Landscape - Historic Environment

A Minster in the Landscape

Folkestone had been an important place for centuries before it became part of the kingdom of Kent. In the early Middle Ages, the ruins of the prehistoric and Roman past exerted a powerful hold over the imaginations of poets and other writers, who described them as enta geweorc – the work of giants. With the arrival of the Church, whose builders commonly reused materials from Roman buildings, the relics of Rome’s earthly empire were transformed into what they saw as the building blocks of the eternal Church.

In Eanswythe’s day, Folkestone is likely to have functioned as an estate centre – a place for the gathering and distribution of agricultural surplus, probably under royal authority. In this respect it may have had a similar form and function to the nearby royal site at Lyminge, where a series of royal halls were succeeded by a minster.

In the seventh century these minster churches were on the front lines of the (religious?) conversion. Rather than being separated from society, they were fundamentally connected with the landscape and the people living in it. It is possible that a human-made watercourse stretching from the edge of the North Downs to the Bayle may have been created under the authority of this minster in the early Middle Ages, bringing a supply of fresh water to the people of Folcanstan who lived and worked at the heart of what was to become modern Folkestone.