Template:GBmap Folkestone is a coastal resort town in the Shepway district of Kent, England. Hovercraft and ferry services formerly connected the town to both Boulogne and Calais in France, together with the still present Channel Tunnel. Satellite towns include Capel-Le-Ferne, Cheriton, Hythe and Hawkinge

Folkestone was a Norman stronghold on, or near the site of a Saxon fort and became known from its connection with the priory of St. Eanswythe.

Folkestone and Hythe are represented in Parliament by Conservative Michael Howard, the former Home Secretary, and present Leader of the Conservative Party.



Early history

Archeological finds from a 1st Century cemetery were discovered in 1948 at Cheriton, to the West of Folkestone, but the name of the town of Folkestone in Kent has its origin in the late 7th Century as 'Folcanstan', in all probablity referring to the ‘stone of Folca’, a common old English name. In about 635 AD, King Eadbald built a priory on the western cliff at Folkestone, for Eanswythe, his daughter, and her nuns. This was the first Christian community for women in Britain. Her name lends itself to the parish church of St. Mary's and St. Eanswythe where her mortal remains are believed to be interned.

Viking raids were common to the area and left extensive damage to the settlements at Folkestone up until the 10th Century, and even after Edward the Confessor came to the throne in 1042, the village was again put to the torch by Earl Godwin of Wessex, after being exiled by the king.

In about 1920 a landslip on the East Cliff at Folkestone revealed the remains of a large Roman villa complete with bathrooms and hypocausts, a courtyard with a mosaic floor and a kitchen with two fireplaces. The excavations were undertaken by Mr. S. E. Winbolt. The site was eventually recorded and covered over in 1957.

The French took the opportunity of attacking Folkestone in 1216 and also laid waste much of the settlement. The village even at this early period in its history was significant enough to have a Mayor and a Corporation, and in 1313 it received a charter as a Corporate Limb of the Cinque Ports. Folkestone was thus obliged as a "limb" of the Cinque Port of Dover, until in 1629 the local inhabitants obtained a licence to build a port.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Folkestone contained about 120 houses.

Descriptions of the town in the 18th/early 19th centuries

Daniel de Foe in his ‘Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain’ (1724-27) wrote: "There were eight or ten luggers and cutters employed chiefly in the herring and mackerel fisheries, giving employment to between two and three hundred men and boys. The fish were still conveyed to the town by the 'smacks,' as the cutters are usually termed, or by an expeditious land carriage, and the lower part of the town was protected by two large jetties at its east and west ends, which served also to accumulate the beach on which the fishermen drew up their boats to repair and mend their nets and tackle. These jetties were supported by the voluntary contributions of the inhabitants and labours of the sailors".

Defoe also described another of the town‘s “industries“ - that of smuggling, which was carried out on the beach in broad daylight by the owners of the contraband:

"The supply of gold for the French troops during the Napoleonic war, was the most lucrative of the illicit trades, and many were the cargoes of guineas that were placed on board the fine gallies, in reality, though not professedly built for this purpose, and rowed across by a hardy daring crew in the darkness of night to Boulogne, Calais, and even Dunkirk. No wonder that, with men used to adventurous lives, the Folkestone seamen were esteemed among the best in the British navy, and that such numbers of excellent pilots and active sailors were supplied by this little town". (Daniel de Foe)

Edward Hasted (1732-1812) reported that Folkestone was in his day an opulent and well-peopled town, having in it four hundred and fifty houses, and about two thousand inhabitants - although the population (see below) was in fact higher.

Town development: 18th/19th Centuries

Shorncliffe: Army Barracks

In 1794 the Army purchased over 229 acres (930,000 m²) of open land to the West of Folkestone on the heights overlooking Sandgate and in 1796 and 1806 Shorncliffe Garrison was further extended. Troops were stationed here before being sent off to the Peninsula Wars. During these later developments in 1804 the original wooden barracks were replaced with building of stone construction and were used to house cavalry and artillery brigades. The present Sir John Moore Barracks are the home of Gurkha Regiment in Britain.

Folkestone Harbour development

Until the 19th century Folkestone remained a small fishing community whose seafront was continually battered by storms and encroaching shingle, making the landing of boats difficult. In 1807 an Act of Parliament was passed to build a pier and harbour; and. by 1820 a harbour area of 14 acres (57,000 m²) had been enclosed. At this time trade and consequently population of Folkestone grew slightly; although the development was still hampered, with sand and silt continuing to choke the harbour. The Folkestone Harbour Company invested heavily in removing the silt but with little success. In 1842 the company went bankrupt and the Government put the harbour up for sale. It was bought by the South Eastern Railway Company (SER), which was then building the London to Dover railway line. Dredging the harbour, and the construction of a freight route down to it commenced almost immediately, and the town soon became the SER’s principal packet station for the Continental traffic to Boulogne.

Folkestone Railways

The railway reached Folkestone on 28 June 1843, although the building of the Foord viaduct delayed further extension until the following year, when what was to become Folkestone Junction station was opened. Once the line was opened to Dover, and the town’s prosperity (which meant growth westwards), further stations were opened at Folkestone West (originally named Shorncliffe Camp) in 1863, and Folkestone Central in 1884. ‘’’Folkestone Harbour’’’ station was used to trans-ship whole trains: the line from the junction was very steep and needed much additional locomotive help. The entire line closed in 2002; Folkestone Junction station had closed 6 September 1965,

Folkestone as a holiday resort

Between 1848 and 1868, Folkestone grew apace. Much of such development was intimately linked to the Radnor family, which owned, and still owns, a significant amount of land in the town and its surroundings. Sea bathing had become popular, and numerous hotels, including "The Grand" and "The Metropole", sprang up at the time. The development of entertainment facilities, and the building of a pier (opened on 21 July 1888) and marine walks, including The Leas, with its pavilion, took place.

A rare surviving example of a Victorian water-powered lift remains in operation at the Leas Cliff promenade and offers access from the Leas to the seafront and Coastal Park Amphitheatre, and the Rotunda Amusement Park (under threat of closure).

Folkestone: 20th Century

Folkestone and two world wars

During the First World War Folkestone was host to some 65,000 Belgian refugees and from 1915 was the main embarkation point for soldiers leaving to fight in the trenches of France and Belgium. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including many Canadian troops, left from Folkestone, marching from the Town to the Harbour along the route now called the "Road of Remembrance".

Folkestone was seriously damaged during both World Wars, as its proximity to the Continent allowed shelling to take place. The town had suffered great damage and was to be changed forever. 123 people were killed, and 778 injured. 550 houses had been destroyed, 10,000 properties damaged, and 37,000 people had left the area (see population below).

On May 25, 1917 low cloud over London caused a 21 strong wave of Gotha bombers to abort a raid on London. The Luftwaffe aircraft turned for home and detached their bombs mainly in the Folkestone district, killing 95 people and injuring more. This daylight attack revealed the inadequacy of Britain's defensive capabilities and aroused deep feeling across the country.

Folkestone post-WWII

Folkestone has suffered much deprivation since the end of the Second World War. The rise of foreign holiday destination, added in no small way by the package holiday, damaged Folkestone tourism business, as with most British holiday resorts. Although the tourist industry was still maintained, the closure of the ferry services between here and Boulogne seemed to spell the town’s demise. The opening of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link hastened that closure. Recently (2004) talks have begun between the leaders of the two towns: Boulogne also had similar problems. A SeaCat ferry service began in 2004, and some evidence is beginning to show that rebuilding of the town has begun. There has been significant physical redevelopment of the local town centre in a bid to make it more acceptable to tourists, the local community and the UK's newspapers alike.

The likelihood that domestic services will be able to use the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, placing Folkestone less than one hour from London by High Speed Train is expected to contribute to a revival of Folkestone's fortunes.

Folkestone Creative Quarter

The Creative Foundation is a new charitable organisation which is acquiring a large number of run-down properties in the Creative Quarter of Folkestone (the oldest part of town, including the Old High Street and The Bayle), renovating them and letting them at long-term affordable rents as workspaces for artists and creative businesses(some with living accommodation).

Dozens of painters, web designers, independent fashion outlets, a bronze foundry, musicians, graphic designers, filmmakers, etc are all taking space as the renovation work is completed.

The vision is to attract people to live, work and visit, creating a vibrant and exciting environment buzzing with life and ideas,bustling with studios, shops, galleries, street art, festivals, cafes and restaurants providing a long term sustainable future for Folkestone as a centre for creativty.


Folkestone is home to a number of schools including:

  • the Folkestone School for Girls (FSG)
  • The Harvey Grammar School ( (HGS) was founded in 1786.
  • the Channel High School
  • Pent Valley Technical Colledge

In recent years HGS and FSG have moved towards cooperation and sharing of resources. For example the two schools now share sixth forms.


Near Folkestone is the 'Battle of Britain Museum' on Aerodrome Road at Hawkinge. (Tel: 01303 893 140). It is claimed to house the "most important collection of Battle of Britain artifacts on show in the country: aircraft, vehicles, weapons, flying equipment, prints, relics from over 600 crashed aircraft."

"The Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge and the Memorial at Capel, the Martello Towers at Folkestone and Dymchurch and the sound mirrors at Greatstone demonstrate the area's rich "frontline" heritage."

Further, items associated with the wreck of the 'Benvenue', are on display in the local history museum. A Russian submarine(U-475) was on display at the harbour but was moved in 2002.

Missing image
Folkestone-with Rotunda amusement park on beach

People connected with Folkestone

William Harvey, discover of circulation of the blood, was born here in 1578. George Grossmith (1847-1912), collaborator with Gilbert and Sullivan on many of their operettas, died here. HG Wells (1866-1910) lived at Sandgate to the west of the town, and brought many famous authors of the day to the town. Charles Dickens lived at Albion Villas in the 1850's while writing Little Dorritt, and had previously been a visitor to the town. Wilkie Collins stayed with Dickens during this time, according to ( Other people who have connections with Folkestone are David Tomlinson, the actor famous for appearing in several Disney films (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins) and Michael Bentine, one-time Goon.

Population changes

At the beginning of the 16th Century Folkestone recorded a population of about 700, but by the time of the 1801 census the population had risen to 3257. Its population in 1841, was 2,300, but had increased to 7,509 by 1851. By 1871 the population had risen to over 11,000; the 1991 Census showed a population of 46,200.

Folkestone Invicta Football Club

Folkestone Invicta Football Club ( was formed in 1936 and played in the East Kent Amateur League (now the Kent County League), taking over the Cheriton Road ground in early 1991 after the demise of the old Folkestone club which had a long history in the Southern League.


As alluded to above Folkestone was at one stage a resort town with a developed shipping trade. With the decline of such industries others have filled the gap.

During the 80's and 90's the construction of the Channel Tunnel provided employment for many, as well as bringing many to the area, and on completion the running of service still provides work for many. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link is still in development, and the new high speed rail link to London, planned for 2007 may give the town another boost.

Folkestone is also the home of several insurance firms, some of which used to be involved in the shipping trade but have since diversified into other fields; and is the home to Saga, a major company providing tours and other services to the over-50's.


The town is situated at the foot of the North Downs, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the French coast, a mere 21 miles away. The North Downs Way, starting it's course in Surrey, reaches the coast at Folkestone and continues through Capel-Le-Ferne, and to it's end at Dover, some 8 miles away. Many walkers enjoy this fabulous scenic route. The area is a magnet for passing migrating birds and the Warren(woodlands ajoining Wear Bay)and the cliffs above are of particular interest during the spring and autumn periods.

External links

de:Folkestone pl:Folkestone fr:Folkestone


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