folkestone harbour Station – award-winning restoration
The renovation of Folkestone Harbour Station has been recognised with a National Railways Heritage Award in 2023. The last trains ran through the station in 2009 and for years after it was left to ruin. In 2015 the Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Development Company started extensive renovations to restore the glory of the site for all to use. From the steps up to the Viaduct and Swing Bridge to the Lighthouse at the end of the Harbour Arm, this 800m stretch of railway and station has been renovated to reflect the heritage and importance of this site to the Folkestone community. Folkelife explores the details you should look for on your next visit.
the inner harbour
As you walk across the viaduct you can admire the walls surrounding the inner and outer harbour. This area was designed and built by the famous civil engineer during the Industrial Revolution, William Jessop. Thomas Telford is another famous name from that era and he oversaw the construction in the early 1800s, who had been an apprentice to Jessop earlier in his career. The viaduct itself was built in the 1840s by William Cubitt for South Eastern Railway, and sadly the swing-bridge has not been operational since the 1970s.
The twin-track railway would bring passengers to Folkestone Harbour Station ready to transfer to the ferry taking them to France. The Venice Simplon Orient Express served this station until 2009. During the World Wars, service men and women left from Folkestone to serve on the continent, and many refugees arrived via this route escaping the atrocities of war.
what the judges said
The judges visited the Harbour Station site and explored many of the features such as the Signal Box, Platform 4 and Lighthouse. They were very impressed with
“The commitment by FHSDC to take on significant elements of historic railway and marine infrastructure in a virtually derelict state, and to integrate them into a masterplan for major urban/coastal redevelopment project is to be welcomed and applauded.”
In noting the attention to detail over the long duration of the project they said “It is clear that the provenance and history of every element has been considered, before implementing solutions that safeguard the physical condition of the asset as well as meeting requirements for future use.”
The Harbour Station, Arm and Seafront has now become one of Kent’s most visited destinations with live music, community events and a great destination for food, drink and local artisan products.
success from decay and dereliction
“A new destination has been created out of dereliction and decay by celebrating, renewing and enhancing the infrastructure that has underpinned 180 years of railway and marine engineering and operations. If the measure of success is how many people now visit the site, enjoy the ambiance, amenities and artistry of this quite unique location in South East Kent then it has been a very successful transformation indeed.”
The judges understood that the renovation of Folkestone Harbour hasn’t just been one little project, but a number of projects combined to create a space that people want to visit and live.
a collection of projects
Not only has the viaduct, station and signal box been renovated but Customs House, the platforms on the Harbour Arm and the walkways across the site. Noted were the Charles Collinge Hinges from Lambeth Foundry and the Box Vans and Minx carriages that have also been restored. The attention to detail on the signage – being Southern Railway Green and bilingual – was also recognised. The placemaking that has happened over the past 8 years has been steeped in the site’s heritage and it has played an important part in its role now.
As you walk around the station you will find little touches that add to the feel of the place. The granite walls along the top walkway have a line of cast iron threaded through to reference the working history of the site. The Greenheart timber, once used as piles or sleepers, now are solid and durable seating installations – “much more than just benches!”
Read more about the renovation of the Harbour area with Resident Engineer Ben Boyce.