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The Grand Shaft Underground Triple Stairway, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK (1)

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (20)

John Latter on March 26, 2007

An image taken from the bottom of the Grand Shaft showing the windows of the three spiral staircases leading from the base of the cliffs to the Western Heights above. Built in 1806-1809.

Info on open days (free admission) can be found by clicking on the box in this wikimapia satellite photo

Image taken on June 5th, 2005. John Latter / Jorolat

Snipe on April 1, 2007

John a picture this interesting deserves 1000 views! Just thought I might help it on its way... Nice shot...

John Latter on April 2, 2007

Thank you Snipe - only 944 views to go! :)

I remember your "The Eagles Have Landed!" post - the photos reflected a world and lifestyle beyond my experience (one of the things I like about the forum).


John Latter on April 3, 2007

Other parts of Dover's "Hidden Fortress" include:

The Drop Redoubt

Annotated Satellite View: Location of entrances, caponniers, and brief details of surface structures, etc..

Other Drop Redoubt Images

The North Center (Centre) Bastion

Annotated Satellite View: Location of tunnel systems, drawbridges, caponnier, etc..

Other North Center Bastion Images (including the Ghost Photo)

Marco Ferrari on April 12, 2007

Similar place different light. :-)

Hi! Marco

John Latter on April 12, 2007

"Similar place different light. :-)"

They're remarkably similar!

I looked the location of your photo up on google and apparently its a well ("St Patrick's Well, Orvieto") with two spiral stairways.

It was built in the 16th Century - very impressive :)

Marco Ferrari on April 13, 2007

Yes it is. The history has always a remarkable fascination.


rsyms on April 13, 2007

Nice shot, I feel as if I'm at the bottom of a pit and locked in. Love the hallway photos you have in your collection. Keep up the great work!

John Latter on April 13, 2007

Thank you rsyms :)

When I was a kid the Grand Shaft was derelict (no electricity, rubble-strewn stairs, etc.) and my friends and I used it as the quickest means of reaching the beach.

It was ok going down (unless some clot said "What was that??", whereupon things became 'exciting') but climbing up the steps at the end of a day's swimming and clambering over rocks was a different story entirely...

I'm pleased you like the hallway/tunnel shots too. I'll be going to the North Centre Bastion again soon. There are some photos I want (on the other side of the cave-in) of some windowless 'pits' - even more claustrophobic!

John Latter on May 10, 2007

Standard Info:

Legend has it that one staircase of the Grand Shaft 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.

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 October 14, 2007

The English Heritage Pastscape page for the Grand Shaft states:

Part of Dover's defensive works, built between 1805 and 1807, to the designs of Captain Hyde Page. The shaft links the Heights to the town below, and comprises three spiral staircases built around a vertical circular brick shaft which descends for 140 steps to a tunnel linking up with Snargate Street. It was constructed to quickly reinforce the harbour defences with troops, or to expedite speedy retreat to the Western Heights from the Harbour.

Note the discrepancy in the construction date with that given previously (see Google search results for the construction date - ignore my entries, of course!)

iiimagine on May 14, 2008

amazing photo~

unowho on March 10, 2009

i wish i had a penny for how many times i ran up and down those steps john when i was a kid too i remember tripping over those bricks many times hahaha still loved it i used to spend hours walking around those deep tunnels up the western heights too a great laugh p.s nice pic

John Latter on March 14, 2009

unowho said:

i wish i had a penny for how many times i ran up and down those steps john when i was a kid too i remember tripping over those bricks many times hahaha still loved it i used to spend hours walking around those deep tunnels up the western heights too a great laugh p.s nice pic

You're talking about old pennies of course, unowho :)

And with an internet name like that I can't help feeling curious as to whether I might know you or not!

I feel we were very, very lucky to have had such a large 'adventure playground' at our disposal as kids - if I had been brought up on a diet of video games and pop music I think I'ld have ended up more vegetable than animal.

It's been two years or so so I took the photos of the Drop Redoubt, North Centre Bastion, etc., and that was but the latest of a long line of visits I've made over the years. I'm definitely going again this year (especially as I've now got a go-faster camera) and the thing I like most about going around the tunnels is that it brings back the excitement of way back when - along with the cuts & bruises, too :)

Nice to hear from someone else you enjoyed the Western Heights as a kid - and thanks for the comment!

John Latter on May 30, 2011

The Grand Shaft and Drop Redoubt annual open days for 2011 are Saturday and Sunday, the 11th and 12th June.

John Latter on June 13, 2011

The Grand Shaft triple staircase, built in the early 19th Century, facilitated the transfer of men and equipment from the extensive Napoleonic fortifications embedded into the Western Heights above to Snargate Street and the town of Dover below.

The Grand Shaft 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

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on December 29, 2012

Another photo taken on Saturday, June 11th, 2011:

Looking into the Depths of The Grand Shaft, Western Heights, Dover

John Latter on August 8, 2014

On the 8th of August, 2014, Maquinaria-taller said:

parece una carcel

Yes, it does look like a jail!

Here's a photo of one of the three staircases, taken from the top of the Grand Shaft.

Greetings from Dover, England.

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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 10:26:56
    • Exposure: 0.017s (1/60)
    • Focal Length: 5.80mm
    • F/Stop: f/2.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • Flash fired