Farningham’s Famous Cattle Screen
A few years ago it was noted that the historic structure which has spanned the River Darent for some 250 years was in need of considerable care and attention. Firstly, a survey was carried out which confirmed our fears and then we prepared a case to submit to the Heritage Lottery Fund. After a lot of hard work on everyone’s part, we were fortunate to obtain a £50,000 grant from Your Heritage against a projected total of £69,500.
The next stage was to select a main contractor, and we were lucky to get the services of PAYE Stonework & Restoration Ltd, which has an impeccable pedigree in the field of restoring historic buildings.
This photograph illustrates what the effect of time, weather, infiltrating weeds and a degree of vandalism had done.
This was the sorry state when we had to shore up one of the pillars to prevent collapse
The structure was then surrounded with scaffolding so that the experts could get on with the restoration work.
This involved careful cleaning, removing loose mortar, re-bedding loose bricks or replacing with new matching bricks, all carefully bedded in old-style lime mortar .
Following the removal of the scaffolding, the Screen could be seen in all it’s splendour, although the new bricks will take time to weather to the correct colour. Believe it or not, they are an exact match to the originals.
On a project of this nature, all materials and methods have to be matched to those that would have been used in the original construction 250 years ago, although modern technology such as stainless pins have occasionally to be used where a substantial rebuild would have been the only alternative. However, this technology cannot be seen on the surface. An important part of this renovation is the skilled workers, who make it look all so simple!
Finally we started on the ancillary projects, such as compiling a photographic record of the renovation, designing and installing information boards to explain the nature and history of the Screen, and an interpretative bench.
The oak bench designed by Will Glanfield is now well-established and has drawn many favourable comments – it has certainly fulfilled all our expectations. The shape reflects the arches of the Cattle Screen and the carvings include a styalised Kingfisher diving into the river. It is sited so that it is a nice shady spot to rest and admire the listed buildings, the Darent and all the wildlife. We hope that visitors will take full advantage of this new amenity.
The work on the pier bases is now complete and is withstanding the present floodwaters well. Parishioners will notice that the "skirts" are now narrower and with an angled top to discourage children from trying to climb on them (and that is NOT a challenge!).
A photographic competition has been held by EPIC, subject "Farningham Cattle Screen" andthe standard of entries was very high.
The winner was Mrs Margaret Rimmer
Second prize going to Mrs Sue Heselwood
Third to Mrs Deirdre Steele
and the photograph by Mr Connor Sargent was Highly Commended.
The Junior Photographic competition was to a very high standard and the winners were:
Isabel Bennet – Key Stage II
Lydia Buckingham-Panayi – Key Stage I
Our new Farningham Walker's Guide has now been printed and is being circulated – and the Photographic record of the restoration work has also been printed and will be kept in the archives. A copy will be available to view at FELHS events.
6th September – We were pleased to announce that the Heritage Lottery Fund had checked our calculations and had sent the final instalment – thus bringing this marvellous project to a close, except for the installation of the Information Boards.
Our grateful thanks go to all concerned, including PAYE personnel, and especially the Heritage Lattery Fund, with whose help this would not have been possible. We have calculated that over 500 hours of volunteer time were given to this project, and we are sincerely grateful for this support.