Folkestone is a member of the Cinque Ports, having been incorporated as a Corporate Limb of Dover. In 1629 the local inhabitants obtained a licence to build a port, prior to which, fishing boats were entirely reliant upon the natural protection of the natural harbour formed by the Pent Stream.
At the end of the 18th century the city became prosperous because of an increase in the fishing and shipping industries and, in the middle of the 19th century, Folkestone was one of the chief resorts of southern England, aided by the construction of the railway line from London. Numerous victorian Hotels, including "The Grand" and "Metropole" are testament to this, together with no less than three railway stations.
Today, though, Folkestone remains as a faded shadow of its former grand self. Since the 1950s it has fallen into decline due in part to competition from Dover, the advent of the Channel Tunnel (with many new jobs in the area because of it convening in Ashford) and the ubiquitous package holiday. However, at present there are several large-scale redevelopment plans in the pipeline for the port and Rotunda area, in addition to the current extension of the town centre to incorporate a new Asda, although the recent decision by Marks and Spencers to quit the town after almost a century has caused some dismay in the local community.
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