ORIGINS OF THE HARBOUR
Folkestone has been a trading port since Roman times, and since at least 1100 it has been a haven for fishing boats along The Stade and around the mouth of the Pent Stream, which still flows into the inner harbour through the fine red brick sluice house. Although the harbour slowly grew over the ages, it was in the 19th century that Folkestone became a major maritime port and gateway to the Continent, going through several phases of rapid expansion. (Read more)
During the First World War, Folkestone Harbour was one of the main ports of arrival and departure for servicemen and medical personnel. So many soldiers left from Folkestone Harbour that it became known as the ‘gateway to the trenches’ – an estimated 9,253,652 British officers and men, 537,523 allied troops, and 846, 919 Red Cross and other workers passed through, and more than one million tonnes of freight. In return the town received the wounded and those displaced by war, welcoming more than 100,000 refugees from Belgium, many of whom were accommodated in the town’s guest houses and hotels. (Read more)
THE PRESENT AND FUTURE
Despite ferry services resuming in 1946, the harbour’s fortunes dwindled in the second half of the 20th century despite a major investment in 1970 to introduce new ferries and the roll on-roll off vehicle service. Competition from the Dover to Calais route and the opening of the Channel Tunnel in the 1990s made Folkestone, and its relatively shallow harbour, always difficult to access because of the large ebb and flow of the tide and therefore uneconomical to run. Ferry services ceased in 2001 and the associated buildings on the Harbour Arm fell into disrepair.
Following the acquisition of the harbour in 2004, a team led by Sir Roger De Haan set about investigating how best to regenerate the site and its main structures. The multi-million pound renovation of Folkestone Harbour Arm was the first major step towards a new, inclusive future for the harbour that opens it up to the general public for the first time. By converting the spaces along the pier into small independent bars and food outlets, the Harbour Arm has become the town’s new social hub.
Careful and intensive work has respected the site’s heritage while alleviating damage caused by decades of neglect and persistent battering from storms. Granite stonework has been cleaned and the covered area along the platform has been renovated and re-glazed. Light columns have been replicated and where possible materials have been reused, such as the paneling in the waiting room.