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History of the Faversham Market

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Faversham Market c1830
Faversham Market c1830. The view is little changed, but sheep are no longer driven through

You’ll be part of an age-old ritual, for Faversham’s Market is the oldest in Kent, going back at least 900 years. It won’t surprise you that the setting’s well-nigh perfect, with a backdrop of picturesque old Tudor and Georgian buildings, all beautifully kept - bring a camera, if you can. Want a cup of tea or a pint?  There are plenty of reasonably-priced cafes and pubs, almost all of them fine historic buildings with their own colourful stories to tell.

Conjure up famous figures from the past as you browse and buy. The scene you see has changed so little it would still be recognised by Shakespeare, who acted here, and Queen Elizabeth I, who visited the town in 1572. Royal visits never come cheap: the Council presented her with a silver cup costing £27.10 (the equivalent today of over £4,000). Putting her and her maids up for a couple of nights up cost another £7,000.

James II also took a stroll here, but ... unwillingly. He wasn’t the most popular of  monarchs and in 1688 had finally got the message that he wasn’t wanted any more. Mindful of how his father had had his head chopped off, he decided to get out while the going was good. He took a boat from London and got as far as the Isle of Sheppey, two or three miles away. Faversham’s good fishermen found him cowering in the hold, took him prisoner and marched him off to the Market Place. Decent chaps at heart, though: after a few days they let him go on condition he didn’t stay in England.

Then there was John Wesley, founder of Methodism. In 1738, the day after he got back from America, where he had been trying to convert the Red Indians, he arrived in Faversham. It wasn’t too godly a place, so he decided to preach in the Market Place. Not one of his more successful efforts: in his diary, he recorded wryly, he tried to bring the Word to a crowd of people who more savage than the wildest Indians he’d met in America.

Faversham was a seaport town then, rough and ready as they come. Today its Creek is host to pleasure craft and preserved sailing barges. Overlooking the water, and at one end of the market is Shepherd Neame’s brewery, oldest in Britain. Scent the unique aroma of malt and hops as you browse in the market! Then maybe look at the brewery shop, where you can buy no end of attractive ‘Sheps-iana’. If it happens to be convenient, you may be able to join a brewery tour.

In the Domesday Book (completed in 1086), Faversham was one of only 42 places in England where a market was recorded, according to Sidney and Beatrice Webb in The Manor and the Borough (1908).