Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 21 September 2000

From Canterbury I heard recently from a Memories reader, Alan Major, of Heaton Road, Canterbury, who kindly sent me a laser enlargement of a sepia postcard of around 1900 of the old Switchback railway on the top of the beach, to the west of the old Victoria Pier. See picture below. Sadly, pier and switchback have long gone.
“It may be of interest,” he writes, “in view of the present day development on the Lower Sandgate Road.

“It is a memento of when Folkestone had a much more adventurous ride along the seafront, he says,” and he wonders how many readers can remember when the switchback railway was demolished.

Well, Thompson's Patent Gravity Switchback Co Ltd built
the ride in 1888 and it began operating on August 17 that year with free rides for an hour or so.

The American invention proved very popular. For about six years, from 1909,‘Uncle Tom’ Sinclair, of Pavilion Road, was the owner.

Mrs Asquith was said to have been so taken with it she persuaded her husband, the then Prime Minister, to have a
go on it!

Other distinguished riders included the Princesses Helene, Louise and Isabella, of Orleans, Sir Edward Sassoon MP's family, the Rothschilds, General Sir Baker Russell and the Bishop of Birmingham - according to Charles Whitney’s book

Folkestone - A Pictorial History, published in 1986.

The Switchback eventually became a rusty wreck and had to be demolished. This was in 1925.

The materials were reportedly bought by an Ashford timber merchant for 500.

The other pictures this week belong to Memories reader Gerald Taylor, of Martin’s Way, Hythe who used to live in Folkestone.

Gerald, 67, a widower, used to work for the Maidstone firm Rootes who took over the old garage which was in Tontine Street. The building is still there and still used as workshops. Gerald was a trained electrical fitter.
A ONCE exciting roller coaster ride was offered by the old Folkestone "Switchback" close to the former Victoria Pier
Gerald Taylor's father normally slept in this bedroom in a house at 41 Alder Road which was badly damaged in 1941, but he was out working!
WOULD you credit it? This was Park Farm, off Canterbury Road, around 1928, now a thriving housing estate. In the background is Sugar Loaf hill, the white scar is the continuation of Canterbury Road to Hawkinge and the row of trees marks the site of Churchill Avenue - once known as the "Galloping Road." The picture was shown to me by former Folkestone man Gerald Taylor, who now lives in Martin's Way, Hythe.
And he recalls how, as a young man in 1953 he helped the Sunbeam Talbot 90s factory team prepare their cars when they came through the port on the way to take part in the Monte Carlo Rally.

The Park Farm picture dates from the time his grandparents, Stephen and Fanny Taylor were moving from nearby Albion Road to Alder Road.

Gerald’s father Ernest was
living in their house at 41 Alder R oad during the war when he was in the fire service and had a lucky escape.

The picture at the top of the page shows the property and, in particular, his bedroom, after it was badly damaged in an air raid in 1941.

Fortunately for Ernest he was called out on duty that night due to a colleague going off work sick!
Gerald's grandad was woken up by the blast and went to open the front bedroom door to see what had happened, only to watch with horror as the door plunged down on top of the rubble - which was what had been the front wall of his home.

Gerald himself recalls seeing a fighter and Lysander collide in mid-air as he stood in Mundella School playground during the war. One crashed in a sandpit.





Herald praises theatre plan for winter gardens.

>4 ACONTROVERSY was still raging over X^JUUproposals for a Folkestone electric tramway service and pressure had been bought to bear to include Sandgate Road in the scheme to make it viable, despite objections from property owners who feared the traffic passing their homes would hit the value of the houses. The editor defended the old Leas Cliff Shelter which some had described as a “glorified cellar" saying it was never intended as a concert hall, but simply a shelter, although the occasional band had played there. In the absence of anything else it had been a much valued amenity. He welcomed plans for a winter garden by the Pleasure Gardens Theatre. New Headmaster at Harvey Grammar School was the Revd J.W. Davisson MA of University College, Oxford, a keen footballer and sportsman. The Herald published a photograph it had taken outside the Mayor’s tent showing the mayor and his guests posing in all their finery during a cricket festival. The photograph was in marked contrast to the devastation which soon afterwards hit the event, several marquees being blown down. But there was some entertaining cricket during the three days.



Blue Eyed Maid trawler lost in shock blaze at the port.

x| QOC SOUTHERN Railway steamer Maid of Orleans, landing a modest 300 passengers, made history in July. It went “live” on BBC radio, listeners hearing the sound of passengers talking, the ship’s siren sounding, and the usual sounds of a ferry berthing: at the port, while the broadcast, which included some stage-managed incidents using actors, ended with the sound of the steam locomotive hauling a boat train out of the harbour station and much blowing of whistles! Crew of Folkestone fishing boat The Blue Eyed Maid (FE 70) had a lucky escape. Their trawler, one of the biggest in the local fleet, caught fire off Sandgate. They managed to beach it and escape before It became a completely gutted wreck despite the efforts of firemen called by onlookers. Skipper was its owner William Cook, with brother Wilfred as engineer. The fire started after one engine failed, but the crew started up their second engine and raced back to beach the boat on the East Cliff sands. The sands were becoming quite popular because of the improved sewer outfall taking effluent further out to sea. And Felix was prompted to look back at how a great extension to the harbour pier had led to the build up of the golden sands at East Cliff covering what was once a very rock shore. Happily, the boat was insured.



Channel swimmers wed at local register office.

i QCAROMNEY Marsh once again became OUthe backdrop for a film when cameras rolled in the Dungeness and Lydd area for the British picture drama “Man Detained" by Jeffrey Dell. Stars included William Hartnell and Natasha Parry. The Herald carried a portrait and lengthy details of the career of focal brewer Alfred Leney, of Saltwood, celebrating his 90th birthday. He ran the family-owned brewery, the Phoenix, in Castle Street, Dover until it became part of the Fremlins empire. First Channel swimmer to make successful swims in both directions Mr E.H. Temme was married at Folkestone Register Office to unsuccessful Dutch woman Whilemina Magdalena van Rysel, well known locally for her several bids to swim the Strait. Temme played a big part in organising the Daily Mail Channel Swim race. Kent bowler Doug Wright was congratulated on winning a place in the MCC side going to Australia, when Folkestone CC met a Kent XI on their home ground in a benefit match for him. Sadly Doug couldn't bowl more than three overs due to lumbago! There was a record entry of 76 planes for a Daily Express: air race from Bournemouth to Herne Bay, taking in Dungeness, Folkestone, Dover, South Foreland windmill, St Margaret's, Hope Point Farm and Deal Pier.



Lucky escape for little boy in shock fall from a train.

Q"7 r ROMNEY, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway I 9 seemed to be suffering from a jinx. At St Mary's Bay, a four year old boy, sitting on his mother’s lap, fell from an open carriage and plunged .nearly 18ft down an embankment. A workman pulled the young visitor to safety as he was about to fall into a dyke. And, near New Romney Station, the 5-ton engine Northern Chief was de-railled. The cause was a large stone wedged under a points lever. No one was hurt but the locomotive blocked both tracks until a large crane arrived to lift it back onto the rails. In another drama on the line, four years earlier, a train was derailed approaching Hythe terminus by large concrete blocks put on the line by vandals. As heatwave temperatures soared in Shepway and Dover water consumption for the week rose to a record 11 million gallons, 12% higher than anything previously experienced. The following week it was 10 million. Hythe celebrated the 400th anniversary of its being granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I, with a colourful pageant along the bank of the Royal Military Canal and a bumper barbecues Herald owners FJ. Parsons Ltd announced the closure of commercial: printing works at the Bayle, making redundant 32 workers whose service spanned many years. But the firm said it would re-train about 40 skilled compositors and stereotypers to work on Herald and midweek Gazette pages.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-