Folkestone - Encyclopedia

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FOLKESTONE, a municipal borough, seaport and wateringplace of Kent, England, within the parliamentary borough of Hythe, 71 m. S.E. by E. of London by the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. (1891) 23,905; (1901) 30,650. This is one of the principal ports in cross-Channel communications, the steamers serving Boulogne, 30 m. distant. The older part of Folkestone lies in a small valley which here opens upon the shore between steep hills. The more modern portions extend up the hills on either hand. To the north the town is sheltered by hills rising sharply to heights of 400 to 500 ft., on several of which, such as Sugarloaf and Castle Hills, are ancient earthworks. Above the cliff west of the old town is a broad promenade called the Lees, commanding a notable view of the channel and connected by lifts with the shore below. On this cliff also stands the parish church of St Mary and St Eanswith, a cruciform building of much interest, with central tower. It is mainly Early English, but the original church, attached to a Benedictine priory, was founded in 1095 on the site of a convent established by Eanswith, daughter of Eadbald, king of Kent in 630. The site of this foundation, however, became endangered by encroachments of the sea. The monastery was destroyed at the dissolution of religious houses by Henry VIII. Folkestone inner harbour is dry at low water, but there is a deep water pier for use at low tide by the Channel steamers, by which not only the passenger traffic, but also a large general trade are carried on. The fisheries are important. Among institutions may be mentioned the grammar school, founded in 1674, the public library and museum, and a number of hospitals and sanatoria. The discontinued Harveian Institution for young men was named after William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of the blood, a native of Folkestone (1578), who is also commemorated by a tercentenary memorial on the Lees. Folkestone is a member of the Cinque Port of Dover. It is governed by a mayor, 7 aldermen and 21 councillors. Area, 2522 acres. To the west of Folkestone, close to Shorncliffe camp, is the populous suburb of Cheriton (an urban district, pop. 7091).

Folkestone (Folcestan) was among the possessions of Earl Godwine and was called upon to supply him with ships when he was exiled from England; at the time of the Domesday Survey it belonged to Odo, bishop of Bayeux. From early times it was a member of the Cinque Port of Dover, and had to find one out of the twenty-one ships furnished by that port for the royal service. It shared the privileges of the Cinque Ports, whose liberties were exemplified at the request of the barons of Folkestone by Edward III. in 1330. The corporation, which was prescriptive, was entitled the mayor, jurats and commonalty of Folkestone. The history of Folkestone is a record of its struggle against the sea, which was constantly encroaching upon the town. In 1629 the inhabitants, impoverished by their losses, obtained licence to erect a port. By the end of the 18th century the town had become prosperous by the increase of its fishing and shipping trades, and by the middle of the 19th century one of the chief health and pleasure resorts of the south coast.

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