Drawbridge Entrance to the Constable's Gateway of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on December 24, 2009

Constable's Gateway is the pedestrian entrance to Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle, the entrance for vehicular traffic being the Canons Gateway.

Constable's Tower was built by John de Fiennes under William the Conqueror and for this reason was once known as Fiennes' Tower.

In 1216, during the First Barons` War, Prince Louis (later Louis VIII, son and heir apparent of King of France Philip Augustus, unsuccessfully besieged Dover Castle.

Prince Louis' miners, however, so damaged the North Entrance that it was closed and sealed. In the 1220s, Hubert de Burgh then rebuilt Constable's Tower as an alternative entry point which probably led to it being called by its other name of Newgate Tower.

Constable's Tower was modernized in 1882 and is the quarters of the Constable of the Castle, who is usually the commanding officer of any Dover-based battalion.

Constable`s Barbican lies to the right of the above photo.

Click to see the north flank of Constable`s Gateway from further down Constable's Road (ie to the left, and where the Connaught Road Pumping Station photo was taken from).

Queen Mary`s Tower, and then Peverell Gateway (Peverell's Gateway), are the next towers on the western curtain wall to the south (ie right) of Constable's Gateway and the Treasurer Tower (Treasurer's Tower) is the next tower to the north.

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle, one of the town's English Heritage sites.

Abridged extract from "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" by Reverend S. P. H. Statham, Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle (ie St Mary-in-Castro) (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899):

The Constable's Tower (Constable's Gate, Constable's Gateway)

"One of the grandest gateways in England. Its plan is that of a triangle with its obtuse angle presented to the field. The angles at the base fall within the line of the curtain and are capped by two large drum towers. The salient angle in like manner is capped by an oblong tower, rounded at each end and flat in the centre."

The three towers are connected with an embattled curtain. Within the triangle a central tower rises to a greater height, and commands the whole. It was supported by the manors of Allington and Tunstal. This gate, called New Gate or Fiennes' Tower (Fienes' Tower) at different times, has undergone several alterations, none of which have added to its beauty. The brickwork arches are supposed to have been added in the reign of Charles I, and the cement covering to the central tower during the present century.

The modern additions are more in keeping with the building, and have rendered it a convenient dwelling-house for the Officer Commanding the troops in the South-Eastern District. The hall was used as a court house at one time, and there is a general belief that the tower was the ordinary place of execution for the Castle, but we have discovered no proof of it.

For a long time the porter's lodge contained a sword, an old key, and a horn, which were described as belonging to the days of Julius Caesar. The horn was supposed to be the original one used in summoning the labourers to their work when engaged in building the Castle. They are now exhibited in the Keep (or Great Tower). The small room, now used as an engine room, was formerly the record office, and the Ports' Domesday Book used to be kept there. About the beginning of the seventeenth century these invaluable documents were either sold to, or stolen by, tradesmen of the town, fortunately transcripts were made of some which have survived to the present day.

The caponiere (caponier) was erected during the great war with France at the beginning of the 19th century, and the outwork, remains of which can still be seen, was built about the same time. The main entry into the Castle was not until comparatively modern times through this gate, but through Mamignot's Towers farther north. The original approach to this tower was up a flight of steps.

Abridged extracts from "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)", Volume 2. Dedicated by the Reverend John Lyon, Minister of "Saint Mary`s", on April 21st, 1814, and published the same year:

John de Fienes, Constable of Dover Castle, his Gate-way, and Tower

John de Fienes (alt John de Fiennes) being placed, by his royal master and kinsman, at the head of the associated knights, and appointed Constable of Dover Castle, he undertook to re-build the principal gate-way, with apartments over it, suitable for a feudal baron of that age; and the particular situation to which he was appointed.

To enable him to discharge the arduous undertaking, the King gave him many lordships and manors; and those which he kept in his own possession, were called Constabularie.

In re-building this new entrance into the Castle, he adopted the plan introduced by Gundulph, the Bishop of Rochester; and he is said to have been the first, who ventured to have a spacious arched passage into the Castles, which he secured with drawbridges, portcullisses, and massy gates. These he considered as preferable to the low gate-ways, and the contracted passages, adopted by the Saxons; when they first sought the aid of the mason, to secure their fortresses with stone walls.

The foundations for the front of this gate-way, and for the piers of the bridge, are laid below the bottom of the ditch (moat), which is, at this place, sunk deep in the solid rock; and it plainly shews, that labour, materials, and expense, were considered as secondary objects by the Constable, in the execution of his plan.

The entrance to the Saxon vallum is between two thick parallel stone walls, and it is arched over with stone. There are two towers on each side of the gate-way, to command the ascent of the hill, and the passage to the bridge.

The entrance into the Castle was secured by two portcullises, and thick gates; and when the bridge was raised up into the recess in the wall to receive it, these barriers rendered the passage perfectly safe.

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.

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 May 21, 2011
John Latter on June 4, 2011

Also see a new version of the "classic view":

The Constable Gateway, Entrance to the Key of the Kingdom, Dover Castle

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 24, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/10 13:55:15
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 20.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash