This card had written on the back: Folkestone, where Terramycin Animal formula for Mastitis is manufactured, and this is true, it was developed by Pfizer Ltd. who had offices in Sandgate Road, and a plant in Wear Bay Road in my 1958 Directory. By 1964 however, they are just listed in Wear Bay Road, but by then they did have a social & athletic club at 14/16 Dover Road.
Quite a big difference between the 1950's aerial photo on the left, and the one taken around 2013 on the right. The Bathing Establishment, Skating Rink, Swimming pool, Boating pool and Rotunda - all gone now.
The West Beaches of Folkestone used to be the main place of entertainment in Edwardian times too. The bathing area was shingle, with a sandy area near the Victoria Pier which was exposed when the tide went out. There was everything there. Theatrical entertainment, both on the beach and at the end of the pier. Rowing boat rentals, rides on the Switchback Railway. Swimming, both in the sea and in the Bathing Establishment. There were bathing machines and a Safety Bathing Carriage to protect your modesty.
The lifeboat house was also on this beach, and a crowd would gather each time it was launched. You could pitch your tent right on the beach for a weekly fee. These personal changing huts were not really a luxury, as it was illegal to undress on the beach in those days. There was a beach for the ladies, and another for mixed bathing. As yet, I haven't heard of a 'men only' beach, so I guess there was no such thing as equality in those days!
For a while, in the 50's there was a little zoo just off the beach, and also a tearoom along Marine Walk. Nowadays in the beach area, there is still a tearoom and - ummm shingle! No entertainment, just a childrens' playground on the other side of the Lower Sandgate Rd, and the Lower Leas Coastal Park.
Of course, we did have the Rotunda & Swimming pool towards the east end, but the pool has been filled in, and the Rotunda has been demolished. It remains to be seen what will be erected in its place. I first wrote this in 2011 - now I am updating the page in 2015 and there is still just cement pads where the Rotunda and Swimming pool used to be.
Those bathing tents fascinate me, such a great idea, and would be very useful today in my opinion! This was dated 1909, and was entitled 'Mixed Bathing' As mentioned above, in those days they had a ladies only beach, and this one for mixed sexes.
This arrangement is explained in my 1929 edition of the Ward Lock guide books on Folkestone, and I have reprinted it HERE if you are interested.
This one gives you a good look at the bathing machines. At the back of the beach, there was the common type of the day, which would be rolled right down into the water, and the ladies could step out right into the sea, and not so much as a glimpse of a naughty ankle would be seen.
However, the latest invention of the day - which was 1880 - was Mr. W. D. Fagg's Safety Bathing Carriage, which you can see on the track which runs down into the water. If you would like to read an advertisement in the 1896/7 Pike's Directory, promoting this machine, click here, it makes fascinating reading! You will notice that it also promotes the Bathing Establishment, which had far more than just bathing!
I was thrilled to receive this photograph from Gordon Thorburn, who has written a book called 'Holidays in Victorian England'. He wrote asking my help in identifying some of the objects in his photos, and in return sent me some wonderful photos to use here. This one is fabulous isn't it? If you click on it, you will see it enlarged. You can buy his book - either paperback or Kindle here: Amazon.co.uk
Note: Mr. Fagg's Safety Bathing Carriages and lots of personal carriages in use in this one.
When this photo was sent to me by Diane Hagan, I was interested to note that it appears to have the same man in it as in the one on the left sent by Gordon Thorburn. He was possibly a deckchair attendant, or was maybe someone hired by Lord Radnor to make sure no funny business took place on the beach, like people changing in public etc.
Not a very close up photograph, but added it because it clearly shows the bathing carriages in use.
On the right we have the launching of Folkestone's first lifeboat. "J.McDonnell Hussey" in 1894. It got a good turnout for the launching didn't it? With all the proper blessings too.
You can just make out the lifts in the background.
Here is a closer view of the Lifeboat Station, taken in 1927. Something I found surprising, on this card it states that the Royal National Life-Boat Institution was supported entirely by voluntary contributions. 60,000 lives rescued from shipwreck.
A close-up view of the lifeboat launch in 1903
This card is badly tinted and blurred, but it shows another lifeboat launch in 1919, still drawing a crowd.
This was the lifeboat 'Leslie' who became a heroine on October 8th 1904 when her crew saved the crew of the ill fated fishing boat 'The Good Intent' in a hurricane off Folkestone. If you would like to read the whole story, there is a very detailed account of it HERE
This hand tinted one from 1909 has a lot going on. On the far left can be seen a camera obscura. Next is either a changing hut or restaurant. Then the building with the three windows on the side is the lifeboat house. Then further down, and going down into the water is Mr. Fagg's Bathing carriage - more about that above. Also, all along the beach can be seen rowing boats for hire, plus a few bathing carriages, which allowed one to change inside, then step right into the sea with a modicum of modesty.
The camera obscura was the forerunner to the camera, and was a big hit at seaside resorts. It consisted of a dark round room with a round table inside, and using light penetrating through a small hole and lenses, it was possible to obtain an image of the outside projected onto the table inside. The picture of the inside of a camera obscura above is not the one at Folkestone, but is added to give you an idea of how they looked when in use.
It's hard to tell as it is in black & white, but it must have been a sunny day because the boat rentals were providing their customers with protection from the sun. I am not sure if that is another camera obscura to the right of the Lifeboat House, it might have been, but it looks somewhat different to the one in the picture above.
Regatta Day 1907, and as you can see, people flocked to the beach to watch.
Same day in 1907, but this time it was taken from the Victoria Pier and hand tinted. On the back of this one it reads: " Folkestone isn't as crowded as it looks here, in fact I think we will be missed when we leave".
The Bathing Establishment, later known as the Marina, the indoor swimming pool, and I could be wrong, but I think that is a drinking fountain in the foreground. The only thing left from this whole photo is one side of the Lifts, and possibly one or two of the buildings on the Leas. Everything else demolished, including the Marine Gardens, and mostly replaced with spaces to park, but you don't find many parked down there, because there is nothing to do except look at the sea.
Long gone now, but the wonderful work of those fellows will never be forgotten.
This view, like the one above was taken from the Victoria Pier. Isn't it nice to see the lifts busily working away on both sides? Now that is something even I remember!
Lots of people on the pier on this day in 1912. The buildings on the Leas were very sparce though weren't they? Those were also the days when they kept the shrubbery trimmed so you could see them. Do you remember the telescope that was on the Leas that you could put a coin in to get a closer look out to sea? Well, the telescope is still there, but it looked directly into a forest for quite a while! However, last time I checked, in 2015, the Council had been along, and visitors can once more view the sea from up there! Actually, this card too might have been taken on Regatta Day in 1907, and not bought and posted until 1912.
Picture on the right is courtesy the Legends of Folkestone Facebook page.
Oh now this one is clear enough to see everything in detail. The building I was not sure about in the photo above is definitely a restaurant, as you can see people sitting at tables. I see they also had a lounge bar to the right of it - probably for the men. That really does look as if it could be another camera obscura to the right of the Lifeboat House doesn't it?
I think all that remains from this picture is the Marine Crescent arc of buildings on the right. Possibly some on the Leas above are still there, but I don't think so. The only buildings of that age still there now are Albion Villas, and it's possible they are on the far right with the two chimneys, but to the left, the first one of that age and height is what is now the Carlton Hotel and Leas Bar, and I think they are too far along to to be visible in this shot.
The above photo, taken and sent to me by Pat Duke is close to the same area as the photo above, only this one was taken mid July 2015. The only recogniseable building is Marine Crescent on the right, no longer hotels but condominiums or rented flats, and you can also see a little bit of the lift building, which was out of shot in the photo above. Mid July, and there are three cars and five people, and they are only there because the lift is running. Everything else has gone. I find it totally unbelievable that this jewel of a place has been allowed to get to this.
Oh, and yes, the only thing I recognise as the same on the Leas is the spire from the Parish Church.
Here is a wonderful photo of the West Beach sent to me by T. Rayner. On the roof of one of the huts it says "Blews Boating Office", and on the side it says "Blews Mixed Bathing opposite the lifts" So I guess Mr. Blew got all the revenue from those ventures!
Can you imagine having to pay to swim in the sea these days? Mind you, you far more people swam back then than they do at that beach now, free or not!
A 1908 view showing the bathing cabins, and as you can see, the structure built to keep the sea at bay was very useful for drying wet clothes and towels! The building you can see was a changing cabin. I don't know what it was like inside, but suspect it had cubicles. Note the little dog having a paddle.
I think the photo on the right, supplied by Pat Duke is probably around the same place as the one above. Taken mid July 2015, there are two people on the promenade and one on the beach!
Mixed bathing again, showing the Victoria Pier in the background. The lady in the foreground with a parasol reminds me somewhat of my sister Karol, but please don't tell her I said that!
A different view of the same area as above. This time you can get a perspective of where it was in relation to the Victoria Pier.
A busy beach in 1913
Another view of that same cabin, plus the Victoria Pier, with people watching 'Venturesome Bathers'.
The gentleman who sent this card in 1907 tells the recipient "This is a ripping place for mixed bathing!"
Looks like some horseplay going on in this one!
A charming little photo on the left of children playing at the water's edge in 1907.
The parents must have had to really watch their children in those days, if they fell over in all those clothes, the weight would have dragged them under!
Another charming picture of children paddling and playing in the sand which would appear around there when the tide went out, with the Victoria Pier in the background.
Can you imagine though, all those mucky dresses when they got home, and no washing machines!
I would guess that this photograph was taken the same day as the one of the children on the left and above. It looks like the same structure they have built in the sand in exactly the same spot. This card was postmarked 1910, so imagine the cards are part of a series.
I guess in those days, anything east of the pier was called East Beach, and West Beach was on the other side. Where I always called the sands, with the arches was known as Sandy Bay, later known as the East Cliff Sands, or Bathing Beach East Cliff - and these days it seems to be called the Sunny Sands.
Those were the days, when you got quality entertainment right there on the beach. This particular show was a group of Pierrots. I think they would pass a hat around afterwards for donations. Those lucky people on the right would have avoided that though.
Here is a lineup of those Pierrots, a couple of them have been marked with an X for some reason, the card wasn't used on the back, so there is no explanation. They all look like children don't they?
This was entitled 'Bathing Place, Marine Walk' Which tells me it was over near the pier. I wonder how many women went home with salt stains around the hem of their dress in those days?
I think this shot, taken in July, 2015 by Pat Duke is approximately where the photo on the left was taken.
This one from 1906 shows how a card would look if you had very few colours to hand tint it with! But at least all the women were wearing the same shade of pink and didn't clash with each other! The building with the three windows was the lifeboat house, and in the background you can see a safety bathing carriage being utilised. Lots of boats there for hire that day.
This dates from around the same time as the one on the left, but hadn't been coloured. A busier day, with more of the boats in the water.
A view from the west side of the Victoria Pier, you can also see that the Switchback Railway was running
Another busy day, just look at the crowds at the water's edge. In the foreground, where you can see a Union Jack flying, is the entrance to the Red Roof Chalet, home of Cardow's Cadets, where you could go to watch them perform.
A fabulous aerial view of days gone by. It shows the Victoria Pier in the foreground, and goes right back to the viaduct. The Bathing Station, later the Marina was there, with the lifeboat station in front of it. No funfair there yet though.
The West Beach at night. These postcards were popular because electricity was very new, so it was exciting to see all the windows lit up this way. Whether they had electric lights inside the lifts I don't know, they were, and still are water powered, so I doubt that electricity has ever been added to them. I am guessing this though, and stand to be corrected as always!
The people who sent this card in 1922 were staying at Devonshire House in Marine Parade, the row that is just visible on the right. So they didn't have far to walk to get to the beach did they?
I love how people would sit in straight lines back then. You can see the odd rebel, but mostly they would align themselves with the person sitting next to them. :-)
Jumping a few decades with this one, sent to me by Jon Anton. It shows the Rotunda Dome, and the boating pool. The old wooden motor boats that I loved so much have been replaced with plastic, which look to have been pedal powered. In the background is the Motel Burstin, which the Grand Burstin was called when it was still attached to a big portion of the Royal Pavilion. I am not showing many of the Rotunda on this page, because there is one dedicated to it.
Not taken at quite the same angle, and the older one on the left was closer to the pier, but it's close enough to see the vast difference between the old and the new, which was taken by Pat Duke in July 2015 - the height of summer. This portion of beach was being used for boat rentals in the left photo, most of the bathing was behind us, closer to the lifts. You can see that the pier was in full use, handling ships, cargo and passengers. The pier in the photo on the right is being used for - er - nothing at all.
The 1928 photo above is pretty much taken from the same place as the one above. On the other side of the pier you can see two funnels of a ferry.
In 1911 when this photo was taken, this promenade was brand new. This also shows the Switchback Railway, an early edition of a roller coaster. If you would like to see more photos of this, there is a page dedicated to both this and the Victoria Pier, which is also in this shot.
I mentioned further up that the Red Roof Chalet was situated near the Bathing Establishment. This was the home of Cardow's Cadets, good old seaside entertainment.
Again, not a very clear photograph, but you can make out the camera obscura, the pier entrance and the Switchback Railway.
Not a great photograph, but it is dated 1906, so it probably had the colour added afterwards. This shows the pathway very clearly that used to go from behind the Bathing Establishment up to the Leas. It branched off part way to join the Road of Remembrance - or Slope Road as it was called back then.
Cardow's Cadets again in 1906. The back of this card reads as if it might have been sent by the lady on the stage, but I can't read her name.
A photograph taken from an old book of views. It was taken from the Victoria Pier and shows the West Beach, along with Marine Crescent and Marine Parade, both of which are still there. The photo shows several bathing machines, and two of the W. D. Fagg's Safety Bathing Carriages which ran down to the sea on rails. The only structure I do not recognise, and have not seen it in any other photograph is whatever that is towards the back on the right side of the photograph. Was it to do with the railway pier? Or was it this side of it? If anyone knows, I would love to hear about it. You can click on the photo to see it enlarged.
When I bought this Flushing Line postcard, I couldn't wait to add it to the page. In fact, I love this one so much, I have made it clickable for you, so you can see it in greater detail. It is entitled 'Pleasure Boats, Folkestone'.
This card wasn't used on the back, but it gave you a spot to fill in the name of the ship, and you could fill in whether you were on your way to or from Flushing, in the Netherlands, then post it on board.
Use your back button to return here afterwards
A nice little typo on this one. It's mixed bathing, not mized, but it's a nice photo anyway
Two photographs taken from almost the same spot on the Leas about 75 years apart, and I have to admit, the one on the right, taken by Pat Duke in 2015 makes me want to cry. The only thing that still looks just as appealing is the sea, but nobody is in it, even though it was taken in July. There are six cars parked, possibly to take a ride up in the Lifts - at least I hope that is where they went, but there is absolutely nothing left there for people to do. There is the Lower Leas Coastal Park further to the right if you like to walk, or the childrens' playground if you have kids, but nothing to interest teenagers, the ones who tend to get into trouble when bored. You can't even buy an ice cream down there any more, let alone a cup of tea, and even if you take your tea in a flask, there are no public toilets!
They had less mod cons in the photo on the left, but went to far more trouble to make people happy. Note the indoor swimming baths, where you could rent a towel. They had no washers and dryers, hence you see them out on the lines, but it didn't occur to them not to have them available! Plus it gave people jobs doing the laundry. In fact just looking along there in the old photograph, you can just imagine how many jobs were lost when they decided to turn the whole thing into an unused parking lot.
This one, taken from slightly further back on the Leas is quite a bit older than the one immediately above. It is dated 1917 and was sent to me by Rex Simmons. It shows the entrance to the pier, and I don't know if a Regatta was taking place or something, but the water's edge is packed with people. I have to question the date though, there was a war on that year.
Oh now look at this! It seems I have inadvertently bought the same view twice, only this one has been coloured. Apart from that, it looks exactly the same as the one above left. This one was used, and dated 1930. By colouring that spot centre left blue, it makes it look like a swimming pool, but I have never heard that there was an outdoor pool before the one that was built around 1937/38, that one was located right in front of the Bathing Establishment/Marina not where this pool looks to be in this photo. If anyone knows what was in that spot in 1930, I would love to know.
Looking across the West Beach from one pier to another. I don't have a date for this, but the Victoria Pier is still there so it must have been before 1948, when the pavilion on the end went up in flames.
Another one showing the West Beach from the same angle. This was when they were using the area at the back of the beach for storing railway carriages. The Royal Pavilion Hotel is still there, as is the Rotunda, but didn't have the large rides it had in later years.
Back to the old days, for another photo of the Folkestone Lifeboat heading home past the Victoria Pier
The photo on the left showing Marine Crescent and the Bathing Establishment/Marina (I don't know when the name was changed) had to have been around 1937/38 because the swimming pool was being built. Same area on the right, which I took in 2011 shows the swimming pool cemented over, and an outdoor Sunday market underway. However, I think they have stopped that now too.
You saw this bathing station from the beach further up, now you can see what it looked like from the sea. This area was for both men and women, frowned upon by some of the older generation, but enjoyed very much by the young. This was dated 1913. However, on the back of this card, the person had written "Warm here, but no mixed bathing!" So possibly it was only allowed at certain times when it was well supervised or something, because there are lots of different postcards of the day showing it. Or possibly the person who wrote this meant 'No mixed bathing for me!' After all, it was new, and considered quite scandalous.
Same area for mixed bathing, and here you can see they had a boatman who served as a warning that you shouldn't swim out further than where he was, or you could run into trouble. This was a service Folkestone provided for many years, because I remember there was always one at the East Beach, where most of us swam in the 50's and 60's. By that time, the West Beach had fallen out of favour for swimming, the sand of the East Beach was much more kind to your feet than the shingle of the West Beach.
Must be 1938 because the new Bathing Pool is open for business. Such a lot to do just in this one photo, there is a concert on at the end of the pier, or you could see the Follies at the Red Roof Chalet, or swim outdoors, indoors or in the sea!
Back again to the time of the opening of the brand new Marine Walk. I don't have a date, but would guess it to be around 1913
In this one it is called the new Promenade, but think it was also Marine Walk.
They certainly liked to photograph it didn't they?
In this one, that I would guess from the 50's or 60's looks as if the Promenade comes to an abrupt end, but it actually led to, and still leads to a restaurant, the Mermaid.
Here is a photo of the Mermaid Restaurant taken in 2011 by Jean Adams
Let's just pause here and take a look at a few modern ones of this area, taken in 2015 by Pat Duke:
Now called Mermaids Cafe and Restaurant, and also showing how it looks inside.
The beach area in front of the restaurant is now called Mermaid Beach, and you are no longer allowed to let your dog off the leash there. They have built a very nice promenade with seats all along, in fact a lot of money has been spent on the West Beach recently, adding groins forming bays to control the beach erosion. In the photo on the right, you can see the old Toll House, which is a private residence these days, and to the right of it is a very nice playground for children, which is absolutely free. In the background of this same photo you can see some colourful beach huts, and a large piece of artwork, which you will see closer next.
This is a piece of art by Pablo Bronstein that was erected for the 2014 Triennial. Explanation of it is on the right.
Still on the new promenade, looking in the other direction you can see how the bays have been formed to break up the waves. I think it is rather attractive as well as practical.
Mermaids also has an entrance from the playground above
Had to leave this one huge so you could read it. It is the history of Marine Walk and the area in the good old days. :-)
Now judging by the amount of people I have seen in Pat's photos, taken in mid July, I would guess this rubbish bin has not been emptied since the day it was installed!
Showing the full length of the Victoria Pier, and on the right, the very sad sight of the way it looked after the fire.
The year is 1924, and you can see which part of the West Beach this is by the sight of the Metropole and Grand Hotels up on the Leas. The adults and children are busy hunting for crabs among the rocks. It's gratifying to note that at least the children were allowed to show their legs on the beach and wear lighter clothing by that year.
This was an engraving by G. Durand in the Illustrated London News. It dates from 1874 and depicts an open-air church service on Folkestone Beach. They gave you no excuse to skip going to church in those days!
This was the yacht Gertie in 1913, a very well known boat of the day. It would sail around the West Beach, and for a price, you could sail with her.
The name on this card said Gertie H. Baker. Penny Bowler told me in an e-mail that she had belonged to her great-great grandfather. Was she named after a relative of yours too Penny?
Here is the Gertie again with less people on board. I wonder if that person you can see is Penny's Great-great Grandfather?
We have seen a lot of the Mixed Bathing area, but I have finally found a small snap of the Ladies Bathing Portion. Of course it was taken from a discreet distance as I am sure they would not allow a gentleman with a camera anywhere near. This was dated 1897.
Here is a modern one of my granddaughter Becca on her first visit to Folkestone in 2003. She had great fun at the West Beach trying to make the pebbles skim across the water.
She was a bit put out because I wouldn't let her swim there. But unless you are a strong swimmer, it isn't safe, because the shingle can suddenly drop away, and you are out of your depth.
The East Beach is much safer for children in my opinion. (in 2015 this 'child' now has twins of her own! I feel old....sigh)
I love this photograph! It was sent to me by David Santry, who used to live on The Bayle.
This is his father and two sisters enjoying a blustery day at the West Beach. He also suspects that the lad walking away could be himself. The photo was taken in the 50's
This nice photo of the West Beach as it is now was taken and sent to me by Lisa Green. Taken as the light was fading, it makes a nice atmospheric photograph doesn't it?
Frank & Jane Sharpe from Dundee, Scotland were there when the huge project was underway to preserve the coastline by building groins and forming several bays, and kindly sent me these photos.
This is how it looks now from the Leas Cliff Hall up on the Leas. It's rather nice isn't it?
found this one hilarious! Did someone line all those people up in a row in the 1920's, or did they do it on their own? The tide must be on the way out because you can see where the waves came up to a little while ago.
Surely this has to have been taken on the same day as the one on the left Or did they always sit on the beach in a dead straight row? Note the man if full suit walking purposefully towards the beach Not much fear that he will get sunburned. Heatstroke maybe!
A very busy day, both on the beach and on the pier. I do wish Folkestone still had a pleasure pier
These were The Bouquets from 1936. I am not sure where they performed. Could have been at the end of the pier, or in the Red Roof Chalet, or maybe one of the other theatres in Folkestone.
Update: I have discovered the Bouquets performed at the Marine Gardens Pavilion (now demolished), just bought a card of the Boating Pool, and they are advertised in large letters on the roof of the Pavilion. See the Rotunda & Swimming Pool page
Oh yes, you are still in Folkestone. Something else you could do along the West Beach area is have a ride in a llama trap. It says on the back of this card, 'Llama's from Peru, £60 each' I do believe that was how much they cost to buy, not how much you had to pay for a ride!
Here is a little girl getting a ride, and I do believe it is the same llama and handler as second left in the other photo. I think they are outside the Bathing Establishment.
This very nice photo taken from the Victoria Pier of the beach and Lifts was sent to me by Jeremy O'Keeffe, who has a whole book of old Folkestone photographs, and kindly scanned them all for me. Thank you Jeremy.
It's September 1906 and the season is just about over, so why don't we end our visit to the West Beach with a ride on the Switchback Railway
If you have your own memories of the West Beach, be sure to jot them down in the Guestbook below