A town guide to Faversham
PUBLISHED: 12:53 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 22 January 2018
Described as 'the market town of kings', Faversham has beautiful creekside walks, a long association with the brewing industry and just the right blend of vintage charm and modern conveniences
This medieval market town is alive with history and about as picturesque as they come. With its unique creekside location, fabulous local food and drink and its streets lined with historic listed buildings, it’s easy to see how so many visitors fall in love with Faversham.
Early settlements were established here because of its enviable location; on a navigable creek surrounded by fertile soil and with easy access to the sea.
Romans, Jutes and Saxons all understood Faversham’s value and each left their mark on the area, but it was King Stephen who really changed the fortunes of this little town, founding an abbey here in 1148.
Sadly, it was destroyed during the Dissolution but it left behind the thriving market town which had sprung up around it. With a mention in the Domesday Book, the market is thought to be the oldest in Kent and still takes place around the historic Guildhall and Market Place.
A busy trading port for hundreds of years, Faversham became one of the Cinque Ports as a ‘limb’ of Dover and was the nation’s main port for the export of wool throughout the 17th century. In the 19th century, local brickworks made the famous ‘London stock’ bricks and sailing barges piled high with them made daily deliveries to the city.
Between 1573 and 1934, Faversham became the centre of the UK’s explosives industry, with a total of six factories producing gunpowder. Visitors can still see the works at Chart Gunpowder Mills, the oldest of their kind in the world, thanks to the conservation work of The Faversham Society.
But the town’s most famous association must surely be with beer. Faversham and the brewing industry have a relationship that goes right back to its earliest days.
The story began in the 12th century, when King Stephen founded his Benedictine abbey and the monks realised the area’s pure spring water could be used in brewing. It went on to become one of the town’s main industries and gave rise to one of Kent’s biggest brands, Shepherd Neame.
The company was founded in 1698, making it Britain’s oldest brewer. The brewery recently invested £750,000 transforming its historic Faversham brewhouse and upgrading equipment. Its ceo, Jonathan Neame, was named Kent Life’s Food & Drink Hero in this magazine’s recent awards.
The town has also become home to The Kent Police Museum, which has moved from Chatham Dockyard to Faversham Police Station. Its collection spans the existence of Kent Police from 1857 to today and includes uniform, policing equipment, documents and photographs. Set to open to the public this spring, the museum is run by volunteers and will be holding regular events.
Faversham has plenty to offer when it comes to leisure too, with green spaces including Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park and nearby attractions like Doddington Park Gardens, Brogdale Collections, Belmont House and the town’s Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre. And when it comes to culture and entertainment, there’s an ever-expanding list of pubs and bars hosting local music nights, along with the Arden Theatre – home of the local amateur theatre group – and the historic Royal Cinema.
It’s also a town that loves a celebration, with some unmissable annual events. Come back in September to experience Faversham Hop Festival and in May for Faversham Transport Weekend.
With a café where the customer service was highly commended in the Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2017, Creek Creative is a real gem and well worth seeking out if you’re visiting Faversham.
An art and design hub, set in part of a sprawling former brewery in Abbey Street, it is a community interest company that offers rentable studios for local artists and craftspeople, along with performance space, teaching space, regular courses and workshops, exhibition galleries, the Gallery Kitchen Café and a local artisan shop.
The vision of founding directors Anne McLaren and Simon Giles, the task of transforming the abandoned building – a former late-Victorian brewery bottling plant – into a hub for the town’s creative community, began in 2009 and it now provides space for around 45 local designers, makers, writers, artists and musicians.
The shop offers a tempting range of hand-crafted work at affordable prices, including silver jewellery, ceramics, prints and unusual gifts, many of them made on the premises. And don’t miss the Gallery Kitchen Café; it’s been a finalist in the Kent Life Food & Drink Awards for the past three years running.
Shopping and eating
This pretty little town has all sorts of gift shops and vintage stores to browse. Visit Standard Quay for a number of lovely independent stores selling everything from antiques to spices.
And a few not to be missed in the town include Barley Mow gift shop, The Hat Shop, Upstairs Downstairs antiques, Goodness Gracious Curiosity Shop and Presentimes. Some recent additions include wine shop Vino, All Stitched Up in Court Street (selling fabrics and haberdashery but also run classes such as ‘ learn to love your sewing machine’), pottery painting store House of the Crafty Fox and art shop and gallery 19 Preston. The monthly antiques market is highly recommended (visit www.favershammarket.org for details of the town’s various markets).
Faversham is a foodie’s delight, with fresh local produce featuring heavily. With something for everybody, from fine dining to cosy coffee houses, great eateries are dotted throughout this small town. Red Sails Restaurant at the Faversham Creek Hotel was highly commended in the coveted restaurant of the year category of the Kent Food & Drink Awards 2017, while the fabulous Read’s Restaurant With Rooms won the title the previous year.
Others to try include Posillipo, The Yard, The Carriage Restaurant at the Railway Hotel, The Albion Taverna, Cosgroves and Jittermugs. In a town synonymous with brewing, there are several excellent, historic pubs to experience too. A nostalgic jazz cocktail lounge, called Soiree, has also recently opened, and Standard Quay has its own champagne bar called binElla. And if it’s some of that excellent local produce to cook at home that you’re after, visit Macknade Fine Foods or one of the town’s regular markets.
There are many period properties in Faversham but the town has expanded in recent years, with new developments providing more family housing. At the bottom end of the market, one-bedroom flats start at around £140,000 and two-bed terraced properties are priced between £220,000 and £350,000. A three-bed home can cost anything from £250,000 to £550,000 and larger properties are available right up to £1million.
Postcard from Faversham
I’m Elle Roberts and I’m one of the owners of Archemilia’s Nest - alongside my wonderful mum, Denise. Our home interiors shop is in beautiful Standard Quay, just a five-minute walk along Abbey Street from Faversham town centre.
We opened our shop in April 2017 after being inspired by all things old and beautiful. We wanted to create an interior and garden shop stocking lovely pieces with a French and vintage twist. Different from the normal high street interior shops, we mix old and new, handpicking every single one-off piece and restoring or painting them ourselves. We stock everything from blankets to snuggle up with to beautiful glassware for dining and furniture for every room in the home. Our stock is sourced from all over the UK, France and Belgium, where we hunt for anything different.
While our first shop opened in Standard Quay’s 17th Century Monk’s Granary, we have since moved across to one of its lovely cladded workshops. We are extraordinary lucky to be based in such a picturesque old town, overlooking Faversham’s Creek with its amazing boats and barges. A visit to Standard Quay offers such an incredibly unusual shopping experience, with many independent businesses housed in these historical buildings.
Faversham has so much to offer. Antique markets run on the first Sunday of every month where people come from far and wide to fill the streets looking for that something special. The community is also a massive part of Faversham life. I have learnt this first hand, being warmly welcomed by the friendly local residents, other local business owners and our neighbours on the boats docked here at Standard Quay.
Our neighbour, Meadowlarks, is well worth a look around - packed full of collectibles and curiosities. Visit Standard Quay Tea Rooms for homemade cakes, binElla’s Champagne Bar for a glass of bubbly or the Anchor Pub with its friendly local atmosphere. Pick up some fresh produce from across town at Macknades Farm Shop and enjoy a tasty breakfast there too. For a wonderful dinner, I recommend the Albion Taverna for Mexican cuisine next to the riverbank.
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