The Early Town Books of Faversham

Duncan Harrington and Patricia Hyde

1. Faversham has the most medieval and early modern records for a small town in Kent so that it is worth studying in detail not only for itself but also because it may throw light on what else was happening in the county. The present generation of inhabitants have saved the town so that its street pattern and the surviving fabric of many medieval and early post medieval buildings constitute a built archive which complements the rich documentary one. For both social and economic hisorians this is a town which still wears its history on its sleeve.

2. Alan Everitt said that Faversham was one of forty or so seminal places in Kent where things always seemed to happen; places that seem to have attracted each successive wave of invasion; places where historical arguments for continuity of occupation seem particularly cogent.

3. From the Roman remains being currently investigated in an area just outside the town the settlement pattern is gradually being pieced together.

4. Faversham was held by the Crown as ancient demesne in the Domesday Book. What did that mean for the freemen of the 32 hagae in the town?

5. King Stephen granted the manor of Faversham to the abbot and monks when he founded the vast abbey there as a royal burial site in 1148, (not 1147 as was once thought). Why did he choose that site? What did this change in overlord mean for the townsmen, who had once been part of the ancient demesne?

6. There were about 20 clashes in legal action between the abbot and the townsmen over rights of jurisdiction in the period between 1258 and 1413. How could the townsmen afford the expense of all these law-suits? The answer was that by 1300 Faversham was the leading port in Kent, carrying grain, particularly wheat, to London, so its merchants were wealthy. They had economic power but failed to free themselves from the shackles’ of the abbot.

7. This led to the townsmen turning for help to the Cinque Ports. What were their links with Dover and Sandwich?

8. How did it come about that Faversham has one of the six surviving engrossments or copies from the Chancery of the reissue of Magna Carta in 1300 at the very stage that it was employing a lawyer for the first time? It fought an important case in 1302, again about rights of jurisdiction, but this time against the warden of the Cinque Ports. Why did it lose the case?

9. He refused to accept that their chief officer was a mayor rather than an alderman, long after this had been accepted at other Cinque Ports. Further more, as late as 1530-31 the chamberlain’s accounts were heard by the auditors in the abbey in the presence of the abbot and the mayor. In fact, they were not free of him until the dissolution of the abbey in 1538 and the grant of a new charter in 1546.

10. Who were the group of men described as tuitioners in the town books after the Black Death?

11. What was the importance of Henry Hatch to the development of the town in the sixteenth Century?

12. Thomas Arden the town’s most famous inhabitant then and now.

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