This article appeared in the Autumn 1974 (Issue #37) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Davington Priory opened to public in aid of Fleur De Lis Appeal Fund.
Davington Priory, home of Mr Christopher Gibbs, was opened to the public on the first week-end in June. This was the first opportunity for visitors to see the results of recent restoration work, and it is also believed that it was the first occasion on which the former domestic buildings of the Priory have been open to the public.
The Priory of Davington was founded in 1153 by Fulke de Newenham for Benedictine nuns. When the last Prioress died in 1534 the buildings became derelict and passed to the Crown. They were given by Henry VIII to Sir Thomas Cheney, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover, Rochester and Queenborough Castles. The parochial (eastern) arm of the Priory Church was demolished and the rubble used for road repairs. The western (monastic) arm remained, as did most of the domestic buildings, but throughout the succeeding three centuries they fell into neglect. The Church was used as a smugglers' store and part of the domestic buildings served as an alehouse. In 1845 the Church, house and grounds were purchased by Thomas Willement, one of the greatest pioneers of the 19th century revival of stained glass painting, and he restored them carefully at his own expense -- also diverting to the back of the house the public highway which ran past its main (west) front. His restoration work was as sensitive as it was thorough and he also incorporated many interesting stained glass windows that he had collected from elsewhere or painted himself. In 1932 the Church and house were purchased by the Church of England, but in 1972 the house and grounds reverted to private ownership. Some valuable stained glass which had been removed has since been returned and it is hoped that some of this will be reinstated in its original position by early June. The Faversham Society takes this opportunity of thanking the new owner of the Priory, Mr Christopher Gibbs, for his generosity in opening the house to the public in aid of the Fleur de Lis Appeal Fund.
(An excellent account of Davington Priory appeared in COUNTRY LIFE of 9 and 16 December 1971).
Fleur de Lis, Preston Street, Faversham.
The Fleur de Lis in Preston Street (one of Faversham's main shopping streets) is about half-a-mile from Davington Priory. A picturesque 15th-century timber-framed building, it was in use as an Inn for centuries. In 1971 it was acquired by the Faversham Society, the town's local amenity society, which intends to restore it and convert it into a Town Museum and Heritage Centre. A prominent figure in Faversham's history is Thomas Arden, murdered at his wife's instigation in 1551. Arden's name is now world-famous, for the murder was the theme of an early verse melodrama, ARDEN OF FAVERSHAM, which is still produced and which in turn has inspired a recent opera by a German composer. It is said that the plot to murder Arden was hatched in the Fleur de Lis. As Arden and his wife knew Sir Thomas Cheney, the 16th-century owner of Davington Priory, this furnishes a link between the two buildings.
At the moment the Faversham Society is concentrating on raising funds for the Museum and Heritage Centre project but in the meantime the Fleur de Lis cellars have been laid out as a temporary display area. One cellar has an evocative display of life 'below stairs' in Victorian days while the other features a fascinating collection of tools and equipment associated with local industries such as farming, coachbuilding, brickmaking and gunpowder making.
Faversham is a small market and industrial town with a history stretching back to Belgic times. There are more than 400 'listed' buildings and the town is one of the most interesting and attractive in SE England. Among other features of interest are:
- St Mary of Charity (parish church).
- Large building with a far-seen 'crown' spire. Work of most periods from the Norman to the Victorian.
- Regency building on a 16th-century timber arcade: market underneath. T S Hasarde. 15th-century warehouse now used as Sea Cadet HQ. Recently restored.
- Faversham is a Limb of the Cinque Port of Dover and the Creek, with its shipping, lies within 5 minutes' walk from the Guildhall.
- Abbey Street.
- Parallel with the Creek and considered one of the finest medieval streets in Britain. Many houses recently restored.
- Arden's House.
- 15th/16th century house where Thomas Arden was murdered. Recently restored.
- Chart Gunpowder Mills.
- Oldest of their kind in the world. Restoration by the Faversham Society nearly complete.
For further information write to the Fleur de Lis, Preston Street, Faversham.