Words Sarah Langton-Lockton Photographs Lisa Valder
Billhooks for hedge laying, slashers for coppicing and rarer items such as a parsnip lifter compete for attention with trowels, dibbers, string lines, small axes for kindling and hand forks in a dazzling variety of sizes, shapes and weights. They are spread out on trestle tables, while what Kevin calls ‘the long stuff’ – the rakes, the hoes, grubbing-out tools, a huge potato fork and a rare lady’s border spade with a D-shaped handle – hang on rails nearby.
Among them is a Canterbury hoe with a flat blade, so named, says Kevin, who claims to be reliably informed, ‘because Thomas Becket was depicted holding one.’ Canterbury hoes certainly date back for centuries and are still made, in two types. The hoe with the flat blade is recommended for earthing up potatoes and for making trenches; the three-pronged version is used for breaking up compacted and heavy clay soils.
Kevin says that ‘Faversham has one of the best markets in Kent, without any shadow of doubt.’ He set up his first stall here in January 2017 and now occupies three pitches, two for vintage tools and gardenalia, and a third, under the Guildhall arches, managed by his wife Frederica, and open on Saturdays only, which specialises in ornamental Spanish glass.
Kevin joined up as a soldier at the age of 16. He came out of the army in his early 30s, in 1994, and embarked on a successful second career in facilities management, achieving senior management roles in household-name companies such as Domestic & General, Tate & Lyle and Parker Pens. He describes facilities management as ‘creating an environment in which people can work effectively and deliver the core activities of the business. Design is important but maintenance and the management of a building are equally important.’ Waste,’ says Kevin, ‘is a commodity.’ He has expertise and a track record on recycling and a commitment to sustainability.
Unexpectedly, in 2016, Kevin was made redundant. He decided to use his entrepreneurial skills and open a small business selling refurbished garden tools in Rye market (he was living in New Romney at the time). The business flourished and expanded. Seeking new outlets, Kevin signed up for a stall at Faversham’s Charter Markets. ‘I’d lived in Kent for 25 years, but I’d never been to Faversham.’ It was love at first sight. ‘It is a fantastic little town, with so much to do and see.’
Kevin thinks that Faversham is bucking trends for the decline of town centres. He sees it as well located, in terms of motorways and rail connections, with lots of visitors, particularly for the Best of Faversham markets on the first and third Saturday in every month, and independent shops. The key is ‘to create an environment in which people can thrive and create small businesses, particularly where a craft is involved, something that’s different and niche.’ Good local markets can be a catalyst for this.
Turnover on Kevin’s stall is brisk. ‘Regardless of how the economy is going, people always find money to spend on their garden,’ he says. Young professional couples, he adds, like to furnish their gardens, buying galvanised metal containers, watering cans, vintage pots and other one-off items. Kevin also sells attractive metal obelisks and tall plant stakes with ornamental tops – opium poppy seed heads, cow parsley and daffodils. These are all handmade by a fabricator – ‘welded and rolled’ explains Kevin, as opposed to items ‘heated and hammered’ by a blacksmith. Among the forged items currently is a gorgeous boot scraper with a curvaceous handle in the form of an entwined acorn and oak leaf – very covetable.
Kevin can also refurbish old tools, service them, fit new wooden handles and look out for special items. When there’s a lull he studies human nature. He observes that there are lots of dogs in Faversham and their owners parade them with pride on Saturday mornings. The most popular breeds, he says, are French bulldogs and dachshunds.
The right to hold markets was conferred by Henry VIII in Faversham’s Charter of Incorporation in 1546. Visit www.favershammarket.org for details.
Contact Kevin Garside on email@example.com.