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Ordnance Wharf, Faversham - Time Line and Comments.

23/502647/FULL Ordnance Wharf Flood Lane Faversham Kent ME13 7DY

Ordnance Wharf - i.e. a wharf from which ordnance is shipped, or which receives it.

Time Line.

1745. Jacob map. Both Lower and Bennett’s Mills groups shown. Main gunpowder shipping point then appears from the map to have been against the downstream side of the pond dam, at the Creek head immediately below the Lower Mills group (for the Mill groups and the pond dam, see Harrison J.R. 2018). Wharf site recorded as undeveloped.

1759. State takes over existing Faversham gunpowder works.

1790. Detailed map of Lower and Bennett’s Mill sites and adjoining bifurcated Creek head. Shipping point still probably against the side of the dam in the mill pools below it. Wharf site undeveloped as before.

Circa 1815. (suggested) First accurate map record of Ordnance Wharf and Flood Lane in their modern form - un-dated. The two mill pools, immediately west of a realigned Flood Lane, are at this stage still shown. Wharf site is fully developed - its plan closely resembles what we see today. The docks to each side of it are in place. From all this it is easy to understand why it was once known (alternatively) as ‘island wharf’. From the two docks, shipments to and from the Works would have been made. Inward imports of fuel etc were as important to the functioning of the Works as the outward, ordnance, ones.

A map date of 1815 is suggested as in that year the State let-out the Home Works etc to J.Hall and Sons, Dartford, who continued with gunpowder production at the site thereafter. 

1822. An accurate plan of Home Works in the A. Percival Collection. All as above. The two mill pools on the west side of Flood Lane are still shown.

1825. State makes detailed map record of the Works preparatory to selling them off to J.Hall and Sons. Layout of land and buildings at Creek head all as before, with Ordnance Wharf labelled Lot 11 and described as ‘wharf and crane.’ The two mill pools on the west side of Flood Lane still shown.

1830. Gas Works opens on town side of head of Creek. (Only the second in Kent.)

1842/3. Tithe map.Very minor changes. Significant is the extension of the footprint of the Lower Mills group, confirming that the bed stones and runners here continued to operate to make gunpowder. Map made just prior to the commencement of the creek improvement works which here, specifically, formed the Creek Basin

1843. Creek improvement locally involved the forming of a substantial, lock-gated, maritime shipping Basin stretching from Ordnance Wharf to the Brents bridge. This survives, but is gradually silting-up. The basin made it possible for deeper draught vessels to reach the Creek head.

1851. Wharf confirmed as then occupied by a shipwright. This new use for the Wharf was of course possible due to the building of the Basin, as just noted allowing bigger vessels to reach the Wharf.

1861. Ordnance wharf recorded as occupied by Mr. Cornelius, Shipwright.

1864 (67?) O.S.Map. Creek Basin of 1843 now added to OS map. Other variations from previous arrangements: 1) The two mill pools have been filled in to produce the current arrangement within the allotment garden. 2) The Lower Mills group has been further extended southward and a steam engine house has been added at its north end. (see Harrison J.R. 2018).

By the early 1880s H.R.Cornelius’ business at the wharf comprised his ship repair yard, chandlery and block-and-mast-making shed. All these skills are advertised alongside his name on the front of his shed on the Wharf in a late 19th century photo, with a sailing vessel under repair/maintenance in the north east wharf dock. The tall chimney of the Lower Mills engine shed also appears in this view (see Harrison 2015, Fig 51, p 30). 

1889. Cornelius shipwright in dispute with Gas company, the latter claiming a right to have their vessels in the south west dock adjoining Ordnance Wharf.

1896/97 O.S.Map. Wharf still occupied by shipwrights, the map showing the two buildings they have there. The larger of the two is doubtless that shown in the photo just mentioned. This is the first time buildings have been map-recorded on the Wharf. The Map notes the mills on the pond dam as ‘Gunpowder Mills’ - meaning they were still working at this time.

1899. Gas Company buys Ordnance Wharf from shipwrights. Shipwright’s main shed is moved to Ham Marshes. Gas Company asks the Faversham Navigation Company to sanction ‘a new wharf to be built of brick 90 feet long on the creek frontage most convenient in the opinion of Mr Jones..’  this new creek frontage wharf can only have been along the Creek frontage of their main gas works site - it is therefore likely to be part of the present brick wharf front behind what was until recently Morrisons. 

1901. Gas Company placed the Guisley Purifierson Ordnance Wharf.

Comment.

Manufacture of explosives of some kind finally ceased at the Home Works between the two world wars. The Time Line suggests that shipping-out the product from the Creek head, and hence from Ordnance Wharf, may have continued until around the completion of the 1843 Creek improvement works. This is when it became possible to develop ship repair and ship building operations at the Creek head - on, and adjacent to, the Wharf itself. At this point Works Ordnance products may have begun to be carted out (maybe to the Oare works) - a seemingly more dangerous procedure than conveying them by water.

The evidence confirms the operation of shipwrighting businesses on and adjacent to Ordnance Wharf from as early as 1851, these continuing to the end of the 19th Century. After that the Wharf came into the hands of the Gas Company. It seems likely that from around the turn of the Century coal etc for the Gas Works was unloaded onto the new wharfside discussed in 1899, rather than onto Ordnance Wharf, isolated and occupied as the latter soon was by the Guisley Purifiers.

The history of 18th century gunpowder shipments out of the Home Works and down Faversham Creek to the North Sea is well known and documented. The Time Line here completes the picture. Ordnance Wharf is a late feature in the story. It is the last iteration of long established arrangements for transferring gunpowder to barges, sent down the pre-improved Creek, for transfer to larger sea going vessels lower down.

Throughout the c19 the Wharf retained its relationship with the sea, first as a shipping point and then as workplace for ship repair and ship building. Its wide flat, open, top met the requirements of both functions perfectly. One has only to think of the genuine, resonant, maritime character of Standard Quay before its utter loss to recent (and continuing) gentrification, to understand what awaits Ordnance Wharf should it be subjected to a similar regime.

References:

  1. Harrison J.R. Part Conservation Area Appraisal, Faversham Creek Pool and Ordnance Wharf. Sept 2015.

N.B. Correction 26/01/24 to text on page 25 of Harrison 2015, paragraph commencing ‘The Public Record Office etc…’ A subsequent visit to Public Records Office at Kew confirmed that a possible date of 1801 for first map reference to the Wharf in fact applied to the Oare Works. Circa 1815 remains the earliest possible date for construction of the Wharf with certainty in 1822, as noted above in the Time Line.

  • Harrison J.R. Faversham Ordnance Wharf with Stonebridge Pond dam, Lower and   Bennetts Mills and the Hill Works. November 2018.
  • Perks R.H. Memo to various Faversham Society Members on the subject of Ordnance Wharf. 7th January,2015.

The following further sources were consulted during the preparation of Harrison 2015:

Cocroft W.D. Dangerous Energy, EH Swindon, 2000/2007.

Percival A. A chronology of the Faversham Explosives Industry, Undated notes.

Taylor F (Compiled by R Walsh) A history of Faversham and Oare Creeks and the Faversham Navigation, 2002.

Wilkinson P. The Historical Development of the Port of Faversham 1580-1780. 2006

J.R.Harrison. AA Dipl., Dipl. Conservation, York.  30.01.2024.   

February 22, 2024

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