5th February 2014: Bryan Faussett, F.S.A. (1720-1776)

The Society's February meeting attracted a rather smaller gathering of members than usual, probably owing to the unpleasant weather. Those present, however, were treated to a well-researched lecture by Dr David Wright on the life and achievements of Revd Bryan Faussett FSA (1720-1776), the Kentish genealogist, antiquary and revolutionary archaeologist.

Bryan Faussett was born at Heppington House, Nackington, near Canterbury and was educated at a Kentish grammar school and at University College, Oxford. He was ordained in 1746. From about 1750 he devoted special attention to antiquities, chiefly Anglo-Saxon. He was a good herald and genealogist, and is stated to have visited every church in Kent, copying all the monuments and armorial windows.

Faussett formed a collection of more than five thousand Roman and English coins which was sold at Sotheby's in 1853. He began his excavations of Kentish barrows, chiefly of the Anglo-Saxon period, in 1757 at Tremworth Down, Crundale. He afterwards went to work at Gilton, where he opened 106 graves during eleven days in 1760, 1762, and 1763, and at Kingston Down, where he opened 308 graves between August 1767 and August 1773. From 1771 to 1773 he also explored 336 graves at Bishopsbourne, Sibertswold, Barfriston Down, Bekesbourne, and Chartham Down. Faussett kept a journal of his operations, minutely recording each grave's contents and thus made use of methods of excavation and recording two hundred years ahead of his time.

From the numerous antiquities found by him, Faussett formed a collection which was especially rich in Anglo-Saxon objects of personal adornment, such as brooches (including the 'Kingston brooch' of gold, garnets, and turquoises), pendent ornaments (e.g. gold drops set with garnets), beads, buckles etc. He built a famous folly in his garden at Heppington in which he housed his collection. He also researched and wrote up his many years of work into Kentish pedigrees, and recorded monumental inscriptions in about 150 churches around the Diocese of Canterbury. His life is the model of a Georgian antiquary and scholar, enormously enhanced and coloured by his personal correspondence and household accounts which he maintained throughout his married life.

After Faussett's death his collection remained almost unknown till it was exhibited in 1844 at the Archæological Association's meeting at Canterbury by its owner, Dr. Godfrey Faussett, grandson of Bryan Faussett. In August 1853 Dr. G. Faussett's son Bryan offered it for sale to the British Museum, when it was unwisely declined by the trustees. In 1855 the collection was sold and is now in the museum at Liverpool.

Jenny Oram