Rotunda Beach 2000's
Mid summer, and the west beach was a hive of activity.  The building with what looks like three doors is the Lifeboat House.  Can you see Mr. Fagg's bathing machine down in the water in the background?
I guess in those days, anything east of the pier was called East Beach, and West Beach was on the other side.  Where we now call the sands, with the arches was known as Sandy Bay, later known as the East Cliff Sands, or Bathing Beach East Cliff.

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
Another launching in 1919, and still drawing a crowd.
A 1914 picture showing how rough the sea can get at times.  That lady on the left is obviously not getting too close - and neither would I!

In the background you can see the Victoria Pier, which has its own page if you would like to see more photos of it.
West Beach, with the Leas Cliff Hall in the background
This was called "West End Bathing".  Looks pretty rocky in that water doesn't it?
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?
This rough sea is a very familiar sight along the coast, but that strange little house type thing on sticks is not!  At least not these days!

What is it you ask?  This was a bathing station, where people got changed.  Those legs didn't look very sturdy to stand up to the wrath of the sea though did they?
Here is a 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!
This view of people swimming was dated 1905.  Although, in those days, it was referred to as bathing.
I see that even in those days, they had a watchful boatman to make sure the adventurous didn't swim out too far.
Notice the sinister looking character on the left?  He looks as if he is waiting his moment to throw open his cape and flash someone!
Here is another picture taken when the sea was a little angry. 

In the foreground can be seen the west side of the pier and concrete blocks which were put there to break the waves.
This card from 1904, taken from the Victoria Pier had written on the back by the sender " Folkestone isn't as crowded as it looks here, in fact I think we will be missed when we leave".
The quality of this one is rather grainy, but it gives a good view of the Bathing Establishment, and I could be wrong, but I think that is a drinking fountain in the foreground.

I guess the photo is entitled to look a little decrepit - so would you if you were well over a hundred years old!  This was dated 1905.
This one is not quite so old, but is pretty grainy.  It dates from 1920, and shows you what the beach looked like on Regatta Day.
Expose a patch of sand, and children will find it!  This delightful photo, taken in 1908 shows children of the day doing exactly the same thing that children today do at the beach, but in those days they had to wear a lot more clothing to do it!

Can you see Mr. Fagg's Safety Bathing Carriage in the background?
This one was postally used in 1908
I recently bought this Flushing Line postcard, and 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.
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Bathers at what was then called the  bathing portion of the West Beach.
Here is a lovely photograph of what it was like to enjoy a summer afternoon in Folkestone. 

They didn't show you what it was like to get all those salt and seaweed stains out of those lovely white dresses without a washing machine though did they? :-)

I know, I know, but it bothers me! :-)

Actually, I know exactly how they did it.  They used a washboard, elbow grease, lye soap and hung it out on the line.
This used to be the Promenade Cafe, which was situated on the West Beach many moons ago.  I think it is now called The Mermaid, see below.
Walking along beside the West Beach in 1954, with cars of the period parked alongside.
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?
The year on this one was 1924 and these people were crab hunting.
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
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.
We have seen a few of the Mixed Bathing place, but I finally found this one of the Ladies Bathing portion.

Maybe it was frowned upon to take photographs of the fair sex bathing, which is why this is the only one I have come across, and even that is taken quite far away from anyone who might be in a state of undress!

This was dated 1897.
This is a considerably later photograph, but even then that man looks decidedly overdressed for the beach.  Is he wearing a suit?  Only in England! :-)
This one is even later.  It was dated 1963 - a year I remember well!
Jumping back a decade or so, here is the same beach in 1952
And jumping back a lot further, we are back to the days of the pier, and that funny looking thing in the background is the Switchback Railway.  If you would like to see more photos of these, they have a page of their own.
Rotunda Beach at the turn of the last century.
Here is a modern view of that same beach, taken during an airshow I believe.

This photo was taken by Cliff Sherwood, and if you check out his pages on the Virtual Tourist website, (address on my links page) you can even send this photograph to your friends as a postcard.
A closeup view of the lifeboat launch in 1903
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!
A closer view of the crowds on Regatta Day, although I suspect the little ones in the front were more interested in soaking their dresses in the sea than they were in watching the boats!
Interesting changes were taking place on the West Beach in 2004.  It was being done to help prevent coastal erosion.

The great photo above and the two below  were sent to me by Frank and Jane Sharpe of Dundee, Scotland.
I found this one hilarious!  Did someone line all those people up in a row, 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.
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?
Mixed Bathing once again.  Those tents made so much sense, I really don't know why they did away with them.  Even these days we like to change in private, and it would be so handy to be able to do it right on the beach wouldn't it?
I would guess that this photograph was taken the same day as the one of the children near the top of the page.  It looks like the same structure they have built in the sand in exactly the same spot. This card was postmarked 1910, so that would  give an approximate date for the one above too.
Another 1910 photograph of paddlers.  It's funny, but I don't remember this beach having that much paddling area before.  I seemed to me to get deep quite quickly.
This was also the Mixed Bathing area in 1913.  Those who didn't have their own tent could change in the bathing station that you see here.
A side view of the bathing station taken in 1908.  Again it looks as if they had to go out quite some distance to get into the deep water.
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!
Marine Walk with a nice view of the Victoria pier in the background.
This 1921 photo shows Marine Walk again.  This time the pedestrians include a father taking his two daughters for an afternoon constutional.  I wonder if they had been on the pier?
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 photo shows a very abrupt end to the promenade of the day.  I imagine you must have had to look where you were walking or you would suddenly drop off!
This was the yacht Gertie, 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?
A photo of the beach taken from the Victoria Pier.  By the looks of it, they were doing some repairs to the balcony on the left.
This was just entitled Bathing Place, but it looks like the same area as the Ladies Bathing place - which would probably account for those two young men trying to cop an eyeful of a naughty ankle or two!
A very busy day on the West Beach, and the boat rentals are doing a roaring trade!
This is a very old photograph, taken in 1880 in fact.  I bet if we had told this photographer that 120 odd years on we would be taking digital photos, sometimes even with our pocket telephones, he wouldn't have believed us!
If you have your own memories of Folkestone, please share them with us by jotting them down in the Folkestone Memories book
This page updated June 20th,  2014
Here are some photos I took when I was visiting in 2006 of the recently finished West beach project that they were working on above.
I took these from the Leas Cliff Hall.  In the foreground on the left, you can see the new Lower Leas Coastal Park.  I will add more photos of this to the Walks & Paths page.  It's not very clear, but in the photo on the right, you can just make out some seats that have been placed all along the new structure, but I didn't have time to go and check them out more closely, but there were a few people sitting on them that day, even though it was unbelievably windy!
Another modern photo.  Folkestone had a visitor a couple of years ago.  He was a Bottlenose dolphin that they named Dave.  He was sharing his time between Folkestone and Sandgate, and although he did at one time get caught in a fishing net, he was freed unharmed and his life went on.
I obtained this photo from the website of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, that was recommended to me by a fellow called Mike, but couldn't find an address there to ask permission, so if anyone objects, I will gladly take it down.
Jean Adams and her husband were also down the West Beach trying to get some photos of Dave, but he was too fast for them.  However, they took a photo of the Mermaid restaurant for me while they were there.  Thanks Jean, I didn't have a modern one of it.
Oh just look at this one!  Here you see Dave, who is easily recognised by the white spot on his dorsal fin, frolicking in front of the Leas Cliff Hall.

Would you believe that I was given permission to use this photo by Dave himself?  I kid you not!  I discovered he had his own website (now gone) where I wrote to ask permission to use this photograph, and Dave himself responded!  Here is what he said:

"Hi There Christine
Simon is out at the moment so I thought I would write back to you myself.  Liked your site.

I've been having a lot of fun here in Sandgate and I'm Hoping to stay.
Please feel free to use my picture in front of the leas, it's the one of which I am most proud.
Love you to link with me too, and me to you of course. I'll ask the webmaster. Not good at typing (My flippers are too big for the keyboard).
Stay in touch

Dave the Dolphin"

I understand that Dave, who turned out to be female) has now moved on.
A nice little typo on this one.  It's mixed bathing, not mized, but it's a nice photo anyway.
A very busy day, both on the beach and on the pier.  I do wish Folkestone still had a pleasure pier.
Another one of the beach showing Marine Crescent, the lifeboat station, various concession huts, and note the road leading up to the Leas, that has long since gone.
Lots of detail in this one, the pier, the lifeboat station and the Bathing Establishment.  In the foreground you can see the entrance to the Cardow's Cadets, and you can see the rows of chairs waiting for the audience.
Dating from 1909, in the distance you can see the bathing station where you could change your clothes if you didn't have a personal tent.  I am not sure what that hut was behind the tents, possibly a shelter, or public toilet.
The tide is in on this one.  I am not absolutely sure which part of the beach this is, because you can only see one building up on the Leas.  Does anyone recognise which building that is?
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:
A nice animated scene on the West Beach.  A couple of ladies are having a natter, while possibly their husbands lounge at a safe distance and smoke their pipes.  A dog is wandering free (ergo dog poop also wandering free!) In the background you can see a very steep flight of steps, but I don't think they went up as far as the Leas.  I don't know what the bulding was that you can just see top left of the picture.  The one at the bottom of the steps looks like a tea chalet.
Dated 1915, I can't decide if the woman walking towards the camera is a nanny, a nurse or a nun.  You decide!  I think she is carrying a tray of teacups.
The West Beaches of Folkestone used to be the main place of entertainment.  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 2014 and there is still just cement pads where the Rotunda and Swimming pool used to be.
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!
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.
Those bathing huts 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.
Not a very close up photograph, but added it because it clearly shows the bathing carriages in use.
Here 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.

Long gone now, but the wonderful work those fellows did is not forgotten.
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 cat be seen rowing boats for hire, plus a few bathing carriages, with 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.
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!
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.
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 looks directly into a forest these days!
Picture on the right is courtesy the Legends of Folkestone Facebook page.
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. 
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 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!