Dover Castle from the Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (1)

John Latter on November 21, 2010

A view of Dover Castle taken from below the eastern end of the pre-Napoleonic earthwork which lies on the northern slopes of the Western Heights.

From left to right:

1) The 12th Century Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle are surrounded by the massive walls of the Inner Bailey.

Below the Inner Bailey are the Western Battlements, or Western Curtain Wall; Peverell`s Gate is clearly visible.

To the right of the Keep and Inner Bailey, but hidden behind the main trunk of the leafless tree left of centre, are the Roman Pharos and Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro.

2) The sun-lit ridge beginning on the skyline on the right-hand edge of the photo and then running across it to end in the mid-distance below the Keep contains the 'lumps and bumps' of the Detached Bastion which is connected to the North Centre Bastion by the South Caponier. This complex is are part of an extensive Napoleonic and Victorian defense system embedded into the Western Heights.

3) The grass bank in shadow on the bottom right-hand side of the picture is the eastern end of the pre-Napoleonic earthwork which lies between the North Centre Bastion complex and the Outer Bastion.

A history photo: Dover Castle (a Listed Building) and many locations on the Western Heights are English Heritage sites. Also see other Panorama photos of Dover).

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 mysterious 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 my super-duper video of the North Centre Bastion.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on November 24, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/11/19 12:13:02
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash