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Folkestone Leas Cliff Water Lift

The lift is now closed and the local authority are looking for someone to take it over.

This water-driven lift connected The Leas in Folkestone with the beach.  The picture above shows the original track and buildings on the right and the new lift and buildings, still operating until recently, on the left.  I can clearly remember the old lift working in the 1960s, either to take excess capacity at the height of the summer or as a temporary replacement when the new one was being serviced.  For some time after it was finally decommissioned the cars stood idle, eventually being lowered to the bottom of the track but, sadly, they have since been removed.

The lifts are controlled from the small cabins on either side of the track at the top of the cliff.  The two cars are connected by a steel cable, which passes round a large pulley-wheel under the platform (see picture below).  Under the passenger compartment of the lift car is a large metal tank, which is filled with water from the red stand-pipe in the centre of the picture.  When the combined weight of the passengers and water in the car at the top is greater than the weight of the passengers in the car at the bottom, the brakes are released and the heavier car starts to descend, pulling the lighter car up.  When the cars reach the opposite positions, the brakes are applied and the water is emptied out of the tank through the outlet that can be seen at the bottom right.

The lift only operated during the summer months.  At other times, a short walk up the "zig-zag path" or the Hill of Remembrance is the quickest way to the top.


The picture below, loaned by Rob Pearl in Durban, South Africa, was taken by one of his family before the second track was built in 1890.  It also shows that the buildings at the bottom were extended at some stage by the addition of the wing on the right.  Not the lack of a fence along the cliff-top on the Lees!



Picture courtesy of Rob Pearl



Pictures Copyright (c) Bill Beer 2002 except where otherwise stated

Last modified 10/08/2010