From her vantage point on the corner of Tontine Street, Emma Hart reflects on feelings under pressure and the dichotomy between the superficial visual image and what is going on under the surface. If that premise is applied to our immediate surroundings, we see a rundown street. But on closer examination we find elements of creative and commercial regeneration that reflect its fascinating past.
Once the most prosperous street in Folkestone, Tontine Street was created over 150 years ago thanks to a £50,000 fund raised by gamblers, who were offered Parliamentary votes and an annual income on their investment as well as the chance of a fortune. Each received a yearly return, which grew larger as members of the group died – leaving just one shareholder who eventually got the lot. This type of scheme, called a Tontine, was devised by Lorenzo Tonti, a Neopolitan banker, in 1650 and is the origin of the street’s distinctive name.*
Designed by Sydney Smirke as an upmarket shopping street, the Neo-Classical style set the tone for other terraces in the town. The three storey stucco fronted buildings have, according to Shepway District Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal, “the potential to be Folkestone’s answer to John Nash’s Regent Street, London”. Evidence of the most recent successful conservation led regeneration can be seen at The Workshop, further down the street.