This Faversham Website feature, currently covering 1801 to the present and to be extended, is based on Faversham Town Council’s record of Mayors of Faversham, a title that appears to have come into use in the middle of the 13th century.
Herbert Dane’s The Mayoralty of Faversham* tells us that, in the mid-1250s, soon after Henry III’s 1252 charter to Faversham, Robert Dod was the first person to be called “mayor”, to the annoyance of the Abbot of Faversham, who protested to the king as part of the long battle between townspeople and Faversham Abbey about who held authority over the town.
Notable mayors include Thomas Arden (1547) whose murder by his wife inspired the play Arden of Faversham, attributed to Shakespeare by some scholars, and Richard Marsh, who entered the mayoral ranks in 1708. Marsh has traditionally been seen as the founder of Faversham Brewery, today owned by Shepherd Neame, with 1698 long stated as the foundation date, although it is now accepted that he was one of the town's biggest brewers before then and that alemaking at the Faversham Brewery site can be traced back to the mid 16th century.
Faversham's first woman mayor was Florence Graham in 1956.
Some mayors have, through charitable gifts to the town, remained of service to it after death, as with Henry Wreight (1809, 1818 and 1828), whose bequest funded provision of the much-admired Faversham Almshouses and the Recreation Ground. George Beckett (1785, 1794 and 1804), left a fund to aid needy housekeepers, now run by Faversham Municipal Charities.
Many mayors were significant for other roles they played in the town, such as John Andrew Anderson (1866, 1876 and 1882), a founder of the Faversham Institute, a centre for education and entertainment, and Charles Cremer (1899, 1907 and 1908), a brick manufacturer and owner of a fleet of 12 sailing barges.
The longest-serving Mayor of Faversham was Sir Sidney Alexander, whose decade in office from 1910 included the years of the First World War (1914-18), with the second-longest service having been by Phil Johnson, whose nine terms from 1937 embraced the period of the Second World War (1939-1945) and the task of leading the town’s contribution to the war effort.
Apart from these war-time mayors, the longest service has been by two six-term civic heads, Thomas Read (1503 and later) and Lewis Shrubsole (1873, 1877, 1878, 1880, 1884 and 1885).
The office of Mayor of Faversham was part of an old-style corporation system before the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 placed the town’s local government in the hands of a reconstituted council elected by the townspeople.
National reforms of the late 1940s switched mayoral and local government elections from November to May and left the mayor no longer chief magistrate.
Under the 1974 reform of local government, Faversham Borough Council became Faversham Town Council, with sharply reduced powers. The Mayor of Faversham is nowadays elected at the town council’s annual meeting in May, to preside over its business and be the latest link in a chain of civic heads now stretching back more than seven and a half centuries.
* Herbert Dane’s The Mayoralty of Faversham is No1 in the Faversham Papers series from the Faversham Society at the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre
For a full list of Mayors of Faversham, please click on the links below:
Mayors of Faversham, 1801 to 1900
Mayors of Faversham, 1901 to 2000
Mayors of Faversham, 2001-date