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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Arthur Percival & Peter Kessler, 14 June 2009. Updated 1 January 2020

Swale Part 7: Churches of Faversham

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Faversham, Kent

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church is on the western side of Tanners Street, precisely midway between Napleton and South roads. The building was erected as a school by the gunpowder factory owners for the children of their staff. The Georgian building next door was built for a tanner about 1747 (now the presbytery). The Carmelites took over the parish in 1926, gaining this site in 1937. The old school, now the Empire Cinema, was converted into the church.

Tanners Street Gospel Mission Hall, Faversham, Kent

The Gospel Mission Hall is at the north-eastern corner of Tanners Street and Napleton Road, opposite Reeves Passage. The hall (shown here in 2005) is an Independent church which is not affiliated to any sect and, although the date of its founding is uncertain, in 2010 it continued to flourish. The hall's band, which is now known as the Mission Brass, was photographed on the steps of the hall about 1925, at which time it was called the Gospel Mission Band.

Union Chapel (Bible Christians), Faversham, Kent

Union Chapel (Bible Christians) stood on the east side of Water Lane, but may not have been a purpose-built chapel. Records show that it existed by 1823 and lasted at least until 1837, but apparently handled only baptisms. It stood at the corner with Thomas Street (a relatively new addition which can be seen at the far end of Water Lane here). Water Lane itself was lost north of Thomas Road along with the chapel itself. The red wall and railings mark its approximate position.

Partridge Lane Chapel, Faversham, Kent

Partridge Lane Chapel lies midway along the southern side of Partridge Lane in northern Faversham, close to Shepherd Neame's brewery. Nonconformity arrived a little late in the town, becoming apparent by 1789 when the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion of Independent nonconformists opened this plain red-brick box of a chapel. With ideas about worship adapting, it was superseded by the Congregational church in 1878 and is now used by Shepherd Neame.

Church of St Mary of Charity, Faversham, Kent

Faversham is a town with a long and interesting history, but Christianity is only documented here from 1070 despite its proximity to Canterbury. In that year, William the Conqueror signed a charter which gave the parish church of St Mary of Charity to the Abbey of St Augustine at Canterbury. However, Faversham's parish boundaries were established around AD 636, which strongly suggests that a parish church was established here at about that date.

St Mary of Charity as seen from Church Lane, Faversham, Kent

The present church, situated at the junction of Church Street and Church Road, is one of the few dedicated to St Mary of Charity. This is one of the town's surviving links with Faversham's Abbey of St Saviour, whose mother church in France was similarly dedicated. Construction of the great abbey by King Stephen and his wife was completed in 1147, and the parish church fell on its southern boundary. After Stephen's reign, the abbey fell from favour and was eventually demolished.

View from churchyard and painted coloumn, Faversham, Kent

The size of the church is an indication of the town's importance in the Middle Ages. The former medieval central tower and most of the Norman nave were demolished in 1753 after being found to be unsafe. The famous 'crown spire' which is shown here in a view from the churchyard to its south, was built between 1794-1797. The painted column on the right of this photo was put in place in the north transept in around 1320, and survived the rebuild.

Pews inside St Mary of Charity, Faversham, Kent

The choir vestry dates from the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It was probably a chapel initially. Pre-Reformation, it must also have been used as a school as there are pupil carvings in the crypt below it. The transepts, chancel, and north and south chancel chapels were all rebuilt around 1320 after the townspeople had set fire to the church, destroying the original (presumably Norman) structure. The church also contains two fonts (one Georgian, one Victorian of 1860).

Long view of St Mary of Charity from Abbey Street, Faversham, Kent

St Mary's also contains a canopy tomb in which the remains of King Stephen are said to have been reinterred after being removed from Faversham Abbey (although it was also said that his bones were thrown into Faversham Creek). Faversham is one of the few places outside London where a king of a united England and his queen (and son) were buried, in this case in the abbey church. The abbey was demolished after 1538, and only a few outbuildings now survive.

1866 view of St Mary of Charity from the churchyard, Faversham, Kent

This view of St Mary of Charity looking towards the north-west was taken in 1865 or 1866 by William Saxby, the town's first professional photographer. It is literally impossible to take a photograph of the full length of the church today, because the churchyard is full of trees which obscure the view, even in winter. It's generally said that, in terms of floor area, Maidstone parish church is the largest in Kent, but in truth Faversham manages to beat it by a whisker.

Four photos on this page by P L Kessler and five by Arthur Percival, and one kindly contributed by Ralph Wood.

 

 

     
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