Standard Quay’s history, and a great photo of sailing barge Goldfinch

Goldfinch at Standard Quay
The magnificent schooner-rigged sailing barge Goldfinch beautifully posed at Standard Quay. Goldfinch was built at Faversham by the famous barge builder John Matthew Goldfinch 

Sailing barge historian and author Richard Hugh Perks recently retold the story of Standard Quay in an interview. It’s a story he will know well, as among his many publications is a 30-page history of Faversham’s sailing barges published by the Society for Sailing Barge Research.

Here’s what he had to say:

‘We know that ships have been built at Standard Quay for at least 300 years. Since about 1700, somewhere in the region of 120 sailing vessels have been built here at Standard Quay. The vessels that were built here in the early days were basically the oyster smacks. The fishing and oyster industries were the major industries. The type of craft that carried cargo up to London tended to be small coasting hoys. These were vessels of around 55-60 feet in length.

‘At least one packet boat was built here, the Prince Oscar, in about 1818. We know the names of the various builders who built here in the mid-18th century back to about 1818. The builders were the Bennett family and after that the Redmans came and built large fishing smacks, sailing barges and various other craft.

‘The most famous shipbuilder here was John Matthew Goldfinch who came to Faversham and built his first barge in 1853 and Faversham is probably best known for the Goldfinch barges including his famous schooner, The Goldfinch, which in 1930 was sailed out to British Guiana.

‘So the history of Standard Quay has always, as far as recorded history is concerned, has always been concerned with the loading and unloading of goods, the storage of goods, the building of boats and in particular, the repairing of boats. That was the most important part.

‘A ship, built out of wood, basically had a life of about 30 years. But of course they were always in collision, they were always in trouble or strandings. So maintaining and repairing these vessels was almost the most important work of the shipyard. If you look at the accounts of shipbuilders, most of them lost money building ships. Somebody like Goldfinch was an artist, his barges were beautifully built, they were soundly built. Out of something like 70 sailing barges that he built, their average life was just over 60 years. Now if a wooden vessel was designed to last for only 30 years, it meant there was a lot of repair work going on, a lot of refurbishment.

‘We’ve got records out of the newspapers of colliery brigs and timber ships coming alongside Standard Quay to be worked on and repaired. Local ships got into the papers when they were built or when there was some form of accident or tragedy. In fact while a brigantine was being repaired here in the 1870s, the staging around it collapsed and one of the shipwrights was killed.’

Against this background, it is surprising and unfortunate that a Swale Borough assessment in support of a controversial planning application to open a restaurant in a listed building on the quay recently suggested that boatbuilding began on the site just over ten years ago. I’d say that looking at the site itself, what Mr Hugh Perks has to say has a strong ring of truth about it.

There’s still time to let Swale Borough’s councillors know what you think about the restaurant proposal by the way – see this earlier post. For more information, also see The Quay website, the Faversham Creek Trust website and the Visions of a Creek website.

Last chance to oppose the restaurant proposal for Standard Quay – and have your say on the future of Faversham Creek


Save Standard Quay and Faversham Creek

Standard Quay

Swale Borough Council planners meet on the 11th April to discuss the proposed conversion of Standard Quay’s listed ‘black building’ into a restaurant and gallery and function room.

This gives those of us who want to see Standard Quay reinstated as a functioning centre for sailing barges and other traditional and historic craft just a few days to make our objections.

I’m told the best hope now is likely to be to contact local councillors, focusing on how the proposal meets – or fails to meet – local planning criteria. Read all about that stuff on the Borough Council website. Contact details for each area’s council member can be found using the search gizmo on the site, and I gather we can also write to: (the council keeps changing this, not me!).

Sadly, the area planning officer’s report recommends approval on the grounds that previous applications for marine use – sail-making, boat building and repairs – were approved by the council in the 1990s and not taken up, and that it is therefore reasonable to consider other uses for this building.

I think we can take that point, but surely a restaurant is not the only alternative. Further, I’d suggest that what happened 15-20 years ago may not be wholly relevant now, and that what Standard Quay and Faversham Creek as a whole now need is a plan or vision capable of bringing the Creek back to life – not yet more developments such as housing and restaurants that inevitably lead in the opposite direction, as has happened to many small ports around our coast.

(Yes – people really do buy homes next to boatyards, and then object to the work that takes place as a matter of routine. It may seem like bizarre behaviour to you, but I’ve seen it in action.)

Some might see this as a matter of culture and history pitted against profits and employment, but maritime industry can also bring prosperity and jobs.

Faversham Town Council opposes the application, which is great news, and I understand that many other people have declared their opposition to the development, which would effectively end any hope that Standard Quay will again become alive with traditional craft and the noise and bustle involved in their maintenance and use.

Readers may also wish to contact the area’s MP, the Rt Hon Hugh Robertson, about the issue.

There’s more information about the issue at the Visions of a Creek website, and at

On the subject of the future of Faversham Creek, Swale Borough Council has an online consultation on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan – few people seem to know about this, so it would be well worth sending the Borough’s planners your views.

PS – This news story from a local newspaper website reports that the Faversham Society and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England also oppose the restaurant planning application.

PPS – The YouTube film below shows what Standard Quay used to be like – and could be again, so long as the vote goes the right way.

Also here’s an online video of a local historian talking about Standard Quay’s history.

PPPS – Here’s what the Medway and Swale Boating Association said in its letter to Swale Borough Council:

I am writing on behalf of over 4000 boaters on the Medway and Swale, including many who keep and use traditional craft in and around Faversham Creek and those like myself who have used the unique marine and leisure services provided there.

We are dismayed that the proposed development at Standard Quay will forever prevent the regeneration of the marine industries such as traditional barge-building, shipwrighting and rigging that have gone on here until very recently. There are many alternative sites for houses, restaurants and car parks but these threatened activities can only exist at the waterside. Traditional skills and employment may be lost, just when there is growing demand for them.

The traditional creekside environment is what gives Faversham its unique character, attracting many people who don’t necessarily engage in boating themselves. The irreversible damage that will be caused caused by this proposal may well have been underestimated.

We therefore strongly object to this proposed development.


Tony Lavelle

Medway and Swale Boating Association

Visions of a Creek attempts to get locals talking about Faversham Creek

Visions of a Creek weblog

I don’t know who’s behind this weblog so I can’t exactly endorse it – but it is very interesting and whoever is doing it, they seem to share some of my own concerns. What’s more I’m sure the aim of getting locals talking about the Creek’s future must be right.

If you’re interested in Faversham’s history and future, and particularly in its Creek, take a look and see what you think. My thanks to Richard Fleury for finding this one.