Chart gunpowder mills


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018786

Date first listed: 03-Nov-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Chart gunpowder mills
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Swale (District Authority)

Parish: Faversham

National Grid Reference: TR 00985 61235


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 31401

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing