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Folkestone Harbour Railway Ltd

The Harbour

The requirements for building Folkestone Harbour dates from sequential storm damage to the fishing jetties in 1703, 1724, 1766, 1787 and 1799.   In 1804 a petition was presented to Parliament by Lord Radnor seeking leave to build a harbour of stone.


1806 the civil engineer William Jessop produced two sets of plans for a harbour at Folkestone, the first enclosing an area of 30 acres with a single entrance and a second comprising harbour walling to the south and west, a short eastern pier and isolated breakwater between the heads of piers.


1807 an Act for the Construction of Folkestone Harbour was passed.


1808 John Rennie compiled a report for the Commissioners for Revising the Civil Affairs of the Navy on the harbours of Folkestone, Dover and Ramsgate.   This report was motivated by the desirability of providing anchorages for warships during the Napoleonic Wars. The harbour plans were signed by William Jessop and the company recorded as being Rennie & Jessup.   Jessop proposed harbour walls of Kentish rag stone placed at an angle, and a masonry lining on sheeting piles to the piers to prevent shingle moving through the dry stone construction.  There was not enough money to carry out Jessop's full plan at this stage so a final proposal was a much simplified harbour of a western pier with right angled return pier only.


1820 the West Pier had been completed in 1810 followed by the South Pier after an Exchequer loan of £10,000 was made in 1818.   This enclosed an area of about 14 acres.   As the Folkestone Harbour Company had no funds to complete the East Head it was built by the Commissioners of Jetties of Folkestone, who were able to use funds collected by duties on coal to provide sea defences.   They followed the line shown in Jessop's plans but the outer masonry face was never built.   Its rugged construction has remained largely unchanged.


1829 involved Thomas Telford being consulted after the constructed initial harbour walls were found to affect the natural littoral drift and the harbour became silted up on the west side of the western wall and southern face of the southern wall.    He suggested construction of another pier parallel with the south quay from the end of the East Head and to build a sluice to retain a pool of sea water at low tide thus forming a wet dock for vessels but this was too expensive for the harbour company.


April 1839 and the Exchequer Loan Commissioners took possession of the harbour.


1842 saw the Folkestone Harbour Company become bankrupt.


April 1843 the harbour was sold to Joseph Baxendale, William Parry Richards and Lewis Cubitt for £18,000.   Baxendale was the chairman of the South Eastern Railway Company and Cubitt the brother of the Chief Engineer of the line, William Cubitt.   The plan was to extend the railway line to the harbour so that Folkestone would rival Dover as a harbour for steam packets to France.

A plan of 1843 shows a new railway line with viaduct arches, possibly a swing bridge and also a new hotel.   Harbour House, Packet Office and coal store are shown but there is no indication of a station on this plan.   The Harbour House by Lewis Cubitt was an imposing Italianate style building with tall central clock tower (Below).   Originally its ground floor was used by the customs until Customs House was built in 1859 and the upper floor used by the Directors of the South East Railway Company until the Harbour Master occupied it.


Late 1840s saw the sea wall gradually extended to always keep it in advance of shingle being piled up against it.   This resulted in keeping open the mouth of the harbour and land was gained for building purposes.


1856 The north side of the harbour was shown on maps as a wavy line.   Alterations were planned at the instigation of the new Harbour Master, Captain J F Boxer.   As a result of a violent storm a groyne was constructed from the west end of the station and Boxer proposed additional rail tracks.

1859 A new Customs House was completed and early photographs show it was an impressive Classical style building designed by James Murray of Portman St, London.   Government construction was by Messrs Lucus Brothers and South Eastern Railway work was undertaken by a Mr Hill of Whitechapel.



1860 The Stade Quay, along the north wall of the harbour, was constructed of solid concrete with old rails driven vertically at the front to form the quay front, the space between the rails being planked. A new pier was also started in a south east direction.   Boat trains were carrying many more passengers and ferries also required better low water landing to improve the passenger service so that it need not be tidal and could operate on a regular basis.


1861-62 The pier was constructed, formed from old rails joined by baulks of timber at the top and T-section rods below, the lower part filled with rocks.


2 August 1862 a Fish Market opened on the Stade Quay.


January 1877 produced a storm that damaged the East Pier Head and part of Boxer's pier was damaged.   As a result Boxer's pier became unsafe for traffic and a new groyne was constructed.


1881 A proposal to extend Boxer's pier and the groyne further into deep water so that vessels drawing 15 feet could use the pier at low water and was sanctioned on 21st October by the Board of Works.   Boxer's pier was encased and extended, the new work comprising cement concrete blocks, the pier head was of cement concrete blocks around a rubble and cement core and the central pier between the landing stages was faced with random rubble with a core of rubble and cement concrete.   'The Engineer' of November 17th 1882 published plans and a drawing of an elaborate new lighthouse.   Sections of "The new pier at Folkestone" by Francis Brady were published in 'The Engineer', December 22nd 1882.   By April 1883 the pier had been lengthened by about 150 feet


January 1897 Work again started to enlarge the Outer Pier. This was undertaken by the engineering firm of Coode, Son and Matthews and incorporated tracks for travelling cranes and a new lighthouse.


1899 Harbour House was demolished to make room for an extension to the Pavilion Hotel.


12 July 1904 saw the final form of the Outer Pier and railway station being opened by The French Ambassador.


WWI saw Folkestone Harbour with its station as the key point of embarkation of troops and supporting freight.   John Charles Carlile’s book “Folkestone During The War 1914-1919” quotes 9,253,652 British officers and men as being processed together with 537,523 allied troops and 846,919 Red Cross and other workers.   102,641 tons of military and Red Cross freight was handled together with 383,098 tons of mail and parcels and 63,985 tons of Expeditionary Force Canteens.   Finally 402,968 tons of coal was handled to power the vessels using the port. Approximately 10,500 ships were handled for the military plus 8,000 ships were operated by South Eastern for its commercial service.


March 1930 A Channel Tunnel Committee Report quoted Folkestone Harbour's freight business for 1927 as: -

 • £6,591,000 (£197,532,000 today)
f which –
erishables - £1,681, 000 (47% being fruit)
aluable and Fragile Goods - £1,724, 000 (26% being silk)
ther Foods - £1,499,000 (52% being Cocoa preparations)
ther Goods - £1,687,000 (11% being woollens and worsted, 9% being cottons)

 • British exports £1,203,000 (£36,054,000 today) 21% being Dressed Furs and other Skins

 • Re-exports £1,895,000 (£56,793,000 today) 51% being Dressed Furs and other Skins


WWII The Admiralty used part of the harbour for loading landing ships. As a result part of the old horn wall was demolished and the materials used to form a landing stage. After the war the wall was reinstated using concrete. It wasn’t only Dover that can claim to be “Hellfire Corner” as Folkestone received hits from over 2,000 long range shells from German gun emplacements on the French coast.   Unfortunately the Custom House was hit and only the western bay (part of the South Eastern Railway section) of the original eighteen bay building remains.


1968 The west side railway sidings were removed and the station platform extended to link up with the Outer Pier platform.   Works were also undertaken to build new buildings and a link span to be ready for arrival of new car ferry vessels.


18 July 1984 The ferry operator Sealink was sold to Sea Containers.


1990 The ferry operation was sold to Stena Line but the harbour was retained by Sea Containers.


8th February 1991  The "Sealink (Transfer of Folkestone Harbour) Harbour Revision Order" came into effect.   This allowed the sale of the harbour to "Folkestone Properties Ltd" (part of Sea Containers).   Stena Line quickly discontinued its ferry service on 31 December.


16 March 1992 Government passed the "Folkestone Harbour Act 1992" which allowed development of the seafront area shown on the right.   This proposed considerable development away from Marine Parade as well as development of the Rotunda area as a leisure complex which kept the circular building but integrated it into the rest of the plan.   There was a plan to place gates between the East Pier and South Quay but the company found that the East Pier's construction made it porous and the ambition for a constant water level could not be met. The station was kept along with much of the harbour area although the plan included bars and restaurants on the South Quay to balance The Stade.

11th April 1992 Sea Containers opened their own fast ferry service after buying Hoverspeed Ltd.


August 2004 Sea Containers sold the harbour to Roger de Haan.


2006 Aukett Fitzroy Robinson produced a second masterplan for Trent Developments as part of Shepway District Council's Local Development Plan. This was quickly overturned in favour of the third masterplan.


2006 Roger de Haan contracted Foster and Partners to produce the third seafront development plan shown on the left.   This seemed to adopt a similar approach to Sea Container's seafront homes but extended this to the harbour area and the 1843 viaduct was to be demolished. A ferry service was shown as an integral part of the plan and the Outer Pier was to become a retail area until the whole scheme was withdrawn.


2010 Roger de Haan commissioned Terry Farrell and Partners to develop a fourth seafront development plan.

2012 Roger de Haan submits an Outline Plan for approval.