St. Peter’s Church is the earliest of the churches in Folkestone, in its spiritual inheritance, if not in its building.

  • In about 630 AD King Eadbald built a chapel for his daughter Eanswythe in his castle somewhere in The Bayle, east of the present Parish Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe in Folkestone. This original chapel was dedicated to St Peter & St Paul. Here Eanswythe settled with a community of nuns as Abbess and Founder of the first religious Community for women in England. She died in 640 AD and was laid to rest in the chapel.
  • The original chapel appears to have been destroyed through damage from Viking raids and was soon lost to the sea
  • In 867, St Eanswythe’s holy relics were moved for the first time to a new church of St. Peter and St. Paul, which was further inland away from the sea.
  • In 1095, Nigel de Muneville and his wife Emma founded a nearby priory for Benedictine monks.
  • By 1138 the old church was considered unsafe and it was soon lost to the sea. A new priory church was built by William d’Averanches and dedicated to St Mary and St Eanswythe. This is the foundation of the present church of the same name. The relics of St Eanswythe were brought to the new church, from the church of St Peter and St Paul. This second transfer of her relics was celebrated on September 12, which is the present Feast Day of St Eanswythe.
  • The priory was destroyed by fire in 1216 and a new priory was built by Henry III in 1220, which was extended in 1236 and occupied by the Benedictine Order. This was named for St. Peter and St. Eanswythe.

    The priory of St Peter and St. Eanswythe was dissolved in 1535
    during the English Reformation, along with the Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe, which remained in a state of disrepair until 1851 when Rev. Matthew Woodward was made Vicar and restoration began.

    The rapidly growing Victorian Town required a new church. In early 1862 it was agreed that this would be built as a chapel for the Fisherfolk and Port of Folkestone and named for St. Peter. The new building was completed in September of 1862.

    This is the Church of St. Peter which still stands. It’s spiritual and historic heritage is reflected in the East Window, which depicts both St. Peter and St. Paul

Quick Timeline Links

March 1862

With Folkestone expanding particularly around the harbour area and in the east, at the Easter Vestry Meeting of the Parish Church of St. Mary and St Eanswythe a decision was taken to build a mariners’ chapel in the east of the town. Canon Matthew Woodward, vicar of St Mary and St Eanswythe’s at that time was reported to have commented that a new chapel was urgently needed to relieve pressure on the seating space in his own church where the poorest people often occupied the best seats!

29th April 1862

30th July 1868

On the Tuesday afternoon, at 1:00 pm the foundation stone was laid. The principal donor, Mr. W F Bromwell, said the chapel was “principally to bring the services of the Church home to the doors of those persons resident in the immediate locality”.

Fr Charles Joseph Ridsdale

St Peter’s was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley. Fr Charles Joseph Ridsdale, formerly a curate to Canon Matthew Woodward at St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church, became the first vicar. Fr Ridsdale, like Canon Woodward, had been influenced by the Oxford Movement which sought to restore the Church of England to its heritage of apostolic order and to the catholic doctrines of the early church fathers. Emphasis was placed upon the centrality of the Mass in worship, enhanced by the use of traditional catholic ritual giving a deeper reverence and sense of mystery. Controversy arose over the use of these rituals together with other aspects including the wearing of vestments, and resulted in what became known as ‘The Folkestone Ritual Case’ in 1875.

Information on the Oxford Movement

May 1870

With the growing need for more space in the Chapel, the Archdeacon of Canterbury issued a faculty authorising extensive alterations taking four months to complete, during which time the church was closed and the congregation worshipped at St Michael and All Angels in Dover Road. The work included adding the north aisle, extending the Sanctuary eastwards adding the apse and east window, extending the vestry, rebuild the entrance porch, lowering the whole nave floor by two feet, jacking up the roof by about five feet.

Picture of St. Peter’s before the 1870 extension

June 1871

A new Lewis Organ with 10 stops housed in a beautiful oak case was installed in the South Transept. Fr Ridsdale was an accomplished musician and the choir of St Peter’s was reputed to be one of the most perfect in Kent. Fr Ridsdale selected and arranged the music for The New Office Hymn Book published in 1907 which contains a number of tunes which he had composed, amongst which is “Fons amoris” to which St Peter’s sung “Shall we not love thee Mother dear” complete with refrain.

April 1872

The foundation stone of St Peter’s Church of England School was laid, and in late October the school opened. After the opening, tea was provided for over two hundred people and an evening concert was given by Fr Ridsdale, Mr Ullyett (The Master), and some of the pupils rounding off to the strains of “The Queen” and “Rule Britannia”

New Lewis organ 1871

August 1874

ventilating flèche

The roof was pierced at the intersection of the nave and transepts, and the ventilating flèche constructed from solid oak and covered in lead was installed reaching up to 80ft above the ground.


Pulley in the South Transept to Open Louvres on Flèche.

July 1875

Following the conclusion of the “Ritual Case”, Fr Ridsdale was greatly comforted and encouraged by his congregation, who despite being mostly poor fishermen and sailors, raised £100.00 in 1883 to buy their priest a Bechstein grand piano. Fr Ridsdale continued to spend much of his time working amongst the poor and underpriviledged in what was described by the local newspapers in February 1894, as his “squalid parish” in which a soup kitchen was set-up to feed 200 children each Wednesdsay and Friday at a cost of ½d each.

Fr Ridsdale maried Rosamund Woodward, the eldest daughter of Canon Matthew Woodward and then departed for a honeymoon in Switzerland.

Read About The Folkestone Ritual Case
Folkestone Ritual Case


The Church bell weighing 7cwt

The Honourable Florence Daly MBE, a respected local philanthropist, who was also organist at St Peter’s for 60 years, financed the building of the St Peter’s Men’s Club in Radnor Street, by local builders – Messrs William Dunk. At the end of December 1895 the local newspaper reported that, “sixty young fishermen sat down to a roast dinner followed by plum pudding at the opening of the new working men’s club in Radnor Street.”

Before the First World War she helped to organise those who assisted many hundreds of pilgrims passing through Folkestone on their way to Lourdes.

December 1898

The Church bell weighing 7cwt was installed whilst “Raise it gently to the steeple” was sung.

August 1914

During August 1914, the people of Folkestone welcomed Belgian Refugees fleeing the oncoming horrors of War “Several ladies of the congregation of St. Peter’s Church exerted themselves in attending to the wants of the Belgian refugees on their arrival, often finding them lodgings or getting them well housed in the country—as well as in effecting the reunion of families whom the panic and confusion of the embarkation had separated. One of the most stirring events of the early days of the War was the arrival, very early one morning, of a fleet of fishing-boats and barges, bringing fishermen and their terrified families from the Belgian coast. Many of the refugees found hospitality in East Street and Radnor Street and the children were welcomed at St. Peter’s Schools.

St. Peter’s Club gave shelter to a large number of families, and the Rev. E. A. Jordan, Assistant Priest, was indefatigable in collecting food and ministering to these unfortunate people. His motor-car was continually traversing the town on errands of mercy. He was also instrumental in providing one of the earliest clubs for soldiers in Tontine Street.” (p224-225 Folkestone During The War. J.C.Carlile)

Belgian Refugees fleeing the oncoming horrors of War

11th May 1923

Walter Henry Pickburn

Fr Ridsdale continued his work at St. Peter’s until his retirement in 1923 when he moved to Deepene, Surrey.

Walter Henry Pickburn was instituted as Parish Priest of St. Peter’s, and proved to be strong minded, continuing the ministry amongst the local seafaring community. During the 1920’s Fr Pickburn spoke passionately to the Folkestone Town Council concerning the plight of the many families living in the most appalling slum conditions in the old fish market area. This was a major factor that influenced the Council to undertake a housing redevelopment scheme in ths area during the 1930’s.


Fr Ridsdale died in June 1929 at the age of 88 and was brought back to Folkestone to lie in St Peter’s Church. The Folkestone and Hythe Advertiser of 29th June 1929 reported that at the funeral “the Church was filled by a large and sorrowing congregation at the Requiem Mass with many of the fishing community present”. Following his funeral he was buried in Cheriton Road Cemetery.

1928 Onwards

A plot of land in Wear Bay Crescent was given to St Peter’s by Lord Radnor and with £1000 given by an anonymous donor a Parish Hall was built. The building was opened by the then MP for Folkestone, Sir Philip Sasson on 1st December 1927. Further funds for the Hall were raised in 1929 when the parish held an ‘Olde Folkestone Fayre and Masque’ in the Town Hall and at the Shellon Street Drill Halls between 17th and 20th June.

The Parish continued to flourish throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. The annual ‘Blessing of the Fisheries’ ceremony, with its long procession from St Peter’s to the Stade, either down North Street and along Radnor Street, or over Radnor Bridge and down Dover Street (now Harbour Way), always attracted a large number of participants from other parishes and an enormous crowd of onlookers lining the route. In those days the fishing vessels would be ‘dressed overall’ by their owners, and for the whole Octave of the Feast of St Peter many of the streets were thickly beflagged, with some holding ‘Parish Teas’ outside on trestle tables. This picture taken in 1927 shows Bishop Bidwell, with his guard of honour of local fishermen.

Bishop Bidwell, with his guard of honour of local fishermen.

In this picture above taken in 1927 is Bishop Bidwell, with his guard of honour of local fishermen. Fr Pickburn is in the second row. The ceremony usually takes place on the first Sunday after St. Peter’s day.

The War Years

St.Peter's The War Years

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Folkestone with its harbour, railways and nearby RAF airfield became an important target of the German forces from across the Channel. Children from the two local schools were evacuated to South Wales.

6th July 1940

The first air raid over Folkestone targeted the batteries defending the harbour, with three high explosive bombs causing considerable damage on properties within a quarter mile radius including the Sanatorium at the end of Warren Road. Only one casualty was reported – Mrs Lillian Allen, an ARP Warden suffered an injury to one eye when the windows of her house in Warren Road were blown-in. After the war, she with her husband ran the off-licence in Warren Road for many years and was a faithful member of our congregation.

27th March 1941

Two gun batteries were installed on the East Cliff, one near the East Cliff Pavilion and the other on the cliff above the harbour, adjacent to St Andrew’s Convalescent Home and St Peter’s Church. With the serious threat of invasion, the beaches were festooned with barbed wire and some sections mined.

On this Thursday morning, bombs exploded in the road outside the church, fracturing a gas main and inflicting widespread damage to the roof, windows and Lewis Organ situated in the South transept.

11th November 1941

In another raid on this Monday afternoon, presumably with the intention of targeting the railway bridge across the harbour, a bomb exploded on the Fisherman’s Bethel beside the railway arch on the Stade, and it was recorded that several occupants survived the blast by crawling under the billiard table.

During the later years of the war much of the area was subject to destruction from the V1 Flying Bombs one of which exploded at the junction of Wear bay Crescent and Foreland Avenue destroying four houses and badly damaging the Parish Hall.

St Peter’s Church on its exposed clifftop position, together with the surrounding parish suffered considerable damage, and the area behind the harbour was completely devastated.

August 1946

Throughout the war years Fr Pickburn remained at St Peter’s caring for the needs of his parishioners, and after a little over twenty-three years as Parish Priest, he retired. Upon retirement he was presented with a book containing a song by Annie Abbott about The Little Stone Candles beautifully illustrated by Lionel Richards.


Father Vivian Roy Bartlett, a former Royal Navy Chaplain was instituted as the Parish Priest of St Peter’s, Folkestone. The Venerable A. E. Sargent, Archdeacon of Canterbury performed the induction ceremony.

During this service, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher said in his address, “this parish has been outside the real fellowship of the diocese, choosing to go its own way, beyond that which is the authority of the Church. I ask your vicar and you that there shall be no variation of the liturgy in this church from that so permitted. It is a debt which you owe to the people of this parish that any single person in this parish, who desires the sacrament of Holy Communion, shall find the liturgy of the Church of England.

I am told that in this church a service called Benediction has been a regular feature of Sunday evening for a long time past. First let me tell you that the service of Benediction is forbidden in every diocese of the Church of England. It has no authority whatever behind it in the Church of England and it is forbidden. I know there are churches which defy this universal rule of the Church of England and insist on having it.

In this diocese I believe this is the only church in the fellowship of the diocese which refuses to accept that rule. That is the chief reason why you have been outside the real fellowship of the diocese. I trust your vicar will obey my rule on this matter and that you will not question him for so doing. My own desire would be that if services of Benediction being stopped, there is a desire that devotion shall continue, you have the service of Devotion on a week-day and not on Sunday evening”

Like his predecessors, Fr Bartlett stood fast against the authorities, ignoring Dr Fisher’s request on the basis that previous Archbishops had allowed Benediction and that it was a popular and well attended service which has been maintained until the beginning of the last interregnum and now takes place at 18:30 on the second Sunday of the month, following Evening Prayer.

Fr Bartlett maintained the traditions of St. Peter’s. During the years of austerity immediately after the war, there was much work to be done in the Parish. Although repairs to the church, and the building of a new organ loft and choir gallery were completed by 1947, it was not until March 1954 that the Parish Hall in Wear Bay Crescent was repaired and rededicated by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher. The St Peter’s Men’s Club building in Radnor Street which was also badly damaged during the war was rebuilt and reinstated at this time.

Sadly after nine years as vicar, Fr Bartlett tragically died suddenly on the 18th September 1956. During his incumbency the Sacred Heart Chapel was created where the former Lewis Organ had stood, the oak panelling coming from the Convent Chapel of St Andrew’s Home, from where also came the Beale and Thynne organ which is still with us today in the Gallery.

Father Vivian Roy Bartlett, a former Royal Navy

April 1957

During April 1957 Father Humphrey Stephens was instituted as vicar of St Peter’s by Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was ordained in 1933 at St Paul’s Cathedral, and came to St Peter’s from a parish in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex.


In 1962 St Peter’s celebrated it’s centenary with Archbishop Michael Ramsay presiding and preaching at the 10:30 Solemn Mass on the Feast of the Dedication 29th July 1962. On the evening before an organ recital was given by Reg Adams, at the time organist at St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church and friend of Alf Bailey, our organist who served us for forty years until his death in 1993.

It was reported in the local press that – “St Peter’s still plays its part in the revival of the Church of England in restoring to its former place all that is essentially Catholic and with the guidance of its present Vicar, Rev. H J L Stephens, is setting out on another century of faith and devotion.”

He taught in our school, and in the top class there was a doll dressed in vestments complete with biretta, with the chasuble being regularly changed to reflect the colour of the current season or feast. He was a person well known in the community. After 13 years at St Peter’s, in May 1970 he announced that he had accepted the Archbishops offer of the living of St Bartholomew’s, in Herne Bay.

Father Humphrey Stephens