Lower Centre Section, Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (1)

John Latter on November 23, 2009

This photo clearly demonstrates why I'm happier taking pictures of Big Things That Don't Move, because each and every bird is a perfect blur.

On the other hand, perhaps this isn't such a bad thing: looking individually at all the shapes caught en passant (fr. "in passing") reminds me more of the exhilarating freedom and unbounded excitement my friends and I once experienced upon reaching the Western Heights than a completely static image ever could.

Which brings me, I suppose, to the main purpose of the photograph: the pre-Napoleonic earthwork coming in from the left-hand side.

This view shows part of the lower (northern) side of the mound, but not the lower ditch which is somewhat obscured, both by my vantage point and by the undergrowth in the bottom left-hand corner.

The photo does, however, give an indication of the difference in height between the two sides of the mound when it's compared with, for example, the Upper Eastern Section, Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks picture.

The difference, but not necessarily the degree of difference, is even more obvious on a "cross-section" photo of the eastern end of the mound which I've yet to upload: basically, from the bottom of the ditches, the lower side of the mound is up to 12 feet high - perhaps 15 feet in some places - while the upper side probably doesn't excede 5 feet at any point along its entire length.

Just left of centre on the western skyline is the low wedge-shape of one of the 'chocolate-bar segments' of the mysterious Outer Bastion.

Standard information for the Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks:

Click on the Earthworks tag to see all photos of this location.

The apparent length of this east-west pre-Napoleonic mound and flanking ditches is about 275 hundred yards. It runs parallel to, and some 50 yards downhill from, the North Lines (or Moats) that connect the North Centre Bastion* (behind the viewer) to the Outer Bastion (in front).

On Google Earth (and on location) the earthwork can be seen to have been truncated to the west by the later construction of the Outer Bastion; the ground drops away on the other side of the Outer Bastion so the earthwork almost certainly once terminated within it confines.

Today's North Centre Bastion and Detached Bastion are a 'second edition' (built 1858 - 1867) with the earthwork now stopping well short of the Detached Bastion's west flanking moat. Before this mid-Victorian alteration, however, the earthwork extended much further to the east.

The original North Centre Bastion (built 1804 - 1815), for example, was constructed around the earthwork which created a dog-leg in the moat (or cross ditch) that seperated the Detached Bastion (as it was then) from the North Centre Bastion proper.

An 1859 map indicates the eastern end of the earthwork terminated near the Outer Bridge of the North Entrance, and that today's moat from the east side of the North Centre Bastion to the Outer Bridge may have replaced it.

As far as I am aware, this is the only pre-Napoleonic earthwork still identifiable as such on the Western Heights of Dover, Kent, UK.

I grew up in Westbury Road and Clarendon Place which lie below this part of the Western Heights and since childhood had vaguely assumed the earthwork was a First World War or Second World War construction.

The ditch above the mound is shallow ("Man-sized") while that below it is much deeper ("No Men here, thank you."). In other words, I thought it was a simple trench built to fill the gap between the North Centre Bastion and the Outer Bastion - it never occured to me that the construction dates might be the other way around!

The Wikipedia entry for the Western Heights states they were "First given earthworks in 1779" without giving any of their locations.

An English Heritage "Archaeological Investigation" (Report No. 7 - North Centre and Detached Bastions), on the other hand, specifically refers to the earthwork in the above photo, states how it existed before the first North Centre Bastion and was subsequently incorporated into it, etc., but also says it is only probable that it dates from the 1770s and 1780s.

  • The North Centre Bastion is also known as "Dead Man's Island" and "Smokey".

Click to see a video of the North Centre Bastion.

Click to see a video of the North Entrance.

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.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on November 23, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/11/19 12:12:27
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 45.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash