1 November 2019

Dover Castle

From the Romans to the Cold War, with medieval interiors, an underground hospital and war tunnels Dover Castle has an abundance of history which you can read about here
Described as the "Key to England", due to its defensive significance throughout history, it is the largest castle in England, and makes for a great day out.

Between 800 BC - AD 43 it started life as an Iron Age Hillfort.
115-40 The Romans built a lighthouse to guide ships into the harbour.
7th century Eadbald, King of Kent founded a minster church for 22 monks in the fortress of Dover.
10th - early 11th century the church of St Mary in Castro was built beside the lighthouse
The lighthouse is one of only three surviving Roman-era lighthouses in the world, and the most complete standing Roman structure in England.
1066 William the Conqueror strengthened the defences with an earthwork and timber-stockaded castle. 
1180 - 89 Henry II rebuilt the castle spending a huge amount of money on it, making it the most expensive castle project of its time.
1205 - 15 King John established the first fleet and completed the castle's outer defences.
1216 17 the Great Siege. Then Prince Louis of France invaded and besieged the castle after which John's son Henry III added three powerful new gatehouses and a fortified spur extension to the castle. 
1217 - 56 Henry III spent enormous sums strengthening the castle making it one of the largest and most strategically important castles in England.
1740s onwards the medieval banks and ditches were reshaped as the castle was adapted for artillery warfare. Later in the 18th century, when England faced the threat of invasion from Napoleonic France, more additions were made to the castle’s defences. To house the huge numbers of troops needed to man them, a network of tunnels was dug in from the cliff face for use as barracks.
1890's the top floor of the Great Tower was furnished with displays of armour and opened to the public.
1904 the church of St Mary in Castro and the Roman lighthouse were transferred to the Ancient Monuments branch of the Ministry of Works.

By 1905 advances in technology made it possible for coastal artillery around the harbour to be controlled from a central Fire Command Post built on the cliff edge. Its commanding position led the Admiralty to site a signal station on top of it in 1914, from which the Navy controlled the movement of all ships in and out of the harbour.
The Napoleonic tunnels were brought back into service in the Second World War, when they made their most notable contribution to British history. From 1939 they housed the command centre that controlled naval operations in the Channel. It was from here that in May 1940 Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay organised the extraordinary evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, codenamed Operation Dynamo.
Over the next few years the tunnels were greatly extended to serve as both a hospital and a large combined headquarters, responsible for guarding the Straits of Dover and involved in preparing for the 1944 invasion of Europe. Later, during the Cold War, this network of tunnels was transformed into the secret location of one of Britain’s Regional Seats of Government, with the role of organising life in the event of a nuclear attack.
1963 the castle is transferred to the Ministry of Works for preservation as an Ancient Monument. English Heritage now maintains the castle and grounds.

'Queen Elizabeth's Pocket Pistol' wasn't actually intended for a queen. The name probably arose during the English Civil Wars when several big guns were given the name. The gun was made
in 1544 in Utrecht and given to Henry VIII by his friend Maximilian of Egmont.
It has intricate engravings on it.

That is an impressive catapult

The upper level of the protected passage, or caponier, built as part of the outer
defences to the north of the castle during the Napoleonic Wars.

Locking mechanism for doors on the other side of that wall.

Inside the Great Hall

The Throne Room

There were so many stairs at each corner of the great hall, and so many floors 
they must have needed maps to find their way around!
The kitchen was very well organised with separate areas for
different food storage and preparation, and laundry

Pretty chapel

View out over the Strait of Dover

The wartime tunnels and underground hospital are very interesting.
 Operations room
A short walk from the castle is a memorial dedicated to aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to fly across the channel from France to England.
Bleriot initially found success in the motor industry, making money by designing and producing a new and efficient form of car headlamp. His passion however was in the sky, he experimented with model Ornithopters - an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Then the American Wright brothers came along and inspired him to get into building and flying his own man carrying aircraft. It would not be long before he made history. Alfred Harmsworth the owner of the Daily Mail was a great supporter of flying and offered a prize of £1,000 for the first airman to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover. Blériot began work on a new plane, the Blériot XI. On the 25th July, 1909, he took off from Les Baraques, near Calais, at 4.41am and after covering a distance of almost 24 miles (36.6 km) he arrived at Northfall Meadow, near Dover, at 5.17 am and won the £1,000.

Be well ~ 
Polly x


  1. Looks like the Castle is well worth a visit. For some reason I never went there when I lived in England. I didn't know it was put to such extensive use during WW2. The plans for organising life after a nuclear attack were pretty optimistic. I doubt there would be many people alive, let alone in fit condition to run the country (whatever was left of it).

    1. Hi Nick, it is definitely well worth a visit. I didn't realise how large the castle area is and how interesting its history is.

  2. This is totally fascinating on every level. Remarkable history. I didn't ever think about lighthouses back in the Roman times but I guess it would be pretty important. The interior is really quite lovely and the WWII history really grabbed me too. What a wonderful post!


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