“Faversham; a fair and flourishing sea-port town, giving title to an extensive hundred in the Lathe of Scray, in the county of Kent, is situated on a navigable arm of the Swale, in a fruitful part of the county, nine miles from Canterbury, and forty-seven from London” (Edward Jacob, 1774, A History of Faversham). Faversham, whose maritime development is the subject of this study, was extremely fortunate in having an 18th-century historian of Jacob’s stature to write comprehensively on the town.
One theme which emerges from his work is the economic prosperity to which Faversham had long been accustomed. This prosperity had developed before the building of the Abbey in 1174, and it only remained for the commercial stimulus of the London agricultural food market, the making of gunpowder, the development of brewing, and the oyster fishery to enable Faversham to expand even further in importance from the 16th to the 18th centuries. And yet, apart from glimpses by Jacob, the extent of that prosperity, and whether just based on Faversham’s mercantile activity, was unknown The flesh to cover the known bare bones of Faversham’s maritime history had as yet to be ascertained. There is no comprehensive study of Faversham’s port development after Jacob. For the period under study (1580-1780) England was relatively empty; its population in 1700 was barely 5 million; millions of acres were waste heath, bog or fen (Pennington, 1970: 61). Roads were worse than the Romans had left them. The harvest was still the heartbeat of the economy and industry fed off the soil: timber, hides, hops, flax, madder, horn, bone, were among the essential raw materials (Clark, 1947: 5). And most industry was cottage industry: spinning, knitting, weaving, tanning, smithying.
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Reproduced with permission from The Kent Archaeological Field School