Ancient Monuments

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Chart gunpowder mills

A Scheduled Monument in Faversham, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3147 / 51°18'52"N

Longitude: 0.8823 / 0°52'56"E

OS Eastings: 600959.4292

OS Northings: 161232.1391

OS Grid: TR009612

Mapcode National: GBR SW3.FW1

Mapcode Global: VHKJW.76SZ

Entry Name: Chart gunpowder mills

Scheduled Date: 3 November 1972

Last Amended: 4 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018786

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31401

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Faversham

Built-Up Area: Faversham

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes part of a disused gunpowder factory situated in the
western suburbs of Faversham. Chart mills are the best surviving part of
Faversham Home Works, which originally comprised four groups of gunpowder
mills located along the formerly wooded Westbrook valley. Chart mills survive
as a standing building with intact milling machinery, associated structures
and buried remains. Part of the associated water management system is also
included in the scheduling.
The Home Works were established in around 1560. Raw materials such as sulphur
and saltpetre, and the finished gunpowder, were transported to and from the
mills by way of Faversham and Oare Creeks and the Swale estuary. The works
underwent several phases of alteration and redevelopment, and the visible
remains at Chart mills date to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. These are
twin pairs of adjacent, north east-south west aligned, water powered
incorporating mills, where the processed ingredients were mixed and blended.
Each pair of mills was powered by a centrally placed waterwheel. The north
eastern mill building has an original brick blast wall at its outer gable end.
The weather boarded mainly timber building, largely rebuilt during 1970s
restoration for public display, houses in situ wooden and iron milling
machinery. Some components have been renewed, and the edge-running, limestone
millstones have been reused from the nearby Oare gunpowder works. The south
western end of the building houses a wheel pit containing a breastshot iron
waterwheel. To the north is part of the now dry head race which fed the
waterwheel. This has been partly relined in modern materials. Running away
from the mill to the north east, the partly stone lined tail race is culverted
under Nobel Court road by way of an original, brick lined tunnel. Several
mature yew trees situated along the south eastern edge of the monument may
represent the remains of a planted blast screen. The three remaining mill
buildings, containing original, centrally placed bedstones, and the south
western wheel pit, were excavated during the early 1970s and are visible as
exposed brick footings, with some modern consolidation. The mills are thought
to date mainly to around 1815, incorporating some earlier, 18th century
machine components.
Two mill stones lying on the western edge of the monument were moved here from
the nearby Ospringe gunpowder mills. Traces of buildings, structures and
associated features dating to earlier periods of use may survive in the form
of below ground remains. Three 19th century boundary marker stones within the
monument, which are Listed Grade II, are included in the scheduling.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern
railings, telegraph poles, lamp posts, street furniture, signs, fixtures and
fittings, a resited Victorian lamp post, and the modern surfaces of all roads,
paving and steps; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Gunpowder was the only explosive available for military use and for blasting
in mines and quarries until the mid-19th century. Water-powered manufacturing
mills were established in England from the mid-16th century, although powder
had been prepared by hand for at least 200 years. The industry expanded until
the late 19th century when high explosives began to replace gunpowder. Its
manufacture declined dramatically after the First World War with British
production ceasing in 1976. The technology of gunpowder manufacture became
increasingly complex through time with the gradual mechanisation of what were
essentially hand-worked operations. Waterwheels were introduced in the 16th
century, and steam engines and water turbines from the 19th century. Pressing
and corning were also introduced between the 16th and 19th centuries to
improve the powders. Pressing improved the explosive power of the mill cake
and corning broke the pressing cake into different sizes and graded it with
respect to its fineness. Additional techniques were developed throughout the
17th, 18th and 19th centuries to improve the quality and consistency of the
finished product, and this in turn resulted in a variety of types of powders;
ranging from large coarse-grained blasting powders used in mines and quarries,
to fine varieties used, for example, in sporting guns.
Gunpowder manufacturing sites are a comparatively rare class of monument with
around 60 examples known nationally. Demand for gunpowder centred on the
London area (for military supply), other ports (for trade), and the main metal
mining areas. Most gunpowder production was, therefore, in Cumbria, the south
west, and the south east around the Thames estuary. The first water-powered
mills were established in south east England from the mid-16th century
onwards, and many of the major technological improvements were pioneered in
those mills. All sites of gunpowder production which retain significant
archaeological remains and technological information and survive well will
normally be identified as nationally important.

Faversham was one of the most important centres of gunpowder production
nationally between the early 17th century and the closure of the gunpowder
works in 1934. The incorporating mills at Chart represent one of the best
surviving parts of the disused works. Although subsequent development has
caused considerable disturbance to their original extent, the mills retain
rare machinery and parts of the original water management system. Part
excavation has shown that the monument also contains below ground remains,
providing important evidence for the earlier development of the works.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cocroft, W, Faversham's Explosives Industry, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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