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Folkestone Parish

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Your Online Parish Clerk for Folkestone is:  VACANT.  

Folkestone is, ecclesiastically, in the archdeaconry of Canterbury and in the deanery of Dover.  The parish church is named for St Mary and St Eanswythe with registers commencing 1635.

Folkestone is a town, a parish, a sub-district and a hundred in Kent.  The town stands on the coast, and on a branch of the Southeastern railway, 6-1/2 miles west-south-west of Dover, and 15 miles south-south-east of Canterbury.  Its name was written Folcestane by the Saxons, and Fulchestan in Domesday book;  and has been regarded as a corruption of variously Fulke's town, signifying "the town of Fulke", Folk's-stane, signifying "the fairies' rock", and Flos-stane, signifying "the break in the rock".  Its site is a congeries of cliffs and hillocks, such as to have induced Thomas Ingoldsby to say, - "Rome stood on seven hills;  Folkestone seems to have been built on seventy".  Folkestone hill is 575 feet high;  and commands a fine view of the town, and a rich and extensive prospect over coast and sea.  A ridge of cliffs, overhanging a coast-road, extends, on the one hand, to Sandgate;  another ridge of cliffs extends, on the other hand, all the way to Dover;  and these cliffs, besides affording very fine sea-views, command, in clear weather, a distinct prospect of the French coast.  The original town was known to the Romans, but has disappeared beneath the waves;  and even the succeeding town dates from remote times, but suffered such ravages by the Danes and the French, and has, at different times, sustained such damage by the beating of the billows, that it now presents far fewer ancient remains than might have been expected from its antiquity.

Roman coins and bricks have been found;  pieces of Saxon arms and pottery also have been found;  but the extant ancient remains consist merely of traces of building, and can be observed only as shapeless fragments embodied in walls.  A Roman watch tower is believed to have stood on a cliff a short distance south of the present parish church;  a castle was built on the same site, about the year 630, by Eadbald, King of Kent;  a nunnery was founded, within the castle, by Eanswith, daughter of King Eadbald, - was ravaged by the Danes, - and was afterwards replaced by a Benedictine priory;  another castle, for a fortress, was built on the same site, by the Avranches de Abrincis, who became lords of the manor soon after the Norman conquest;  but all these structures, and the very cliff on which they stood, have been swept away by the sea.  Part of the area which they occupied is marked by the present Bail - a name corrupted from ballium;  a reservoir here, called the Bail-pond, is supplied from a spring which St. Eanswith is fabled to have brought hither by a miracle;  and a reach of ancient wall still standing on the east side may perhaps be Norman.

The Benedictine priory was rebuilt on another site, at a distance of 560 yards;  was made a cell to Lonlay abbey, in Normandy;  and served, for a time, to maintain the previous importance of the town, by attracting devotees;  and some slight traces of building, supposed to indicate its site, are still observable in the parsonage garden.  "Great ruins of a solemn old nunnery" are mentioned by Leland as existing in his time;  and Roman tiles are said, by another writer, to have been traceable among these ruins;  but all these, both walls and tiles, have vanished.

The town, at Domesday, had five churches, and was an honour held by Nigel de Mundeville;  but, in spite of its continuing to possess the attraction of Eanswith's priory, it appears to have declined;  and, after the Reformation, it sank into obscurity till toward the end of last century [18th century], when it came into notice as a fishing town.  But, by the opening of the railway to it in 1844, by consequent improvements on its harbour, by the constituting of it a packet station to Boulogne, and by the discovery of its position and environs as eminently suited for sea-bathing quarters, it has undergone vast change, and become a place of much stir and concourse.

The town, previous to the recent change upon it, was one of the most disagreeable in England.  It was ostensively a fishing town, but practically a smuggling town;  it possessed, in intricacy of site and brokenness of shore, wonderful facilities for contraband operations;  and it presented every kind of repulsion to the visits of strangers.  Its thoroughfares were ill-paved and muddy;  its streets were mere alleys, on steep inclines, partly progressing and partly communicating with one another by coarse flights of steps;  and many of its houses were badly built, almost overtopped others, and contained hiding-holes and remote rooms or cellars for the storage of smuggled goods.  But, in the course of the recent change, the old streets were, partially or wholly, renovated;  new streets were formed;  numerous villas were built;  warehouses were erected;  a custom-house establishment was provided;  a fine harbour was constructed;  a fine townhall, a market place, and a magnificent hotel were erected;  and all sorts of appliances, suitable both for a packet station and a sea-bathing resort, were created.

The railway company purchased the old harbour;  enclosed a space of 14 acres;  and brought the railway hither through difficult passages by means of vast rock-cuttings, and along a grand viaduct.  Even Rendezvous Street, formerly an alley noted as the meeting place of smugglers, has been enlarged to a uniform width of 40 feet, and rebuilt, in a pleasing style, entirely on one side, and largely on the other.  The old Tontine Street also, which was formerly a nuisance amid tortuous lanes, has been swept away, and replaced by a good new street.  An elegant drinking fountain, of bronze, with square base, and about 8 feet high, has been constructed at the outlet facing the harbour.  The new townhall was completed in 1861;  stands on a plot of 100 feet by 60;  is in the Grecian style, with both Corinthian and Ionic features;  contains a magistrates' room, a council room, a reading room, and other apartments;  and cost about £12,000.  The new market is behind the townhall, and measures 50 feet by 40.  The new custom house and the railway station, at the harbour, are elegant and commodious.  A strong battery is on the heights;  and three martello towers are on the coast.

The parish church stands on the west cliff, overtopping all the town;  has an interesting early English chancel, with very high pitched roof;  lost great part of its nave by a storm in 1705;  presents a defaced appearance in consequence of only a portion of the nave having been built;  has a tower, between the nave and the chancel;  and contains a later English font, a late decorated altar-tomb to one of the Fiennes family, a monument of the 17th century to John Herdson, and a brass to Joan Harvey, the mother of Dr. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood.

Christ Church, serving for a chapelry constituted in 1851, is an edifice in plain Gothic.  A church for mariners and fishermen on the east side of the railway arches, was opened in 1862.  Two new ecclesiastical chapelries, called Holy Trinity and St. Peter, were constituted in 1868.  A Wesleyan chapel, at a cost of £4,000, was built in 1866.  There are chapels for Independents, Baptists and Quakers;  an endowed school with £43;  three other public schools;  a literary institution;  a dispensary;  and reading rooms and libraries.

Folkestone has a head post office, a money order office and a savings bank, a railway station outside the town, called Folkestone Junction, with telegraph, another railway station at the harbour, with telegraph, a banking office, and four chief inns;  is a seat of sessions, a coast guard station, and a member of the cinque port of Dover;  and publishes two weekly newspapers.  Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays;  and a fair on 28 June.  A considerable fishery is carried on, but is not so prosperous as formerly.

Steamers sail twice a day to Boulogne.  The vessels belonging to the port, at the beginning of 1863, were 7 small ones of aggregately 111 tons, and 24 large ones of aggregately 3,381 tons.  The vessels which entered, in 1862, were 1, of 50 tons, from the colonies;  9, of aggregately 1,365 tons, from foreign countries;  and 272, of aggregately 32,785 tons, coastwise.  The amount of customs, in 1867, was £12,731.

The piers of the harbour were commenced in 1808, and were carried out by Telford;  but they did not become available till the opening of the railway.  A lighthouse, with fixed light, was erected in 1810;  and has a height of 36 feet.  The bathing grounds afford similar advantages to those of Dover and Ramsgate, with greater seclusion.

The climate is salubrious;  the environs and neighbourhood abound with excursion places;  and a chalybeate spring is about 1/2 a mile distant.

The town is a borough by prescription;  is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors;  and forms part of the parliamentary borough of Hythe.  Real property, £34,445; of which £61 are in gas works, and £49 in quarries.  Population in 1851, 6,726;  in 1861, 8,507.  Houses, 1,478.  The town gives the title of Viscount to the Earl of Radnor.  Philpott, the author of "Villare Cantianum", and Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, were natives.

The parish includes also part of the village of Sandgate.  Acres, 4,690;  of which 340 are water.  Real property in 1860, besides that of the borough, £7,020.  Population in 1861, 9,674.  Houses, 1,691.  Population of the ecclesiastical Christ church chapelry, 2,744.  Houses, 486.  The property of the chapelry is all in one estate;  but that of the rest of the parish is subdivided.

The manor went from Nigel de Mundeville to the Avranches;  passed to the Crevecœurs, the Clintons, and others;  and belongs now to the Earl of Radnor.

The martello tunnel, on the railway, in the vicinity of the town, is 1,908 feet long;  and the Foord viaduct of the railway, over the town valley, is 758 feet long.

The head living and that of Christchurch are vicarages, and those of Holy Trinity and St. Peter are perpetual curacies, in the diocese of Canterbury.  Value of the head living, £300 with a habitable glebe house.  Patron of that, the Archbishop;  of Christchurch and Holy Trinity, the Earl of Radnor;  of St. Peter, the Vicar of Folkestone.

The sub-district includes also the parishes of Hawkinge and Cheriton, with Shorncliffe camp;  and is in Elham district.  Acres, 7,072.  Population in 1861, 17,341;  of whom 4,204 were military in Shorncliffe camp.  Houses, 2,057.

The hundred excludes Folkestone borough;  contains six parishes, and parts of three others;  and is in the lathe of Shepway.  Acres, 20,252.  Population in 1851, 4,462.  Houses, 799.1
1John Marius Wilson, comp. The Imperial Gazatteer of England and Wales.  (London, England:  A. Fullerton & Co., 1870).

Additional information can be found on the Folkestone Families web site.


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Date last modified:  1/12/2007 9:59:34 AM