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Ordnance Wharf

The Faversham Society submitted an application for listing to Historic England. Ray Harrison wrote the application for us. Despite our best endeavours listing was not granted.

The Wharf received incoming materials for gunpowder manufacture and exported the finished product in barrels. It acted as the gathering point for materiel produced within the whole of the Home and Hill works (for their full extent see p VI). From it cargoes of gunpowder were carried down the Creek in purpose-built barges for transhipment to sea-going vessels further down, for onward transport to various other government arms depots.

“Faversham was one of the leading centres of the British gunpowder industry for over 300 years. The earliest factory in the town was founded in the 16th century and indeed Faversham may have been the birthplace of the British industry….” The Faversham Works (and hence Ordnance Wharf) had more than local significance. It was the first of the ‘Royal’ gunpowder works and saw important early experiments to improve the quality of gunpowder nationally. Its ‘daughter’ works, Waltham Abbey in Essex (5), was founded somewhat later, initially following the pattern of Faversham. The Waltham Abbey Works is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and contains a SSSI.

At the local level the wharf is not only historically significant in its own right but also, in association with the other surviving features, mostly infrastructure elements, of the historic gunpowder works. These are set out above and some are discussed further below. The two early c19 low red brick bridges at the end of the docks to each side of the Wharf are an integral part of its final overall plan. Both were formerly open to water on both sides. Both contain set back within them the ends of two later reduced diameter brick culverts leading to the two current outflow sluices from Davington Pond.  

The Lower and Bennetts Mills’ mill bases on their dam with Stonebridge Pond and the wider Works site behind them, the dam itself (expressed in the drop of some 6 or 7 feet from pond level down to high tide level in the probable former wheel pit, now sluice) and the intimate functional relationship of all this to Flood Lane and the purpose built powder despatch point of Ordnance Wharf, make for a unique grouping. Considered together these features are locally historically significant. They extend finite understanding of the former gunpowder manufacturing process within Faversham’s town centre, augmenting that available currently at the Scheduled Chart Mills site.

Each mill stone base of the Lower and Bennetts Mills is also of historic interest in its own right. What we see today are successors to the first mills at the sites, which as noted may have been introduced in the early 1690s, p19. It is likely that a number stand on their original sites. And in addition to the valuable above ground survivals of brick bases and bed stones, ‘Mills required very substantial footings, as they were often built on man-made ground…(a) drawing of a mill at Waltham Abbey shows brick foundations…resting on timber piles. In some later buildings, the mill beds themselves rested on deep brickwork foundations.., or elm posts might be found under a machinery base. (6)

Reasons for Designation:

It is understood that the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan adopted by Swale Council, recommended that Ordnance Wharf be accorded undesignated heritage asset status, a move supported then by English Heritage. It is suggested that in fact the structure (including its bridges to each side) has a level of historic significance, both locally and regionally, that makes it worthy of the same designated heritage asset protection as the Grade II listed brick security walls on Brent Hill road and along Flood Lane. Like parts of them it is an industrial infrastructure feature of relatively early modern date. It is suggested that it is of at least equal intrinsic historic interest to the security walls. It was the unique point of export/import for the Royal Works - a place of particular activity where the closed and outside worlds met. The Wharf’s historic significance is additionally enhanced by its close proximity to, and original working relationship with, the Lower and Bennetts powder Mills.

The five mill bases etc of the Lower Mills recently fully exposed, can now be seen for what they are - a series of related individual historic powder mill bases and some bed stones, adjacent to each other and on their original sites. It is argued that each is worthy of statutory listing for its intrinsic historic interest. In addition, as a group the bed-stones, some in their c1790 positions, form the almost complete range (5 out of 6) present within one building at the Mill’s time of maximum productivity. The significance of the mill bases is further enhanced by their close proximity to Ordnance Wharf. 

The two surviving adjacent bed-stones of Bennetts Mills appear to be in their c1790 positions and are intact, unlike any of those at the Lower Mills. Again it is argued that they are worthy of statutory listing for their intrinsic historic interest, their significance being enhanced by their close proximity to Ordnance Wharf. 

Our application is here

July 11, 2020

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The Faversham Society - Registered Address: 10-13 Preston Street, Faversham, Kent ME13 8NS
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