What to do, see and eat in Faversham
PUBLISHED: 11:10 22 January 2019
The oldest market town in Kent, Faversham is a perfect blend of pretty scenery, fascinating history and modern convenience
Like so many towns, Faversham’s existence is all thanks to its useful location. Set along a sheltered creek, with easy access out to the Thames estuary, the ancient settlement was important to the Romans, the Jutes and the Saxons in turn.
It’s famous as the home of Kent’s oldest market. By the time the Domesday Book was complied in 1086, it was already an established centre for trade, and one of only 42 places in England where a market was recorded. In 1148 King Stephen founded an abbey in Faversham and the town flourished around it. Later, Henry VIII gave with one hand, granting its Charter of Incorporation in 1546, but took with the other, ordering the abbey to be dismantled during the dissolution.
Faversham was a vital port for the local iron and wool industries, its creek allowing barges to ship goods into London or even across the Channel. Later bricks, oysters, gunpowder and hops would be its main exports, and thousands of vessels were built in its shipyards.
Its relationship with hops and brewing continues to this day, with Shepherd Neame having operated from Faversham since 1698 – making it Britain’s oldest brewer. The company’s visitor centre is one of the town’s biggest attractions, and tours and tastings are more popular than ever.
The town centre is thought to have around 500 listed buildings – more than anywhere else in England. It’s been well preserved too, with a large conservation area incorporating Abbey Street, Court Street, Tanners Street and West Street. You can’t miss the iconic part-Elizabethan, part-Regency Guildhall, built on stilts at the heart of Market Place.
For lovers of the outdoors, a walk following the Saxon Shore Way along the peaceful creek is a must. You’ll pass boats, quayside buildings, workshops and other glimpses of Faversham’s shipbuilding heritage along the way.
Other places well worth a visit if you’re exploring Faversham include the Kent Police Museum, Faversham Pools, Brogdale (home to the national collection of fruit trees), Belmont House, the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre, the brilliantly retro Royal Cinema and Oare Gunpowder Works.
With such an active community, it’s no surprise there are several popular events held throughout the year. Visit in September for the fabulous Faversham Hop Festival and in May for Faversham Transport Weekend. Other events include Faversham Carnival, Christmas markets, a doggy day, a food festival, a nautical festival and even a hat festival.
In 2017, Faversham was awarded the Rising Star Award in the Great British High Street Awards in recognition of its excellent markets. Faversham’s historic Charter Market runs on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, selling a selection of local produce as well as plants, household items and collectibles.
There are also two monthly speciality markets which are very popular with visitors. Best of Faversham Arts, Crafts and Food Market features locally made and produced goods. It’s held on the first and third Saturday of the month. Meanwhile, Faversham Antiques and Vintage Market is on the first Sunday of the month and has grown to become the one of the country’s largest town-centre antique markets.
It’s just one of many reasons that new visitors are flocking to this small town and falling in love with it. Faversham’s housing market is buoyant and it continues to attract people to the area, drawn by its scenic setting, great amenities and strong community spirit.
Liz Jeffery, from leading local independent estate agent Saxon Shore, says: “Many buyers want to make Faversham their home, with 60 per cent of our buyers coming from out of the area; not just from London, but from all over the country. Once they are here, very few move away again.”
Faversham Literary Festival
21 - 24 February
The inaugural Faversham Literary Festival in 2018 was a great success and the line-up for this year is looking equally impressive. Writers already announced include Will Self, talking about his latest book Phone, and Jo Brand, talking about Born Lippy.
Throughout the weekend there will be an extensive programme of author talks, discussions, creative workshops and spoken word events for book lovers
of every kind. The events will take place
in a number of Faversham’s historic venues, including the Assembly Rooms, the Guildhall, the Alexander Centre and the Brewery Store. Other authors attending include Diane Setterfield (Once Upon a River), Kent-based crime writers William Shaw (Salt Lane) and Vicki Newham (Turn a Blind Eye), Diana Evans (Ordinary People) and Claire Fuller (Bitter Orange).
For times and ticket prices, visit www.favershamliteraryfestival.org
Shopping and eating
Foodies will find plenty to keep them occupied, with dozens of good restaurants, historic pubs and cosy cafés.
Some to look out for include the award-winning Reads Restaurant with Rooms and Red Sails restaurant at the Faversham Creek Hotel, as well as The Yard, The Carriage Restaurant at the Railway Hotel, The Albion Taverna, The Sun Inn, The Anchor, The Limes, The Bear and the Gallery Café at Creek Creative.
As befits a town with a famous brewery, there are plenty of lovely old-fashioned pubs to enjoy a pint of local ale in, as well as places like micropubs The Corner Tap and Furlongs Alehouse and wine bars Vino and binElla. In the surrounding villages, try The Dairy at Boughton-under-Blean, The Plough Inn at Lewson Street and The Three Mariners at Oare.
Among the many shops to browse are Goodness Gracious curiosity shop, Barley Mow gift shop, All Stitched Up fabric store, gallery 19 Preston, The Hat Shop and the recently relocated Creekside Vinyl.
Don’t miss the dazzling offerings at the enormous food hall of Macknade Fine Foods or Wild Bread Bakehouse – which was named Best Independent Food & Drink Retailer in our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2018.
Head to Standard Quay for interesting independent businesses set in ancient creekside warehouses. There’s everything from antiques and curios to beauty treatments, a garden centre and a café.
Postcard from Faversham
My name is Katy Newton – although everyone knows me as Cox or Coxy, which is my maiden name.
With my partner, Rob, I run a business called MightyFineThings based in Faversham, making fruit and honey vinegars and sauces as well as Coxy’s gins and liqueurs.
In 2012 I started keeping bees. I also started working with Faversham Market Cooperative helping them to market what they do. It’s the oldest market in Kent and they’d just become a self-running cooperative and were keen to grow it. I’d always been interested in doing something more creative and thought why not have a market stall myself?
Then I ended up with loads of honey from the bees and thought I’d try making a honey and chilli sauce. The rest is history. This year we became Great Taste Producers and we won a BBC Good Food Show Bursary and will be at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in June.
As a business we stopped using plastic in 2017. Then in 2018 we started to work with Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham to showcase our sauces and vinegars in fresh salads and dips.
As part of this we were both keen to see how we could reduce plastic in this area (they had already stopped supplying plastic bags). We now charge people 25p for a plastic tub. If customers bring them back to refill or bring their own tubs in, they save the 25p and help reduce plastic.
Faversham is a great town for community support. And there’s also lots to do around Faversham: Faversham Pools, the markets, walks along the creek, the Gunpowder Works, Brogdale and Brogdale Market Place.
I love Macknade, the two micro breweries (Boutilliers and Mad Cat), The Yard Café and The Hot Tin Café.