Gunpowder & Ordnance Wharf

Faversham has a wealth of Gunpowder Heritage with many structures around the town as a reminder of the importance of gunpowder in our history not least Stonebridge Pond, and three museums: the Chart Gunpowder Mill, the Gunpowder Room in the Fleur, the Marsh Works, and the Oare Gunpowder Works.  

More than 30 people attended, many members and residents plus Canterbury Christ Church University, Faversham Creek Trust, Faversham Historians, FSARG, Faversham Town Council,  Lees Court Estate, Medway & Swale Boating Association,  Oare Gunpowder Works, Swale Borough Council (Economy and Community Services) University of Kent, SWAT Archaeology.

John Owen spoke on Faversham and the Defence of the Realm pointing out that Faversham is closer to the French coast than to Trafalgar Square and that Faversham had contributed men and materials to many wars. The East Kent Impress Officer Admiral Keeler lived in the town and men from Faversham were pressed for naval service as well as to provide skilled workers to the Naval dockyards and the line of ordnance: Sheerness, Chatham, Deptford and Woolwich.

The early years of  Faversham gunpowder production are not well documented, there are C16th references but nothing in the early C17th. Daniel Judd began production in 1655. In 1667 UK production of gunpowder amounted to 36,000 barrels of which 2,500 (7%)  were produced in Faversham.  Gunpowder was important to the prosperity of the town but demand, production and employment fluctuated wildly depending on to what extent it was required for conflict. However, in the early C19th gunpowder provided perhaps 20% of male employment in Faversham. By the 1820’s it employed only 20 men.

The Origins of Ordnance Wharf – post-Napoleonic

Pat Reid then talked about the archaeology of  Ordnance Wharf, situated between two outlet channels from the former Gunpowder works that correspond to the two main mills, Lower Mills to the east and Bennett Mills to the west. This small tongue of land was formed by the scour of these two channels either side, stirring up silt, and the slack water between the two channels causing the deposition of this silt. Ordnance Wharf is, in short, a mud bank. In Jacob’s 1774 map of Faversham, it is a simple, roughly triangular spit. The 1822 map shows the natural form of a mud bank. By 1842, however, according to the well-surveyed tithe map of 1842, it has a regular squared off shape implying the building of a revetment, and it is named Island Wharf, which implies usage by vessels.  The 1867 map shows this artificial form very clearly.  The revetting is brick, and a great deal of hardcore must have been deposited inside the brick walls to create a flat and firm surface.

Pat covered the site’s more recent history:  The building, nowadays known as the Purifier, was built to manage the purification process but the actual Guiseley purifiers, which produced toxic waste material (cyanide), were on Ordnance Wharf, as it had become known. Gas production ceased in 1957 and the purifiers were removed, although the site continued to be used for storage and repairs until 1992. Ordnance Wharf was left as a derelict and potentially toxic site.

  • It is clear that Ordnance Wharf came into existence as a wharf between 1822 and 1842. Whilst Faversham doubtless provided some gunpowder for the Napoleonic Wars it was not shipped from Ordnance Wharf.
  • Ordnance Wharf is seriously contaminated land and recent digging ceased for health and safety reasons.
  • Any building on the site would require piling which might damage the revetting brick.
  • It was agreed that the Faversham Society would convene a meeting of those with an interest in Gunpowder Heritage in the town to discuss how the story could be better communicated to residents and visitors.
  • It was further agreed that along with the Faversham Historians the Society’s History Group would consider the feasibility of organising a one or two day “academic conference with visits” on Gunpowder in the town in 2020.

The Society has a number of papers published on Faversham and gunpowder.

TS Hazard The Town Warehouse

Monday 1st October Faversham Society Members and Guests Meeting
Is there potential for a new maritime museum in TS Hazard, the C15th Town Warehouse?  A heritage centre or museum featuring Faversham’s maritime history, trade, the Graveney Boat, and the Cinque Ports.

More than 40 people attended, many members and residents plus Canterbury Christ Church University, Faversham Creek Trust, Faversham Historians, Faversham Sea Cadets, FSARG, Faversham Town Council, Kent Sail Association, Lees Court Estate, Medway & Swale Boating Association, National Maritime Museum, Swale Borough Council (Conservation & Economy and Community Services) University of Kent, SWAT Archaeology.

Faversham – the gift of the sea. John Owen spoke on the history Faversham and reminded us of the importance of the sea and Faversham Creek to the development of Faversham and its prosperity. The town is located where it is, north of the main road, because of the Creek and the trade with London and the continent associated with it. The development of the town and its importance in the medieval period through until the end of the C18th was based on its trading by sea.

Town Quay where TS Hazard stands existed by 1420 and it had two cranes. The Town Warehouse, now TS Hazard, dates to 1475. The first bridge over the creek was built in 1790, it became a carriage bridge in the 1840s. John Owen estimates that one-third of Faversham’s men were employed on the creek or their employment was reliant on it. He also pointed out that the creek provided year-round employment and that it was fundamental to wealth an importance of the town until the C20th.

By 1580 Faversham had sixteen hoys, six of which sailed regularly to London. Whilst there were relatively few prosecutions for smuggling a large volume of seized smuggled goods were auctioned in the town.
The coming of the railway in 1858 resulted in the slow decline of the importance of the creek,  although as recently as the late 1970’s fuel, timber and agricultural goods (fertiliser and grain) were being transported on it. As late as 1900 there were 5000 feet of quayside, nearly a mile of quays.

  • The Graveney Boat is in the custody of the National Maritime Museum and there is a long-standing ambition to have it on display in Faversham. If the Town Warehouse was to be used to celebrate Faversham’s maritime heritage – trade, gunpowder, oysters, bricks – and its Cinque Ports status then the Graveney Boat might be considered for inclusion.
  • Faversham should engage with efforts by the Medway & Swale Boating Association to establish the importance of the Medway and Swale as a leading centre of British, European and World Heritage. More   In the 1980’s Maritime Kent was recognised and promoted  as a major part of Kent’s tourism offer.
  • The Registrar of the Cinque Ports was to have attended but was incapacitated.  He is interested in the proposal for a new museum/heritage centre and confirms that the Confederation of the Cinque Ports has been generally supportive of proposals to bring the Ports’ history to a wider audience. The Confederation has yet to take a view and it is extremely unlikely that the Confederation would be able to offer any financial contribution.
  • Swale’s Conservation Officer outlined the steps being taken to ascertain the condition of the building, A survey by  Anthony Swaine Architecture Ltd was completed in March. They concluded that

    After 60 years, the building is, again, in need of significant repair with areas of decay particularly in the sole plates and at the river end where the wall framing is distorting as a result of decay in the cill.
    The roof coverings in particular have reached the point where major overhaul is required since the roof was not retiled as part of the 1960s refurbishment and may well not have been replaced for a considerable time before that.

    The next stage is for Canterbury Archaeological Trust (Rupert Austin) to carry out an archaeological survey – this is to commence imminently.

  • Those present were assured by Swale’s Economy and Community Services representative that no decision has been made about “repurposing” TS Hazard and that if it’s repurposing was to be considered that would only be after completion of a careful consideration of the state of the building and the work required to ensure its conservation. We were assured that any change of purpose for the building would be subject to full public consultation and alternative accommodation for the Sea Cadets would need to be secured.
  • There have been discussions about research opportunities in Faversham between researchers at the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich University and academics from both the University of Kent and Christchurch University have expressed interest. Whilst much work has been done by Faversham Historians and other academics there is still much to be done. The Faversham Society is keen to work with everyone with an interest in the history of Faversham and the Faversham Hundred to advance our knowledge of the past and to communicate it. The National Maritime Museum holds the records of James Pollock Sons & Co Ltd and they are keen to see them researched.
  • Flooding and a viable income stream to support any new use for the Town Warehouse would be significant challenges as well as funding the restoration of the building.