Spotlight on: Faversham
PUBLISHED: 20:58 28 August 2015 | UPDATED: 20:58 28 August 2015
A Kentish gem, with pretty medieval streets surrounded by fruitful farmland, the ancient market town of Faversham is packed to bursting with things to see and do.
1 Step back in time
Faversham is a treasure trove of fine historic buildings with some 500 listed by English Heritage, mostly in its extensive conservation area. Abbey Street (ME13 7BE) in particular is said to be one of the best-preserved medieval streets in the country and with exclusive Grade I and Grade II* listings for a pair of medieval barns and nearby Arden’s House, it is little wonder. Other streets to explore include Tanners Street, West Street and Court Street, all with shops and houses that have mainly remained unchanged for 400 years. The best way to see them is on a guided walk: www.favershamtownwalks.org.
2 Up the creek
Faversham would not exist if not for the creek which has offered settlers easy access to the sea since pre-Roman times. Land reclamation in the Middle Ages resulted in less tidal waters reaching Faversham and the gradual silting up of the creek has reduced it to a shadow of its former self. But the town’s maritime heritage is not forgotten and there are still many boats on the waters. Standard Quay (ME13 7BS) has been transformed from a working boat yard into a visitor attraction with a Thames barge exhibition, shops, wine bars and restaurants, as well as industrial units, moored barges, yachts and tugs to look at. Visit www.standardquay.co.uk
3 A great British pint
Surrounded by hop fields, it is no surprise that Faversham boasts the oldest brewery in Britain. Beer has been made in Court Street since 1570 by the company that would eventually be called Shepherd Neame and is today famous for brands including Spitfire and Bishops Finger. It also has a lovely visitor centre (ME13 7AX) next to the brewery offering guided tours and beer tastings. There’s a shop, exhibits of brewery equipment and a collection of wonderful old pub signs to keep you busy. Visit www.sheperdneame.co.uk
4 A unique cinema
Faversham’s Royal Cinema in Market Place (ME13 7AG) was originally built as an Odeon in 1936 but styled to fit in with its surroundings and is one of only two remaining mock-Tudor cinemas in the UK. Privately owned and reopened in 1994 as the Royal, it is like stepping back in time, but while it may look old fashioned, with up-to-date technology, surround sound and an HD projector, it is anything but. Visit www.royalcinema.co.uk
5 market time
One of the ways to experience the famous market town at its best is to attend one of its markets, held every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and the oldest in Kent. For something a little different, try the monthly Best of Faversham market, held in Preston Street (ME13 8NY) on the first Saturday of the month. A mixture of local arts, crafts and food stalls, it is local shopping at its best. There’s also a popular antiques and vintage market on the first Sunday of the month in Market Place and Court Street (ME13 7AL).
6 Sample fine food
The Neame family (distant relatives of the local brewers) took on Macknade Farm in 1847 and turned it into one of Kent’s largest farms, famed for its fruit, hops and livestock. But by the late 1970s the family realised it needed to diversify and opened a tent in one of the fields selling its produce and offering pick-your-own. So Macknade Fine Foods was born. The family no longer farms but its food hall (ME13 8XF) is renowned for its fruit and vegetables, its delicatessen, butchers, bakery and café. There’s even a shop with an ever-expanding range of fab cookware. Visit www.macknade.com
7 ANNUAL Hop Festival
Every year Faversham commemorates the golden days of hop picking when mainly London-based families would come to Kent for the summer season. Although they worked hard in the fields, in the evenings there was a summer holiday atmosphere with music, food and plenty of beer. Today the festival is a free family event with a big emphasis on music. Held on 5 and 6 September this year, it promises a weekend of live music acts, dance, street parades, magic shows and all kinds of stalls lining the town’s historic streets. Visit: www.favershamhopfestival.org
8 Spotlight on cider
Cider drinkers are catered for with an annual artisan cider festival at Brogdale, home of the national fruit collection on the outskirts of town (ME13 8XZ). With live music, a classic car show, Morris dancing and a chance to try your hand at archery, this year’s festival is on 29 and 30 August. Bars attending include Biddenden Cider, Kentish Pip and Dudda’s Tun. Visit www.ciderfestivalkent.co.uk.
9 Preserving heritage
The Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre is made up of three adjoining properties in the town’s Preston Street (ME13 8NS) and is the HQ of The Faversham Society. The visitor information centre, museum, gallery and heritage bookshop are all dedicated to the preservation of the area’s heritage. The gallery hosts a changing programme of exhibitions by local artists. Visit www.favershamsociety.org.
10 get refreshed
Whether it’s a pint of real ale in the historic Sun Inn in West Street (ME13 7JE) or a cappuccino at Jittermugs in Preston Street (ME13 8NZ), there are plenty of places to take a break from sightseeing. For more substantial fare, try Posillipo Italian restaurant (ME13 7LD) or The Limes pub restaurant (was The Chimney Boy, ME13 8PG). Explore Standard Quay then pop into on-site garden centre and coffee shop The Pomegranate Tree for cake and a cuppa (ME13 7BS). And do stock up with quality meats at MB Farms Butchers (ME9 7UJ)w