Folkestone is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. There has been a settlement in this location since the Mesolithic era. A nunnery was founded by Eanswith, granddaughter of Ethelberht of Kent in the 7th century, who is still commemorated as part of the town's culture. During the 13th century it subsequently developed into a seaport and the harbour developed during the early 19th century to provide defence against a French invasion. Folkestone expanded further west after the arrival of the railway in 1843 as an elegant coastal resort, thanks to the investment of the Earl of Radnor under the urban plan of Decimus Burton. In its heyday - during the Edwardian era - Folkestone was considered the most fashionable resort of the time, visited by royalties - amongst them Queen Victoria and Edward VII and other members of the English aristocracy. The architecture of the town, especially in the West End part of the town is a testimony of this period with many impressive buildings, townhouses, villas, private squares and large hotels built to accommodate the gentry. After two world wars and the boom of the overseas holiday package, the town quickly declined. The harbour's trade diminished following the opening of the nearby Channel Tunnel and the ending of ferry services from Folkestone, but it still remains in active use.
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