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Folkestone Castle Yard

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
castello de Folkestan; The Bayle

In the civil parish of Folkestone.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Kent.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TR23153590
Latitude 51.07901° Longitude 1.18446°

Folkestone Castle Yard has been described as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are no visible remains.


In 1066 there was apparently a small harbour at Folkestone, probably little more than a creek forming the embouchure of the little river Foord. At the time of the Domesday Survey the place boasted no less than five churches and seven mills, and was of sufficient importance to warrant William de Arcis in erecting a castle there for the protection alike of town and harbour. Owing to the rapid denudation of the cliffs (here composed of layers of lumps of rag stone, interspersed with sand, resting on a bed of wet soft clay), the castle was undermined and washed away by the sea at a comparatively early date, for Leland, writing in the reign of Henry VIII., mentions a place "hard upon the shore called the castle yard, where was a great ruin of an ancient nunnery," which from his description appears to have stood some little distance to the south and west of the present church of St. Eanswith; but castle yard and nunnery ruins have long since entirely disappeared, some 800 yards of cliff having been washed away or been destroyed by landslips since the Norman Conquest. (Sands)

The castle of Folkestone is mentioned in a charter of c.1137, and Hasted says that it was the main seat of the barony, and that in his day it had all been destroyed by erosion, except for a small length of ancient wall on the east side of its bail or precinct. Leland, earlier, noted that one side of a place called Castle-yard (hard upon the shore and close to the parish church) was dyked and had within it the ruins of a nunnery (really the first Benedictine priory), the whole being under erosion. 'The Bail', (a name now applying to an area on the edge of the cliff at TR 231 359) evidently commemorates the site, which would have been further to the south-east, somewhere near TR 2315 3590. There appears to be no real evidence for Hasted's claim that Eadbald of Kent (616-640) built a castle at Folkestone and that there had been an earlier Saxon stonghold there, nor indeed for any castle there before Norman times. The removal of the primary church from the 'castello de Folkestan' to the new site 'extra castellum' is mentioned in 1137. This may refer to the built-up Bayle site immediately east of the parish church (TR 230359) on a sharp headland overlooking the harbour (Renn). (PastScape)

To John de Clynton. Order upon his allegiance to repair with his household to Folkestone castle by him held near the sea and there abide with power of men at arms, armed men and archers in his company sufficient to defend the same, and to be in person at Westminster at the king's coronation to perform the services due for his lands, performed by his ancestors of old time; as the king's enemies of France with a mighty fleet of ships and galleys are hastening to invade divers parts of England and especially the county of Kent, as the king has learned. By K. and C. (Cal. Close. Rolls 9 July 1377)

The charter of c.1137, may well be a reference to moving the parish church from the inconvenient hill top site of Ceasars Camp to a position in the town. Moving the administrative centre of the manor around this time for similar reasons of convenience may well have occurred with the new administrative centre maintaining some aspects of the castle name, although not necessarily the same military functions and defences. The close letter of 1377 may be an order to garrison the long abandoned, but still with strong earthworks, Ceasers Camp during an acute invasion scare rather than evidence of a military castle in Folkestone town although Clynton may well have had a manor house in his manor of Folkstone.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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