Folkestone Harbour Viaduct and Swing Bridge


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Folkestone Harbour, Folkestone


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Statutory Address:
Folkestone Harbour, Folkestone

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Folkestone and Hythe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Folkestone Harbour viaduct was built in 1843 by the South Eastern Railway Company, and was designed by William Cubitt, Chief Engineer of the line. The structure crosses the harbour with 13 arches (one arch to the north of the harbour, on the west side of the viaduct, is hidden by the adjacent jetty access ramp). The swing bridge, which is included for group value, was designed in 1930 by George Ellson, Chief Engineer for Southern Railway. The concrete structures beneath the viaduct are not included in the listing.

Reasons for Designation

* Architectural interest: the viaduct is a bold piece of railway engineering infrastructure which forms an integral, and primary, element of an important early rail/sea passenger interchange * Rarity: though many viaducts survive and are listed, this viaduct is a particularly unusual example of a harbour viaduct. * Engineering ensemble: the swing bridge contributes to the understanding of the viaduct, as well as providing the important visual link between the viaduct and the south side of the harbour; it is therefore included in the listing for group value. * Group value: the viaduct and bridge have group value with the nearby east pier of 1829 and lighthouse, both listed Grade II. * Historic interest: the harbour, and the viaduct, played a key role in the transportation of troops to Flanders during the First World War.


In 1843, Folkestone Harbour was sold to Joseph Baxendale, William Parry Richards and Lewis Cubitt, of the South Eastern Railway Company. The plan was for Folkestone to rival Dover as a harbour for steam packets to France. To this end Folkestone's new railway line was extended to the harbour and the harbour became host to much railway infrastructure. By January 1844 the railway viaduct had been built, carrying the railway at the lower end of the branch line into the harbour; a swing bridge was added by 1847, allowing trains to cross onto the southern harbour arm. The viaduct was designed by Chief Engineer of the line, William Cubitt (Lewis Cubitt's brother), who was also responsible for the Foord Valley Viaduct on the main line (listed Grade II). To either side of the viaduct were timber freight jetties. The railway line was used for coal traffic until the French line to Boulogne Maritime was complete and both sides had passenger stations. By 1849 the harbour branch was open for passenger traffic and was part of one of the first fully scheduled (though still tidal) rail/sea/rail international services. It was by far the most popular cross-Channel route in these early years, although superseded by the Dover to Calais route in the late 1860s. Removal of tidal restrictions in 1886 (the Dover to Calais service having achieved this in 1882), allowed a fixed timetable to be operated.

The railway brought success and financial viability to the harbour, which continued to develop as the demand for facilities grew. The original swing bridge was replaced in 1893 to allow heavier trains to cross the harbour, and again in 1930. This last bridge was designed by the chief engineer of Southern Railway, George Ellson OBE MICE. Photographs of the installation of the new bridge identify the eminent engineer Conrad Gribble MICE as being present. At this date Gribble was Assistant Engineer, New Works and Bridges, for the railway company, suggesting that he was responsible for over-seeing the works at Folkestone.

Folkestone Harbour played a significant role during the First World War, being the major embarkation point for Europe. Approximately 10 million army officers, service men and other personnel, and over one million tonnes of freight, travelled to or from the battlefields through the harbour.


The viaduct consists of 13 segmentally-headed red brick arches (one arch to the north of the harbour, on the west side of the viaduct, is hidden by the adjacent jetty access ramp)  which cross approximately two thirds of the harbour; the swing bridge spanning the remaining distance to the south.

The swing bridge is of steel construction, composed of three main longitudinal girders. It sits on a brick base with stone quoins which is original to the 1893 bridge. The new bridge was swung by means of an electric capstan on the wharf and a rope, and the lifting and locking mechanisms were hand operated.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 26/01/2017


Books and journals
'The Engineer' in Renewal of Folkestone Harbour Swing Bridge, (5 December 1930), 614-616, 624 plus supplement
'ICE Proceedings' in Obituary of Conrad Gribble, (22 July 1962), 341-342
Railway Inspector Major General C. W. Pasley, Report to the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, (1844 (published 1846))


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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