For thousands of years the countryside around Folkestone was covered by dense woodland. Then, from about 4000BC, Stone Age People began to settle and cultivate the land; they grazed animals on the hills and began to clear the woods to grow crops.
From about 3000BC, Neolithic and then Bronze Age people lived on the downlands in small settlements or villages.
Iron Age Britons had a large settlement near the coast at East Wear Bay. They began trading local ‘quern’ mill stones for goods from the nearby Roman Empire. After the Roman Conquest in 43AD, a large and luxurious Roman Villa was built on East Cliff above East Wear Bay. The villa was eventually abandoned around 400AD.
In 1924 the Roman villa at East Cliff was discovered by archaeologist S.E. Winbolt. It had over 50 rooms, some of which were decorated with fine Roman mosaics. It has since been recovered to preserve it.
In 1906 an Anglo-Saxon cemetery was found on Dover Hill, dating to the sixth and seventh centuries AD. 40 graves of men, women and children were discovered, all part of a much larger original cemetery.
The Dover Hill Cemetery was in use by 597AD when Saint Augustine arrived in Kent to introduce Christianity. In 630AD, Eanswythe, daughter of King Eadbald of Kent, founded the first nunnery in England at Folkcanstan. This is the first recorded mention of the name of ‘Folkestone’.
Early archaeologists were gentleman amateurs, keen to understand more about the history around them. Many offered rewards to workmen to report finds during construction work, such as the building of the 1872 Hythe to Sandgate railway where workmen uncovered a Bronze Age hoard. In 1878 Folkestone Castle was excavated by Augustus Pitt Rivers, claimed to be the first excavation of a medieval site in Britain using modern scientific methods.