The Old High Street, hand tinted postcard from 1900-1910. Collection Alan F. Taylor

The blue Gault clay used in Andy Goldswothy’s artwork was formed during the  Early Cretaceous period, 105 – 108 million years ago.  The clays contain many  shallow sea or lake fossils including Ammonites and Belemnites (squid) of  several different species, together with remains of plants and molluscs.  The  Warren, where it was collected, is a favourite place for fossil hunting.  Recently  the imprint of a two-footed birdlike dinosaur was found below East Cliff and it is  thought to be the first ever such discovery in the United Kingdom.*

The Warren is the coastal area east of Folkestone Harbour with steep chalk cliffs  and an expansive foreshore.  The Gault Clay and the “Folkstone Beds” are  exposed here.  During the Iron Age (about 700BC to AD43) this was an  important site for the production of Quernstones, which are used for grinding  grain into flour.   Blocks of Lower Greensand were later used as building material  and Henry VIII ordered “Folkstone stones” for some of his local building  projects.**

If you look down you can see the cobbled street, which is a reminder of the past.   The medieval town of Folkestone was built on a headland known as the Bayle,  with its church of St Mary and St Eanswythe, the patron saint of Folkestone.  The  High Street (now The Old High Street) and Seagate Street led down to the fishing  community which had grown up around The Stade.   Outlines of medieval  structures can still be found but most of the buildings are from eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  This is the Old Town: the heart of Folkestone’s arts led regeneration.

In 1926 Charles Sims, took the boat home from Australia and while on board agreed to buy 5, The Old High Street without seeing it.  He opened a draper’s shop and the business continued until 1973, when Rose and Graham Fenton (granddaughter of Charles Sims) opened it as “The Moon Palace”.  Now it is their studio, Art.***


Nicolette’s team preparing the clay.

Andy Goldworthy’s installation on Tontine Street examines the economic tide and cycle of urban regeneration and decay, which is evident in this locality.  In 2007 the Director of Regeneration and Economy to Kent County Council outlined plans for the refurbishment of Tontine Street as part of the overall regeneration of south east Folkestone.  Certain wards in east Folkestone, including this area, have been identified as amongst the most deprived in the country according to published indices of Deprivation.  Tontine Street was considered to be “the spine” through this area of regeneration because it physically links the Harbour to Grace Hill and Rendezvous Street and it sits in a Conservation Area.

The Creative Quarter has led the way in completing improvements to the street which include the building of the Quarterhouse performance space, the refurbishment of the Cube, now an adult education centre, the re-building of the Glassworks, a sixth form college, and the acquisition and refurbishment of retail premises for creative enterprise.  The redevelopment of Payer’s Park by muf Architecture/Art for this year’s Triennial is a glorious addition to this scheme.

The town of Folkestone sits on the “Folkestone Beds”, which are soft greenish sands and can be seen at the Leas Cliff and at the East Cliff.  Between the Folkestone Beds and the tall chalk cliffs of the North Downs, lies a bed of blue Gault clay.  The clays are found east of the Harbour, where they form the upper cliff and the whole face of Copt Point before they disappear beneath the chalk.

Clay is defined as very fine grained sediment that is made up of particles less than 004millimeteres in diameter.  Clay typically contains a lot of water and deforms easily when squeezed.  On heating it becomes hardened and can be used in brick making and ceramics.  Despite its fragility as a medium, it is very heavy and the pictures show the hard work that went into the collection and manufacture of the clay for this project.

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