This postcard depicts the Harbour Station in its heyday when the route from London to Paris (via Folkestone-Boulogne) could be completed in 7 hours and 30 minutes!

Originally constructed in 1850, it was rebuilt in 1893.  Two platforms were built round a tight curve.  Both platforms were served by single storey stone faced offices and shelter from the elements was provided by ornate canopies decorated with the typical South Eastern Railway clover valance design.  Half way along their length, the platforms were linked by an enclosed lattice footbridge.  A second exposed lattice footbridge was erected next to the level crossing.  The outer walls and iron lattice frame of the canopies are all that remain.

During the Great War, Folkestone was an embarkation point for many millions of soldiers.  The exact number is a matter of some debate but it is estimated to be some five million souls.*   The Harbour Station canteen provided tea, cakes and buns to departing servicemen and was staffed by volunteers including the Jeffery sisters, who both received the Order of the British Empire, the Queen Elizabeth Medal (Belgium) and the Medal of Gratitude (France).  An estimated 42,000 of the soldiers who stopped at the canteen signed visitors’ books that were kept for them to record their names before their, perhaps, final journey.  These journals were rediscovered a few years ago by local historian Charles Fair.  Many famous people passed through the station from King George V and members of the Royal Families of Belgium, Rumania, Spain and Serbia.  Politicians include Andrew Bonar Law, Lord Derby (Under Secretary of State for War), David Lloyd George, William Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia) and Winston Churchill. Senior members of the armed forces include Sir Douglas Haig, General Sir William Robertson, General Sir Henry Wilson and Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keyes.  Wilfred Owen left from Folkestone, writing a letter from the Metropole Hotel on 28th December 1916 before leaving the next day.**

Step Short has now scanned all eight of the books and is in the process of transcribing every single entry, throwing up more fascinating material in the process. The books are due to be put on line within the next few months and will form a unique record of those times. ***

*The Western Front Association, Bulletin 80, Save Folkestone Harbour Station, Charles Fair and Ruth Parkinson, February/ March 2008
** The Western Front Association, Bulletin 80, Folkestone Harbour Station – Canteen Visitor’s Book, Charles Fair, February/ March 2008
***www.stepshort.co.uk/projects/harbourcanteenvisitorsbooks

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