It is not hard to find photographs of The Leas in Folkestone. It has to be the most photographed area in the whole town! There is a good reason for this though, it is probably the most beautiful area in the whole town, and Folkestonians should be very proud of it.
It was originally owned by Lord Radnor, who designed it exclusively for the upper class. He had his own police force, whose job it was to make sure the riff raff were kept away from the delicate eyes of the gentry.
Nowadays of course, it is open to all. Many of the large hotels and wealthy homes have been turned into night clubs and places the ordinary people can afford to go. The two biggest hotels at the West end of The Leas, The Metropole and The Grand have had to undergo many changes too, and they now consist of apartments, and hold special events. However, I believe you can still stay at The Grand.
The Leas runs for a few miles along the top of the cliff, and anywhere up there you will have a fabulous view across the English Channel. At one time, it was called The Lees, which means sheltered. I imagine the name was changed when it was realised it was anything but. The breeze up there can be extremely bracing to say the least! It's very easy to find, you can access it from the seafront via the Road of Remembrance, The Lifts (when they are working) or the Zig Zag path. Also if you are in the town, most of the roads leading South from Upper Sandgate Road will head directly there.
Enough talk - I have probably got more photos than I will ever be able to fit on this page, so let's get started!
Now this is a picture that brought back many memories. These people are up on the Leas, watching a Punch & Judy Show.
Not that I ever saw one up there, but they did have them on the Sands when I was a child.
They probably don't have them any more, too violent! Mr. Punch would always kill his wife, and then be arrested by the policeman and be hanged. That's what they called childrens' entertainment in those days!
Making sure that baby is well strapped in. These children did seem to ride high in their prams didn't they? If they were not strapped in, I would think they could have toppled over the side quite easily. In the background you can see the Leas Pavilion.
I wish I had a date for this one. I just love the way they are dressed! Is that boy on the left a servant? He is wearing a long fitted coat that just might be a uniform.
This was the picture that appeared in the Illustrated London News in August 1881. It was of Professor Owen unveiling the William Harvey Memorial Statue.
It drew quite a crowd didn't it? I wonder who Professor Owen was?
By the time this card was mailed, in 1928, the skylights you can see in the ground had been gone a long time. They were there for the purpose of letting light into the Leas Shelter, which of course was built before the age of electricity, but as you see on the left, it was installed before it was demolished, and they were no longer needed.
And here is the Zig Zag path around 2016. It's still very beautiful isn't it? Just look at the colours, and it was only May. It is a little spoiled by the big buildings in the background, but I expect our ancestors said the same thing when they built the big hotels on the Leas. That's progress. I remember when I used to walk down here as a child, I was most impressed by the metal markers beside each plant telling you the name of it, and it was also in braille. Wonderful idea, do they still have them there?
Hopefully we will be able to get a better shot of the Clifton Hotel soon, but this is the way it looked in the summer of 2017, obviously undergoing some major renovations. William Harvey is still standing there collecting seagull droppings the way he has for the last 137 years. Is that a motorcycle parked in front of him? Is it legal to park in there? Hope he didn't get a ticket!
That no entry sign on the right side of Castle Hill Avenue is for people like me, who are used to driving on the right side of the street here in Canada, then get behind the wheel in the UK, and promptly go down the wrong side of a dual carriageway! I admit it - I've done it!
This page updated March 25, 2018
site of former bandstand
This bandstand is not the one shown above, this one is still there, although it has undergone many changes in appearance over the years. The card on the left dates from 1907, I love the stripey deckchairs with their overhead canopies to keep the sun off, very practical. On the back of the card on the right, the sender was telling the recipient all about the new lifts they had recently installed opposite the Metropole Hotel. Sadly those lifts were destroyed by the troops during WW2 and had to be dismantled. It's odd, because I was told those lifts were built in 1907, yet the card was posted in 1906.
June 2017, almost mid summer, and you could throw a bowling ball along the footpath on the other side, and not hit anyone! Bit different to the old days, when you had to jostle to get through the throngs.
Moving down the Leas towards the Road of Remembrance, this card predates WW1. Note the man up the ladder fixing the gas light. Before the War Memorial was built, over towards Priory Gardens there was a beautiful fountain that had to be moved, along with the canon you can see in the foreground, to make way for the Memorial. Now while I have no idea where the canon went, possibly melted down in the war effort? I do know where the fountain went.
Here it is! Located now in a lovely little park on the corner of Wear Bay Crescent and Wear Bay Road, and has the beautiful backdrop of the sea. I don't think it works any more as a fountain, but personally I am just grateful they preserved it.
This card was mailed in 1922, and chances are the view was already different in reality. The new War Memorial, sculpted by Swiss-born sculptor F. V. Blundstone and unveiled on 2nd December, 1922 by the Earl of Radnor. It is a bronze statue of a woman representing Motherhood, within her right hand a victory laurel, her left hand holds a cross attached to a shaft with Union Jack at half mast. The figure looks over the Channel towards the battlefields of France and Flanders. At the base of the memorial is a bronze panel on which a moving mass of men is suggested in silhouette, and represents the continual flow of men who passed the spot during the war. Above the plaque it reads 'May their deeds be held in reverence' On the plaque it reads 'THANKS BE TO GOD WHO GIVETH US THE VICTORY In ever grateful memory of the brave men from folkestone, and the many thousands from all parts of the Empire who passed this spot on their way to fight in the great war (1914-1918) for righteousness and freedom, and especially those of this town who made the supreme sacrifice, and whose names are here recorded, this memorial is humbly dedicated. There follows a list of those who died in battle during WW1. Beneath the plaque it reads: 'this memorial also commemorates those members of the armed services who lost their lives during the Second World War 1939-1945, and the many civilian inhabitants of this borough who lost their lives as a result of enemy action during those years.
The War Memorial before the names of the dead were added. It had a far more pleasant backdrop in those days too, beautiful residential architecture and lots of trees, instead of the square and ugly buildings in place now.
I would guess this card to be around the same age as the one on the left. I don't know what the vendor is selling in the background, but he is certainly attracting quite a bit of attention.
This is a card from 1945 giving you a better view of the beautiful architecture in West Terrace.
I don't have a date for this one sent by Jeremy O'Keeffe, but as you can see, they had added a small protective fence around it.
Close to the same place in 2017. I think the only thing that is the same is the grass down the middle. First building is called Monument House, and the flats are No. 1 The Leas. Amazing what gets planning permission isn't it? The tallest part of it, the part that faces the sea, has no windows. Well, that's not exactly true, it does, and I haven't been inside, but it looks to me like a stairwell on the other side (see inset picture). Saw a listing for here, 2 bedroom flat, all windows look out onto buildings, but you can see the sea by going onto the roof, so you share the view with others. You can have all this for £140,000.
Another one looking West, allowing you to see all the beautiful buildings that have now been demolished. Just look at all the rich kids in their fancy little outfits. Note the bathchairs parked up on the other side of the grass too.
Close to the same view, but on the left it was the 60's and on the right 2017. You will notice with those high dark flats behind it, you can barely make out the War Memorial these days.
This card was sent to Evan Griffiths, 46 Kings Road, Chelsea. I checked the address, and it is all retail at street level, but looks to be pretty fancy character apartments above. Although the numbers these days appear to skip from 44 to 52, nothing appears to have been demolished.
In 2014 to commemmorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the 1914-18 War, Step Short built this memorial Arch. Unveiled by Prince Harry in August of 2014, it was met with a lot of opposition from local residents, firstly because it cost £500,000, and secondly because the opinion was that it resembled half of McDonald's golden arches, located just around the corner. The project went ahead despite the opposition, and appears to have been accepted, although it has been said it is showing signs of rust. You will notice the poppies decorating the railing all along this portion of the Leas, and they continue on down the Road of Remembrance, again in honour of the fallen servicemen of the two World Wars. These were the brainchild of the Folkestone branch of Soroptimist International, and if you think you might like to make a few poppies yourself, you can find the pattern for the knitted ones here: https://sigbi.org/folkestone/folkestone-road-of-remembrance-poppies/
Beside the arch is a very pleasant seating area, each one giving a little wartime local history. If you hold your mouse over each number below the large picture, you will be able to read each bench. REQUIRES FLASH TO WORK
The Tontine St Air Raid, for the full illustrated story, click HERE
Hold your mouse over each number to see the various benches.
Margaret & Flora Jeffery
Another view of Punch & Judy up on the Leas in 1923. These look like ordinary people, so they must have been allowed at the East end at least. I really don't know when the rules were relaxed
In 1935 it was the Silver Jubilee of King George V, our current Queen's Grandfather. To celebrate the event, this arch was erected at the top of the Road of Remembrance, the road where so many soldiers had marched on their way to the front during WW1. I imagine there was opposition to it, just like there was over the modern arch above, and I am sure many people felt it wrong to put up a celebratory arch on a street dedicated to servicemen who had given their lives for us. Therefore a compromise was reached, the arch had a crown, with G and R on either side. The wording underneath read "In our rejoicing we still remember them". Now I admit I am just speculating here, but it makes sense doesn't it?
Opposite Number One The Leas you will find a memorial dedicated to the Airmen and Women who served in both World Wars. This was actually moved along a bit to make room for the new Memorial Arch.
Tut tut, seagulls have no respect!
Looking West, I just love the lamp posts along the Leas. This one has a sign warning that dogs must be kept on a lead. While I understand this and agree with it, I find it amusing that in Edwardian times, even though they didn't allow ordinary folk along there, unleashed dogs were perfectly acceptable as you will see as we go down the page. Can you imagine all those expensive long dresses sweeping along through all the dog poo, and no washing machines in those days either! Doesn't bear thinking about does it?
I bought this card because it looks very odd, I am sure the Leas doesn't have an incline like that today does it? I decided not to clean it up because I didn't want to destroy the view of the Lifts. This card has a few postmarks on both front and back. I can read Paris, but the date isn't very clear, it looks like 1913.
Almost opposite the Lifts can be found The Leas Pavilion built in 1902, this is how it looked in 1904, they served afternoon tea on the terrace in fine weather, and inside when it was inclement, it was accompanied by music from a small orchestra. As you can see, the building also had some lovely little shops, one of which was a beautiful Lace shop by the name of Winslow (Bucks) Lace Industry.
And here it is! This business was operated from Winslow by The Hon. Rose Hubbard, and employed about 70 lace makers. She lived for a while at 111 Sandgate Road, and had a shop in her front parlour. No doubt she also wanted to catch the eye of the wealthy ladies along the Leas, so opened this shop in the Leas Pavilion. In the photo you can see her Secretary Miss Martha A. King on the left, Miss Jane Prior in the middle and Rose Hubbard on the right. You can read all about this business, and the history of Winslow HERE and I thank Dr. David Noy for allowing me to use these photos from his collection.
Hon. Rose Hubbard standing at her door in 1910. Here is 111 Sandgate Road today, I think it is the Landau building, and if you look closely, you can tell by the brickwork at the top, that the original house is still there, and built onto at the front to convert it to retail.
This was the Leas Pavilion in 2016, looking very sorry for itself and is under dire threat. It has been bought by a developer who would love to demolish it and turn it into yet another block of high rise flats. A group called 'Friends of the Leas Pavilion' have been fighting to save it, and have the support of many well known names in show business, who remember it as a beautiful little theatre, and they have also managed to secure some lottery funding. However, it is a long slow process, and in the meantime, this lovely building is not getting any prettier through neglect. Such a shame.
These were the days when they would make sure the Lifts were in working order, because they were in constant use. So much to do down there, and they were the quickest way to get there. At the time on the left, there were two pairs of lifts here, plus a single pair opposite the Metropole Hotel, and another single pair at the far West end of the Leas which would take you down to Sandgate. The picture on the right was taken in 2016, and in 2017 the remaining pair of cars were parked in the middle of the rails waiting for a new braking system that nobody appears to be able to afford.
I have lots more photos of the Lifts, but as they have a page of their own, I will just stay with these on this page.
The 1905 card on the left is a little strange. All those people, mostly ladies are squished together between the fence and the cliff edge. Is it to get a better view of the sea or the Victoria Pier? Obviously not, because most of them are seated facing the Leas. It is possibly to escape the sun, but I suspect it had more to do with being seen by the right people. At least they had lots to look at if they chose to turn around, unlike in the photo on the right of the same general area taken in 2016. I only had a car park and about half a dozen cars! Plus of course I had the sea, but nothing going on out there that day either!
This pretty card was sent to Gwennie Alvie on July 1st 1917. However, I suspect the photo was taken earlier than that, because I don't think anything like this went on up the Leas during WW1.
Folkestone used to have three bandstands, this one which is still there, another one opposite the Grand Hotel and another down in Marine Gardens. The latter two are now distant memories.
Another very busy day near the Bandstand, and I think a few enterprising young men are making a few quid selling portraits of people.
No date for this one, but it is probably close to the one above, because they are using those same striped covered deckchairs. They make so much sense having that protection from the sun on your head, I wonder why they are not still in use today?
The band were playing a Benefit Concert on this day according to the poster on the bandstand. Looks like quite a few empty seats over on the right, tut tut, come on people, if you could afford to be on the Leas in those days, you could afford to dip your hand in your pocket for charity!
I think they must have been playing lullabyes on this day judging by the amount of people in the chairs who appear to be sleeping. Note the bandstand appears to have some kind of sheer material over some of the panels. I wonder if they had a type of roller blind they could pull down on windy days to prevent their music from blowing away?
A nosy boy really wants to be sure he is included in the picture. You can't blame him, in 1921 you didn't see people with cameras every day. I bet he never imagined that his descendants would one day carry a small camera in their pocket that also made phone calls and text messages, and could see people and talk to them on the other side of the world, and find out the weather, or the latest news, play unlimited games etc. It would have boggled his mind! Actually it still boggles mine!
These two were taken at almost the same spot. The one above is from 1930 and the one on the right, sent to me by Tim Champion dates from 1938. Note the bathchair in Tim's, they look to be a lot heavier to pull than to push the wheelchairs of today.
When I first glanced at this card, it struck me that two of the ladies in the foreground looked like Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, but as much as I liked the idea of them being able to escape to Folkestone for a holiday without being recognised, this wasn't them as the date is 1936 and they were only six and ten years old! In the background is the Leas Cliff Hall.
This 1940's card shows a beautiful bed of tulips, pity it's not in colour. I see they have them surrounded with a hedge and gates to prevent anyone from tip-toeing through.
I have seen several cards of the Leas that are entitled 'Church Parade' which makes me wonder if they used to hold church services in the bandstand on a Sunday, or were they all walking down to the church of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe? That was a long trek, there were closer churches than that in Sandgate Road. I have seen pictures of church services being held down on the beach, so I guess it is quite possible they held them outdoors on the Leas too.
This card made me smile. Note the tall woman standing talking to the ladies in the deckchairs, she appears to be taking a second look at the tall man walking by with a cane, I imagine she is sizing him up as a possible match as a husband, I am sure she didn't get to meet many men taller than her!
This was a great view from the Leas, sent to me by Jeremy O'Keeffe. Shows the outdoor swimming pool, and the indoor one located inside the Marina, or the Bathing Establishment as it was first called. I love how they turned their advertising to attract the people down from the Leas, the Marina is trying to entice them to swim, or drink lager on draught and iced, also the Red Roof Chalet, located on the other side of the Marina is promoting The Follies.
Another popular view from the Leas was of the Victoria Pier and Switchback Railway, plus when this picture was taken, there was also a roller skating rink right by the entrance to the pier, so lots of entertainment going on, including the yacht Gertie who used to take people for jaunts round to the harbour under sail. The only thing I don't understand is how these people, sitting on regular wooden chairs with round narrow legs, managed to sit on the grass without slowly and gracefully sinking down to the stretchers!
Jeremy sent me this one too, and at first glance you may think it is nearly the same, but it is quite a bit later. Now we not only have the swimming pool, but also the boating pool and the Rotunda. You can't see it without a magnifying glass, but the Marine Gardens Pavilion, (the building that used to house a skating rink, and was later La Parisienne and Onyx nightclubs), which began life as a theatre, is advertising The Bouquets on the roof. You can see a photo of the Bouquets on the People page. Everything you see has now, in 2018, been cleared with the exception of the residences in Marine Crescent, and the owners of those will soon have their lovely sea view blocked by tall ugly blocks of flats all along the seafront from and including the harbour to the Lower Leas Coastal Park. I know ugly is subjective, but according to the last plans I saw, they are, in my opinion, large blocks of concrete with windows.
Two photos of the Leas Pavilion inside. On the left, how it looked as a tea room in 1904 and above, sent by John Anton, you see it as a lovely cosy theatre. I won't show you how it looks inside now, it will make you cry.
Here is another Church Parade, and they certainly do seem to be gathering around the bandstand don't they. Posted in 1907 to a Miss Small, the message says "What do you think of the class?"
The Leas Shelter was constructed in 1894 which was the predecessor of the Leas Cliff Hall. The Shelter had a concert room for entertainment and seated 200, plus an orchestra. Then the Leas Cliff Hall was opened in its place by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester on July 13, 1927. Let's take a look at the Leas Shelter first.
Not many people here on this day, just a few ladies having afternoon tea on the lower balcony.
This dates from the early 1920's
We had quite a discussion on Facebook about what the object in the bottom left corner of this photo could be. It was placed behind the fence, so I don't think it was supposed to be touched. One person seemed convinced it was something to do with recently installed electricity inside the Shelter, so until I hear different I will go with that. Not sure if they have done away with the lower balcony by the time this photo was taken, or if the shrubbery had grown so large you could no longer see it.
This is older than the one on the left, and you can see they had modernised the awning by the 20's too, in the above it is quite rustic with tiles on the roof. On the left, it looks like metal and glass.
I was thrilled to get my hands on this one recently, because I had never seen a photo of the interior of the Leas Shelter before. They certainly packed people in there like sardines didn't they? On the pillar is a notice of a reward for the return of a lost watch. Also notice they have at this point electric lights. I love the way they used to add 'Compliments of the Season' to some of the postcards in those days, that way, they made sales all year round.
Designed by Norwegian architect J. S. Dahl, the Leas Cliff Hall currently presents a varied programme of touring shows including concerts, comedy, ballet and wrestling. Built during 1926 and opened in 1927 it has been the central hub of entertainment ever since. It was closed for modernisation and refurbishment on 16 September 1980 and re-opened on 6 May 1981 which is the venue seen today.
The stage is flat, 48 feet wide and up to 27 feet deep. It can accommodate around 1,000 people seated or 1,500 standing.
Over the years the hall has played host to some of the best music acts around such as The Rolling Stones, T Rex, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Paul Weller, Ozzy Osbourne, Status Quo, Motörhead, Kings of Leon, Stereophonics, Queens of the Stone Age and Kaiser Chiefs. Not forgetting one I attended back in the early 60's Acker Bilk.
The hall has also seen many comedians over the years, including Victoria Wood, Ken Dodd, Norman Wisdom, Lenny Henry, Brian Conley, Ross Noble, Frankie Boyle and Russell Howard.
The Hall has also hosted many classical concerts, including five by the tenor Richard Tauber, in 1937, 1939, 1940, 1946 and 1947.
A couple of modern shots, the entrance on the Leas in 2017, and from the Lower Leas Coastal Park below in 2015
Note the sign pointing in both directions for the lifts, that's because the Metropole Lifts were also operating at the time
This looks like the 40's or 50's and as you can see, the Leas Cliff Hall had a vastly different entrance back then. In the background, you can see the statue of Dr. William Harvey, who first discovered the circulation of the blood, and beyond him is the Clifton Hotel, which is still in operation today. The bandstand is the same one you saw further up the page.
Another one supplied by Jeremy O'Keeffe. I don't know the year of this, but the Leas Cliff Hall has a very new look about it doesn't it? Possibly not quite finished?
The interior of the Leas Cliff Hall in 1931. It still looked very much like this inside when I was last there in the 60's, except the seats were gone, and we were dancing the jive and the twist!
Mark Hourahane sent me this one. I am sure it is more efficient now with the proper lighting and the bigger stage etc. but I do feel it had a lot more warmth and character in 1931. Thanks Mark! :-)
Now isn't this nice? It is a fairly recent addition to the Leas, and marks the entrance to the Zig Zag path
With the palm tree and the blue sea, you could imagine you were on some tropical island couldn't you?
This beautiful image, that I imagine was taken from the Clifton Hotel, was sent to me by Rex Simmons whom I met while walking through the Sun Shelter further along the Leas. I am not sure of the date, but guess it to be in the 1960's. Oh no wait! Isn't that a little green Reliant Robin behind the Harvey statue? They didn't start manufacturing those until 1973, so it has to be after that.
I love this picture. It shows the Harvey Statue with what I would call a taxi rank of bath chairs parked nearby, to take those too weary to walk another step. Note the little girl in pink with her hands clasped firmly behind her back, walking determinedly in the opposite direction to her mother. Also the Langhorne Hotel, now sadly demolished.
This is what has been built where the Langhorne used to be. It's the Scuba bar and restaurant. What I do like is the fact they have made the part of their property facing the Leas into a lovely garden for people to eat al fresco in the warm weather. However, where there used to be large gardens to the right of the Langhorne, they have now built - you guessed it - yet another skyscraper of flats. You can just see part of it in the photo above.
You can see more photos of William Harvey on the People page, or if you want to read about his life, click HERE
This is what it says on the Zig Zag path sign:
In places you can see pieces of broken pottery, bricks, glass and black material (clinker) from burnt coal. Most of the cliff face here is "Pulhamite". This is not a special geologist's term but is named after Mr. J. R. Pulham of Pulham and Co. London. The company that built the caves, grottos and rock cliffs from a mixture of waste rubble bound together with a special cement.
Shortly after the end of the First World War, Folkestone Corporation decided to create a path to allow easy access to the shore from The Leas. Apparently, their first efforts looked so dreadful that in 1920 Mr. Pulham was called in and with the help of local unemployed workmen created the attractive cliffs that we can see today.
Pulham was incredibly prolific. Examples of his work can be found all over the country and the seafront at Ramsgate in Kent has one of the nearer examples. You've probably seen Pulhamite in lots of places and not realised it!
A "listed" structure, efforts are now being made to restore the Pulhamite where it has become damaged or badly eroded, but matching up the weathered material can be quite a challenge. The recipes for the cement have been lost and probably varied from site to site.
There are some real sandstone rocks here too. See if you can spot where they have been carefully blended with the Pulhamite.
We can date the picture on the right to 1945 by the state of the Victoria Pier. This is how it reads of the Folkestone & District Local History Society: The pier was closed at the outbreak of World War II, although it was subsequently reopened for a short period. However visitor numbers were meagre in the extreme; with only seven customers paying to use the pier on Tuesday, 16th April 1940! Two months later, on 11th June, the pier was closed again to allow the centre section of the structure to be blown up as a defence measure. The gap was closed with a small bridge in 1943 when a pump was housed in the pavilion to enable seawater to be used in the fighting of fires caused by enemy action.
Not surprisingly the pier became very run-down as the war dragged on and as military restrictions began to be lifted dare-devil locals and military personnel clambered along it, in spite of the lack of wooden decking. Sadly, one of the intruders deliberately set fire to the pier pavilion on Whit Sunday, 20th May 1945 and completely destroyed the sea end of the structure.
Personally, I think it is not surprising the visitors were meagre in 1940, there was a war going on, personally if I had been there, I would have opted to be near an air raid shelter, or under my own roof than a sitting target out to sea. I think if it had been rebuilt after the fire, they would have come back after the war. Another question, if a pump had been installed to fight fires caused by enemy action, why wasn't it used to extinguish the fire in the Pavilion?
When the workmen were down there doing the said repair work, rumour has it they came across lots of rats living in the safety of the stones and caves. So to pay homage to the critters, one of them made this little statue of one, hiding it in the corner of one of the seats. Have you found it yet? Dave Shackle did, and kindly allowed me to put the evidence here. Thanks Dave!
Update: I just heard (March 2018) that someone has badly spray painted this little guy fluorescent orange, half the fun was looking for him, but there is always someone who loves to spoil other people's fun.
Nobody does themed floral beds like Folkestone does, and I hope they never stop. I admire them so much, I have decided to give them a page of their own. I have quite a few different cards, but nowhere near enough to fill a page, so if you have any that I don't have, please send me a scan, and let's give those talented gardeners the exposure they deserve, and amass the whole set. Here on the left is the Folkestone Borough Seal, dating from 1939, and on the right, it was Hail and Farewell to the R.A.F and W.R.A.F when they left Hawkinge in 1961. You can see them and lots more HERE
This website is best viewed with a screen resolution of 1152 x 864
You have lots more to see yet, after you have checked out the Floral Beds page, click below for Page 2