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, an art gallery a health centre and other attractions.

It 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.

Enough talk - I have probably got more photos than I will ever be able to fit on this page, so let's get started!
Here we have the Victoria pier, (more of this pier on its own page) taken from The Leas.  Also showing the Leas Cliff Hall, where I spent many evenings in my misspent youth!
This is the Upper Leas, taken on what looks to be a fairly nice day - but what a lot of clothing they wore in those days!  They must have sweltered!  As people are sitting around on the grass, I would assume the umbrellas are for keeping the sun off, rather than the rain.  They do look more like umbrellas than sunshades don't they?
This was called The Leas Shelter, which Folkestone had before they built the Leas Cliff Hall, and you can see the pier in the background again.

This was sent to me by another ex-Folkestonian, David aka Morehall Boy - Thanks David! :-)
This picture of The Leas was dated  1921, but I wonder if you would have seen men strolling around in uniform three years after the first world war ended?  Mind you, there is an army barracks at Shorncliffe, so I guess it's possible.
This photo of The Leas Bandstand was taken in 1908.  Didn't they love black in those days? They couldn't have all been in mourning!
This was the Blue Vien Band, entertaining the masses on The Leas.
When I was a kid, I used to collect the autographs of the visiting musicians.  I remember they once had an Arab band - and my autograph book was filled with strange hieroglyphics - I had no idea what they wrote - probably something along the lines of buggar off little girl,  but I didn't care, I found it exciting!
On the balcony of the Leas Shelter.  I bet it was really pretty with those hanging baskets - and what a view of the English Channel those people must have had!
Known as the Upper Leas, it was, and still is, the perfect place to stroll on a summers day. You can sit and watch the activity out in The English Channel

In the background, you can see The Grand and the Metropole hotels.
A brisk constitutional along The Leas.  What elegant times those were.  Of course, it may be giving us a false impression of what life was like in Folkestone in those days, because as I said above,  the ordinary people were not allowed on The Leas.  It was reserved for the wealthy.  Lord Radnor had his own police force to ensure that the rules were strictly adhered to.   So the rest of the town probably had its share of yobs, just as it does today!
A view of the Leas Cliff Hall, which looks as if it has recently been completed.
This is a very old one of the Leas.  It was still a dirt road, no flower beds, no band stand.  Just big old houses or hotels that afforded a magnificent view across the channel.  Did you know that on a clear day, you can see the cliffs of France?
Looks like an Edwardian fashion show doesn't it?  The ladies strutting their stuff along the Leas.  I wonder how many husbands were found this way?
Wasn't this pretty?  This flower bed has been a long tradition in Folkestone, and is continued to this day.

I remember that one year, they had a working clock made of flowers - very clever.  This one, which I believe had working windmill sails, dates from 1954 (Thanks to Alan Taylor for dating this one!)
This card was entitled the Leas Concert Hall.  Alan Taylor tells me that it was just another name for the Leas Shelter.
A slightly blurred photo of The Leas looking East.

These first photos have been moved over from my old Folkestone website, and the pictures had been reduced to fit.  Now I am trying to make them bigger and easier to see, but once they have been reduced, they are inclined to blur when you enlarge them again.
My goodness look at the people for this Bandstand concert!  I never seem to get there in the height of summer, so have no idea if you get crowds like this on the Leas these days.
The Leas, looking west this time.  Now I am not sure if my memory is serving me accurately or not.  But I remember going somewhere that looked exactly like this when I was a small child, and ending up under there somewhere in the gent's toilet!  Am I right? Did they, or do they now have a men's room down there where those arches are? Luckily nobody was in there, and I bid a hasty retreat when I realised where I was!
Alan Taylor:  There wasn't a men's toilet in this shelter.  The one I expect you can remember was at the east end of the Leas Cliff Hall, you went down some steps to it.
I think that The Leas has always been the most popular place to photograph for postcards, because it seems to me, that we have a picture of it in almost every year.  This one was taken in 1909
And this was taken in 1912.  Wow!  It's uncanny to think that this was being taken the same year that my father was born!
A picture of the Leas in the 1880's
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The 30's
And in the 50's
This was entitled The Leas and Shelter Hall.  When I asked Alan Taylor what it was exactly, he told me that The Leas Shelter (fore runner of the Leas Cliff Hall) was a concert hall run by the Folkestone Amusement Association where an orchestra played daily.  It was eventually incorporated into the Leas Cliff Hall.
This is the West Leas.  Do you see the lady in the bathchair on the right?  I do hope she was with someone who liked her - one little push, and..... :-)
Here is a  photo of the William Harvey statue.  William Harvey was born in  Folkestone, and was famous for discovering the circulation of the blood, as every doctor has to learn about in medical school.
Folkestone also has The Harvey Grammar School, which was named after him.
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!
I was wondering why everyone looked so formal in those days, even when they were sitting in the Leas Shelter relaxing.  But then I remembered that the only people who would have been allowed there were the rich and genteel, so they would have obviously behaved accordingly.
Good breeding you know! :-))
A busy day in 1903 around the bandstand on The Leas.

Did you know that Folkestone used to have three bandstands?  One here, which I believe is the one that still remains, another opposite the Grand Hotel and another in Marine Gardens down below.
A tinted photo of The Leas and bandstand, I believe the black carriages were bathchairs - the predecessor to the wheelchair.
This was entitled the Leas Cliff Promenade in 1953.
If you look closely at this photo of The Leas, you will see that it was spelled Lees.  I have noticed this on several postcards, I asked Alan Taylor of the Folkestone Local History  Society about it, and he tells me that it was indeed spelled Lees in Victorian times.
That must have been confusing when they made the switchover, unless it was a case that so many people spelled it incorrectly, that they decided to go with Leas!
A very recognisable statue for most Folkestonians.  The War Memorial at the top of the Road of Remembrance.
This lovely picture of the Leas will explain why so many postcards were written in 1915, as this one was written on the back, and posted from Shorncliffe on April 25, 1915 to here in Manitoba, Canada.  Part of it reads as follows:

"This is a most delightful spot and the flowers are splendid.  Expect to go over very shortly, most likely will be there before you receive this card.  Am very fit."

By 'over', he obviously meant to the front, in WW1.  The whole card reads as if he was not afraid at all, unless he was just trying to reassure the recipient.   I really hope he came home.

One thing I am very curious about from this picture.  I see they used ordinary wooden chairs to sit on outside in those days.  This was on grass - what stopped the legs from sinking into the ground?  I cannot shake the mental picture I have of these elegant ladies gliding slowly and gracefully downwards!
A close up photo of the Leas Cliff Hall, showing lots of detail.  I don't know how old it is, but I know it isn't modern, because it doesn't yet have its 'witch's hut' entrance on the Leas.
On the left, a photo of the Leas Cliff Hall entrance, taken by Cliff Sherwood, who has some wonderful photos of Folkestone at Virtual Tourist .  On the right is the reason why it always reminds me of a witch's hut - this is the witch's hut that was built for the children in one of our parks in Winnipeg.  Can you see the resemblance?
Here is a lovely old photo of the Lees (as it was spelled in those days).  This photo must have been coloured afterwards, do you think that pram and the woman pushing it would really have been totally in white?  I doubt it somehow.
Isn't this lovely?  It shows the Leas and bandstand with lots of people in the dress of the day.  The Victoria Pier is in the background and standing patiently in the foreground is a horse and cart which was probably used to transport people to and from the concert.  The length of the Leas is quite a hike if your legs are not as young as they used to be.
Another one of the Leas, with what looks like small palm trees in the flower beds.  I don't have a date for this one, but judging by the cars, I would guess maybe 20's?

I see William Harvey was already erected anyway.  But I don't know how many years he has been there.

Alan Taylor:  The William Harvey statue was unveiled in August 1881.

Thanks Alan - so I guess William is no help in dating this card, because it definitely isn't that old!
Another photo from the 50's.
Folkestone has always done these flower beds so well!  This one was in 1957, and celebrated anniversaries of William Harvey, the Kent Constabulary and Baden Powell's Scouting Movement.

Know what I noticed here though?  It was 1957, and it clearly says The Lees on the postcard!    In fact, it is all very strange, because I have a Ward Lock guide book from 1929, which has it spelled Leas.  So maybe whoever did the typesetting for this postcard, couldn't spell!
According to historian Alan Taylor, it was spelled Lees in Victorian times, but he didn't say exactly when the change took place.
This 60's card on the left of the Leas and the Harvey Memorial was sent to me by Rex, a gentleman I met while walking along the walk just below the Leas.  See, it sometimes pays to talk to strangers! :-)
Here is a slightly fuzzy one of the Leas, and a very different looking bandstand.  I wonder how many incarnations that bandstand has had over the years?
The one on the right was entitled 'East Lees', and was dated 1907.

Doesn't that lady look pretty?  I think I was born at the wrong time, I would love to dress like that.  However, I think that hemline might be a bit of a hindrance when climbing in and out of my little Pontiac Sunfire! :-)
An early photo of the Leas Cliff Hall.

I notice that dogs were allowed up on the Leas in those days, even if the ordinary people were not!
Same place as above, but taken from the other side.  This time in the 30's
Another floral carpet on the Leas.  This time celebrating the Cricket Festival of 1938 England v Australia
A lazy afternoon on the leas in 1911.  Sitting around with nothing better to do than to listen to the band playing in the background.  Sheer heaven!
A little more modern, we have the Sun Lounge at the Leas Cliff Hall in 1962
This is the Gardens on the Leas and War Memorial in 1930.  I was trying to decide about the figure in the foreground.  She looks like a little girl pushing a dolls pram, but looks young to be out alone.  Surely she isn't old enough to have a baby in that pram?  I guess we will never find out.
This reworked picture is of the Lees, as it was called then.  It was claimed to be from 1890, but as the bandstand wasn't built until 1895, I think it was a little later.
A tinted picture of the Leas and bandstand, dated 1910
These two fabulous aerial shots of the Leas were sent to me by Gordon Bradford of Folkestone.  Thanks Gordon! :-)
A different view of The Leas.
A photo of Marine Crescent from the Leas.  As we speak at the beginning of 2007, these buildings are undergoing major refurbishment to turn them into luxury flats, which are selling as fast as they are finished.
If you would like to know more about the life of William Harvey, click HERE
And here is the one produced for 1956.  It is honouring Cpl. W. R. Cotter, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1916
Here we have the gardening masterpiece for 1959.  I can't make out the banner across the top, and am not sure what USIC stands for.  But you can clearly make out the WVS Civil Defence anniversary,
In 1960 they produced another windmill.  This time it was purely to welcome visitors to Folkestone.
We are in 1963 now, and the card doesn't say what it is celebrating.  Could it be St. John's Ambulance?
1965, and this time it is The Battle of Britain's 25th anniversary, and we were honouring the RAF.
Aha!  I may not have found a picture of the floral clock that I remember, but they did it again in 2003, and Chris of Folkestone sent me a photo of it!  Thanks Chris.  On the right is the magnificent display they made in honour of the Queen's Jubilee.  I hate to say it, but I didn't make a note of who sent me this one, so if it was you, please drop me a line so I can acknowledge you!
And of course, every Coronation has to have a flower bed.

This one was in honour of George VI in 1937
And this one was for his daughter, our present Queen, Elizabeth II in 1953.
Here is how the same flower bed looked at night.  What a pity it isn't in colour.
Now here is something you never see anymore.  In the bottom right corner of this picture taken on the Leas in 1910 is a goat cart.  I have seen several pictures of these taken around this era, and it seemed to be a popular thing to have.  I wouldn't have thought they were very reliable as beasts of burden, but I could be wrong.
I don't have a date for this one, but everyone seemed to have their children with them that day.
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.
An evening concert, and well attended by the looks of things!
This one dates from 1923, and although you can see the hemlines creeping up on some of the ladies, we have quite a rebel in the crowd don't we?  There is one there with her skirt above her knees - how shocking!  Was she one of those flapper girls I wonder?
But you are not going to see anything so daring in this photo - it dates from much earlier, and the hemlines were still dragging on the ground!

Over on the left is the Grand Hotel.
This one too dates back to 1918, so people were still well covered.
A very busy scene from 1907.  The nannies taking their charges for some air, and having a listen to the band at the same time.  Elderly people in bath chairs.

I wonder how many of the able bodied were tempted to dance on the grass to the music?

In the background you can see the Metropole Hotel.
As you may be able to tell by the hats, this photo dates from 1936 - and the women had legs too! :-)
Right up to 1956 now, and I can make out the name of Spencers on the back of that van.
Back a couple of years to 1954, and this is how the entrance of the Leas Cliff Hall looked in those days.
I don't have a date for this one, but it shows the interior of the Leas Cliff Hall.
I do have a date for this one though.  It is 1914, and looks like a fashion parade doesn't it?
I spy another Nanny.  How can I tell?  Because it was only the Nannies that wore an apron outside.  If the woman of the house wore one at all, she would remove it before even answering the door.
Another modern one showing how the the only remaining bandstand looks today.  The one opposite The Grand and also the one at the bottom of the cliff are now just a memory.

This photo is courtesy of Dan Littauer, and was taken from the Virtual Tourist website.
To show you how the bandstand has been altered over the years.  The top on it when this was taken looked very eastern didn't it?
You can just get a glimpse of the pier in this one.
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.
Another interesting one.  Look at all the carriages lined up on the other side of the grass.  Could it have been a taxi rank?
No date for this one, but it was sent to me by R. E. King.  Thanks :-)

I see a dog getting his exercise here.  I don't think there were any laws about scooping the poop in those days, so with all those long dresses, it hardly bears thinking about does it? :-)
Another photo of the Leas Shelter on a fine summer day.
Leaving the shelter and going back up onto the Leas.
Oh my, what is this?  A businessmen's convention?  As you can see, it was the age of chivalry - you don't see any ladies having to stand do you?  Quite right too in my opinion! :-))
This one is a bit fuzzy, but I had to show you that pram!  Whoever would have thought of draping a baby carriage in black?  It was obviously the height of fashion in 1910. 
And here it is!  The War Memorial never changes.  The buildings behind it certainly have though - they are all long gone!
Another Punch & Judy Show on the East Leas.  I think those houses behind are also gone now.  This was in 1923.
This one and the one above was entitled 'Church Parade'.  Did they parade before or after going to church?  Or did they hold a church service in the bandstand?  They certainly look as if they are wearing their Sunday best.    It has me curious.
This was the Sun Shelter in 1947.  If I am not mistaken, it is the same place that I met  Rex on one of my visits.

Someone was telling me that they used to grow grapes in here, but they are long gone now.

How these men could sit and laze in the sun with suits, ties and hats on is beyond me!  I don't think they had even invented deodorant then had they?  Whew!
These people are walking down to the Leas Shelter in 1908
Don't forget, if you have your own memories of Folkestone, be sure to share them with us by jotting them down in the book below.
This was the picture that appeared in the Illustrated London News.  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?

We know this photo has to date from 1881, because Alan told us above that the unveiling took place that year.
This one was posted in 1910
And this clever one has the Folkestone Borough Seal incorporated into it.
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Notice that in the period between the bed on the left and the one on the right, another lamp standard has been added to the Leas.
A couple of modern photos of The Leas.  The one at the top looks different because of the modern buildings at the East end, but the one below doesn't look so different does it?  Even the man looks quite formally dressed, although I don't think he is wearing a tie.
By the time this card was mailed - in 1928, the skylights you can see in the ground had been gone for two years.
They were there for the purpose of letting light into the Leas Shelter, which of course was built before the age of electricity.  But by 1926, when the Leas Cliff Hall was being built, they were no longer needed.
In 1920 when this card was mailed, it was called The Old Cannon, so if it was still there today, it would be classified as absolutely ancient!  However, I have no idea where it is today, because it was taken away in 1922 when the war memorial was erectedt.
I took the photo on the right of the Sun Shelter in 2006.  What a shock, it was all coming down!  I couldn't find anyone to ask what was going on, so if anyone knows, please drop me a line.
Here we have the Zig Zag path, with people looking out onto a very sad sight.  As you can see, the beautiful pier has burned down, and all that is left is part of the walkway.  The pavilion has gone completely, which would mean this card dates from around 1948.
Talking about the Zig Zag path, this is a photo I took of the new entrance to it in 2006.
And here is the Zig Zag path today.  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.
A view of the Metropole lifts taken from the east side of them.  On the right you can see the Metropole and The Grand.  It's a busy day with prams and bathchairs along the Lees in 1909.
This untinted photo was taken a year after the one above.  I am not sure what the photographer was standing on to get the picture.  Whatever it was, it caused a great deal of interest from the boy on the left.  He was probably waiting for the photographer to topple down the cliff!  Note - 1909 above and it was spelled Lees, here 1910 and it's Leas.
Taken in the same area as the 1909 photo above, but taken facing East instead of West.  There are lots of people waiting to take the lift today.
Back to the floral bed for a moment.  This was called the Jubilee flower bed.  I wonder if it was for George V, who celebrated his silver Jubilee in 1935.  If anyone knows for sure, please drop me a line.
I wouldn't think that boy was finding his seat very comfortable would you?
We know that Lord Radnor had his own police force who took care of law and order on the Leas.  This card was posted in 1909, and that looks very much like a policeman doesn't it?

Hmmmm, 1909 and the printed name is definitely spelled Leas, so there goes that theory - I have no idea when the name was changed!!
We are really dipping back in time here, and the quality of the photographs endorses it.  These two are both from 1880, and were taken on the Leas.  Very different, but there are surprisingly quite a few large buildings.
The Leas Cliff Hall.  The photo above left was taken shortly after it was built in 1926, and I took the one above right in 2006 from the new Lower Leas Coastal Park.  I think it was undergoing a bit of reconstruction.

On the left is the entrance to the Leas Cliff Hall.  I didn't take that one though.
The lower bandstand refers to the one that is still there now.  The upper bandstand was in front of the Grand Hotel - now long gone.  Then there was another one in Marine Gardens down below.  That has gone too.
Frank & Jane Sharpe were taking a holiday in Folkestone and sent this photo to me in horror.  It is of the bandstand (right) totally demolished in 2006.  I wrote to Alan Taylor about it, and he assured me it will be erected again, it has gone in for some rebuilding work, which will cost thousands of pounds.
Prior to that happening though, this is a photo I took of it in May 2006.  It looks in pretty good shape from a distance doesn't it?  However, looks can be deceiving.
This is another photo I took in May, 2006.  I am standing on the Leas at the corner of Castle Hill Avenue, with the Clifton Hotel looking very different to the building in the photo above right with the Lower Bandstand.  I have been flipping back and forth between the two photos, and it is possible it is the same building, but it has obviously had extensive renovations - like removing all the chimneys for a start.  Right in the centre of the road stands William Harvey, who has stood there collecting bird droppings for 126 years.
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 October 14, 2014
These two wonderful before and after photographs were sent to me by Martin Harrison, who lived in Linden Crescent between 1950 and 1970.  He says the old postcard, which shows the Victoria Pier in the background, had belonged to his mother.  I think they have done a wonderful job of refurbishing the shelter, and see they have planted grapes in there again - how wonderful!  They have added gates at the end, and I am assuming they are at both ends, which hopefully will prevent the vandals going in there at night and destroying it.  Thank you Martin - made my day!