I have lumped these two together because they were located near each other, and at one time, were both the biggest attractions in Folkestone.  Many photographs have been taken of them, and of course, they didn't change a lot over the years they were there, so hope you don't get bored with the pictures.

The Victoria Pier was opened by Viscountess Folkestone on 21st July, 1888.  It was nearly 700 ft long and 30 ft wide.  The pavilion on the end seated about 1,000.  Music hall stars such as Marie Lloyd entertained there.  The pavilion was destroyed by fire Whit Monday, 1945, and the rest was dismantled in 1954.

I don't have an exact date for the building of the Switchback Railway, but would imagine it went up around the same time.  Unlike today's roller coasters, a switchback consisted of two tracks upon which a car would roll by gravity to the end, where an operator would switch it onto the other track and off it would roll, undulating on the homeward journey.  Very tame by today's standards, but lots of fun in those days.  As you can see, Folkestone's switchback was built right on the beach, and you will see in some of the photos below what happened to it when the sea decided to be rough.

As it was made of wood, its days were numbered from the outset, and it was demolished in 1918, and the wood that was salvageable was sold to a timber merchant from Ashford.

If you would like to see this wonderful thing in action, I have found an awesome video clip of it on this site: Folkestone At Play 1904 You can even have the experience of what it was like to go for a ride on it.  The quality of the video is not great, but let's not forget, it was taken in 1904!

Both of these structures were located on the West Beach, just a little further west from the Cliff Lifts.  This of course was the main bathing area in those days, and where most of the people gathered to have fun.

You can see more of the West Beach activities on the page of the same name, but right now, let's look at some more old photos of the Switchback Railway and the Victoria Pier.
I would love to have been around when Folkestone had a pier, all  that was left when I was growing up was a few sticks poking out of the sea - and now there is nothing.
This picture was taken in 1895, just seven years after it opened.
Just click on the photos above if you would like to see them enlarged.
Folkestone Pier again.  At the very bottom of the photo, you can just make out the water lifts, which are still there, so you will have an idea of the exact location of the pier
This photo of the Switchback was taken in 1915, just three years before it came down.  It was badly damaged by storms during the first world war, you can't see it here, but it was probably pretty unsafe at this point!

Notice the boat bottom left?  This was another way to have fun at the West Beach, you could hire a rowing boat - along with a little man to do the rowing of course, and off you would go, well protected from the sun, to enjoy life on the ocean waves.
I have no idea what those white things in rows were on either side of the entrance.

The area on the right is where a skating rink was installed at one point, but as I don't have a date for this photo, have no idea if it was before or after this.
In this one, you can see some of the other buildings nearby.  I think that was the lifeboat house on the far left, but am not sure what the building in the centre was used for.
This was Victoria Pier in 1911.  The building on the right was the Bathing Establishment, built in 1869 and was promoted as providing 'Hot, Cold, Vapour, Shower, Swimming, Medicated and other Baths'  It was a very fashionable place to go, and didn't close until 1958.  However, after World War 11, the name was changed to the Marina.

You have a better view of the Lifeboat House in this one.
A nice clear view of the beach and pier.  I wonder if that is a deckchair attendant standing on those planks?
This tinted photo was taken from the pier itself, so you are looking back at the lifts to the right and the switchback railway on your left.

It must have been so pleasant to stroll down the pier on a warm day, it is such a shame that they are not viable enough to build them today.
This shows the Switchback with the tide almost in.  All that salt water licking away at those wooden supports.  They didn't even look painted did they?  However, they must have treated the wood with something to protect it.
Here we have another photo of the pier, taken from The Leas.  Off in the distance is H.M.S. Drake, but why it was anchored out there is anybody's guess.
This one was taken in 1910, on a day that I wouldn't have liked to have been on the end of the pier!
It's hard to believe that the structure could have stood up to rough sea like this, but it did.  It was fire that destroyed it.
I was very thrilled to receive this picture of the Victoria Pier just after the dreadful fire which destroyed it.  The photo was sent to me by Martin Easdown, who wrote the book "Victoria's Golden Pier" which I have been trying to get my hands on, but it is out of print, and have had no luck finding a copy so far.
A good view of the pier entrance, with a couple of elegant looking ladies out for a stroll.
This photo also shows a nice looking yacht, which I believe was also available for hire.  Probably cost more than the rowing boats though.

Was this one The Gertie?  I am not sure.
This is a nice clear photo of the Switchback Railway isn't it?  Isn't it thoughtful of them, just in case someone looked at it and wondered what the heck it was, they wrote 'Switchback' on the back of it!

You can see there is a car on the track waiting for passengers, and down at the bottom end, it looks like the man whose job it would have been to switch the car to the other track.
This card was sold on board one of the Flushing Line of ferries.  They made frequent trips over to Flushing in the Netherlands, and there was space on the back of these cards to write the name of the ship, and whether you were on your way there or back, and could post it to your relatives on board the boat.

It still didn't shed any light on what those little square things were down there though!
Oh my goodness!  This was not a day you would choose to go for a ride on the Switchback!  If you were wondering what happened to it when the sea got rough, you have your answer!

However, this was taken in 1907, it survived another eleven years after this!

Why is that man standing there?  Is he crazy?
As you can see, you could have had a little twirl around the outdoor skating rink too if you wished!
With a magnifying glass, I could just make out the words 'Blue bird' on the advertisement at the pier entrance.
This is a very interesting card, it was mailed back home by a fellow who was very excited because he had just landed himself a job as a Skating Instructor at the rink .

I don't blame him for being excited do you?  All day long he had sun, sand, sea and got to hold pretty young ladies up on their feet - and get paid for it!  Very nice! :-)

This photo dates from 1911, which gives us a rough idea of when the skating rink was in operation.

The sign at the pier entrance reads 'Pictures Daily at 3' & another time that I can't read, which I think would mean that the Pavilion had a cinema.
And here they are!!  I wonder if he was one of these fine people?

The card is very poor quality, probably made on the cheap by the operators of the skating rink.

I didn't crop the picture like I usually do, because I wanted you to see what was written on the bottom.  It says: "Skating taught Free by the above 7 Instructors.  No charge whatever is made for lessons, and gratuities are not allowed".

So I guess our friend above didn't make anything on tips!
and here it is again, in full use- it was called the Olympia Skating Rink, and didn't it look like fun?  However, I don't think I would have wanted to roller skate in a long skirt, but I see many of the women, the instructor included wore them mid calf - much more sensible, and gave the gentlemen a little thrill to glimpse the sight of an ankle!
Mother & Father sitting with barely an inch of skin showing, allowing their children to amuse themselves on the beach.  With not too far to walk for a ride on the Switchback for an extra special treat.
And you thought you wouldn't get any modern photographs on this page didn't you?  Well, believe it or not, there is still a remnant of the Victoria Pier in Folkestone.  Ian Lacey of Ilkston, Derbyshire went for a nostalgic trip back to Folkestone in February 2003, and look what he found!  This must have been where it was anchored to.
A couple of aerial shots of the Victoria Pier.  The first while still in use, and the second was taken in 1950, after the fire that destroyed the Pavilion.
The beach and pier in 1929
A very busy day both on the beach and in the water.  I wonder if it was a Regatta?
This one was entitled 'New Prom', but wasn't dated.  You can also see the Switchback in this shot.
This photo of the Switchback shows the tide creeping up on it.  I have noticed that house like thing in the background on several shots, but am not sure what it was.  Possibly a restaurant or maybe a bathing station for changing purposes?
A couple of shots taken from on the pier itself.  The one above dates from 1912, but the one below is undated.  It was a much busier day though wasn't it?
On the other hand, this one, which was also entitled New Promenade was posted in 1910, so now we have a rough idea when it was actually new.
Wouldn't it have been romantic to stroll with your sweetheart along the pier at night.  I wonder what time it closed?
It is 1931 now, and the woman hanging onto her hat is walking along what is now called Marine Promenade.  I guess later on it was also known as Marine Walk.
Good heavens!  Just look at the crowds on this day.

Yes, Folkestone was definitely where is was at in those days, wasn't it?
I don't have a date for this one, but there is no promenade and no Switchback Railway yet.
This 1931 photo is entitled 'Morning Beauty', and shows the shadowy outline of the pier bathed in the early morning sun.
Another moody picture entitled The Pier and Esplanade.  I don't have a date for this one, but could be around the 30's or early 40's, looking at the way that woman is dressed.
Now isn't this an unusual Christmas Card?  Not a flake of snow or a robin in sight!  In fact it is not even taken in the winter.  How refreshingly different!
This 1911 shot shows the Victoria Pier of course, plus to the right of it, you can see the tracks of the Switchback, and on the left, rolled down into the water, is one of the Fagg's Patent Bathing machines.  You can read more about these in the Beaches section.The road you can see is the Lower Sandgate Road.
No matter what you build in or near the sea, Mother Nature will always try to destroy it sooner or later, and she does have quite a temper when she gets going doesn't she?

The two pictures above right show the pier getting it from both sides, and on the left, the Switchback is taking a battering, and probably those two people were too!
This 1906 photo shows the Switchback with the tide in.  They hadn't yet added the flag and the word 'Switchback' to the back of it.
I don't have a date for this one, but it seems to me you can see the car on its way back can't you?
Every time I see this sight, I find it absolutely hilarious that they would not only wear these heavy clothes on what was obviously a nice sunny day, but they even went in for dark colours, which would have made them even hotter!

(That umbrella was a sunshade or parasol - and they even opted for dark colours in those!)
The year is 1913, and these people are gathered on the Leas to watch the Switchback Railway in operation.

There they are again, sitting on ordinary chairs on the grass.  I just cannot fathom what stopped the legs of the chairs from sinking slowly into the ground when sat upon by a portly figure!
This 1910 photo shows the Folkestone lifeboat coming back to shore.  I wonder how many lives they saved this trip, and I wonder how Folkestone manages without one these days?
At least I thought the one above was a good view, until I had this one sent to me.  Click on it to see the details.  You will really get a sense of what it must have been like to walk through that turnstile.
Talking about roller rinks, does anyone have a photo of the Folkestone Roller Rink that used to be in the Marine Gardens Pavilion  in the 50's/60's?  That used to be a hang-out of mine, and I have never seen a photo of  the inside.  The building, originally a lovely theatre before it became a roller rink, then it was reinvented as the nightclub 'La Parisienne' and then the 'Onyx', and was recently demolished.
See?  Didn't I tell you the pier would be lovely at night?  Those little girls are up quite late though aren't they?
Another one  at night, but the place looks in darkness this time, must be closed.
No skating rink at this time.
You are standing on Pine Walk, looking across the Lower Sandgate Road at the Victoria Pier.
Another one showing the skating rink alongside, and the pleasure yacht waiting for passengers.
Folkestone certainly used to attract the big names.  I enlarged and brightened part of the photo above so you could see who was starring at the time.

I wonder if they got mobs of fans hanging around the stage door in those days?  It would have been hard for the stars to duck out the back wouldn't it? :-)  That being said, I suspect they were only showing one of Charlie Chaplain's films, not the man himself.
On this programme it says 'Popular Prices, Admission Free'
Wow!  You can't beat those prices can you?  However, I believe you had to pay to go onto the pier itself.

I am very surprised that the entertainment was free though.
Page Updated April 15, 2022
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I love this one!  Dating from before WW1, you can see some soldiers having fun
This one really shows how much fun it was to ride on the Switchback Railway
The Switchback looks kind of blue in this photo, but as it dates from 1906, it was probably hand tinted, leaving the artist free rein to make it any colour most likely to sell lots of postcards.
This one is a little later, 1917 in fact.  In the bottom left corner you can see one of the rowing boats for hire, as you can see they made sure you didn't get sunburned by providing a canopy over it.  Canopies provided, but no life jackets, and with those heavy clothes, I think they would have had their work cut out to pull you back in if you fell overboard!
I have a friend by the name of George Hills who lives in Palmarsh.  You have probably seen quite a few of his photos on the Hythe page, as he walks through West Hythe every day with his dog Sky, taking pictures as he goes, and has sent me lots of them.  However, I was thrilled to receive the one on the right, because I don't think I have ever seen a photo of the Victoria Pier before with someone I know standing in front of it!  Yes, the young lad in the photo on the right is George, and it was taken around 1932.  He is pictured with a friend of his parents.  Isn't it fabulous?  Thanks George!
I obtained this beautiful aerial view from the Folkestone & District Local History Society, and it gives a good view of the whole seafront as well as the Victoria Pier and the Olympia Skating Rink at the entrance.
Now, I have someone looking for your help.  Ralph Stanton, son of Raphael Stanton, is trying to trace the footsteps of his father during the time he spent in Folkestone before the war.  He is pictured here on and near the Victoria Pier.  He is on the left in the first photo, right in the second and standing near an unknown lady in the third.

Raphael was born in 1910 as Raphael Stricofsky/Streofsky, but was later known as Raphael Stanton.  He was from Stepney, London, but lived in Folkestone before the war, and worked in the Ensign Cafe, 42 Tontine Street.
If anyone recognises any of these people, or has any information at all, please drop me a line at folkestonethenandnow@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with Ralph.