Faversham Church, Kent

Faversham is one of Kent’s oldest towns, and although the first mention of a church in records is in 1070 (when it is transferred to St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury) it seems probable that the church was originally founded around 636 AD when the parish of Faversham was first established.

The church was heavily rebuilt in the early Norman period and then entered a peculiar period of rivalry with Faversham Abbey. The Abbey had King Stephen as a benefactor and the Church was built by the local authorities for parochial use. As such one continued to try and outdo the other, which eventually resulted in the largest parish church in Kent (disputed by Maidstone). Oddly both Abbey and Church have the same dedication, St. Mary of Charity, an unusual dedication amongst English churches.

The last twist in this tale is that when the Abbey was sacked and dissolved and Stephen’s bones dumped in Faversham Creek they were then rescued by the townsfolk and places in a tomb which is in the Trinity Chapel of the Church. There is no proof that the bones inside the tomb are or, indeed, are not those of King Stephen … but the town happily plays up the possibility!

The interior of the church has a number of important survivals; most important is the painted column dating to around 1306 one of very few to survive in Britain. 12 of the medieval stalls are 15th Century and may have been ‘donated’ by the Abbey on its Dissolution. And finally, the brightly emblazoned tomb of Elizabethan merchant Edward Fagg, who had a stand-off with the monarch’s officials when they tried to commandeer his wagons.

Much of the Norman interior was stripped out around 1753 (although its was later remodelled by the Victorians) and in 1794-7 the famous ‘crown’ spire was added to the tower, one of the symbols of Faversham town and one of the best preserved crown spires in England.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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