Folkestone (St. Mary and St. Eanswith)

FOLKESTONE (St. Mary and St. Eanswith), a parish, in the union of Elham, hundred of Folkestone, lathe of Shepway, E. division of Kent; comprising the sea-port and incorporated and market town of Folkestone, which has a separate jurisdiction, the hamlet of Ford, and part of the chapelry of Sandgate; and containing 4413 inhabitants, of whom 3723 are in the town, 37¼ miles (E. S. E.) from Maidstone, and 71 (E. S. E.) from London. This place, called by the Saxons Fulcestane, and in Domesday book Fullcheston, is by some antiquaries supposed to have been a Roman station, though its particular name has not been ascertained: a great quantity of Roman coins has been found, and on one of the hills in the immediate vicinity of the town are the remains of a quadrilateral fortification, whose vallum and fosse are plainly discernible. Eadbald, the sixth king of Kent, built a castle here, on a high cliff close to the sea-shore, which, having been reduced to a heap of ruins by the Danes, and Earl Godwin, when he ravaged this coast in 1052, was rebuilt by William de Albrincis or de Averenches, lord of the place after the Norman Conquest, and continued to be the chief seat of the barony till it was destroyed, together with the cliff on which it stood, by the encroachments of the sea. King Eadbald, some time after he had built the castle, founded within its precincts a priory for nuns of the Benedictine order, of which his daughter Eanswithe became first one of the sisters, and afterwards abbess. This convent having been destroyed during the Danish ravages, one for Benedictine monks was erected on its site in 1095, by Nigel de Mundeville, lord of Folkestone, who made it a cell to the abbey of Lonley, in Normandy. Not long after, the sea having so far wasted that part of the cliff upon which it stood as to endanger the buildings, the monks removed to a new situation, immediately to the south of the present church. This third priory, being afterwards made denizen, escaped the general fate of the alien priories in the reign of Henry V., and existed until the general Dissolution, when its revenue was estimated at £63. 0. 7.: the only part of the monastic buildings remaining is a Norman arched doorway; but their foundations may be traced for a considerable distance.

Before the reign of Henry I., Folkestone was made a member of the town and port of Dovor, one of the cinque-ports, its freemen being styled "the barons of the town of Folkestone;" and King Edward III. reincorporated the inhabitants by the title of "the Mayor, Jurats, and Commonalty of the Town of Folkestone." In the year 1378, the greater part of it was burned by the united forces of the Scots and French; and this devastation, added to the continual encroachments made by the sea, reduced it to a very low and inconsiderable state, in which it continued until the last century, when, by the establishment of a fishery, and a free trade with France, it regained its importance. The town is beautifully situated on the shore of the English Channel, opposite Boulogne, which may be seen from it in fine weather, and in a hollow between two cliffs rising precipitously to the height of 90 feet above the level of the sea. The houses are irregularly built of brick, and the streets are narrow; the inhabitants are supplied with water by two rivulets, one of which flows through the centre of the town. The environs are pleasant, and the air salubrious; there is an excellent beach for bathing, and hot and cold baths have been fitted up with every convenience: the hamlet of Sandgate is also much frequented as a bathing-place by such as are fond of retirement.

Folkestone, as a member of the cinque-port of Dovor, enjoys special privileges. The harbour, which was small and protected by jetties, was formerly kept in repair by voluntary contributions; but these proving insufficient, an act was passed in 1766, imposing a duty on coal brought to the port, to be applied to that purpose. It was afterwards judged necessary to construct a new and more capacious harbour. There is a great number of fishingboats, which in the mackerel season are employed in catching that fish for the London market; and when the mackerel season is over, they usually proceed to the coasts of Suffolk and Norfolk to catch herrings. The South-Eastern railway, completed from London to Folkestone on the 28th June, 1843, and from Folkestone to Dovor, Feb. 1844, passes close to the town, near which it is carried over a deep valley by a viaduct 100 feet high; and the portion between this place and Dovor comprises works of the most stupendous and interesting character. A great change was effected on the opening of the railway; many new houses were erected, a bank established, and an hotel affording excellent accommodation built. The directors of the company, also, have purchased the harbour, the possession of which is expected to prove of great importance in connexion with the traffic to France and other parts of the continent. At a short distance from the church is a battery of four guns. The market, granted by King John, is on Saturday; the market-house has lately been rebuilt, upon an extended scale. There is a fair on the 28th of June. The corporation, by charter of the 20th of Charles II., consisted of a mayor, twelve jurats, and twenty-four common-councilmen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, chamberlain, and other officers; but by the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors: the number of magistrates is three. A separate court of quarter-session has been granted by the crown. The powers of the county debtcourt of Folkestone, established in 1847, extend over Folkestone and 5 adjacent parishes. A spacious guildhall has been erected, with a jury-room and councilchamber adjoining; and there is a common gaol and house of correction, whereof the Earl of Radnor is hereditary gaoler, appointing a deputy.

The parish comprises 4350 acres, the soil of which is in general fertile: an act was passed in 1840 for inclosing the common. The living is a perpetual curacy, net income, £185; patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury; impropriator, the Earl of Radnor, whose tithes have been commuted for £290. The church, which was that of the priory, is a cruciform structure of sandstone, in the early English style, with a tower in the centre supported by very large piers, from which spring pointed arches: the western division of the building is contracted in its dimensions, part having been blown down in December, 1705. In the south aisle is an elegant altartomb, with figures of armed knights, representing two brothers named Herdson, formerly lords of the manor; in a niche in the north wall, near the altar, is the figure of a knight, supposed to be one of the Fiennes, warden of Dovor Castle; and near the west end is a small brass plate to the memory of the mother of the celebrated Dr. William Harvey. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. Dr. Harvey bequeathed £200 for the benefit of the poor of the town; and his nephew and executor, Sir Elias Harvey, in 1674 founded a school for boys, and endowed it with part of the income of an estate in the parish of Lympne. At Ford, about half a mile from the town, is a chalybeate spring. The most eminent natives are, Dr. Harvey, born in 1578, who discovered the circulation of the blood; and John Phillipott, Somerset herald, and one of the principal Kentish antiquaries, born about the close of the sixteenth century. Folkestone gives the title of Viscount to the family of Bouverie, earls of Radnor.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.