Laurence Young, manager of the Faversham Enterprise Partnership, gives a unique insight into a very special town currently undergoing a dramatic renaissance
Laurence Young, manager of the Faversham Enterprise Partnership, gives a unique insight into a very special town currently undergoing a dramatic renaissance. Laurence is ideally placed as our guide, since he was not only born and brought up in the town, but can also trace his roots back to the Faversham of 1250
What’s it like to live in Faversham?
I see Faversham as a ‘magnet’ town because it’s so attractive. There’s a fantastic quality of life here and one of the great things about Faversham is that wherever you live, you’re always near the place you want to get to. It’s a real place, nothing fake about it, a working market town that never pretended to be anything else. From the town centre, if you walk in any direction for 10 minutes you’ll be in open countryside. It’s such an extraordinary place that the extraordinary becomes ordinary!
Tell us about the town centre
With about 500 listed buildings of most eras (some medieval) there’s a compact and semi-pedestrianised town centre. It is home to the world’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame, nearby Ospringe has the oldest museum in the country and Faversham has a glorious, colourful history. There’s plenty of good property of all types, with prices slightly below those of London, plus good schools and excellent transport links.
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The town centre is notable for the wonderful green-painted Guildhall, with its pillared undercroft, and the grand Market Place is home to Saturday markets. Principal roads are Market and Preston Streets, Middle Row, Court Street, and East and West Streets.
Tell us about the recent changes
There’ve been plenty of recent physical changes, but also changes about the actual ‘feel’ of the place. It’s now perceived as a beautiful town, with fabulous countryside and great social assets. Despite the recession, our traders are resilient. For instance, we’ve recently become a mecca for antique hunters, with 10 splendid antique shops.
What about shopping?
We’ve got all the major national retailers sitting alongside lovely individual niche shops such as Barkaways butchers, county famous Macknade Fine Foods, a tattoo parlour, fine hairdressers, art galleries and restaurants. So Faversham is tailor made for a great day out: you can buy some antiques, have your hair done, eat at a fabulous restaurant and soak up some history.
Places to see?
There are 16 recognised attractions, great country houses, the wonderful brewery Visitors’ Centre and I’d say our museum is the best small-town example of its kind in the country. I love the boats on the Creek and there’s a barge you can hire from nearby Whitstable harbour for a day’s sailing (Greta, Thames Sailing Barge, 07711 657919).
• Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre, incorporating the Tourist Information Office, a world-class museum and art gallery, 01795 534542
• Shepherd Neame Visitors’ centre, with bar, shop, guided tours and beer sampling, 01795 542016
• St Mary of Charity church, 01795 532592
• Chart Gunpowder Mills, restored by the Faversham Society, 01795 534542
• Royal Cinema ‘Tudorbethan’ style, designed in the 1930s, 01795 591211
• Faversham Creek – fine waterway with old sailing ships
• Mount Ephraim Gardens, 01227 751496
• Brogdale Collection, with the largest collection of fruit trees and plants in the world, 01795 536250
• Doddington Place Gardens, 01795 886101
• Maison Dieu at Ospringe – the oldest village museum in Britain, 01795 534542
• Oare Gunpowder Works and Country Park, 01795 417850
• Belmont House and Gardens, with the world’s largest private clock collection, 01795 890202
What are the Food Trails?
These are eight official food-themed walks of up to about 10 miles, taking you to where the food is grown – the orchards, hop gardens and fields, and leading from and back to the town, with selected pubs for convenience breaks.
We are generously sponsored by the Kent Downs and Marshes LEADER fund, who came up with 50 per cent of the support we needed for the Faversham Food Trails project we completed last year.
How about leisure activities?
There’s a society for almost everything from beer-making to badminton, including fishing, football and hockey. Faversham Pools is world class, there’s a thriving am-dram scene and theatre facilities. Plenty of artists live here too, with lively arts societies and a fantastic arts centre.
Places to eat?
Nowadays we rarely eat out of town now because the cuisine here is just so good. There’s Read’s Restaurant (01795 535344) and the Sportsman (01227 273370), both Michelin starred, plus the fabulous Three Mariners (01795 533633), as well as a vast range of curry houses and kebab houses, and terrific caf�s such as Jittermugs (01795 533121) with its lovely home-made cakes, and gastro pubs such as The Sun (01795 535098), the Bear Inn (01795 532668), and the Carriage Restaurant (01795 531790).
Dates for your diary
19-20 May: Travel through time festival, a Classic Car Show in the town centre, with craft stalls, refreshments and children’s entertainment, and hundreds of historic cars.
1-2 September: Faversham Hop Festival, an annual family event commemorating the days of hop picking, with a variety of free live music and entertainment, including a Hoppers ceilidh.
In a nutshell
Faversham has marvellous architecture and it’s a very, very pretty town with an incredible history. It’s a place where people can come for a lovely relaxing day, or alternatively, it’s a wonderful place to live: swapping a pressurised urban existence for a country idyll is practical, because of our transport links and fine facilities. Faversham is a microcosm of Kent – it sums up the county for me and right now we’re having an exciting renaissance.
You can enjoy a splendid quality of life and overlying everything is this breathtaking patina of history. It really is an absolutely superb place to live.
Faversham Enterprise Partnership
The Faversham Enterprise Partnership is a not-for-profit company set up in 2004 with the support of local councils, businesses and communities to deliver economic and community benefit for the town and surrounding area. Staff are part time and in addition to Laurence there’s Lucy Guthrie, Samantha Nye and Ima Rix plus volunteers.
TRADERS TALKING - West Street
Adrian Rowland has run Past Sentence (01795 590000), a second-hand bookshop at 119 West Street, for the past eight years.
“Non-fiction is the backbone of the company,” says Adrian. “We stock anything that’s interesting or unusual. My customers are fantastic, plus we get a lot of discerning visitors who like to browse.
“There a considerable number of highly literary people in Faversham – what with our artists and creative types, it’s actually quite a cerebral town.”
At 113 West Street is Barrows (07966 375572), an antiques shop run by Peter Barrows, which has only recently opened up, as has nearby Michel Andre Morin Antiques (07740 450 614).
Peter specialises in genuine French furniture and mirrors, plus architectural items, which he selects himself on his weekly run to France. “It’s exciting to see Faversham grow as an antiques centre,” Peter says, “And for me it’s so convenient, because getting to France is so easy.
“I like everything about Faversham: the buildings, the people, the whole thing, and it’s just going to get better. My customers are such a positive, friendly bunch of folk, all kinds of people. The social side of Faversham reminds me of Hampstead.”
Faversham is near the north Kent coast, just south of the Isle of Sheppey, close to junction 6 of the M2 and accessible via the A2 from the M25. There are twice-hourly trains to London and rail links to Canterbury, Dover and Ramsgate, and also Ebbsfleet, where you can take the High-Speed link to St Pancras or the continent.
Satnav postcode: ME13 8NS