Main Births etc
Coordinates: 51°04′52″N 1°09′58″E / 51.081, 1.166
Folkestone Harbour viewed from the Golf Course

Folkestone is located in Kent

 Folkestone shown within Kent
Population 45,273 [1]
OS grid reference TR218361
    - London  71.3 mi (114.7 km) 
District Shepway
Shire county Kent
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CT18, CT19, CT20, CT50
Dialling code 01303
Police Kent
Fire Kent
Ambulance South East Coast
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Folkestone and Hythe
List of places: UK • England • Kent

Folkestone (play /ˈfkstən/) is the principal town in the Shepway District of Kent, England. Its original site was in a valley in the sea cliffs and it developed through fishing and its closeness to the Continent as a landing place and trading port. The coming of the railways, the building of a ferry port, and its growing importance as a seaside resort all contributed to its growth. Folkestone has the only sandy beach and coastal park within an hour of north London by High Speed Train.


A Norman knight held a Barony of Folkestone, by which time the settlement had become a fishing village. That led to its entry as a part of the Cinque Ports in the thirteenth century and with that the privilege of being a wealthy trading port. At the start of the Tudor period it had become a town in its own right. Wars with France meant that defences had to be built here and soon plans for a Folkestone Harbour began. Folkestone, like most settlements on the south coast, became involved in smuggling during the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the 1800s a harbour was developed, but it was the coming of the railways in 1843 that would have the bigger impact. With it came the tourist trade, and the two industries contributed to its prosperity until changes in tourist opportunities in the mid twentieth century hollowed out its economy.

Folkestone Harbour[]

Until the 19th century Folkestone remained a small fishing community with a seafront that was continually battered by storms and encroaching shingle that made it hard to land boats. In 1807 an Act of Parliament was passed to build a pier and harbour which was built by Thomas Telford in 1809.[2] By 1820 a harbour area of 14 acres (5.7 hectares) had been enclosed. Folkstone's trade and population grew slightly but development was still hampered by sand and silt from the Pent Stream. The Folkestone Harbour Company invested heavily in removing the silt but with little success. In 1842 the company became bankrupt and the Government put the derelict harbour up for sale. It was bought by the South Eastern Railway Company (SER), which was then building the London to Dover railway line. George Turnbull was responsible in 1844 for building the Horn pier.[3][4] Dredging the harbour, and the construction of a rail route down to it, began almost immediately, and the town soon became the SER’s principal packet station for the Continental traffic to Boulogne.

Folkestone Harbour Company commissioned Foster Associates to produce a masterplan for Folkestone which was published in April 2006. The plans describe the rebuilding of the harbour as a marina, a "Green Wave" along the sea front linking countryside west and east of the town, new housing, shops, a performance area and small university campus. The plans take in the land that was previously the Rotunda Amusement Park. Progress in developing the area has been inhibited by the recession and by new guidelines governing flood protection. A new approach to the seafront is being developed by Terry Farrell and Partners, and the former fairground site is being considered for temporary recreational use whilst planning takes place.[5]

However, there is an alternative plan being developed by the Remembrance Line Association [6] which is based on retaining the harbour railway and its station as a major heritage/tourist operation and 'Leaving for War' museum given the significance of the Folkestone Harbour Branch in both World Wars which is important to the Allied and Commonwealth nations. The harbour railway station, now unused, is gradually succumbing to nature.


Although Kent was the first part of the British mainland to be conquered and settled by the invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes from the middle of the 5th century AD onwards, after the departure of the Romans, it was not until the late 7th century that the spelling Folcanstan appears. One suggestion is that this refers to Folca's stone;[7] another suggestion is that it came from an Old English personal name, with the addition of stone, possibly meaning, in this context, "meeting place". It was not until the mid 19th century that the spelling of "Folkestone" was fixed as such, with the Earl of Radnor requesting that the town's name be standardised (although this tendency towards standardisation in the 19th century is true of English place names generally). Folkestone is often misspelt, variants including Folkston, Folkstone & Folkeston.


The governance of Folkestone lies in both national and local government. Insofar as national government is concerned, Folkestone is part of the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe, which is currently (2010) represented by Damian Collins (Conservative). In the European Parliament, Folkestone is part of the South East England constituency, with ten MEPs.

Local government consists of three tiers. In the first tier, Kent County Council, Folkestone is divided into three Divisions each returning one County Councillor. Folkestone North East comprises Park, Foord and East wards and is represented by Cllr Richard Pascoe (Conservative). Folkestone South comprises Harvey West, Harvey Central and Harbour wards and is represented by Cllr Roland Tolputt (Conservative). Folkestone West comprises Cheriton and Morehall wards and neighbouring Sandgate Parish Council. It is represented by Cllr Tim Prater (Liberal Democrat).[8] The next elections are scheduled for June 2013.

The second tier of local government is the non-metropolitan district. Folkestone forms a part of Shepway District, which was established by the Local Government Act 1972. Folkestone elects 18 of Shepway District Council's 46 Councillors, who currently sit as 16 Conservatives and two People First.[9] The next election is due to be held in May 2015.

The third and lowest tier was established as the civil parish: in Folkestone’s case, because it held a Town Charter, and when the then Folkestone Borough Council was abolished, Councillors elected to represent Folkestone's wards were designated as the Town's Charter Trustees, responsible for electing a Town Mayor. This role has since passed to Folkestone Town Council.

Folkestone Town Council was established in 2004,[10] comprising the area of the former Borough of Folkestone less Folkestone Sandgate ward, which was separately parished. Folkestone Town Council comprises eight wards: Cheriton, Kent; Morehall; Park; Harvey West; Harvey Central; Harbour; East; and Foord. Each ward returns two or three members, for a total of 18 Councillors elected to four year terms.[11][12] The next elections are due to be held in May 2015.

Each year, Folkestone Town Councillors attend the Annual General Meeting and Mayor-making ceremony to appoint both a Town Mayor and a Deputy Mayor from their number for the coming year. For the Civic Year 2010/2011, the posts are held: as The Worshipful Town Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Tom McNeice (Morehall ward); and as Deputy Town Mayor, Cllr Susan Wallace (Harbour ward). The Town Council has three committees: Finance and General Purposes; Planning; and Community Services as well as a Personnel Sub-Committee, a Grievance Panel and numerous Working Groups. The current composition of Folkestone Town Council is 15 Conservatives, two People First and one Liberal Democrats.

Apart from the main town area, Sandgate attained civil parish status in its own right in 2004.


Folkestone-with Rotunda amusement park on beach

Folkestone is located where the southern edge of the North Downs, escarpment meets the sea. In contrast to the white cliffs at Dover further to the east, the cliffs at Folkestone are composed of Greensand and Gault Clay. A small stream, the Pent Stream, cuts through the cliffs at this point, and provided the original haven for fishermen and cross-channel boats. The cliffs are constantly under attack from the sea: the original headlands, which once protected the port, ceased to do so, and artificial protection, in the form of breakwaters and piers have been necessary since the 17th century.[13]

The town is now built on both sides of the original valley: the West Cliff and The Bayle to the West, and the East Cliff on the other side of the stream. The Pent Stream now runs through a culvert from the fire station, at the junction of Radnor Park Road, Park Farm and Pavilion Road, until it reaches the inner harbour. Remains of a quay, dating to the 17th century, were discovered under what is now a public car park, between the Old High Street and the railway viaduct, adjacent to the current harbour. Included in the town is Cheriton, where the Channel Tunnel northern exit is located; Newington; and Peene.

On 28 April 2007, an earthquake with its epicentre 1 km East of Folkestone occurred at 8:18am. It was registered at 4.2 on the Richter scale, and was felt for up to 15 seconds.

On 3 March 2009, a second earthquake shook Folkestone, measuring 2.8 on the Richter Scale. It only lasted around two seconds.


Folkestone was at one stage a resort town with a developed shipping trade. With the decline of such industries others have filled the gap. The Dormobile works, car conversion manufacturers were based in the town. Church and Dwight, the US company famous for such brands as Arm & Hammer, has its UK headquarters in the town. Silver Spring Mineral Water Company Limited, currently the largest independently-owned soft drinks manufacturer in Britain, is based in Park Farm.

During the 1980s and 1990s 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.

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. Saga has its headquarters in Folkestone.

Folkestone has suffered a decline in industry since the end of the Second World War. As with most British holiday resorts, the rise in popularity of holidays abroad damaged the local tourist industry. In 2004 talks began between the leaders of Folkestone and Boulogne (Folkestone's twin-town), which was also facing similar economic problems.


The major landmark in Folkestone, apart from the Harbour, is the Leas, the cliffs above the beach. A Martello Tower (No 3) stands on the cliff above Copt Point. Built in 1806 as a defence against Napoleon, it has also been a Coast Guard lookout, a family home, a golf clubhouse and a World War II Naval mine control post. It now houses a visitor centre.[14] The Folkestone White Horse is carved on Cheriton Hill above the Channel Tunnel terminal.

The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty includes part of the town area. The nearby Brockhill Country Park, to the west, with footpaths around a lake and in a valley, links with the Royal Military Canal at Hythe.

Folkestone is near to two important Battle of Britain landmarks – the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum – the oldest Battle of Britain Museum in the UK.


Folkestone developed because of its transport links. With France visible across the Straits of Dover, the town became an important transit point for those travelling from the UK to the Continent. Talks about restoring the ferry traffic to Boulogne since it was terminated in 2000 were held in 2005, but this has not been resolved;[15] and the Channel Tunnel northern entrance is located at Cheriton. The Dover Strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, although there is very little commercial shipping traffic using the small harbour.


The railway reached Folkestone on 28 June 1843 and a temporary station was built while the construction of the line to Dover continued. This started with the Foord viaduct, designed by Sir William Cubitt, completed in 1844. Folkestone Junction station was then opened and construction through the cliffs between Dover & Folkestone commenced. Once the line was opened to Dover, the town began to prosper (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 having closed earlier on 6 September 1965. The line subsequently reopened for "special" trains such as the British Pullman (VSOE),[16] which was a regular visitor, and other rail tours, although the line closed again completely in 2008, to make way for a comprehensive development of the harbour and sea-front areas. A local group, The Remembrance Line Association, is actively seeking to retain the harbour branch as a tourist/heritage railway operation. Today the domestic services from Folkestone use the Central and West stations on the South Eastern Main Line. VSOE passengers now change at Folkestone West for road coaches and the onward journey through the Channel Tunnel.

High Speed 1 (HS1) (previously known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link) is a high speed railway built to French 'LGV' (Ligne à Grande Vitesse) standards, connecting the Channel Tunnel to London. Since December 2009, high speed commuter services from Dover have called at Folkestone and then, using the South Eastern Main Line to Ashford International, the services join HS1 for the journey to Ebbsfleet, Stratford and London St Pancras. The journey time to London via this route has been reduced to under 1 hour; some trains from Folkestone West take as little as 52 minutes to reach the capital by High Speed Train.

The Leas Lift[17] connects the Leas with the beach.

Bandstand near the Leas Cliff Lift


The town is located at the eastern end of the M20 which provides fast access to Ashford, Maidstone, London and also to the M25. The A20 is motorway-standard to Dover. Folkestone also marks the eastern end of the A259 South Coast Trunk Road with access to Hastings, Eastbourne and beyond. To the north, roads connect Folkestone to Canterbury and the nearby villages of Elham and Lyminge.


Schools and colleges in Folkestone include The Folkestone Academy (formed by the merger of Hillside School for Boys and Holywell School for Girls in the early 1970s, and formerly known as Wyndgate Secondary School in the 1970s, The Channel High School in the 1980s, and The Channel School in the 1990s); and Pent Valley Technology College (formerly Pent Valley Secondary Modern, formed by the merger of Harcourt Seconday School for Girls and Morehall Secondary School for Boys in the 1970s).

There are two selective state secondary schools – The Folkestone School for Girls (formed by the merger of The Folkestone Technical High School for Girls and The Folkestone Grammar School for Girls in the 1980s) and the Harvey Grammar School for boys; the latter was founded in 1674. These two schools have a common sixth form timetable.

Tertiary education is provided at the University Centre Folkestone, which opened in September 2007 and specialises in Performing Arts and subjects relating to the creative industries. University Centre Folkestone is a joint initiative of Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Greenwich.

There are a number of primary schools, both state and independent, in the town including Sandgate CEP School which was graded outstanding in every category by Ofsted in 2007.[18]


The town is situated at the foot of the North Downs, with views of the surrounding countryside and the coast of France, a mere 24 miles (39 km) away. The area is a magnet for passing migrating birds and the Warren (woodlands adjoining Wear Bay) and the cliffs above are of particular interest during the spring and autumn periods. These are now part of the East Cliff and Warren Country Park.

The Folkestone Parks and Pleasure Grounds Charities are lands which were donated to the people of Folkestone for perpetual recreational use by the Earls of Radnor during the 19th century. The lands are administered by Shepway District Council, with the Cabinet members forming the Board of Trustees. Previously, the Charter Trustees were also Trustees of the Charities, but that arrangement lapsed upon the parishing of the Folkestone and Sandgate area. Negotiations are ongoing regarding the transfer of the lands to Folkestone Town Council and Sandgate Parish Council.[19][20]

There are two major long distance footpaths through the town. The North Downs Way, starting its course in Surrey, reaches the coast at Folkestone and continues through Capel-le-Ferne, and to its end at Dover, some 8 miles (13 km) away. The Saxon Shore Way starts at Gravesend, Kent and traces the Kent coast as it was in Roman times, via Folkestone, as far as Hastings, East Sussex, 163 miles (262 km) in total.

Nearby places of interest include the Kent Battle of Britain Museum and the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne


Folkestone has been home to many galleries over the years. The long-established Metropole Galleries, located in the one-time Metropole Hotel on the Leas, staged year round exhibitions until it closed in 2008. Its place has been largely taken by the Creative Foundation. The Foundation has opened a medium scale theatre, conference and music venue in the heart of the Creative Quarter named Quarterhouse. It offers a year-round programme of live music, comedy, film, talks, theatre and children's entertainment. The Georges House Gallery holds frequent exhibitions by local artists. The Leas Cliff Hall is the biggest entertainment and function venue in Folkestone with a large choice of concerts, comedy and theatre.

The first Folkestone Triennial art event took place between June and September 2008 with artists such as Christian Boltanski and Tracey Emin making site specific work for a wide variety of locations around the town. Many of the commissioned works remain permanently in the town.[21] The 2011 Triennial 'A Million Miles From Home' was launched on 24 September 2010 and commissioned 19 international artists to develop new works for Folkestone’s streets, squares, beaches and historic buildings to create a cutting-edge contemporary art exhibition in the public domain.[22]

Folkestone has an annual Chamber Music Festival each May curated by the Sacconi Quartet. The Festival concerts take place in the town's St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Parish Church, and comprise concerts of chamber and ensemble music with guest performers.

Bluesky Pie is a non for profit organization which promotes the young people of Kent through music and arts. They stage many music gigs and other evenings of mixed arts.

Folkestone together with Hythe, have an amateur theatre group: the Folkestone & Hythe Operatic & Dramatic Society. They are a charitable organisation, producing and performing several different shows a year at their own venue, The Tower Theatre, located in Shorncliffe. The society also has a Youth section which produces 3 performances a year at The Tower Theatre; the Brigadier Thomas Memorial Competition, a summer show and a Christmas revue.

The literary journal The Frogmore Papers, published by The Frogmore Press, was founded by Andre Evans and Jeremy Page in Folkestone in 1983. The Folkestone Book Festival takes place every November.

The Folkestone Museum has been transformed into a local history centre: the Folkestone People’s History Centre.[23]

Local media[]


Folkestone has two paid for newspapers, the Folkestone Herald (published by Kent Regional News and Media) and the Kentish Express (published by the KM Group). The Kentish Express was previously known as the Folkestone Express until 2008, when it was renamed by the KM Group to add to the three existing versions of the Kentish Express. There is also a monthly paid magazine "Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Life

Free newspapers for the town include the Folkestone and Hythe Extra, part of the KM Group; and yourshepway, part of KOS Media. Kent Regional News and Media previously published the Folkestone Adscene, but this was merged with the paid for Herald in 2008.


Following the monthly magazine The Quarter, which ran from 2003–2005, a new arts magazine Folkestone Creative has been published locally since 2005. It reviews events and developments throughout Folkestone, Hythe, and the villages nearby.


The town has a local radio station, KMFM Shepway and White Cliffs Country, broadcasting to Folkestone on 96.4FM. The station was founded in Dover as Neptune Radio in September 1997 but moved to Folkestone in 2003 after being rebranded following a takeover by the KM Group. The studios were moved again, to Ashford, in 2009.[24]

Folkestone is also served by the county-wide stations Heart, Gold and BBC Radio Kent.

A community radio station called Academy FM (Folkestone) has started broadcasting since March 2011. Academy FM broadcasts from The Folkestone Academy.


Folkestone Invicta Football Club[25] was formed in 1936 and played in the Eastern Section of the Kent Amateur League (now the Kent County League), taking over the Cheriton Road ground in early 1991 after the demise of the old Folkestone F.C. which had had a long history in the Southern League.

Folkestone Rugby Club[26] was formed in 1974 and currently play in London and SE league 4. Currently the club runs 4 Adult, a ladies, and various colts teams. A former ladies player, Catherine Spencer, captained the England Ladies team to a grand slam in 2008.

Folkestone Cricket Club currently competes in the first division of the Kent Cricket League. It was formed in 1851. Current Kent players such as Robbie Joseph and Geraint Jones plus Neil Dexter, who moved to Middlesex CCC at the end of the 2008 season, have all represented the club. James Tredwell, who came through the youth academy, is still heavily involved with the club.

There is a Bowls Club[27] and a Running Club[28] based in the town.

Folkestone hosted the 5th Chess Olympiad in 1933.[29] Among others, the artist Marcel Duchamp took part as a member of the French team.

Notable people from Folkestone[]

There are a large number of people with connections to the town who have made themselves important in one sphere or another. Men such as William Harvey and his father Thomas Harvey Mayor in 1600 a.d. here, discoverer of the circulation of the blood; and Samuel Plimsoll who invented the line named after him for ship safety. There have been many actors and actresses, some starting their careers at Arthur Brough's Folkestone Repertory Company including Robert Arnold; comedians including Michael Bentine; and a large number of artists in various fields. Wilkie Collins, Radclyffe Hall and A.E. Coppard were all writers; and there have also been musicians: Noel Redding among them. Sam Pepper was in the UK reality TV show Big Brother, he was educated at Pent Valley Technology College. Sport is well represented: numbers of cricketers and football players have Folkestone connections. King Edward VII and his mistress Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) regularly enjoyed the luxury (and discretion) of the Grand Hotel on The Leas. Eamon Everall, Artist/Educator and founder member of the Stuckism, art movement attended the Harvey Grammar school and Folkestone School of Art and still maintains a base here. He is currently working on a series of twenty portraits of artists associated with Stuckism including one of Billy Childish, he plans to exhibit them in the town at the end of the current year. June Brown (wife of Robert Arnold) still has two homes in the town. Professional wrestler Big B Mac was born and educated in Folkestone before moving to the USA to embark on his wrestling career. Ross Godfrey and Paul Godfrey, brothers from Folkestone, are main members of the UK music group, Morcheeba. Jimmy Hill, presenter of Match of the Day, was stationed at Folkestone Garrison during World War II, during which time he entertained troops. The novelist Jocelyn Brooke, who died in 1966,writes evocatively about Folkestone and Sandgate in his memoirs.


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics Key Statistics for Urban Areas Table KS01
  2. ^ White, (1961), p.55.
  3. ^ Diaries of George Turnbull (Chief Engineer, East Indian Railway Company) held at the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, England
  4. ^ Page 68 of George Turnbull, C.E. 437-page memoirs published privately 1893, scanned copy held in the British Library, London on compact disk since 2007
  5. ^
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Place Names: this does not explain who Folca was
  8. ^ "Shepway District Council list of local County Councillors". 
  9. ^ "Shepway District Council Councillor details". 
  10. ^ "Folkestone Town Council". 
  11. ^ "Folkestone Town Council Councillor Details". 
  12. ^ "Folkestone Town Council Councillor Contacts". 
  13. ^ [Folkestone:The Story of a Town C.H. Bishop, 1973, Headley Brothers Ltd, London]
  14. ^
  15. ^ News report, resumption of ferry service
  16. ^ Venice-Simplon-Orient Express
  17. ^ Leas Cliff Railway
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Folkestone Town Council minutes". 
  20. ^ Shepway District Council Councillor details
  21. ^ Folkestone Triennial 2008
  22. ^ Folkestone Triennial
  23. ^ Folkestone People’s History Centre
  24. ^ Room for another KMFM in Ashford
  25. ^ Folkestone Invicta Football Club
  26. ^ Folkestone Rugby Club
  27. ^ Folkestone Park Bowls Club
  28. ^ Folkestone Running Club
  29. ^ Chess Olympiad 1933


H.P. White, (1961) A regional history of the railways of Great Britain, II Southern England, London: Phoenix House.

External links[]


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