Its been a few years since The Favourite Trust last contacted us and we were delighted to hear from them again. Peter Banbury, who is the driving force behind the Trust, needed some illustrations of various types of historic ships which would have used the then busy port of Whitstable, in particular showing their sailing rigs. John has produced some lovely studies in watercolour and you can see a few of them in this article.
‘FAVOURITE’ is known as a Whitstable oyster yawl and was built by the Whitstable Shipbuilding Company based at Island Wall, Whitstable, in 1890. She dredged the Whitstable oyster beds which extended over five thousand acres with an annual trade of eighty to one hundred and fifty thousand pounds until 1939 when war came.
FAVOURITE was machine-gunned by an enemy aircraft and began to sink. She was beached and dragged up the shore. After the Second World War, the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company did not resume dredging, but the Seasalter Ham Company did. However, FAVOURITE was left on the beach and in 1952, was found to be in the direct line of the proposed new sea wall. Rather than be broken up she was bought by Harry Hurford-Janes, a London author with a seaside cottage on Island Wall, who dragged her to the landward side of the seawall and used her as a summer house.
In 1964, the Seasalter Shellfish Company (direct descendants of the Seasalter and Ham Company) started experiments into the scientific farming of oysters and in 1967 they began selling oyster seed to other commercial companies. In 1972, the Pollard grounds were re-opened for commercial fisheries. In 1977, Mr. Hurford-Janes sold his home at 28 Island Wall and the new owners, wishing to extend the cottage, enquired of the Whitstable Society the best way to dispose of or preserve Favourite.
The Favourite Trust was set up in 1978 with the expectation that her hull could continue to be preserved for a decade or so as a charming wreck but that she would eventually collapse. However an industrial archaeologist pointed out that she was over 50% original and was the sole representative of a Whitstable Oyster Yawl in public ownership. Efforts were redoubled to support and preserve her hull as best we could with limited funds and to communicate her importance to the people of Whitstable through the good offices of the Whitstable Museum. FAVOURITE’s lines were taken off by a draughtsman with framing details to ensure her hull shape would be preserved.
By 2000 it was clear that interest in preserving Favourite had increased and funds had been raised with the result that a shipwright restored the stem and put in a more effective hull support system. The Favourite Trust had been registered as a charity and bids for funding were made with success from the Maritime Heritage Trail (Interreg III with others), Living Spaces and the Heritage Lottery Fund to rebuild Favourite, improve the site where FAVOURITE was displayed to create interpretation materials.
In 2005, shipwright Ashley Butler (Butlers Wooden Boats) was consulted on rebuilding FAVOURITE using the accurate lines available and the topside planking still in reasonable condition. Ashley’s advice was that it would be cheaper to rebuild a copy from scratch. However the Trust felt that would not fulfill the local people’s wish to preserve the last of the oyster yawls still in Whitstable.
In the event an excellent job was done by Ashley Butler and the hull is on proud display just behind the seawall in Whitstable. As Favourite would have originally been built on the shingle beach that is Island Wall, the site was restored as a beach and now has an impressive display of shingle flora. We estimate that each year tens of thousands of people, both local and visitors, view FAVOURITE over a typical year as she is next to the beach. With the help of Whitstable Museum, leaflets were designed and interpretation panels created by ARC Creative.