If only this Piano could talk….

Ephemera from the Great War can be found in unusual places. This is a story of something that literally resonates with history:

An Italian former piano restorer – Massimo Piemontese (of Quintessential at 65 The Old High Street, Folkestone) – came across this 1880s Gors & Kallmann piano at the back of a house clearance second-hand shop opposite the Folkestone Library in Grace Hill, in June 2012. It had a £150 price tag. The outside was damaged, stained, marked and discoloured but he opened it up and noticed the excellent condition of its interior, and the quality of its sound. He put down a deposit but was soon overtaken by other priorities. Knowing I was looking for a new piano for my gallery he came and told me about it. We went to see it together and I immediately bought him out, paid the remaining balance and arranged delivery. Massimo helped me sand down and repair the exterior and prepare it for painting, which I did, keeping the undamaged original wood around the keys.

I contacted Chris Pearson – a professional piano tuner from Hythe and told him what I knew about the piano I had acquired. He became very excited and told me the following story:

“I know the exact piano you have very well. I first started tuning it in the seventies when it belonged to the Burlington Hotel. At the time there were people who drank at the bar in their late eighties who told me all about its history. The piano had belonged to the Leas Pavilion over a hundred years ago, but during the First World War it was put on the Folkestone Bandstand on the Leas.”

When he came to tune it, Chris explained that after its spell on the Bandstand, the Leas Pavilion no longer wanted it given that it was a German piano and Britain was at war with Germany. The Burlington adopted it until the 1990s, when it acquired a grand piano. Chris was then unaware of what happened to it until he was asked to tune a piano at Trinity House, an old people’s home in Manor Road, Folkestone where it stayed until a few years ago. It then ended up in the hands of music teacher in Hythe.

“She didn’t want to get rid of it,” explained Chris, “but it took up so much space in her cottage she needed a smaller piano. And now it is back in a public place in Folkestone. When I first tuned it, I opened it up and I found all this sheet music with First World War songs. To think who would have listened to it and stood around it!” He shook his head. “If only this piano could talk…”












              Story and Photos by Shane Record




How many…?

There has always been a debate about how many people traveled from and to Folkestone during the Great War. It has been claimed that it was the principal route to France and Flanders. The other route was from Southampton to Havre or Dieppe. Today, we are adding another book to our Library page. British Railways and the Great War by Edwin Pratt provides a detailed analysis.

‘Eventually the number of persons embarking or landing at Folkestone between August 5th, 1914, and June 28th, 1919, was over ten and a half million, the exact figures being :

British officers and men and Allied officers and men . . . 9,271,726

Civilians engaged in Red Cross and other War-work . , . 1,233,177

German prisoners of war . . . … . . 2,010


The figure for Southampton is just over 8 million, though more material was shipped from there. Pratt’s book, in two volumes contains a mass of information, and includes some interesting accounts of Folkestone during the war, for instance:

‘Folkestone assumed the aspect of a cosmopolitan city. There were to be seen in the town, on the Leas, or passing along the Lower Sandgate Road, British, Dominion, Colonial, American, French, Russian or Serbian troops, together with contingents of Indians, Chinese, Kaffirs, West Indians and Fijians.’

(with thanks to Nick Spurrier for bringing this book to our attention)



Folkestone – key role in WW1 Centenary

This week the Prime Minister announced plans to mark the Centenary of the Great War. Plans are being made throughout the country, and abroad, to mark this most significant event in modern times. It is with pride that we learn from Andrew Murrison MP, the government’s Special Representative for centenary plans, that Folkestone will be one of three sites to mark the outbreak of that war. The other sites are Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey and the CWGC cemetery at St Symphorien, Mons in Belgium. The choice of Folkestone is in recognition that, from here, millions of men and women embarked on the troop ships that would take them to the front lines. For many, it was the last time they stood on British soil. Step Short will work unstintingly to ensure that the choice of our town as a focus for Commemoration in 2014-2018 is justified. Please be part of our plans: all financial and practical support will be very welcome. As a Registered Charity all donations go into our projects.

Parade’s End author in Folkestone!

Ford Madox Ford, author of the popular TV series, Parade’s End went to school in Folkestone. He attended Praetorius House in Coolinge Lane and met there, among others, his future wife, Elsie Martindale. In his book, Between St Dennis and St George, Ford recalled his days at the school and walking along The Leas.

The building still exists, and is still a School, occupied by The Folkestone School for Girls. It is likely that, some years later, when Ford became a soldier in the First World War, he would have returned to Folkestone for the sea crossing to France and the Western Front.

Launch of Memorial Arch Project

As part of our aim to restore the Road of Remembrance as a fitting tribute to the men and women who took that route to the Western Front, we have unveiled our plans for a Memorial Arch at the top of the Road. The launch took place at The Grand on 13 July and we were pleased to welcome 150 guests, including our patron, Admiral the Lord Boyce, KG, GCB, OBE, DL, Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports. Other guests included many civic leaders, schools and supporters. Our Chariman, Damian Collins, MP, opened the event and, as well as a fascinating presentation on the Arch, we also launched a new feature on our website: the 3D films and features which can be found at the top right hand side of the Home page.

Here are some images of the proposed arch:








To find out more about the Arch, go to the Projects page, and click on Renovating the Road of Remembrance, or simply click  here.

And do spend some time looking at the 3D features. Don’t worry, if you don’t have 3D glasses, you can opt to play the films in 2D!

As always, we would be delighted to receive feedback; simply post a comment, or email [email protected]

Below are some photos of the launch event.






Pay us a visit in 2012


 – You will get a warm welcome and a chance to wander round our new Museum

We would be delighted to see you at our ‘GHQ’  at the Visitor’s Centre down at Folkestone Harbour. The area is vibrant with pubs, restaurants, art galleries, sea food stalls, the picturesque Harbour and plenty of parking. We have information about local attractions but, of course, pride of place is given to our Step Short displays.  You will also be able to see plans of our projects. If you are making a special journey please drop us an email first so that we can make sure the Museum will be open.








Update from Ann Berry

Step Short committees have been working extremely hard to bring together a permanent memorial in time for the 100th Anniversary of WW1 on 4th August 2014. We are looking into various activities to make 2014 a year of Remembrance, contemplation and education.


Talks have been held with the Radnor Estate, Shepway District Council and Folkestone Town Council regarding a permanent memorial, near the top of the Road of Remembrance, for which Philip Gearing, spatial designer of Foster Gearing, has come up with a design, which we hope to make public shortly. Other projects are a permanent visitor centre and an exhibition of various aspects of the war, including a film, currently being worked on thanks to the Folkestone Camera Club, which will be held in the Folkestone Library Sassoon room during 2014.


The Beeping Bush Company has produced a 3D film, which includes many aspects of Folkestone’s Commemorative services over the past year such as Canada Day, Armistice, and Step Short’s Annual March, which will take place again this year on Sunday 5th August. Thanks to Shepway District Council we have been able to use the old visitor centre in Tram Road car park, both as information for visitors and the Step Short project headquarters.


Last month four of us visited the Imperial War Museum to meet with the head of projects, who gave us several useful contacts. Step Short are now on their list of projects for the forthcoming centenary. Recently we paid for a road closure of the Road of Remembrance to enable Shepway District Council to cut back all the shrubbery, dead trees and wood so that in two years’ time it would have had a chance to re-grow and look it’s absolute best. We are also working on enhancing it with rosemary, poppies and other flowers.


On 10 April we met Dr Andrew Murrison MP, who has been nominated by the Government to co-ordinate the Governments plans for the National Commemoration of WW1 Projects through 2014 to the armistice four years later. Our meeting started at the Grand and, as we walked down the Leas, local historian Eamonn Rooney pointed out places of interest. Then it was on down the Road of Remembrance to the harbour where approximately 120,000 Belgian refugees landed during that time. We also had 40,000 Canadians and a Chinese work force here. We then went into the Step short visitor centre/office to look at the small exhibition of WW1 artefacts we had set up there.  He was fascinated with a game “Stop the War” devised by Adrian Lockwood, Capital Projects Consultant, which we had taken to the Folkestone Academy for the Pupils to play and learn more about WW1. It is our intention to take the game out to other schools.


We hope Dr Murrison was suitably impressed with our project, and found it significant enough to be included in the Government’s National Commemorative Plans for the Centenary.  Watch this space!


Why not get involved? To offer your help or suggestions email : [email protected]

To become a Member or just to make a donation to our Charity go to our Shop page.

In Conversation With…IWM

As a partner of the Imperial War Museum in its Great War Centenary Programme, an outline of our plans at Step Short has been posted on the IWM website. Adrian Lockwood has explained our plan to build a Memorial Arch near the top of the Road of Remembrance. This is just one of the projects being developed to mark the role played by Folkestone in the war. To read more click here.

Frontline Folkestone – Free Illustrated Talk 24th May

This FREE talk will take place at Folkestone History Resource Centre, Grace Hill on 24th May, 1800hrs – 1930hrs. The speaker will be Michael George, a member of Step Short. We will examine some of the major events affecting the town during WW1, especially the Great Air Raid of May 1917.

The event is free, but Booking is essential. Contact [email protected] or phone 07872937485.

Celebrate the Jubilee in Style, and support Step Short

Click the heading or go to the News tab to read about this once-in-a-lifetime chance. Travel on the historic Kent & East Sussex Railway. Friday 1st June 7.00pm. Help to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. Wine and Dine in style. The organisers have generously agreed to support Step Short. Go to our News page and click the link to read full details. See you there!

Click HERE