Folkestone has been associated with the sea throughout its long history. The town began as a small fishing community around the harbour. Find out about this vanishing way of life: the fish, the boats and traditions and who ate ‘Folkestone Beef’ for breakfast!
In medieval times Folkestone was a Limb (junior member) of the Cinque Ports, which provided ships to defend England. A medieval fighting ship is depicted on the town’s ancient seal.
For hundreds of years Folkestone has been the starting point of cross-channel journeys, with sailing ships, steamers, then fast hydrofoils taking passengers to and from the Continent. Today the Channel Tunnel transports people and goods under the sea to France. Investigate a print of a busy Victorian harbour. Then experience life at sea through the eyes of a small girl on the sloping deck of an Edwardian ferry.
In the eighteenth century, smuggling was rife, with luxury goods like brandy, lace and tea secretly imported by gangs of free-traders. Find out about this illegal trade and an ingenious method of hiding contraband.
The coastguard and lifeboat have been extremely important over the years, protecting our shores and saving thousands of lives from storms and shipwreck. Learn about the heroic rescue of the crew of the Benvenue, wrecked off Sandgate in 1891.
Discover the use of a cat o’ nine tails, how many families lived in the Pelter Brig, how to navigate at sea and the identity of a giant creature of the deep taken off Folkestone… all inspired by some amazing objects.