Visitors to Faversham will often wander through the town, admiring the impressive historic buildings and many independent shops and cafes, but when it comes to 17 West Street they are stumped. The pretty pink building has a shop window, carefully decorated with seasonal displays and memorabilia and yet, much like the shop of our favourite childhood character Bagpuss, this is a shop that doesn’t actually sell anything!
Once you have been in Faversham a while, anyone and everyone can tell you what this building in is, as it belongs to one of Faversham’s most well known and well loved characters, Pamela Kingsnorth, or Poodle Pam as she is more commonly known. Today Pam lives at 17 West Street, but for 40 years Pam also ran ‘Pam’s Poodle Parlour’ from there, hence the nickname.
Pam’s mother bought the shop for Pam in 1960 for the princely sum of £700, and Pam opened her business in 1961. West Street was very different then, the creek basin was still a working harbour, many of the boats offloaded directly to businesses in West Street and the road was one long street that was not only open to the traffic, there was no one-way system in place. It’s hard to imagine cars and trucks navigating the old medieval buildings!
Thankfully North Lane was widened meaning West Street was effectively split in two with upper West Street being pedestrianised in 1972 making this part of the Faversham somewhere visitors can slowly amble through and admire the pretty Tudor Buildings.
17 West Street has seen many more changes over it’s lifetime, we aren’t sure exactly when it was built but we do know it was once, together with the adjacent property an impressive Hall House. At some point over the years the property was divided up making number 17 a fascinating building (and perhaps an estate agents nightmare) much of the property has chunks of the neighbours building within the footprint of number 17, it’s hard to tell where one property ends and the next one starts. Pam points out, it’s a nightmare if she has a leak, as you can’t trace where it started! Pam regularly takes part in Faversham’s Open House weekends that run throughout July, we would really recommend you visit; Pam will make you most welcome.
Pam comes from a well-known and well-established Faversham family, the Kingsnorth’s. Longer term Faversham residents may well remember Kingsnorth Bakery, in Limes Place Preston Street. It’s still a bakery today, it’s the home of award winning bakery Oscar’s. Pam’s grandfather, Robert Kingsnorth when he bought it in 1908, established Kingsnorth Bakers. Pam remembers that it was a very skilled profession at this time, as everything was done by hand. There was a side flue oven that was lit in the morning and while it was at it’s hottest first thing, all of the bread was baked and then you would work through the bakery’s tasty offerings ending the baking day with meringues when the oven had got to it’s coolest.
Robert ran the bakery for 40 years until his death in 1948. One of the more notable stories from this time was when a local bus came out of the bus station opposite, suffered gear failure and ended up crashing into the bakery, which was packed with customers at the time. Luckily the bus was empty and no one was killed but the poor shop assistants were pinned to the counter until they were able to remove the bus.
Pam’s father, Harold took over the bakery in 1949 and set about modernising it, turning it into a very successful bakery. Unfortunately, it was during the modernisation works that Harold had a serious accident, a piece of heavy machinery, a cast iron dough bowl, slipped on its chains and hit Harold, causing a major haemorrhage. He never fully recovered and sadly died in 1952 aged just 55 years, forcing his widow, Pam’s mother to take over running the bakery.
Pam has happy memories of her father and growing up with him. The family initially lived above the bakery, which was quite a dusty and unhealthy affair for a young family. In 1936 the family moved to Mackenade Avenue. They settled into their new home and became very self-sufficient. As well as a large garden the family had two allotments and over 40 chickens, which provided eggs to the neighbours throughout the rationing during World War II.
Pam, is now famous for her love of dogs, but the love affair that would shape her life started fully when Pam was twelve years old and she got her first puppy, a terrier named Jimpy.
After Pam left school she started her working career as a Nanny but it wasn’t for her her passion was to work with dogs. She became a kennel maid and this kicked off her career and her love for Afghan Hounds as she worked for the famous Blechingley Kennels working for Peggy and Bill Riley looking after their famous Afghan hounds. Pam fondly remembers this time, it was a live in position, long hours caring for 40 dogs, and the Afghan breed completely got under Pam’s skin. Pam bought her first Afghan and went on to breed champions, become a show judge and be actively involved in and respected within the breed for over sixty years.
After her time at Blechingley, Pam’s mother bought 17 West Street for £700 in 1960. Pam set up her business in the same year “Pam’s Poodle Parlour” which she ran for just over 60 years until her retirement in 2001. In that time over 80,000 dogs passed through her door and she only managed to take two holidays in all of that time.
Despite retirement Pam hasn’t really slowed down, she’s still very much involved in Faversham life and always stops for a chat. 17 West Street is now her home, the former shop window know has meticulously researched displays of Faversham’s properties and Faversham life. Inside is a cosy home, packed full of treasured possessions and momentos from her business and her beloved Afghans. You will also find one of Faversham’s “Blue Plaques” dedicated to Pam, proudly boasting that this is the home of the “oldest stripper in town – Devoted to Afghan Hounds and the Town Of Faversham”
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Photo Credit: Sharron Pashley. Instagram @flossie_and_boo