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St. Mary & St. Eanswythe's Parish Church, Folkestone

  • address: Priory Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SW, UK
  • phone: 01303 252947
  • Visit our Website

Folkestoneís main parish church is the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Eanswythe. The church is located towards one end of the townís High Street and has been the site of religious observance for over 800 years. The church has strong links with King Eadbald of Kent and was burnt to the ground in 1217 only to be rebuilt. The Victorianís spent a great deal of time and money on restoring the church in the 1880ís.

The rather unusually named Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe is the old Parish Church of Folkestone and stands high up on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel. The present Church dates back to the early 13th Century although very little of this original structure survives. There had been other religious buildings in this vicinity as far back as 630 A.D. when the Father of Saint Eanswythe, King Eadbald of Kent, the son of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha had a Chapel built within the outer walls of his castle which was located to the East of the present Church.

The original Chapel was destroyed either by the Danes or by the erosion of the cliffs in 640 AD, the year that St. Eanswythe died. Apparently, the next record is of another Chapel being built by King Aethelstan in 927 AD which was also destroyed. When the Normans arrived in the area a Priory was built by Nigel de Muneville but was abandoned in 1138 AD when the cliffs again became unsafe and a further Priory and Church was built on the present site with the Church being dedicated to St. Mary and St. Eanswythe as it is now. The relics of St. Eanswythe were translated to the Church when it was finished but the French destroyed this Church by fire in 1216. The construction of the present Church began in 1220. During extensive renovations in 1885 AD, a Saxon lead coffin was discovered in the North wall of the Church. It contained the 7th Century remains of a young woman in her twenties which matches what had been known about St. Eanswythe as she did die very young. The bones and the coffin were reinterred in the same wall and this is therefore, one of the few churches in England that still contains the remains of its patron saint as the majority of relics had been destroyed at the reformation.

In the churchyard is a Victorian cross restored in 1897 which stands on the original medieval steps. It was here, on the 8th of September each year, that the Mayor of the Town of Folkestone was elected by the Freemen of the Town who were all paid six pence each for their participation. The Cross is still used to this date for the announcement of major proclamations.

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