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WORKSHOPS AND STABLES, RIGDEN'S BREWERY, FAVERSHAM, KENT by David Eve Sites and Monuments Record Officer, Kent County Council
The workshops and stables of Rigden's Brewery in Faversham, Kent were demolished in the summer of 1996 as part of the site's conversion to retail use following the closure by Whitbread Fremlin in 1990. As part of a recording program carried out prior to redevelopment the workshops were subject to photography by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England and, since they were to be cleared rather than adapted, more detailed recording by the Author.
Edward Rigden's Brewery may have been operating on Court Street, Faversham, as early as 1720 but was certainly established by 1746 and swiftly became a thriving business. By the time of William and John Rigden becoming proprietors (1871) the business had outgrown the old brewery and a period of major expansion ensued. From around 1872 until 1887 the Court Street site was enlarged and taking over neighbouring gardens, a complete new set of brewery buildings were constructed including workshops and stables.
The workshop and stables building consists of three parallel ranges situated in the north-east corner of the brewery complex against Church Street and the churchyard with the brewery yard to their front. A short distance away on the eastern side is the cask yard and coopers shop while to the south lies the maltings. The workshops' northern gable walls are in fact joined to the Church Street boundary wall, while the side wall of the eastern range is also the boundary wall with the churchyard. The westerly part of the group consists of a pair of parallel two storey ranges with tiled roofs (hipped at the north and gabled at the south ends) and diaper pattern brick work in red and blue brick. The eastern part of the group is a single large brick building parallel and adjoining the western. This structure, dated 1887, is also of two storeys with a pitched slate roof gabled at both ends. A lean-to addition stands against the south end of the western ranges while the eastern part is linked to the nearby maltings by a modern covered passageway.
The whole group has been much altered by a series of changes of use in the present century. The eastern building, originally constructed to house workshops for maintaining the brewery steam engines (and latterly lorries), was subsequently converted for use as a yeast processing facility while the western (formerly stables for the drays horses) became an engine room for the brewery's air compressors.
The eastern part features a series of five low arch-headed windows (some now blocked) high up in the ground floor of its east elevation plus one similar window in the southern end of its western side, with a door (inserted later) below. These windows are similar to those seen in the adjacent malthouse, itself built slightly earlier in 1884. The southern gable end features a large blocked door of recent date taking up all of the ground floor area (plus a current single door and the covered walkway to the maltings). The insertion of this large door in to the wall dates from 1971-2 when modifications were made to allow large vehicles into the workshop. Above this are three original round headed windows (now blocked), an inscribed 1887 date stone and, near the gable apex, a small bullseye window. The northern gable end is unchanged with original sets of three windows surviving at both floor levels with a bullseye window above. The interior has been much altered and all trace of original function removed, probably during the same 1970s alterations when the internal floor was taken out, essentially making the workshops into a garage. It was probably at this stage that a series of roof windows were inserted to maximise natural light for working.
In the early 1980s the eastern part was again altered, this time to serve as a yeast processing facility. In order to maximise the yield of beer from each batch the spent yeast was placed in a press and the liquid forced out. This was collected, sterilised and added to maturing beer in a tank outside the building while the yeast was used for pig feed. Inside the workshop a substantial concrete platform, raised on four pillars and attached to the walls (themselves reinforced with buttresses), was built in the northern part at first floor level to support the press. Below the press platform the floor was re-laid with a drain running down the centre and a shallow tiled trough in the north west corner which formerly held a beer storage tank cleaning unit.
Access to the eastern part was presumably formed by the altered south elevation, although east and west may have connected. The present opening, towards the northern end of the party wall, is flanked by brickwork not part of the original wall. Although the present ends of the original wall were clearly jambs (they are both edged in rubbed engineering brick) they are too far apart to have been a single arched opening. A pair of doorways giving two-way access between the buildings is most likely to have been the original arrangement.
The western part of the workshop and stable group has seen as much change as the east but here the sequence of alteration is less readily determined. The ground floor features a blocked window at the northern end and it seem likely that another formerly existed at the opposite end. The western wall has been substantially changed but traces of original doorways remain. A doorway towards the northern end, though subsequently enlarged, retains an engineering brick jamb on its north side. The whole central part of the elevation's ground floor is taken up with three large inserted windows and although the central window has a metal frame (suggesting an inter-war date) and the flanking piers have been lately replaced by air intake grills the northern margin also retains a rubbed engineering brick jamb. The first floor level exterior of the western elevation has a modern window inserted centrally (and now fitted with an air intake grill) flanked by a modern loading door and a window. The window is clearly an original, or at least earlier, feature and there is a contrast in brickwork to one side of the loading door and a clear break in the bonding near the southern end that suggest it is an enlargement of an earlier opening.
The southern gable end of the western part has a single blocked window and an inserted door at ground floor level with a large inserted window above (fitted with an air intake grill). A curious feature of this elevation is the small square buttress set between the two ranges. This at first appears to be a truncated chimney flue but no trace of a fireplace can be seen inside and its exact purpose remains unclear. The northern gable end of the western ranges features a single small window high in the ground floor of the eastern part with a smaller blocking (perhaps a vent or drain) below. The western range also has a blocked opening, this time a loading door at first floor level. The interior ground floor of the western part has been much altered. The ceiling is now supported on three I-section stanchions and access to the first floor is by three trap doors of uncertain date. A series of concrete bases for compressor machinery survive along with a series of channels (probably drains) in the floor and a breeze block partition inserted around some of the machinery. These features were added when the brewery compressors were installed in the 1980s. Roughly in the centre of the northern wall is a small stone corbel projecting from the wall near to the floor. The function of this feature is unclear but it may have served to support an internal partition when the building was in use as stables.
The first floor of the western part has been latterly used to house air conditioning ducts supplying the adjacent yeast processing machinery. Ducting is still in place, leading from the window air vents through openings cut in the party wall. Stanchions have again been used to replace timber posts supporting the roof valley. The eastern wall head shows signs of having been rebuilt above a timber beam with some 15 courses of brick. Below this is the remains of a blocked opening, possibly a dormer window facing east. A similar timber course is built into the south gable. There are no doorways connecting the upper floors of the east and west buildings. Due to demolition work in progress and the presence of recent wooden partitions at the northern end inspection of the first floor was not completed. Conclusions The workshop and stables building group is of two basic phases with the larger, eastern building of 1887 probably being pre-dated by the western part. The northern gable ends of both buildings key in with the Church Street boundary wall suggesting the wall and both gables were rebuilt at that time. The party wall between the buildings also seems to be partly the product of the 1887 rebuilding when it was raised to support a roof valley of the appropriate height between them. Traces of a possible window at the head of the wall suggest that parts of the western structure's original outer wall were in fact retained during this process. This window may have mirrored the surviving original window on the western side. If this is the case the western building may date from the early stages of the 1870s-1880s rebuilding or even pre-date it entirely. If the latter were to be the case the building may even not have been a stable, but there is no evidence to suggest what role it may have played at that time.
The exterior and interior of the western ranges contain some evidence of their original form but little directly related to its use as stables and not enough to determine the interior layout. Ground floor openings have been changed. Those added to the eastern wall do not relate to the original doorways and traces of original door jambs can be seen, suggesting two large openings, perhaps corresponding to an internal partition. The insertion of large windows, at least one of which appearing to date from the inter-war period, could suggests a change of use at that time, perhaps relating to the increased use of motor vehicles and their maintenance in the eastern side. The most recent change of use, to compressor house, has removed evidence of this phase as well.
The eastern building has been much altered and evidence of its original function largely lost. The large number of windows in the gable ends and eastern elevation were probably a design feature intended to give maximum daylight to the workshops but due to the relaying of the ground floor and removal of the first no conclusions can be drawn about the specific functions carried out in different parts of the building.