Top view of the Grand Shaft, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom

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Comments (7)

John Latter on May 10, 2007

A view of the Grand Shaft showing the windows of the three spiral staircases taken from the top (opposite view). Built in 1806-1809 to provide access for troops stationed in the Western Heights barracks above to the town of Dover below.

Legend has it that one staircase was labelled "Officers and their Ladies", the second, "Senior NCO's and their Wives", and the third, "Other Ranks and their Women".

From a military point of view, however, it would make sense - particularly during an 'emergency' - to introduce a dynamically allocated 'one-way' system.

If troops needed to be quickly dispatched to the port area below, for example, then designating, say, two of the staircases to be 'down only' would result in an unimpeded descent.

Standard Info:

Image/photo taken on 5th June, 2005.

Click for information on open days.

The Grand Shaft, built between 1806-1809, is only part of Dover's extensive Napoleonic defenses - click on Western Heights and then check the tag list for all the locations covered (eg Drop Redoubt, North Centre Bastion, North Entrance - more will be added as time goes on).

Also see St Martin's Battery

Work began on Dover's Western Heights fortifications in the 1770s and was intensified, first in the early 1800s because of Napoleon I (Napoleon Bonaparte), and again in the mid-Nineteenth Century because of Napoleon III (originally known as Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte).

John Latter on May 12, 2007

It is very similar to St Patrick's Well of Orvieto (which has two spiral stairways), Salvatore - perhaps that's where they got the idea of the Grand Shaft from!

MoMof4 on July 30, 2008

Very unique photo and your historical comments are interesting.

John Latter on July 30, 2008

BollaBorcsa said:

Very unique photo and your historical comments are interesting.

Thank you :)

John Latter / Jorolat

John Latter on November 16, 2010

The Grand Shaft Underground Triple Stairway, Western Heights, Dover, is a Grade II Listed Building (1).

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:


Parish: DOVER

District: DOVER

County: KENT



LBS Number: 469563

Grade: II

Date Listed: 08/07/1998

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3160540907

Listing Text:

TR 34 SW DOVER DROP REDOUBT ROAD (south side), Western Heights 865/7/10008 Grand Shaft stairs and attached railings


Underground spiral stair. 1803-05, by Sir Thomas Hyde Page, RE, under Lt Col William Twiss, RE Divisior Engineer. Brick and cast-iron. Three concentric flights of winder stairs round an open shaft, the opening at the top, with curved stairs meeting in a single flight up to the former parade ground in front of the barracks.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: iron railings with urn finials found top of shaft and to stairs up, with a lamp standard on the stairs.

HISTORY: connected the Grand Shaft Barracks (demolished) with Snargate Street at the base of the cliffs, to allow the rapid movement of troops between the barracks and the shore. The three stairs were designated for 'gentlemen and their ladies, officers and their wives, and soldiers and their women'. A 'bold and imaginative solution to communication problems (and) a unique piece of military engineering.' (Coad) (Post Medieval Arch: Coad J: The Later Fortifications of Dover: 1982-: 141-200).

Listing NGR: TR3110241449

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage locations in the town of Dover, England.

(1) Grade II: buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest".

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 9, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX Optio 33LF
    • Taken on 2005/06/05 10:37:43
    • Exposure: 0.017s (1/60)
    • Focal Length: 5.80mm
    • F/Stop: f/2.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • Flash fired