Museum opening hours: Welcome to Folkestone Museum

The Town Hall, 1-2 Guildhall Street, Folkestone, CT20 1DY

01303 257946



Folkestone was a small fishing town until the Victorian period when it became a fashionable seaside resort for high society. This was largely due to the influence of the Radnor family.

In 1697 Jacob des Bouverie purchased the Barony of Folkestone. Created 1st Viscount of Folkestone in 1747, his son became 1st Earl of Radnor in 1765.

It was Jacob, the 2nd Earl (1750-1828) who leased off much of his estate for building plots that began turning Folkestone into a refined seaside resort. The Radnors were responsible for the villas and hotels along the seafront and clifftop, the development of The Leas, and for several parks and gardens in the town.

The arrival of the SER railway at Folkestone Harbour in 1844 created a cross-channel packet service to France which brought international travellers to Folkestone. Other facilities for visitors included a cliff tramway opened in 1885 and a promenade pier opened in 1888. The first moving pictures in Kent were shown at the Pleasure Gardens Theatre in 1896 and in 1908 the first ever Miss World was crowned on Victoria Pier.

By Victorian times Folkestone was a fashionable and prosperous resort and its sea air was recommended for recuperation from various illnesses. Consequently, many famous people visited the town.

Charles Dickens lived here in 1855. Dickens had often visited Folkestone, catching the boat train to the Continent. In 1934 Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express whilst on an extended stay at the Grand Hotel. H.G. Wells lived in the town for 13 years, writing many of his novels in Sandgate.

King Edward VII regularly stayed at The Grand Hotel, often with his mistress Alice Keppel.
‘Shops have been new-fronted, palings set back, and whole roads and streets levelled and paved. Numerous handsome residences have been built and blue-coated policemen parade the streets, where little ragged urchins used to lie about making mud-pies.’
Handbook of Folkestone by S. J. Mackie 1859

‘The town of desolate habitations on a mud-bank has become sparkling with the activity of a great trade, and with crowds of noble and wealthy visitors. The new town receives with open arms every comer, and delights in the number of travellers and strangers.’
Handbook of Folkestone by S. J. Mackie 1859

‘The air of Folkestone has a smell, taste, and appearance of its own. It seems to impart new vigour and new life into both body and mind, and things around look fresher, clearer, and brighter.’
Notes on Folkestone by Arthur E. Larking 1899

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