Faversham Creek Trust’s Purifier Building premises is declared open!

Admiral Michael Boyce declares the Purifier Building open

Last night the Purifier Building, which is to be used by the new shipwright apprentice scheme as a training workshop and premises was declared open by the Faversham Creek Trust’s guest of honour Admiral Michael Cecil Boyce, Baron Boyce, KG, GCB, OBE, DL.

I could not hear all that he said, but I did form the impression that Admiral Boyce made an articulate and encouraging speech, and I certainly heard him declare his strong support for the Trust’s aims. Admiral Boyce is chairman of HMS Victory Preservation Company and trustee of the National Maritime Museum, and also as chairman of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – he’s clearly as busy as he is decorated.

I also got a chance to find out about Mayhi, the unusual skimming-dish of a racing yacht that the first batch of apprentices are to work on, and to talk with Griselda Musset about Creek’s history potential for regeneration, which with the right management and support could be tremendous.

Check out the photos. The Purifier Building itself is a relic of the town’s gas works, but behind it is an area where gunpowder used to be made on a series of islands set between ditches – the reason for the ditches is that it was safer to move the gunpowder by punt rather than using iron-rimmed cartwheels that might cause a spark.

Despite this precaution, however, there was at least one large explosion that brought down one of the two towers of the neighbouring Norman parish church at Davington.

The wharves around the Purifier Building date back two hundred years – the one on which the building stands is known as Ordnance Wharf, and I gather gunpowder from this site was used against the Spanish Armada and at Waterloo.

This area of the Creek is a pool controlled by sluices and a swing bridge that was built at the time of the horse and cart and is now no longer working due to damage caused by the weight of the vehicles that cross it in the modern age.

Griselda explained all this and suggested I consider how the area could be, with the brickwork of the old wharves restored, the pool dredged and full of barges and Creek itself an important centre for traditional boats and boat building and repair. I have to say that for me it certainly made a compelling picture – and more than enough reason to give the Trust my support.

PS – Richard Fleury has put two short videos on Vimeo – one of Griff Rhys Jones visit to the Purifier Building a couple of weeks ago, and one recording the arrival of Mayhi.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger photographs.

A shout out for: the Faversham Creek Trust weblog

Faversham Creek Trust weblog

I’m greatly enjoying the Faversham Creek Trust’s weblog.

One the news side, the FCT folks are making real progress, with volunteers clearing pigeon poo and other nastiness out of the old purifier building in preparation for it to become the home of the new apprenticeship scheme in 2013, thanks in part to Morrison’s.

Another positive step came when the sailing barge turning area was dredged recently – this will make it possible for barges to turn around without fear of being grounded and then left stranded across the creek supported only at each end. The resulting strain could cause serious and possibly terminal damage to a barge. (I don’t know whether the Trust had anything to do with this, but it’s good news, and an interesting preview of what will come later further up the creek.)

But some of the best reading here is Arthur Percival’s terrific history of the place: recent instalments have included Thomas Arden’s tide mill at the head of the creek, the story of how deepening the channel enabled Faversham’s port to compete with Whitstable after that town’s harbour was constructed, and final the collapse of trade in the creek in the late 20th century.

If you’re interested in Faversham and this part of North Kent – perhaps for its excellent coastline for sailing and boating generally – the FCT’s weblog is essential reading.

Faversham boatbuilding apprenticeship scheme to open in 2013

The Purifier Building - home to the new Maritime Heritage Apprentice Training Centre

Faversham Creek Trust officials have announced a new maritime apprentice training centre is to be opened in the old Purifier Building by the side of the upper part of the Creek.

The Maritime Heritage Apprentice Training Centre will enable six student apprentices each year to gain a City & Guilds qualification up to NVQ level 3 over a period of three years. There will also be other short and part-time courses for young and mature trainees, and there may be bursaries.

The Trust says it is confident these accredited courses will lead to employment.

The craft to be worked on by the apprenticeship scheme will be traditional boats suitable for training and which can be delivered to the scheme building. New boats built by the students will be small enough to be built inside the building; access to the building will be from the water, and through a new door.

The new scheme builds on an earlier apprenticeship scheme that began with the restoration of the Thames sailing barge Cambria, which was completed this year.

‘We have had enormous support from our members and the people of Faversham, who are very keen to see the the Creek Basin used by traditional craft again,’ said master shipwright Simon Grillet. ‘We hope the Apprentice Training Centre and its need for waterborne suppliers and customers will be helpful to other Faversham Creek restoration projects.’

The organisation is also grateful for the Purifier Buildings owner, the Morrison’s supermarket chain, for enabling it to secure a long lease on the historic site in return for restoring the building and equipping it as workshops for the training centre and allied maritime trades.

A spokesman for the trust said: ‘We cannot thank Morrisons enough for their imaginative contribution to this project, which will provide training and jobs for the young people of Faversham and Kent.’

The trust is now engaged in raising funds from private and public sources for the restoration of the building, which will cost over £100,000, and take the best part of a year to complete. This will enable the first apprentices to start their courses in the New Year of 2013.

The Trust is also working with other organisations to open up the upper part of the Creek to navigation. Medway Ports will open the sluice gates, which will allow some vessels into the Basin, including small dredgers.

Anyone wishing to support the project financially or to become a Trust member is invited to write to: Faversham Creek Trust, c/o The Faversham Society, Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre, 13 Preston Street ME13 8NS. All contributions will be eligible for gift aid.