Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ardent of Faversham

A brief return to Faversham, one of my favourite places. In his 1969 Shell Guide to Kent Pennethorne Hughes says 'A delightful market town and small port, obviously conscious of its historical and architectural heritage, but busy and contemporary. It has no showpiece for gogglers, but any number of pleasant buildings.....[and] has various industries: grain and flour, oysters, bricks, canning and packing works for the fruit and vegetables from the country roundabout, and a pleasant and occasional smell of brewing'. It still feels as though bricks and flour should be stacked up on the quayside, and there is certainly much activity down there, but the town still has at its heart the brewer, Shepherd Neame, the oldest brewer in Britain. (Check out their Unmitigated English new bottle labels.) The town is also the setting of Arden of Faversham, a brilliant play once ascribed to both Shakespeare and Marlowe. Murder and mayhem amongst the grain sacks.

Oddly, the Shell Guide has only one Faversham photograph, by Edwin Smith, of the 1574 Guildhall perched on its timber supports. So I'm hoping the picture above of Standard Quay gives something more of both the flavour of the town and the Shell Guides sense of place, following far behind in the footsteps of Smith, John Piper et al. The big white house is, I believe, an old Customs House.

A correction to the above has arrived at Ashley Towers from a stalwart of the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre in Faversham, who tells me that the 'Customs House' I had assumed it was is, in fact, '...the home of John Matthew Goldfinch, our foremost builder of sailing barges, who had his yard next door. His most famous barge was the eponymous Goldfinch, launched c1894. She was sold out of British service c 1930 and sold to a sugar company in what is now Guyana. The key point is that she crossed the Atlantic under sail, with no auxiliary.Yet she was designed only for UK coastal waters and short trips across the Straits of Dover and southern North Sea to ports from NE France to the Baltic.' 


Philip Wilkinson said...

I keep looking at your photograph and wondering just what it is that makes it like the ones in the Shell Guides. I think it's the atmosphere of quietude and slight dereliction - if that's not being unfair to Faversham, which I remember as a fascinating place.

Peter Ashley said...

I think it's 'serendipity' Phil, that photographic assistant that we always hope will be nearby.

Ron Combo said...

You've always been a 'lucky' photographer, meant in a nice way of course.