Faversham was one of Kent's and England's leading ports with shipyards, gunpowder factories, and a fishing fleet.
As a ‘limb’ of Dover, Faversham was an associate member of the Confederation of Cinque Ports, which from the 11th until the 16th centuries provided the nation with a navy to protect it from foreign aggression. Among Faversham's treasures is the oldest surviving Royal Charter granted to the Ports. Dating from 20 May 1260, this gives the ‘Barons’ (established citizens) of all the member Ports immunity from summons before the Royal Justices Itinerant in respect of land in any county, unless anyone sues them.
By the 16th century, Faversham eclipsed Dover, whose early harbor had silted up.
Faversham traded mainly with the Baltic and the Netherlands (today, Holland, Belgium and NE France).
Vessels from Holland crowded the Creek to satisfy the Dutch appetite for local oysters.
In the 17th century more wool was exported from Faversham than from any other British port.
When London began to expand in the 17th century, Faversham was the main source of its crucial supplies of wheat.
Cargoes of gunpowder from Faversham's factories increased steadily from the 16th century to the early 20th.
Like the other Cinque Ports, Faversham functioned virtually as a ‘city-state’, owing allegiance only to the Crown and not forming part of the administrative county of Kent. Sometimes leading local citizens gave the impression that the Lord Warden, rather than the King or Queen of England, was their head of state.
From this probably stems Faversham's long record of standing up for itself, usually successfully, when the authorities failed it; and also, through its charities, of foreshadowing some of the provisions of the Welfare State.
True to form, Faversham was regarded as something of a ‘loner’ by the other Member Ports. It was especially enterprising and was the only one to exempt all trading vessels (not just those from other Member-ports) from dues and taxes. This encouraged trade and helped make Faversham prosperous.
Significantly, the arms of Faversham Abbey were those of the Ports, with an abbot’s crosier added.
Each head port had its own MP. In the 16th century, when Dover was in decline, Faversham often elected an MP instead.