BETWEEN Rochester and Can terbury lies Faversham, one of the finest towns in Kent. For more than 300 years it was a major centre of the gunpowder industry. Then, in 1934, owing to their vulnerability in the event of war, the factories were closed. Within a couple of decades most of the buildings had gone and nearly all the machinery had been taken away as scrap.
But destruction stopped short in the Home Works, the oldest of all, and once the Royal Gunpowder Factory which had supplied Nelson at Trafalgar and Wellington at Waterloo. Here, among other plant, there were two pairs of gunpowder mills, each pair working in tandem off a single large water-wheel. One of these picturesque old mills was deliberately left standing, with its machinery intact, and the remains of the others were not destroyed but just buried.
Known as Chart Mills, they stood neglected and forgotten for thirty years. Then they emerged into the limelight when plans were announced for the building of houses on the site known as St. Ann's Estate after a medieval cross which stood nearby. By now their unique importance was apparent — nothing else like them has survived anywhere in the country— and the Faversham Society decided to do all in its power to preserve them. The estate developers — F . Parham Ltd., generously agreed to dedicate to the Borough Council the site of one pair of mills, and offered to sell the site of the others. The Society, for its part, undertook to carry out the work of reinstatement and raise the necessary funds. (Already £1,000 has been promised by the Government and £250 by the Borough Council, provided that the Faversham Society can find the other £2,500 that is needed. Subscriptions should be sent to the Faversham Society Chart Mills Fund, c/o National Provincial Bank Ltd., Market Street, Faversham, Kent.)
DRAWINGS BY JACK SALMON
The Faversham Gunpowder Mills
This account of an outstanding example of Industrial Archaeology is taken from a description published by the Faversham Society
Gunpowder began to be made in Faversham at about 1560, and Guy Fawkes may well have intended using Faversham gunpowder. The oldest parts of the existing mills, however date back to 1760, when the mills were nationalised, to become the Royal Powder Mills. About 1815 the Chart Mills were rebuilt, using some earlier components, and in 1825 the Home Works were sold to Messrs. John Hall and Son, who were later absorbed by Messrs. Curtis and Harvey, who in their turn merged with ICI.
Eventually in 1934 ICI decided to concentrate the manufacture of explosives in Ayrshire, and the Faversham mills closed.
Most of the standing mill dates from the Napoleonic period, though some components are even older and go back to about 1760. These are the only mills of their type and date known to survive— similar mills at Waltham Abbey were unfortunately destroyed within living memory despite efforts to preserve them. Chart Mills were 'incoporating' mills, used to mix the three ingredients of gunpowder