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The St Mary of Charity Parish Church silver, including four large flagons dating from the reign of Charles I, went on public display the first time in more than 40 years as part of the Open Faversham celebrations
Society trustee Jonathan Carey explains the finer points of pointing a flint church such as St Mary of Charity
A peal of bells rang out on Sunday afternoon as the 50-plus performances, talks, guided and unguided tours, exhibitions, skills workshops, and children’s activities of Open Faversham drew to a close.
Open Faversham is a celebration of our town’s rich built, cultural and natural heritage organised by the Faversham Society and the Friends of St Mary of Charity. The parish church provides a large venue for exhibitions and performances and a space where the community can come together. This year we – I am chairman of the friends as well as the Faversham Society – have been raising money for a kitchen and accessible toilets to encourage wider use by the community. The opening event in the church, with the opportunity to see the church silver on display for the first time in more than 40 years, was particularly popular.
There was space in the church for the Faversham Gunpowder WI members to show their postbox toppers and for people to meet Arthur, who was knitted to mark the end of the First World War. The Fire Crackers exhibition was much enjoyed by the hundreds who visited the church each day. There were good audiences for The Charmed Life of Arden and A Sideways Launch.
The sequence of maps showing the expansion of Faversham displayed in the church, where there is space to display them on both sides of the centre aisle, was a big success, with more than 600 people poring over them. People like maps; they are a great way to understand a town and its history. Dean Ramsden’s video work presented on his Faversham TV channel on YouTube was recognised at a ceremony in the Alexander Centre. His film of Faversham from above, with contrasting images of the town through the ages, was shown in the church all week. You can watch it on YouTube. The photographs in shop windows of the premises in bygone days were also a big hit.
The talks in the Guildhall drew large audiences and many new faces. Patricia Diaz’s talk on Mary English, a Freedom Fighter from Faversham, attracted 30 or more. John Owen’s talk on Faversham Streets, Houses, Owners and Occupations 1672-1840 filled the Guildhall, and we had to turn people away, encouraging them to come to a second sitting.
Matthew Hatchwell’s All About Eels attracted 45. The bat walk attracted 45 to the churchyard, and we saw and heard them. The geology walks examining the stones of Faversham were very popular. Jonathan Carey’s guided walk to learn about the bricks of our town attracted 45 and a similar number for his guided tour of St Mary of Charity.
The final event of this year’s Open Faversham was a short walk around the centre of Faversham to hear about drama in Faversham in Shakespeare’s day and with two short performances concluding with the murder of Thomas Arden in Abbey Street. Some 70 people, residents and visitors, enjoyed this unique experience, and some joined the cast. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays in 1623. In last month’s newsletter, Paul Moorbath described the exhibition now open in the Fleur. Do pop into the museum to see it. See the back page of this newsletter for opening times.
The gunpowder walks around the town and at the Oare Gunpowder Works were popular and well received and the Chart Mill was included in the guided Westbrook walks, which sold out. Twenty of us enjoyed a “hard hat and safety boots” tour of the former Marsh Gunpowder Works. Next year we shall have an Open Faversham event there celebrating Faversham’s gunpowder heritage.
We organised Open Faversham in August to celebrate our heritage for visitors and residents alike and to provide activities for children during the school holidays. Another Open Faversham will be held in August 2024. We hope that even more groups will participate next year.
Finally, thanks to all those who contributed to the success of Open Faversham – there are too many to mention. Many, but not all, were thanked during the week, but Liz Vinson was not. Her sterling work promoting Open Faversham on social media engaged many new faces and helped bring broad community support and many new faces. John Owen summed it up in his comment, “It was a super evening with lots of new faces with enquiring questions... community and culture.”
Open Faversham has reminded us both of our rich heritage and the community’s interest in it. We must do more to involve the people of Faversham, adults and children alike, in learning about and enjoying our heritage.
Carey’s cohort gaze at the wonders of the Spice Lounge’s mathematical tiles
Jonathan Carey delivered a colourful and engaging walking tour that brought to life some of the lesser-known aspects of brickwork found within Faversham’s vernacular.
The talk began within the Fleur Heritage Centre where 50 society members were acquainted with the arduous process of brick manufacturing. The trial of standing within the crowded and humid room immediately dissipated with the revelation that a Victorian labourer had a personal hourly quota of moving 1,000 wet clay bricks towards a kiln.
Samples of misfired London stocks were passed around assisting to demonstrate the refinement of clay and chalk within brick clamps to create a perfectly pale stock.
Bemused patrons of the Spice Lounge looked upon our cohort peering upward at the perfectly formed, if not a little tired, red mathematical tiles within Edward Jacob’s Georgian upgrade of the 14th-century, timber-framed building.
The tour continued south along Preston Street towards Delbridge House but first observing the fine Flemish Bond brickwork and rubbed brick arches to the Regency construction of Shepherd House.
A round of applause was given to the proud owners of Delbridge House once their recent endeavour of tuck-pointing the entire front elevation had been fully understood. The process involves colour matching a lime mortar to the red bricks and while still green, returning to score a section to receive a thinner line of white lime mortar. The work requires patience given that one skilled worker can achieve the equivalent of 0.5 square metres in a day.
The English Bond red brickwork and bath stone mullioned casement windows were observed within the mid-Victorian Gothic almshouses on South Road.
The group was then guided up the former ropewalk of Cross Lane where the boundary walls still provide a visual demonstration of the numerous ways in which secondary bricks can be utilised. A peer over the fence to the north revealed a significant drop in height, giving a lasting reminder of an historic clay pit sunk in what now forms gardens to the surrounding houses.
The talk ended at Cooksditch House. Here, Jonathan recounted that the building had been originally conceived as a red-brick farmhouse, but that it had been renovated in the early 19th century.
These works brought the building to the modern taste of the day, which was for pale masonry. We were drawn to the detailing of the windows, which at the reveals showed a variation in colour providing the evidence that the frontage is constructed from mathematical tiles.
Jonathan’s talk provided a rare glimpse into the anatomy of some of the more visual aspects of buildings that we take for granted in both their construction and appearance.
In July we were fortunate to be invited into the garden of 75 West Street as part of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group’s annual two-week dig.
The many finds were varied and interesting – including a larger than usual amount of Roman pottery. Among these were two pieces of Samianware, which is high-quality orange/red tableware produced in Gaul. On close inspection one piece was found to be a fake!
Among our other finds were two brass Nuremberg jetons (from the French jeter, to cast or throw), tokens used for accounting or gambling. Both are about the size of a 2p coin.
Pictured at the top is a Fortuna Variabilis Plutanus jeton, dated 1582 and minted by Hans Krauwinckel. It is in very good condition. Above is a copper alloy Nuremberg jeton minted by Hans Schultz, of which there were three. The last one stopped producing these c. 1613.
We also found evidence of an earlier building.
A patten to accommodate high heels. Our pointy pike shoe from the 1400s
I love shoes. I have had a few lucky pairs and can remember exactly which ones I was wearing at a particular time in my life. I am not alone!
Shoes have long been associated with good luck and warding off evil spirits, although it is not entirely clear why. Shoes were often found concealed in medieval and Tudor buildings.
The practice continued for many years. They were usually concealed up the chimneys but sometimes in the rafters or under the floorboards.
This hidden footwear, always in singles, has been a particularly fascinating source of information for historians and here in Faversham we have a huge range of suitable housing for potential discoveries.
Only a few shoes have come our way, so far, and what we have were on show at our Open Faversham exhibition at the Fleur Museum.
We have a single shoe, dated from the late 1400s. It is in poor condition as you would expect and does not show any of its original colour. However, you can see its long-pointed toe. It is made from thin leather and is missing its sole.
The toes of medieval shoes grew to such lengths that laws were passed to limit this. They were called crackowes after the city in Poland (now Kraków) where they are said to have originated. The crackowe, or pike, dates from the late 1400s, and the long-pointed toe may have been stuffed with moss or hair, which kept the toe straight but curving it off the ground, making it marginally easier for the wearer to walk.
By 1500, pointed toes had died out, the emphasis changed from the vertical gothic points to the horizontal. There is the famous Holbein portrait of Henry VIII showing the King in a self-confident pose, feet planted apart. The slashings of his costume echoed in his square cut shoes. Sadly, silk and velvet shoes did not survive other than in portraits.
It is possible that a congenital royal deformity started this new fashion. Charles VIII of France (1470-98), for example, was reported to have six toes on each foot.
So, what do you wear to protect your velvet shoes, embroidered with silken thread and sewn with pearls? You wear a protective cork or wooden soled clog or patten as they were known. Thought to have originated in Venice, the idea quickly caught on throughout Europe.
These developed into exaggerated platforms and then into the modern heel that we know today.
We have two pattens in the museum. The smallest is thought to have belonged to a child. It has a wooden sole with leather straps and what looks like a piece of fabric used for the fastening. The larger one has a leather sole and a raised instep area to accommodate the high heels that were starting to be worn by Queen Elizabeth I and her court. The patten would have been fastened with leather ties and in theory keep your delicate shoes out of the mud.
Pirate John Ward with steward Rod Morley; a young Tudor lady; and a buccaneer bear at the Fleur
Open Faversham at the Fleur de Lis Museum was a great success with more than 600 visitors over five days and our thanks go to the volunteers who worked so hard to pull it all together.
People came to town to see the Katherine Parr and Shakespeare exhibits. We also had lots for families to see and do. They ranged from having their photograph taken with pirate Captain John Ward – and lots of pirate crew craft activities – to dressing up in Tudor costume. We were thrilled to see so many younger visitors and their grown-ups enjoying exploring the museum.
The Faversham Museum Pirate Crew badges were proudly worn and the challenging gem trail (thank you Kit!) proved a hit.
Members of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) set up in the courtyard had many visitors young and old, who enjoyed examining some of their interesting finds and learning what they were. Many visitors commented that they had not visited the museum before and were amazed by how much we have managed to pack in!
We hope that now they have discovered what a treasure trove it is, they will visit again.
I love reading, in common with all the other volunteers in the Fleur Bookshop, otherwise I wouldn’t be there. I really appreciate the enthusiasm expressed by customers who come in and buy books.
But, in addition to reading the words on the page, what appeals to me and, I’m sure, many others, is the physicality of the book. The fact that it is a solid object made of paper and ink, not simply an abstract receptacle of language, illustrations and ideas. I cannot imagine reading much of any length on a screen. Digitised books are a big turn-off and I can understand why.
Keen readers, “traditionalists” if you like, gain pleasure from feeling the weight of a book, want to turn its pages, admire the allure of the cover, read the blurb, even take note of the handwritten comments that previous owners have made throughout the text. Sometimes bookmarks, postcards, tickets, shopping lists, even the petals of dried flowers are left inside – little fragments of personal history – which make a connection between this reader and a previous one.
Some people read incredibly swiftly. I have known customers buy a novel from the bookshop and bring it back a few days later, having not only read it from cover to cover but thoroughly enjoyed it – and then request a search for other books by the same author. So many of the books are re-donated by satisfied booklovers. The American comic Steven Wright once said: “I just got out of hospital. I was in a speed-reading accident. I hit a bookmark.”
We boast a large crime fiction section; it is a popular go-to area of the shop, lodged between contemporary fiction and classics. J. B. Priestley tells us: “When you come to the end of a crime novel, something at least in this huge, chaotic world has been settled.”
But let me return to the subject of books themselves, those lovely physical objects which, when deciphered, open out worlds within worlds and in a sense provide us with a parallel universe. So many visitors to the Fleur Bookshop say: “I’ve always loved reading since I sat on my mother’s knee,” or: “When I read novels, I feel taken out of myself, I become another person, one of the characters.” If a few pounds spent produces such a transformation, however temporary, then the venture must be worthwhile.
Perhaps a little cynically, Bertrand Russell once said: “There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” Of the many visitors to the Fleur, I have yet to come across anyone who “boasted” about reading a book, but countless numbers who have expressed great satisfaction. Just as it should be.
Of course, as many of us know, there is little to beat a gripping novel – it helps one ignore mowing the lawn or washing the car or wondering where the next meal’s coming from. It provides an invaluable distraction from the more mundane activities of everyday life. I have a certain sympathy with Nora Ephron, the American journalist and Oscar-winning screenwriter, who said: “I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish it I’ll know how it turned out.” I hope that she was never disappointed.
Picking up a book, feeling its weight, its exterior texture, and studying an exquisite cover design, induces one to anticipate one of the greatest adventures in life – and all while sitting in an easy chair by the fire or stretched out on the sun-lounger.
The vanished statue of the water carrier, revived for Open Faversham
The statue and water fountain in its Edwardian heyday.
This charming interpretation of the statue that once stood at the eastern end of the Rec was created by artist Andy Evans as part of a chalk drawing workshop for Open Faversham in conjunction with Swale Council.
The drawing caught my eye while I was waiting for the bat walk to start on Sunday evening and prompts me to ask: Is it time to have a new statue commissioned?
Newcomers to town may wonder about the origins of the pink plinth near the playground. It once held the statue and a drinking fountain to refresh Victorian and Edwardian visitors. The superb photograph on the facing page was taken at the turn of the 19th century by one of the Crosoer brothers and has been colourised by the editor.
The fountain, presented by the Rev G. J. Hilton in 1888, fell into disprepair in the 1950s and for a while lay in the undergrowth of the Rec lodge’s gardens nearby, then disappeared. A rumour circulates that the statue is in a garden at Lenham. Can anyone verify this? And what do we think about a replacement?
Barbie, a fashion doll created in the United States in the late 1950s, has been making global headlines this summer since the release of a comedy fantasy film about her in July. At the time of writing Barbie has taken a gross of more than $1.2 billion.
Spare a thought, then, for Sindy, her British competitor, produced by the Pedigree toy company, which had a factory in Market Way, Canterbury. She was created in 1963, but soon ran into legal trouble with Mattel, Barbie’s manufacturer, because she looked so similar. Sindy went through plastic surgery, but never recovered her popularity.
But don’t tell that to Dr Jane Secker, a Faversham Society trustee.
Jane, an academic at City, University of London, has just put on an exhibition, For the Love of Sindy, in Faversham.
Jane has been helping Colin Rushton to curate window display boxes at George House – the old George Inn pub at the foot of the Mall – since lockdown.
She said: “I’ve always loved Sindy. I collected the dolls, furniture and clothes during the early 1980s. It was largely the Barbie movie that triggered my memory of my love of Sindy. When asked by my friend Sushmita if I wanted to see the movie, I said, ‘No way, I’m a Sindy girl.’
“I then confessed to having them all in my loft and of course she wanted to see them. A few weeks ago, we spent a very fun evening sorting through the plastic crate and she was amazed at my collection. I had an entire house of Sindy.
“And when the time came to pack them away, when I started secondary school in 1985, I had carefully stored them in my parents’ loft vowing I would never get rid of my beloved Sindy.”
Jane (and Sindy) have caused something of a social media sensation locally – and it’s fair to say that Faversham girls have given short shrift to the American doll who favours pink outfits.
Pictures of Jane’s exhibition have appeared on the Faversham Matters Facebook page and comments include:
The window display boxes were first created by Colin in December, 2020, after Jane suggested his windows would make an excellent Christmas display to cheer everyone up.
Colin built six boxes with lighting, which act like mini theatres, and have housed displays of Christmas, Easter and Halloween scenes. Last year he created a tribute to the Beatles in honour of Sir Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday and the 60th anniversary of the release of the Beatles first single, Love Me Do.
In September, the exhibition will be replaced by an exhibition in honour of George Harrison, on what would have been his 80th birthday.
The recent discovery of the Katherine Parr prayer book, reported first in the newsletter last month, has generated much interest elsewhere, including the BBC news site bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-66463558
If you are interested in finding out more about just why the book would have been hidden, we have a new free online paper to download from our website.
Written by our president, Richard Oldfield, it investigates what the impact would have been around the time of the Reformation when the church played such an important role in everyone’s lives. It spans the years between 1520 and 1570 and covers the important events that affected those living between Canterbury and Rochester, including the people of Faversham and the surrounding villages.
To download the paper, follow this link: favershamsociety.org/fleur-de-lis-museum
Murder, Mystery & Majesty, our new history book aimed at young people, and written by Neil Tonge, author of Terrible Tudors, is now available to buy online at favershamsociety.org/store
We have a few signed copies available to buy from the Visitor Information Centre, but they are selling fast.
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The Faversham Society Newsletter is edited by Stephen Rayner, who is independent of the board.
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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