Dover Castle, Kent
The 'Key of England' with over 2,000 years of history
Photos and report © urban75, Oct 2006
Described as the 'Key to England' because of its strategic and defensive importance, Dover Castle is built on the site of fortified earthworks, dating back to the Iron Age or earlier.
After the Roman invasion in AD43, Dover was developed as a port, constructing a lighthouse around 50AD which still survives today.
After the Romans left (c.AD600), the Saxons shuffled into town some four hundred years later and built a church, with the castle following a few years later.
Henry II completely rebuilt the castle between 1179 and 1188, constructing the massive keep and walls and towers of the inner bailey, with the castle being the first in western Europe to be built to a concentric design.
Completed by King John after Henry's death, the castle was put to the test in 1216 during The Barons' War, with the French Prince Louis managing to breach but ultimately failing to take the castle.
Henry III subsequently backed some hefty castle upgrades, blocking the northern gateway solid, adding St John's Tower for a better command of the high ground and Constable's Gateway on the western side of the castle.
The outer curtain wall was completed with a massive earth bank constructed round the church and Roman lighthouse, topped by a stone wall in the 1250s.
New barracks were built within the inner bailey to accommodate extra troops in 1745 with more strengthening work undertaken in the 1750s.
A century later an extensive programme of barrack building was undertaken, followed by a series of gun batteries (1870) constructed along the cliff edge to protect the harbour below.
The castle was used in both world wars, with the evacuation of 338,000 allied soldiers from Dunkirk directed from a command centre in the underground barracks in May 1940.
The Army remained in the castle until 1958 with the whole of Dover Castle being handed over to the Ministry of Works for preservation in 1963.
Being on the top of a hill, there's a bit of a thigh-busting climb up to the castle from the town centre.
Approaching Canon's Gateway, an eighteenth century addition, constructed by Colonel William Twiss during the wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.
A view of the impressive battlements
World War II gun.
The castle played an important role in both world wars and was defended by anti-aircraft guns and searchlights
Looking out from the castle over Dover harbour. To the left (out of shot) is the main cross-channel port.
A network of tunnels was first constructed by an engineer called William Twiss during the Napoleonic Wars, and used as living areas for soldiers.
During the Second World War, more tunnels were added, housing a kitchen, dormitories, sleeping and secret decoding rooms.
The deepest level, built in 1943, was codenamed 'Dumpy' and used as a HQ for all the armed services.
The area around Dover Castle became known as 'Hellfire Corner' during WW2 because of all the bombing and gunfire in the area.
Visitors look out from the entrance to the tunnels.
NAAFI restaurant, Dover Castle.
Bread and Meat Store.
Looking along the western curtain wall to Peverell's Gateway.
View of the formidable inner bailey of Dover Castle, complete with Ye Olde Cannone Balls.
We were invited to the book launch of an illustrated children's book on Dover Castle and had as free guided tour thrown in.
Inside the Keep Yard a fair gale force whipped up, forcing the guide (already suffering a sore throat) to bellow out his story.
Henry II's keep is truly enormous, measuring over 25 metres high with a 120me circumference and solid walls up to six metres thick - even the thinnest wall is still 5m thick!
The cunning entrance to the keep contained loads of opportunities for defenders to do all sorts of unmentionable things to invaders.
The King's Great Chamber.
Looking over the town of Dover from the castle.
In the Great Hall.
After a disagreement with his old chum, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, King Henry II was having a good old moan during a stay on France.
His angry shout of, "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" was interpreted as a royal command by four knights who promptly trotted off back to Blighty and murdered Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral.
Suitably horrified, Henry paid penance a few years later by walking barefoot through Canterbury while a bunch of monks thwacked him with branches.
Henry then spent the night in Becket's tomb and later dedicated this small chapel in the Dover Keep to his old.
Stone spiral staircase.
Looking out to sea showing the Saxon church and the Roman lighthouse in the distance.
Dover Castle in the distance seen from the back of St Mary the Virgin church.
Looking east from the castle towards Dover town.
Inside the Keep yard.
Another view of the Keep yard.
The illustrator for the Dover Castle children's book signs a copy.
Looking up at the immense Great Tower from the Keep yard.
Keeps were designed to be self-sufficient, highly defended structures serving as a last resort during a battle. For surviving a siege, the Dover Keep had a deep well for bringing up water, said to be 310 feet in depth.
The old Roman lighthouse, situated next to the church of St Mary de Castro in the castle grounds.
Originally one of two lighthouses, each called the Pharos, the 80 foot (24 m) high construction was built by the Romans soon after they arrived in Britain, with building date estimated as being between 50 - 138AD.
The stone towers were used as beacons to guide the Roman navy across the English Channel.
Nearly two thousand years old, it's the tallest surviving Roman building north of the Italian Alps that's still standing.
Looking up inside the Roman lighthouse which has been adapted for use as the bell tower for the St Mary de Castro church.
Another view of the Pharos showing its proximity to the church.
'Ne pas grimper.'
Old fashioned traffic lights controlling the exit from Canon's Gateway.