Words by Jonathan Carey, Harold Goodwin, Ray Harrison, The Faversham Society
Market Place photo taken by Robert Warren
At the heart of Faversham is the Guildhall around which we have for centuries had markets, where we come together for festivals and for the Christmas lights; and where we linger to talk with relatives and friends. It is so familiar, so much part of our lives that we take it for granted; but we see it afresh when we share it with visitors.
Sadly, there are now few places such as Faversham with such a rich built heritage providing a backdrop and stage for us to live out our lives, shopping and participating in the festivals and events for which Faversham has such a good reputation. So it is heartening that our young people are telling us that they value our heritage and wish to see it conserved.
The Neighbourhood Plan provides us with an opportunity to think about how we want our town to evolve, to meet new needs while maintaining what is best about Faversham. Over centuries our town has evolved, and buildings have been adapted and converted to meet new requirements. We have successfully accommodated major supermarkets on a human scale within the historic core repurposing a brewery and the gasworks site.
The town we now enjoy is the result of the efforts of many generations of builders, entrepreneurs, councillors and the citizens who have lived worked and played here. Think of the pools, the Jubilee Centre gym, the boxing club and the cinema, all saved from closure. An ancient port and market town with former schools and pubs repurposed as accommodation.
With attractive alleys and streets, our town is human in scale, and while we have many large buildings, they do not tower over us. Faversham attracts many visitors who return regularly to enjoy our markets, specialist shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Many come first to one of our festivals and return to walk the streets and enjoy the town we take for granted, and of course, to spend some money.
It was way back in 1953 that Herbert Richards, who lived in the white house by the Creek Bridge on the Brents side, began to campaign to save Abbey Street from slum clearance. We owe the town we enjoy today to the efforts of generations of local people like him. Faversham was relatively untouched in the 1960s and many passed along the A2 thinking that they had seen Faversham but unaware of the delights of our town. The new housing numbers driven by central government policy will extend the town’s natural boundary to the M2. What was for generations effectively the bypass will become a street within the town. We need to work to make it part of our town as Watling Street; we can do this without renaming the roads that we refer to collectively as the A2.
Swale’s new Heritage Strategy contributes to an opportunity through the Neighbourhood Plan, to enhance our heritage and to bring benefits for residents and visitors alike. Ospringe Street is within the Faversham parish boundary, and we could plan to improve the area and draw attention to the fine examples of local architecture to be found there. Between the railway tracks to Dover and Thanet, there is some very overgrown and threatened railway heritage long overdue for restoration and reuse for community and commercial purposes and to attract visitors. The 15th century Town Warehouse, better known as TS Hazard, could along with Town Quay be at the centre of a new maritime heritage quarter. This could and should be our generation’s contribution to making our town an even better place to live in. Housing matters even more.
Our forebears had an enlighted approach to housing. Local builders produced terraced housing which has stood the test of time. Think how popular St Mary’s, St John’s and Park Roads are; brick-built they have weathered well with good sized gardens and a mix of ages, and close to the recently restored and improved Recreation Ground. Some remain as starter homes. However, there is a worrying shortage of this kind of housing, and they have risen in price. This is sought after accommodation, Faversham needs more if it.
A large part of Faversham is considered to be fine enough to include in the conservation area, and it has been for fifty years. St Mary’s, St John’s and Park Roads, Preston Lane which threads its way, quite attractively, through an estate of bungalows and houses built in the 1980’s and Vicarage Street tucked between Abbey Street and the churchyard with its 19th century brick terraces and small flats. Likewise the Briton and Roman Road area and the Caslocke and Fielding Street housing. Much of this housing is of exceptional quality.
When we think of heritage and conservation, we too often think only of West Street, Market Place, Court Street and Abbey Street. But much of the domestic architecture, the houses in which we live, reflects the history and evolution of the town and the efforts of previous generations to provide solidly built good accommodation for working people and for the retired, think of the magnificent Alms Houses, apparently the third-largest in the UK.
The Faversham Borough was quick to start building homes fit for heroes after the First World War when Gordon Square was built. The large white-fronted council houses built towards the top end of Whitstable Road were constructed to a high standard in 1926 and are now sought after. Millfield was built immediately after the Second World War (1945-51) and North Preston from 1948, high quality builds, with good size rooms, large gardens and the Barnfield. Mackenade Avenue is another fine example. We should take pride in the old Borough Council’s achievement.
Faversham has some fine examples of 20th century housing built to house people who lived and worked in the town. The recent Housing Needs Assessment showed that we need more housing of this type. Can we build more houses to meet the needs of Faversham people?