Faversham Almshouses, grand and magnificent, are on
the northern side of South Road, a short walk to the west of the town centre. The
central chapel, constructed in Bath stone, stands out as being
especially grand, rising as it does from a street of otherwise
fairly normal housing, and the entire complex of seventy units which
makes up the almshouses takes up perhaps two-thirds of the large
wedge of land between South Road, Tanner Street and Napoleon Road.
Considered to be one of the largest and finest
schemes of its type in the country, this 1863 building replaced a
number of scattered almshouses in the town. Construction on such a
grand scale and to such high standards was only possible because a
local solicitor and former town mayor named Henry Wreight
(1760-1840) left a bequest, one of several across the centuries. The chapel and gate shown here form the
centrepiece of the main building.
The plaque, which is located at the south-western
corner of the main building, reads: 'This hospital was founded by
Thomas Napleton Esq, a native and steward of this town and endowed
by him for the comfortable support of six poor men of the said town
under the trust... of this corporation who built these
houses... in the year 1723'.
Underneath, another inscription reads: 'This stone was removed
from the original almshouses, Tanners Street, and re-erected 1930'.
The apse and the magnificent Willement
great west window are shown here. The coat of arms at the foot of
the centre section of the window is that of the Cinque Ports. The
chapel also contains a small, but rather excellent two-manual Father
Smith organ which has recently been restored. Although it may not
seem to be the case from outside, the almshouses chapel is usually
open. There are entrance doors on either side, under the arcades.
The main building is 143 metres (470 feet) long, although it
is broken up by projecting bays and by the chapel, while this end
section forms an 'L' shape on the north-eastern end, overlooking
Napoleon Road. Applicants for rooms must have been residents of
Faversham for five years. In 1982 the buildings were modernised at a
cost of one million pounds and re-opened by Queen Elizabeth the
Queen Mother in her role as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
The nave itself, as well as the long south wing
of the almshouses, overlooks the presbytery of the Catholic Church
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Tanners Street, part of a natural
progression from one to the other for anyone making a tour of
Faversham's churches and chapels. The design for the chapel itself
was handled by two Kent architects, Hooker and Wheeler of Brenchley,
but very little else seems to be known of them. Thankfully, their work
speaks volumes of their abilities.
Three photos and text on this page
contributed by Arthur Percival.