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Court's Folly Keep, Lost Castle of Dover, Western Heights, Kent, England, UK

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Comments (4)

John Latter on January 6, 2010

The Court's Folly East Tower (on the right) has a tree and associated ivy vines growing from its base that have completely engulfed the top of the tower, spread along part of the (unseen) East Wall, and begun tumbling down into the roofless interior.

Other than that, and bearing in mind this wide-angled offset photo was taken by standing on an overgrown cliff-face, this is probably the most complete view of the front facade that it is possible to get.

The best position, maybe, but note that I make no similar claims about the quality of the photo :)

This is the second photo of the Court's Folly taken since 2009.

John Latter on December 24, 2010

The first photo is:

West Tower and Upper Floor of The Courts Folly, Lost Castle of Dover

In order to protect the location and its wildlife, the photos are only geotagged to an approximate position on the Western Heights.

John Latter on December 24, 2010

Standard Information for the Court's Folly

The Court's Folly, in the shape of Dover Castle's Keep, was built on the Western Heights cliffs above Snargate Street in the early 1800s by two Wine Merchants, Stephen and Rogers Court.

For much of its history, however, this miniature "lost castle" has been neglected and its ruins are now hidden behind the trees and other undergrowth covering this part of the cliff-face.

A Dover Museum webpage states:

...As well as leasing the shop and premises from Dover Harbour Board, the Courts' leased 2 plots of land behind, from Thomas Rutley and Thomas Papillon. On this land Stephen and Rogers built terracing for vines, tea gardens, 2 summerhouses, and dug an extensive network of vaults into the cliffs behind, with plastered and painted walls and chalk carvings.

The terracing up the cliffs was laid out as gardens, growing the different varieties of grapes that the wines they sold were made from, and also other exotic fruit such as figs and dates. A summerhouse was built at the top of the terracing and further along the cliff-face they built a folly in the shape of Dover Castle silhouetted against the sky. These became tourist attractions and customers could taste-test products sitting on the terracing and have tours of the vaults...

The internal dimensions of the Court's Folly are approximately 10.5 feet deep by 20 feet wide. Having said that, the external length of the East Wall is actually about 13 - 14 feet deep, with the last 3 feet or so containing a horizontal oval recess. This extension is probably for cosmetic or structural purposes only because there's no indication of there being anything beyond the inner rear wall. The front wall is 16 inches thick and is over 20 feet high.

In short, the miniature castle is two storeys high but only one 'room' deep. The bottom floor faces on to a narrow ledge and there is an upper terrace on the west side (to the left when looking from the front) of the upper floor. When viewed from this terrace, the building give the impression of being only one storey high.

When viewed from the front only the lower half of the right-hand part of the rear wall is still standing (and includes a chimney course, complete with sooty residue).

The roof and first floor have collapsed and in-filled the building almost to the sills of the bottom floor windows. There is an underground cistern on the west side of the folly.

Extract from Wine Vaults (abridged):

Rogers Stephen Court seems to be the one who succeeded his father in running the Snargate Street business when he retired in 1827.

He served an apprenticeship as a brandy merchant, and was made a Freeman of Dover in 1812, when he was 24.

He developed the Snargate Street gardens, ranged over six terraces, above the vaults and offices.

The business was featured over several pages in Measom's "Official South-Eastern Railway Guide," of 1863, with one of the engravings showing the gardens, the rather grand looking wine merchant's shop and the entrance to the cavernous vaults.

In modern times these vaults have been known as "Barwick's Caves," and there is talk of a tunnel link to the '64 Steps' (next to Cowgate Cemetery) at Cowgate Hill.

Rogers Court, who had property in Lydden became a town councillor and, in 1838, was made an alderman.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 12, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/11 12:17:18
    • Exposure: 0.010s (1/100)
    • Focal Length: 20.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/6.300
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash