When this soil was mixed with waste from London’s chimneys (brought up the creek by barge), it formed a self-firing brick, which was perfectly suited for the building trade. In the industry’s heyday there were at least 14 brickworks around the town. Faversham’s distinctive, yellow bricks fed the huge expansion of London in the Victorian era and helped fuel our Industrial Revolution. It’s no wonder it was nicknamed ‘the town that built Britain’.
Today Stonebridge Pond is a tranquil oasis where people tend their allotments and children feed the ducks. However, from the mid-16th century this area was the cradle of Britain’s explosives industry. Once again, Faversham’s unique geography fuelled an industry that employed hundreds of local people. Crucially, Faversham had a reliable water source. The Westbrook River was strong enough to power a series of mills, which could grind and blend raw ingredients into explosives. Nearby Bysing Wood grew a renewable supply of alder, which was used for making charcoal; the cliffs at Tankerton were mined for copperas, a mineral that contains sulphur and saltpetre (made from urinesoaked straw) was imported into Faversham town via the creek. But this was undeniably a dangerous industry. In 1916, an explosion at a factory in Uplees killed 108 people. The blast was so strong that it shattered windows along the seafront as far away as Essex.
The long flat marshes of North Kent have long been a source of literary inspiration. The route of this walk takes you out to a landscape indelibly linked to Charles Dickens, in particular the windswept marshes where young Pip meets the escaped convict Magwitch at the start of Great Expectations. More recently, Gary Budden set Hollow Shores in and around Faversham and the creek. This collection of short stories evokes lost legends and local tales of monsters, both real and imagined.
Continue along Court Street. Turn right into Church Street and pause by the church entrance