the right-hand panel of every page on the Society's main web site

The Faversham Society is a Registered Charity No 1135262 and a company limited by guarantee
Registered in England and Wales No 7112241

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