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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Faversham Abbey.
by Brian Philp.

During the excavations on the site of the royal abbey at Faversham in 1965 a number of unusual features concerning the monastic plan were revealed. In particular the cloister was found to 'float' away from the nave wall in a manner not paralleled on any other monastic site. In addition the eastern range did not continue the alignment of the transept in the normal way, but was offset eastwards some 30 feet or more. Another highly unusual feature was that the eastern arm of the conventual church was 170 feet in length and was actually some 20 feet longer than the western arm! Almost with out exception the western arms of the greater Anglo-Norman Romanesque churches were the longer of the two. Even allowing for the great royal chapel, in which were found the tombs of Stephen, Matilda and Eustace, the eastern arm at Faversham was of disproportionate length.

It was not until early in 1967 that the probable solution to these various problems was found. This was that the transept of the original scheme was never built as intended, but repositioned some 30 feet further to the west shortly after work began. Normally work commenced simultaneously on the eastern end of the church and the eastern range of the domestic buildings. In this way services could be held with the minimum of delay in the first part of the church completed and the chapter house and dormitories made quickly available. The eastern range would certainly have been started on the line of the intended transept in the normal way and if the latter was subsequently repositioned then the normal alignment would be lost. This is exactly the position at Faversham where the eastern range was found well to the east of the transept alignment. This also explains the odd position of the cloister relative to the church. Clearly the cloister-walks were intended to provide access to the various domestic buildings ranged on three sides and thus the position of the cloister was dictated by the position of the eastern range. The effect of this was to pull the cloister away from the north, nave wall to a point at the end of the north transept.

The repositioning hypothesis also explains the undue length of the eastern arm of the church. Allowing for the intended transept being some 30 feet further east, then the western arm was intended to be 180 feet in length and the eastern arm a mere 140 feet. This would restore the balance as noted on other sites.

A detailed report on the excavation, finds and conclusions is now being prepared for publication.

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