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Folkestone ( ) is the principal town in the Shepway District of Kentmarker, Englandmarker. Its original site lay in a stream valley in the cliffs here; and its subsequent development was through fishing and its proximity to the Continent as a landing place and trading port. The coming of the railways and the building of a ferry port, together with its growing importance as a seaside resort led to further growth. Both the latter activities have been in decline of late; there are development plans to halt that decline.


The name of Folkestone probably has its origin with its original Celtic inhabitants, although it was not until the late 7th century that the spelling Folcanstan appears. One suggestion is that this refers to Folca's stone; another suggestion is that it came from a Celtic personal name, with the addition of ton, meaning 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). Folkestone is often misspelt, variants including Folkston, Folkstone & Folkeston.


Folkestone’s history, as with so many towns in this part of southern England, probably began with the fact of its proximity to the Continent, when groups of Brythonic invaders occupied East Kent. The Romans followed, and after them the Jutes. A Norman knight held the 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 built here; and soon plans for a Folkestone Harbour began to be made. Folkestone, like most settlements on the south coast, became involved in smuggling during the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the 1800s a harbour became a reality, but it was the coming of the railways in 1843 that proved to be the town’s future. With it came the tourist trade, and the two industries, port and seaside resort, were the making of its prosperity until changes in tourist opportunities in the mid twentieth century brought about its present somewhat depleted fortunes.

Folkestone Harbour

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 from the Pent Stream continuing to choke the harbour. 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 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. Dredging the harbour, and the construction of a rail route down to it, commenced almost immediately, and the town soon became the SER’s principal packet station for the Continental traffic to Boulognemarker.

Folkestone Harbour Company commissioned Foster Associates to produce a masterplan for Folkestone which was published in April 2006. The plans envisage rebuilding 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 link in with the new Creative Quarter. Folkestone Harbour Company belongs to Roger De Haan, former owner of Saga Insurance (see above) and Chairman of the Creative Foundation.The plans take in the land that was previously the Rotunda Amusement Park which has now been cleared.

However, there is an alternative plan being developed by the Remembrance Line Association[13375] which is based around retaining the harbour railway and its station as a major heritage/tourist operation and 'Leaving for War' museum.


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 Hythemarker, which is currently (2008) represented by Michael Howard (Conservative), former Leader of HM Opposition and former Home Secretary. In the European Parliamentmarker, 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 Robert Bliss (Conservative). The next elections are scheduled for June 2009.

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 11 Conservatives, four Liberal Democrats, two People First and one Independent.. The next election is due to be held in May 2011.

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, comprising the area of the former Borough of Folkestone less Folkestone Sandgatemarker 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.. The next elections are due to be held in May 2011.

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 2008/2009, the posts are held: as The Worshipful Town Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Peter Gane (Cheriton ward); and as Deputy Town Mayor, Cllr Emily Sanger (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 seven Liberal Democrats, six Conservatives, three People First and two Independents.

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


Folkestone-with Rotunda amusement park on beach
Folkestone is located where the southward edge of the North Downsmarker, escarpment meets the sea. The cliffs here are composed of Greensand and Gault Clay, in contrast to the white cliffs at Dovermarker further to the East. A small stream, the Pent Stream, cuts through the cliffs at this point, providing 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

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 Cheritonmarker, where the Channel Tunnelmarker 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, and many residents in Folkestone and surrounding areas said they felt their house shake. Folkestone was damaged the worst with power out to thousands of homes and some houses being evacuated due to chimneys falling through houses. One person was injured.

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


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. 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. They produce Virgin Cola under license.

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. It is hoped that High Speed 1 will give the area an additional economic 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 financial services, holidays (including cruising on Saga's three cruise ships) and various other services to the over-50s.

Folkestone has suffered much deprivation 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. The closure of ferry services between Folkestone and Boulogne seemed to spell the town’s demise. The opening of the Channel Tunnel hastened that closure. In 2004 talks began between the leaders of Folkestone and Boulogne (Folkestone's twin-town), which was also facing similar economic problems. Refurbishment of the town's infrastructure has begun. There has been significant redevelopment of the town centre in a bid to make it more attractive to the local community and tourists.

An in-town shopping centre, Bouverie Place, opened on 26th November, 2007, and is also expected to contribute to a revival of Folkestone's fortunes.


The major landmark in Folkestone, apart from the Harbour, is the Leas, the cliffs above the beach. The Folkestone White Horsemarker is carved on Cheriton Hillmarker above the Channel Tunnel terminal.

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


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 Boulognemarker since it was terminated in 2000 were held in 2005, but this has not been resolved; 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, whilst 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 Dovermarker, the town began to prosper (which meant growth westwards), further stations were opened at Folkestone Westmarker (originally named Shorncliffe Camp) in 1863, and Folkestone Centralmarker in 1884. Folkestone Harbourmarker 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. The line has since reopened to "special" trains such as the British Pullman , which is a regular visitor, and other rail tours, although the line, and the Harbour station, are likely to close completely in the near future to make way for a comprehensive development of the harbour and sea-front areas.A local group is actively seeking to retain the harbour branch as a tourist/heritage railway operation.

Today the domestic services from Folkestone use the South Eastern Main Line .

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. In 2009 high speed commuter services from Dover will call at Folkestone and then, using the South Eastern Main Line to Ashford Internationalmarker, the services will then join HS1 for the 37-minute journey to Ebbsfleetmarker, Stratfordmarker and London St Pancrasmarker.

The Leas Cliff Railway connects the Leas with the beach.

Insofar as roads are concerned, the town is located at the eastern end of the M20 which provides fast access to Ashfordmarker, Maidstonemarker, Londonmarker and also to the M25marker. The A20 is motorway-standard to Dovermarker. Folkestone also marks the eastern end of the A259 South Coast Trunk Road with access to Hastingsmarker, Eastbournemarker and beyond. To the north, roads connect Folkestone to Canterburymarker and the nearby villages of Elhammarker and Lymingemarker.

There are two major long distance footpaths through the town. The North Downs Waymarker, starting its course in Surreymarker, reaches the coast at Folkestone and continues through Capel-le-Fernemarker, and to its end at Dovermarker, some away. The Saxon Shore Way starts at Gravesendmarker, Kentmarker and traces the Kent coast as it was in Roman times, via Folkestone, as far as Hastingsmarker, East Sussexmarker, 163 miles (262 km) in total.


Schools and colleges in Folkestone include The Folkestone School for Girlsmarker (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 Schoolmarker for boys; the latter was founded in 1674. HGS and FSG operate towards co-operation and sharing of resources. The two schools have a common sixth form timetable which greatly increases the number of subjects on offer to the 450 students aged 16–19). These close ties are scheduled to expand, making two successful schools even stronger. Other state secondary schools are The Folkestone Academymarker (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 Collegemarker (formerly Pent Valley Secondary Modern, formed by the merger of Harcourt Seconday School for Girls and Morehall Secondary School for Boys in the 1970s). The School of English Studies is a private language school, accredited by the British Council and a member of EnglishUK; and its Tutorial College is a private college for GCSEs, A Levels & University Foundation Courses. Both are located in Grimston Gardens.

Tertiary education is held at the University Centre Folkestone, which opened in September 2007 and specialises in performing arts and creative industries related subjects. University Centre Folkestone is a joint initiative of Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Greenwichmarker.

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


The town is situated at the foot of the North Downsmarker, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the coast of Francemarker, a mere 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.

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.

Folkestone is the home of the Hevy Music Festival, a new music festival starting on 1st August 2009. Headliners include Feeder, Ash & Gary Numan. For information please see [13376]

For details of local accommodation, attractions and events please visit: [13377]


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 work-spaces for artists and creative businesses (some with living accommodation). One hundred creative individuals are already in residence and more are taking up space as the renovation work is completed. As a key element in the ongoing artistic renaissance of Folkestone, the Foundation is opening a brand new medium scale theatre, conference and music venue in the heart of the Creative Quarter. Designed by award winning practice Alison Brooks Architects,[13378] the £4.5m new centre, named Quarterhouse, comprises a 250 seat flexible auditorium, restaurant and bars and a range of units for creative businesses. Quarterhousewas opened by the Arts Minister in March 2009. It offers an innovative year round programme of live music, comedy, film, talks, theatre and children's entertainment.

The Strange Cargo Arts Company is central to the creative quarter, and the Georges House Gallery holds frequent exhibitions by local artists.

Dozens of other innovative creative businesses have been attracted to the Creative Quarter in recent years - 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 creativity.

The long-established Metropole Galleries, located in the one-time Metropole Hotel on the Leas, staged year round exhibitions until it closed in 2008.

The inaugural Folkestone Triennial art event took place between June and September 2008 with artists such as Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Richard Wilson and Tacita Dean making site specific work for a wide variety of locations around the town. Many of the commissioned works remain permanently in the town. Further Triennials are being planned for 2011 and 2014.

The Folkestone Book Festival 08 takes place every November.

Folkestone also boasts a magnificent former dance hall The Leas Cliff Hall [13379], perched on the clifftop overlooking the English Channel - which is now run by Live Nation as a location for large scale concerts, conferences and events.

Folkestone together with Hythemarker, 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 Theatremarker, located in Shorncliffemarker. The society also has a Youth section which produces 3 performances a year at The Tower Theatremarker; 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 at the Frogmore tea-rooms in Folkestone (once a favourite haunt of H G Wells) in 1983.

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

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.

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.


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.

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


Folkestone Invicta Football Club 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 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. Most notably James Tredwell who came through the youth academy and still heavily involved with the club.Folkestone C.C. currently has a Colts section, set up by Nobby Clark who has attracted new coaches such as Stuart Ingleston, Neil Taylor, Stuart Graham, Jamie Dawes, John Hughes and Nathan Ingleston. The current under 13A side went the whole of the 2007 indoor and outdoor season undefeated.Folkestone C.C. 1st team currently play in the Kent league division 1 with such players such as Niall O'Brien playing for them.They finished mid table in 2008.

There is also a Bowls Club and a Running Club based in the town.

Folkestone hosted the 5th Chess Olympiad in 1933. 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, 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. 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.Elvis Pressley lives in Folkestone.


  1. Oxford Dictionary of Place Names: this does not explain who Folca was
  2. Diaries of George Turnbull (Chief Engineer, East Indian Railway Company) held at the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, England
  3. 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
  4. [Folkestone:The Story of a Town C.H. Bishop, 1973, Headley Brothers Ltd, London]
  5. Bouverie Place
  6. News report, resumption of ferry service
  7. Venice-Simplon-Orient Express
  8. Leas Cliff Railway
  9. School of English Studies
  10. SES Tutorial College
  11. Shepway District Council Councillor details
  12. Creative Foundation
  13. The Strange Cargo Arts Company
  14. Georges House Gallery
  15. The Metropole Galleries
  16. Folkestone Triennual
  17. Folkestone Literary Festival
  18. Folkestone People’s History Centre
  19. Room for another KMFM in Ashford
  20. Folkestone Invicta Football Club
  21. Folkestone Rugby Club
  22. Folkestone Cricket Club
  23. Folkestone Park Bowls Club
  24. Folkestone Running Club
  25. Chess Olympiad 1933

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