When it comes to Folkestone's churches, the first one to come to mind is the oldest and the most photographed of all. This is the church of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe up on The Bayle.
This church is not only the oldest in Folkestone, and possibly the oldest in Kent, but it is probably the one that goes by the most names. I have heard it referred to as St. Mary's, The Parish Church, St. Eanswythe's or the name I called it in the last sentence. Anyway, whatever you call it, here is the story behind it.
Saxon Princess Eanswythe's father King Eadbald of Kent first built a chapel for her in 630 AD. It underwent many transformations as a monestery, a priory etc. suffered dissolution by Henry V111, rebuilt as a church, and destroyed by fire in 1216. Rebuilt again, and evolved into what you see here.
Several legends are told about St Eanswythe. Her story is that she chose not to marry and refused a Northumbrian prince as suitor when his pagan prayers failed a test she put to him and could not lengthen a beam required for the building of the church. Her own Christian prayers succeeded Other legends include providing water for her convent by making it flow uphill from the stream a mile away, restoring the sight of the blind, and forbidding the birds to eat the nun's corn.
Probably the oldest picture I have, this is dated 1864
Although this one looks a lot later, it is 1890
I don't have a date for this one, but it is looking rather overgrown isn't it?
This slightly blurred one was sent to me by Pat & Trev, and I would guess it to be about the same age as the slightly overgrown one above, judging by the ivy.
This is probably how it looked when Folkestone had all that snow in 2009 - but actually this was taken a hundred years earlier in 1909
This was also taken in 1909 and shows the Mayor's Cross and Sundial. I took a photo of the Mayor's Cross in 2010, if you would like to see the beautiful detail on the cross, click on the modern photo above.
Here we have a photo I took of the Mayor's Cross in 2008 showing St. Eanswythe School in the background.
St Eanswythe's again in 2005, and they have added what I considered to be a very tacky looking sign which looks very much out of place. It reads:
'Our Church, Our Lord JESUS CHRIST Worship Him Here'.
I do hope it doesn't go round and round and flash at night!
I am very happy to report that when I visited again in 2010, the sign had gone.
Back to the old. This one shows a couple of ladies heading to church from Westcliffe Gardens.
Here are a few more modern ones showing the old graves
I took this one in 2010 mainly because of the pretty tree growing right inside the old grave. I couldn't make out the inscription on the grave, but between the concrete walls, the concrete cover over the grave, the tree angled over it and the cast iron railings, they certainly didn't mean the occupant to ever get out did they?
The main reason I visited this church in 2010 was to see if I could find this gravestone dedicated to one Rebecca Rogers. I obtained this postcard several years ago, and it has intrigued me ever since. This is how the grave reads:
In Memory of Rebecca Rogers who died August 22, 1688 aged 44 years
A house she hath its made of such good fashion
The tenant ne'er shall pay for reparation
Nor will her Landlord ever raise her rent
Or turn her out of doors for non payment
From Chimney Money too this Cell is free
Of such a house who would no Tenant be.
This makes me curious about the life of Rebecca Rogers, did she lead a hard life, always dodging the landlord? Was she evicted at some point? I have vaguely heard of a chimney tax, were you assessed according to the size or number of the chimneys on your home?
What a strange subject for a postcard at a high class seaside resort, and I had no luck finding it. This postcard is very old and it looks as if the stone was leaning against the wall then, which is where they put the headstones when they re-use the graves. Most of the ones I looked at against the walls were illegible.
Now, let's look at the interior of this church. These are all old photos as I didn't have time to go inside to take new ones.
I wasn't sure about this one, but this is what Ian Gordon told me:
It shows the wall of the North Transept of the church of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe, and the Jesse Tree painting - a 'family tree' showing how Jesus was descended from Jesse who was the father of the great Old Testament hero King David. That is why we sing 'Hosanna to the Son of David' on Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
The Jesse Tree was painted over sometime either before or just after the war.
My sources tell me that the cottage to the right of the Lych Gate is called Calvary Cottage.
We will end our photos of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe with the same view we started with. However, in this one, you can see a cottage on the right, just this side of the Lych Gate. I don't think it is there now, is it?
Our second church is All Soul's in Cheriton, built in 1894 and still going strong today. This is a church that has hardly changed over the years as you can see from the photo on the left dated 1907, and the more recent one in the middle. The biggest change is the tree on the Cheriton Road side, that was nothing more than a stick in 1907! The photo on the right shows the interior, which is also a fairly recent photograph.
Now we move onto a building that hasn't changed much physically on the outside, probably because it is Grade 11 listed. It started its life as the Baptist Chapel built by Joseph Gardner in 1873-4, and was later referred to as the Baptist Church. However, times change, and later the inside was revamped into the Baptist Galleries, containing little boutiques, and in 1998 Wetherspoons re-opened it as a restaurant & bar. It is now called The Samuel Peto, which is a subsidiary of Wetherspoons.
I went to the Baptist Church for quite a few years, not that my family were Baptists, but because I belonged to the Girls Life Brigade. This badge brought back the memory that I promised to abstain from intoxicating drink. Oops!! (I have even had a drink inside the church/Wetherspoons now too - I will go to hell for sure!)
Here we have another church that I am quite familiar with, because my first marriage took place there, and it is also the church my son was Christened in. It is called St. Martin's, and is located on Horn Street in Cheriton.
This is a very old church, parts of which date back to Saxon times, but has been added to and modified over the centuries. If you are interested in reading the history of this church, I highly recommend you read "St. Martin's Church, Cheriton" by Vincent Williams.
Our next church is the Roman Catholic Church in Guildhall Street, built in 1889 The outside of the building presented an imposing appearance. It was said of it in the 'Kentish Gazette' on 23 July 1889:
"The church is a substantial building in the early Gothic style. It is built of local red bricks with Bath-stone dressings and has two towers. In the space between the towers is a very handsome Gothic window, one of the main features of the building. The wall above - like the towers - has a parapet battlement in stone and is surmounted by a gable with a stone cross at the apex. On the left, and recessed from the Church, is the Presbytery in the same style of architecture, and glazed in leaded lights. The doors - external and internal - are of oak." There were some assertions that the new church opened on 21 June 1889 but no evidence supports this. All recorded reports agree on one date- 17 July 1889.
From humble beginnings - this is where the Cheriton Baptist Church began, in a former tradesman's shop in 1901
By contrast, this is how this church looks today, and is located on Quested Road.
I believe I am correct in saying that the Congregational Church shown above and centre in the background of Kingsnorth Gardens is the same one that is now the United Reform Church/Radnor Park Centre. I am wondering if at one time it was hit by lightning though, as the spiky tops to the turrets have now gone, and what looks like a lightning conductor installed.
Now we move on to Christ Church in Sandgate Road. This was a lovely church, consecrated on July 27th 1850, and destroyed by a German bomb on May 17th 1942. All that was left was the tower at the west end. I had heard a story that the only reason the church wasn't full of soldiers and other parishioners was because the Germans hadn't realised England had put their clocks forward for daylight savings time.
However, on reading another account of choirboy, Ivor Bail, who was on his way to the church, the bomb fell 20 minutes before the service was due to begin, and sadly the Verger Mrs Ansell, and an early worshiper lost their lives, but it could have been much worse. The tower still stands today, and around the clock is carved "TRIFLE NOT THY TIME IS SHORT".
1862 St Peter's Church built as a Chapel-of-ease for the Parish church, Primarily for the Harbour Community
1868 St Peter's consecrated and becomes an independent Parish Church
1877 Prosecution of parish priest, Fr C J Ridsdale, under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, for the use of lighted candles,
Vestments and incense
1898 The present bell (7 cwt) installed
1946 Closure of St Andrew's Convent and Home. Erection of West Gallery for 1896 organ from Convent Chapel
1996 Arson attack on 28th July. The unsafe building was temporarily closed, but all services continued in temporary premises.
1998 Solemn Mass of Rededication on 29th June.
2007 Earthquake of 4.3 on the Richter scale hits Folkestone. Gable-end of south transept collapses.
The interior of St. Peter's Church, probably from around the same time as the above photo.
The Blessing of the Fisheries ceremony which takes place each year. St Peter's Church has always been there for the benefit of the fishermen and their families. This photograph was kindly sent to me by Chris Long, whom I believe was one of the little boys.
St. Peter's Church is situated up on the Durlocks, next to the St. Andrews Flats - which used to be a Guest house, and a Nursing home before that. (See Buildings page)
As we have just mentioned the St. Andrews Nursing home, it makes sense to show you the St. Andrews Chapel next, which adjoins that building.
I am not sure of the age of the photo showing the ladies walking outside the St. Andrew's Nursing Home, but would guess it to be approximately the same age as the photo of the interior of the Chapel, which was dated 1911. I took the photo on the right myself in 2005, when the adjoining building had already been turned into apartments.
Hmm, I just did a search on this building and found it is a Grade 11 listed, but instead of apartments, it is listed as a Hotel, but I think it is definitely private flats now.
The Chapel, built in 1889 is also listed.
Our next Folkestone church is the Holy Trinity on Sandgate Road. Built by Lord Radnor in 1868, as part of the planned expansion of the town, his policy being to build a Church every quarter of a mile as the town expanded, so that everyone could walk to Church.
Still in good shape, the church is still going strong today.
This is how St. Saviours Church on Canterbury Road looks today. I took the exterior photo, but I took the one of the interior from their website. I was disappointed that I couldn't find any history on this church online, hopefully someone will remedy that before long.
Also, I have never seen an old postcard depicting this church, consequently the only one I have, and that only shows the doorway, is from my own family history album. My mother's two sisters, Kay and Mabel had a double wedding there on October 25th, 1947. Kay on the left married Jim Palmer and Mabel married Cyril Winch.
This beautiful church was the Wesleyan Chapel on the corner of Grace Hill and Dover Road. It was built in the mid 1800's, and was a well known landmark there until 1976 when it was demolished after a new church was built elsewhere. On this site now are the Grace Court Apartments for the elderly.
Another beautiful church that many people will remember fondly is St. Michael and All Angels on Dover Road. St Michael's was one of Bodley and Garner's most influential churches built in 1884. Although English in detail, it was based on medieval friars' churches in Belgium and Germany. Like most attempts at this date to add ceremonial to Church of England services, the religious procession depicted in the above drawing by Thomas Garner would have caused great controversy if it had actually taken place. The church was demolished in 1953, and now the Sherwood Homes are in its place.
Mark Cadier, who started a page on Facebook called 'Legends of Folkestone', posted the above photo of the hidden cemetery on Bradstone Road. He kindly allowed me to use it here, and I wanted to know more about it, so wrote to my guru Alan Taylor, who as always did not let me down.
He sent me an even better photograph of it, along with an article written by Eamonn Rooney. I urge you to click HERE to find out more about this fascinating burial ground, and to discover why it is up so high off the ground level.
There are, and have been many more churches in Folkestone, but sadly this is my whole collection. If anyone has more that I can add to this page, I would be very grateful to receive a scan. However, here are a few churches in the surrounding district.
This is the chapel at St. Mary's Convent, and the next photo below is of the inside, taken in 1915. St. Mary's convent at the time was located on Shorncliffe Road, but in 1998 they combined with Dover College Junior School at Westbrook House and became known as St. Mary's Westbrook. However, this didn't prove to be a good idea, and the schools were separated again in July 2005.
Interior St. Mary's Convent Chapel 1915
This looks like a very unlikely church doesn't it? But services used to be held regularly on the West Beach so nobody got away with non-attendance in those days!
Sandgate from Folkestone showing new chapel
Church Hill leading to St. Leonards, Hythe
On one of my trips home, I visited St. Leonard's Church in Hythe where this macabre sight is still open to the public. This picture doesn't show all of the skulls by any means, there are three more displays just like it. The pile of bones at the back stretches almost the length of the crypt, although they have been rearranged since this picture was taken by scientists who did lots of tests to try to discover the origin of these people.
There have been many theories over the years. It was once thought there might have been a plague which caused so many deaths, but it was ruled out, because there are too many bones for the size of Hythe at that time.
It was then considered that they might have been the result of a battle. But as the collection includes many women and children, that idea was ruled out.
They then came to the conclusion that it is nothing more sinister than the fact that the graveyard ran out of room, so they removed the larger bones to allow further burials. The pile has only the bones from legs and arms, with a few skulls visible in this photo for effect.
It is a very interesting place to go, if you are up to the steep uphill climb to get there!
St. Leonards was always referred to as the Parish Church, which you can see in the background, totally ignoring the Methodist Church in the foreground, which is also still there. The street where Nelson's Bridge is located is Stade Street.
Lyminge church interior 1892
I think Brooklands Church is the only one I have ever seen with its steeple on the ground. This is from Wikipedia:
The church has the unusual, if not unique, feature of an entirely wooden spire being separate from the body of the church. Popular myth is that the steeple looked down at a wedding service to see such a beautiful bride marrying such an unpleasant groom that it jumped off the church in shock. A more popular story is that one day a virgin presented herself to be married and the church spire fell off at the unusual occurrence. In fact, it is separate as the weight can not be supported by the marshy ground.
St. Mary's Church, Uphill, Capel-le-Ferne
St. Stephen's Church in Lympne stands adjacent to Lympne Castle. I think it was built in 1708, and the graveyard is beautifully peaceful, overlooking West Hythe and the Romney Marshes. I have a nephew buried here, and like to visit when I am there, as it's a good place to sit and collect your thoughts and regroup.
St. Oswald's Church in Paddlesworth. I think the interior photograph was taken some time before the exterior one.
St. Michael's, Hythe - built 1893
The Union Chapel, Uphill was opened on 29th May 1833 and the congregation celebrated the opening of their first permanent Union Chapel, which had cost £400. It remains today a symbol of dedicated worship in a growing community.
This is St. Michael's Church, Hawkinge. On the left is a painting done by Petrie,H., F. S. A. in 1807. On the right is a 2002 photograph by Pam Connell, after it had become a private residence.
This is Pharos Lighthouse and St. Mary-in-Castro Saxon Church at Dover Castle. I have never been in this church, but it looks utterly beautiful inside. The photo on the right indicates its position with the castle.
The castle is 12th century Norman, the church as stated is Saxon and the lighthouse is Roman and is the earliest standing Roman structure in Britain. To tell you far more about these buildings than I ever could, I urge you to check out this website: The East Roman Pharos from the North, Dover Castle, Kent, UK
The Church of St. Nicholas in New Romney was begun by Bishop Odo, brother-in-law of William the Conqueror, in 1086. But most of it dates from the early 12th century. The modern photo on the right shows the Norman nave looking east towards the Gothic chancel.
That's all the churches I have at the moment, but there are, and have been lots more in Folkestone & district, so please check back.
This is the beautiful Congregational Church that used to be on the corner of Tontine Street and Dover Road. Chris Long kindly sent me the photo in the centre, showing how that area looked when the church became a pile of rubble. The one on the right shows Benham House, that I believe were offices. Now, in the next picture below, you can see The Cube, which is an Adult Education Centre dedicated to the Creative and Performing Arts. I understand that churches are not packing them in the way they used to, and that large buildings cost a lot to maintain, but couldn't they put a tiny bit of character in their designs today? Just my opinion of course, I always did prefer the older architecture.
St Paul's Church Sandgate hasn't changed much on the outside through the years. Here it is in 2009, I see they have removed all the ivy from the walls.
I think the house next door is the same one, but has undergone a lot of changes
Another nice photo of Christ Church in Sandgate Road before the bomb, and on the right is the interior, all of which was blown away.
In recent years they have turned the space where the church was into a Memorial Garden, which is a very apt use for it. You will find some of the memorials on the Wartime page.
This Catholic church has to have one of the longest names in Folkestone, it is the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians on Guildhall Street North.
Back to the Holy Trinity in Sandgate Road, here is a nice colour photo of the interior, not sure how old it is though.
And another very nice 1906 shot of the Weslyan Methodist Church on the junction of Grace Hill, Dover Road and Rendezvous Street.
Same corner today, looks a bit empty doesn't it?
Now why don't we finish where we started, with a few more photos of the most photographed church in Folkestone. It's the Parish Church of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe on the Bayle.
This card had writing on the back, it says: The choir is a "dandy" one, mostly boys from the high schools, not many men. The organist is a 'lady' or looks more like 'Cidy' Now I really want to know what Cidy looked like, don't you?
Never understood the Victorians and Edwardians love of sending postcards of churches, nothing like getting one that says "Wish you were here", and you turn it over to see a graveyard! However, the card on the left, taken at night to make it look as spooky as possible was sent as a Christmas Card. Merry Christmas to you too!
Page updated June 2, 2017