Norman Keep or Great Tower, Dover Castle at Dusk, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on May 27, 2007

A view of Dover Castle's Norman Keep taken at dusk on May 23rd, 2007.

The square tower of the Saxon church St Mary-in-Castro can be seen center left.

The road leading to the first entrance marker to the Bleriot Memorial is on the lower left.

Other photos taken on the same day include:

The Keep and Constable's Tower, Constable's Tower and the Canon's Gateway. Check the "Castle Tag" for later additions. Please note, search results are currently displayed in chronological order so close-ups will appear towards the bottom of the first page and then on subsequent pages.

Standard Info

Dover Castle appears in "Dover in World War Two: 1942", a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow.

A low resolution version (relatively speaking) is available here.


1) From Castles of Britain:

A keep was a self-sufficient structure that castle defenders could retreat to as a last resort during a battle. The keep was originally called a donjon or great tower. In medieval documents the great tower is referred to as "magna turris", and the word "keep" didn't come along in the English literature until the later half of the 16th century. Sometimes the basement of the keep served as a prison, so the word dungeon soon developed as slang for the keep.

There were two basic shapes of a keep, square and round. Almost all early keeps were square or rectangular, and were the easiest and fastest to erect. Square keeps had one major drawback. They could easily be damaged at the corners by undermining or bombardment.

Dover Castle's Keep is 83 feet high with walls 12 feet thick.

2) From CastleXplorer:

One of the largest castles in the country, strategically located at the shortest crossing point to continental Europe, Dover Castle has played a prominent part in national history. Its origins lie in the Iron Age, and a Roman Lighthouse (the Pharos) and Anglo-Saxon church (St Mary-in-Castro) can still be seen within the grounds.

William of Normandy strengthened existing Anglo-Saxon fortifications here in 1066, but it was Henry II who set the blueprint for today's castle when he had the fortifications rebuilt in the 1180's, adding the massive keep and a series of concentric defences. Over the centuries, the defences were continually enlarged and improved, with the castle retaining a military role into the mid twentieth century. An underground hospital and the command centre used for the Dunkirk evacuation/Operation Dynamo are a legacy from the Second World War.

3) From Dover Castle - Saxon and Early Norman:

After the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror and his forces marched to Westminster Abbey for his coronation. They took a roundabout route, via Romney, Dover, Canterbury, Surrey and Berkshire. From the Cinque Ports's foundation in 1050, Dover has always been a chief member - it may also have been this that first attracted William's attention, and got Kent the motto of Invicta. In the words of William of Poitiers:

Then he marched to Dover, which had been reported impregnable and held by a large force. The English, stricken with fear at his approach had confidence neither in their ramparts nor in the numbers of their troops ... While the inhabitants were preparing to surrender unconditionally, [the Normans], greedy for booty, set fire to the castle and the great part of it was soon enveloped in flames...[William then paid for the repair and] having taken possession of the castle, the Duke spent eight days adding new fortifications to it'.

This may have been repairs and improvements to an existing Saxon fort or burgh, centred on the Saxon church of St Mary de Castro, although archaeological evidence suggests that it was actually a new motte and bailey design castle built from scratch nearby.

4) From The English Heritage Trail:

Guardian of the 'Gateway to England', this giant of a castle displays a solid strength and determination that has obviously carried it through many troubled times. Proudly standing atop the White Cliffs, overlooking this busy port, Dover Castle has withstood the test of time remarkably well throughout its long and eventful history. Dover Castle, as it stands today, dates from the rebuilding work during Henry II's reign, but the site has been of vital importance since the Iron Age. The first castle at Dover was probably an Anglo-Saxon fortress and, on the arrival of William the Conqueror, the existing fortifications were improved with the building of an earthwork castle. This Norman 'motte' (mound) which supported the castle is today known as 'Castle Hill'.

Work began on Dover Castle in the latter part of the 12th century with the construction of the Keep (or Great Tower) - the largest in Britain - and is entered through a forebuilding more substantial than any other built before or since. At each corner of the Keep lies a buttress turret, and mid-way along each wall is a pilaster buttress. Four storeys high, the Keep comprises a basement, first floor, and a second floor that spans two storeys, the upper level of which is a mural gallery that can be seen today at the end of the Great Armour Hall. The second storey provided the royal accommodation, and the first floor, based on a similar plan to the second, contained rooms with a much less elaborate decor. All floors were connected by staircases set in the north and south corner turrets.

Providing the entry staircase, and two chapels, is the magnificent forebuilding. It is interesting to note the decor of the chapels - the lower chapel of a Gothic style, and the upper chapel late Norman and richly decorated. From outside of the Keep, the significance of the three-towered forebuilding can be fully appreciated, as it can be seen travelling along the eastern wall of the Keep and turning at the corner of the southern wall. It was around this stronghold that the concentric castle was developed and work was completed mid-13th century.

John Latter on December 4, 2010

Note the Second World War "Dragon's Teeth" Anti-Tank Obstacles near the base of the sign-posts at bottom left.

The obstacles are also shown in the following photos:

The Keep of Dover Castle and Constable`s Gateway

Sarah Grey Workboat, Haven Seafield Barge, Jetfoil Basin

Dragon`s Teeth under Snow, The Spur, Dover Castle

Dragons Teeth Anti-Tank Obstacles, Spur, Dover Castle

John Latter on December 31, 2010

See a night-time view from this location:

The Keep or Great Tower of Dover Castle at Night

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 27, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX Optio 33LF
    • Taken on 2007/05/23 18:46:50
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/160)
    • Focal Length: 9.60mm
    • F/Stop: f/6.200
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash