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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler & Arthur Percival, 22 June 2009

Swale Part 3: The Faversham Almshouses

The Faversham Almshouses, Faversham in Kent

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.

The chapel of the Faversham Almshouses

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.

Wall plaque and stained glass window inside the chapel of the Faversham Almshouses

The plaque, 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'.

Nave and stained glass window inside the chapel of the Faversham Almshouses

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 Faversham Almshouses main buildings

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 front of the chapel at the Faversham Almshouses

The nave itself, plus 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. 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 for their abilities.

Three photos and text on this page kindly contributed by Arthur Percival.

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