/ More History
/ Faversham Facts and Records
A page of fascinating facts and records about Faversham and villages in its area
- Faversham is in the record books for the UK’s highest temperature, with 101.3F (38.5C) registered at Brogdale Horticultural Trust on 10 August, 2003.
- The great-grandfather of Dennis Lillee, the Australian cricketer, ran a Faversham pub. Thomas Lillee was the landlord of the Willow Tap, at the Brents, from early in 1898 to late 1901. The old pub is now private housing.
- In the 1960s, Faversham was home to the English bullfighter the late Vincent Hitchcock, known in the bullrings of Spain as El Ingles.
- The small Roman town of Durolevum (stronghold by the clear stream) was at, or near, Faversham.
- Faversham is one of the few UK places with a hybrid Latin/Anglo-Saxon name: Favers (Latin faber = blacksmith) + ham (Anglo-Saxon ham = homestead).
- Crispin and Crispianus, patron saints of shoemakers, are supposed to have lived in Faversham c290. One account of their lives was dramatised in the Elizabethan A Shoemaker A Gentleman, set in Canterbury and Faversham but regrettably not performed in either within living memory.
- Faversham was probably the “summer capital” of the Saxon Kings of Kent, witness the fine jewellery found in Kingsfield in the 19th century (now mostly in the British Museum).
- Faversham is one of the few places outside London where a king and his queen were buried. King Stephen (died 1154) and Queen Matilda (died 1152) were buried in Faversham Abbey.
- Faversham is the only town in the UK to use the royal arms of England as its own. They appear on the town council’s seal, approved by the heraldic authorities.
- Faversham Parish Church, Kent’s largest or second-largest church, is one of only nine UK churches (including cathedrals) with double-aisled transepts.
- Davington Priory was never dissolved by Henry VIII (it simply faded away) and so most of its Norman church (1153) and nuns’ quarters survive.
- Faversham has been a member of Cinque Ports (pronounced “Sink” Ports) since the confederation’s earliest days in the 11th century.
- Faversham’s Maison Dieu, now a museum housing archaeological finds, is a 13th century building, part of a complex that served as a royal lodge, a pilgrims’ hostel and a retirement home for royal staff.
- Preston Church, which boasts a fine Early English chancel, has a memorial to Roger Boyle, grandfather of Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the scientist behind Boyle’s Law. This states that the volume of a given mass of gas varies inversely as the pressure, if the temperature remains constant.
- Faversham became home to Henry Pay, the admiral of the Cinque Ports fleet and privateer known as “Arripay” to the Spaniards he terrorised during Henry IV’s reign (1399-1413).
- The father of the playwright Christopher Marlowe was born in Ospringe, possibly in the part of the parish close to Faversham town centre.
- Kent’s largest brass is Faversham Parish Church’s for Henry Hatch (died 1533).
- The 1551 murder, by Alice Arden and her lover, of her husband, Thomas, a past Mayor of Faversham, inspired the first English domestic drama, Arden of Faversham, ascribed to Shakespeare by some scholars. Alice was granddaughter of Robert Brigandine, designer of the Mary Rose.
- All the leading companies of travelling players, including the one Shakespeare was in, performed in Faversham in Elizabethan and Jacobean times.
- Faversham was the birthplace of John Ward, who flourished between 1603 and 1615 as the biggest pirate of his day. He settled in Tunis, converted to Islam and built up a fleet that was a match for Venice’s. Ward’s life was dramatised in the Jacobean play A Christian Turn’d Turk.
- Faversham was England’s main wool-exporting port in the 17th century.
- John Wilson, the first Master of the King’s Music, was born in Abbey Street, Faversham, in 1595.
- Faversham has nearly 500 listed buildings, many medieval.
Abbey Street is considered England’s finest medieval street.
- Two of Kent’s oldest inhabited houses (both 13th century) are in Faversham. They are St Mary’s, 15 Ospringe Street, and part of 6 Market Place.
- Faversham’s 1587 grammar school (now a masonic hall) remains virtually unaltered since its construction. The school left the building in 1879.
- Creation of the British Empire and the Commonwealth, and adoption of English as the international lingua franca, would have been impossible without the output of the gunpowder factories for which Faversham was once famed.
- The remains of the Oare Gunpowder Factory, which started in about 1680, are second in national importance only to those of the royal factory at Waltham Abbey.
- Faversham welcomed refugee Huguenots persecuted in France. One such was the aristocrat Louis Duras (1640?-1709), who married a daughter of Sir George Sondes, of nearby Sheldwich, became a leading courtier and soldier, and, by special remainder, in 1677 inherited the earldom of Feversham, created for Sir George.
- King James II was held captive in Court Street, Faversham, in 1688 while trying to flee to France. His release was negotiated by Louis Duras, second Earl of Feversham, who, though a Protestant, was a confidant of the Catholic king.
- William Flackton, a Canterbury stationer who was Faversham Parish Church’s organist in the 1750s, is famed for the viola sonatas he composed.
- John Wesley, founder of Methodism, visited Faversham four times. In 1738, he found the locals “more savage in their behaviour than the wildest [Red] Indians I have seen [in the American colonies]”. By 1788, he found a Faversham congregation “very large and deeply attentive”.
- George Finlay, who fought in the Greek War of Independence alongside the poet Lord Byron and wrote the foremost history of Greece, was born in Faversham in 1799.
- The exponential growth of Victorian London would have been impossible without Faversham’s brickfields. Every brick in the four-mile railway viaduct between London Bridge and Greenwich stations was handmade in Faversham. Westminster Cathedral’s whole “carcase” is of bricks handmade in Faversham.
- Tea might not be grown in Assam today but for the pioneering efforts of Faversham’s John White Masters, also author of the most important 19th century Kent dialect poem, Dick and Sal at Canterbury Fair.
- Thomas Willement, who pioneered the revival of stained glass in the UK in the early 19th century, lived at Davington Priory, Faversham. Some of his glass is in local churches.
- St Ann’s Road, Faversham, used to be called Hangman’s Lane, because the town gallows were opposite its foot, in South Road.
- Faversham’s Long Bridge is thought to be the UK’s longest railway footbridge.
- Faversham’s Almshouses, completed in 1863, with a cathedral-scale central chapel, are the largest in Kent and generally considered the finest.
- The Goldfinch, one of the biggest sailing barges, was built in Faversham. She was so seaworthy that, although intended only for use in the Thames Estuary, she crossed the Atlantic under sail.
- Faversham-built Nellie is one of the few surviving seaworthy Thames sailing barges.
- The Hollywood pioneer Albert E Smith was born and bred in Faversham. A plaque marks his childhood home in West Street.
- Faversham’s Royal Cinema is one of only two surviving “Tudorbethan” cinemas in UK. It is a listed building.
- In the 1950s and early 1960s, restoration of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, both by Wren, was undertaken by the architect W. Godfrey Allen, who lived and worked at 1 Priory Row, Faversham.
- Faversham’s Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre was the first of its kind in the South of England when opened in 1977 (the UK’s other two were in York and Chester).
- Lord Nelson reputedly paid off his crew at Faversham’s Three Tuns pub. None of Faversham’s pubs has been “themed”, and most are listed buildings.
- The Faversham Society’s annual Open House, letting visitors tour normally closed historic properties, is the oldest such scheme in the UK, having begun in 1969. It is held on the first three Saturdays in July.
Fascinating facts about villages in the Faversham area
- Kate O’Brien, the novelist, lived at The Street, Boughton, till her 1974 death.
- The beautiful ten-acre garden at Doddington Place, Doddington, was designed by the renowned William Nesfield (1793-1881), whose work can be seen at Kensington Gardens and Castle Howard.
- Doddington's medieval parish church has a rare dedication – the Beheading of St John the Baptist. It is said that this is because Richard I (The Lionheart) stopped overnight at Doddington on his way back to London from the Holy Land, carrying a relic purporting to be the stone on which the Baptist was beheaded.
- The last armed rising in England took place at Dunkirk. The 1838 Courtenay Riots were led by John Tom, a deranged Cornishman styling himself Sir William Courtenay. Tom was killed in the Battle of Bossenden Wood.
- The delightful grounds of Mount Ephraim, Hernhill, include a Japanese garden.
- Terry Nation, the Dr Who writer who created the Daleks, lived at Lynsted Park, Lynsted.
- The inventor of Pimm's, the classic summer drink, was born
at Newnham. James Pimm first served his concoction in the 1840s
at his oyster bar in London. Quinine and a secret mix of herbs are
blended with gin as the base spirit of the Pimm's No 1 version.
- Provender, at Norton, one of the finest medieval houses in the Faversham area, was a hunting lodge of the Black Prince. It was later home to the exiled Prince Andrew of Russia (nephew of the murdered Tsar Nicholas II) from 1949 to 1981. Between 1939 and 1949, Provender was occupied by the military and was used by Field Marshal Montgomery as one of his headquarters.
- Oare Marshes Nature Reserve, Oare, is wetland of international importance.
- The fact that electrical power could form a current to be passed along wire was first demonstrated at Otterden Place, Otterden, in the early 18th century.
- After Hitler came to power in Germany, Anna Essinger moved her progressive secondary school from Herrlingen to Bunce Court, Otterden.
- Lees Court, Sheldwich, was the first stately home in Britain built in full Renaissance style; its architect may have been Inigo Jones. The mansion was the scene of gruesome fratricide in 1655 when Freeman Sondes, younger son of Sir George Sondes, later first Earl of Feversham, killed his sleeping elder brother, George, with a butcher’s cleaver and a dagger.
- At Teynham, locally-born Richard Harris, fruiterer to King Henry VIII, pioneered growing cherries in England. The area is still famed for fruit.
- Throwley has the first UK building copied from an American original (rather than the other way around). It is a house called New York,
built about 1790.
- The finest display of clocks and watches outside the British Museum is at Belmont, Throwley, collected by the fifth Lord Harris (1889-1984).
- The fourth Lord Harris (1851-1932), of Belmont, Throwley, helped pave the way for Test cricket in Australia and India. He led a team to Australia in 1878-79, and in 1880 captained England in the first official Test in England against Australia. As Governor of Bombay (1890-95), he helped to popularise cricket among Indians, securing the first visit to India of a representative England team.
Compiled by Arthur Percival and John Coulter