King's Gate or North Barbican, Inner Bailey Outwork, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (10)

John Latter on December 27, 2009

The photo was taken from in front of the drawbridge of King`s Gate and shows how the entrance to the barbican (on the right of the ruins) was 'offset' to that of the main gates.

Not only would this offset hinder a direct assault by an attacking force (by forcing a reduction in the momentum of any charge), but the flank of any such body of baddies would become exposed to archers on the walls and towers of the Inner Bailey as the baddies made their way from one entrance to another.

The pathway between the barbican entrance and that of the King's Gate is apparently known as a "neck" (from Wikipedia: Barbican).

The Kings Gate is the northern entrance to the Keep Yard (wherein lies the Keep, or "Great Tower") and forms part of the Inner Bailey walls (the southern entrance is the Palace Gate).

The above photo shows the "out-work" and part of the "small area" referred to in the first paragraph of the first quotation below.

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

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:

The King's Gate, and Bridge

The entrance into the Saxon keep, at this place, was defended by a strong out-work, which enclosed a small area before the great gates (of King's Gate). Some of the ruins of it are still remaining. From the walls of this out-work, the archers could command the whole vallum, from Peverell`s Gate to Albrincis's Tower (ie Avranches Tower).

As there is no appearance of there ever having been a portcullis at the entrance into this out-work, it is probable, that they had only a drawbridge, to secure the passage at this bridge.

The walls at this place were, in some parts, ten feet thick, cased with flint, and filled up with chalk, rubbish, and mortar, which has been considered proof of its being Saxon masonry.

There was a portcullis at the great gates, opening immediately into the Keep (Keep Yard); and on each side a tower; from which archers could command the whole vallum. Though these towers were open in front, they had floors in them; for the holes are still remaining in the walls, which received the ends of the timbers.

The ground compartments were places of safety; where the soldiers could retire to rest, and the women and children remain, in case of a siege. As all the towers were open in front, in the interior walls, it is evident that our hardy ancestors did not require very close rooms to shelter them from the inclemency of a winter's sky.

...After the bridge was drawn up, and the great gates shut, they were not to be opened until the rising of the sun. If the King came unexpectedly in the night, the great gates were not to be opened to him, but he was to go to the postern, called the King's Gate, towards the north; the there the Constable (1), and those who accompanied him, might admit the King, and a certain number of his suite.. When the King was admitted, he had the command; and in the morning, when it was full day, he might admit the remainder of his company.

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):

Two gates (in the Inner Bailey walls) led in to the inner ward (or Keep Yard), the one on the north, called the King`s Gate; that on the south being named the Palace Gate, or the Duke of Suffolk's Gate. They are vaulted passages between two flanking square towers, and are early English in character. Both were fitted with a portcullis. An outwork, consisting of a wall with towers, was thrown out in front of each of these gates, and the entry to these works was placed obliquely to the main gate so as to allow the approach to be commanded. That at the King's Gate (the King's Gate Barbican) remains much as it was first built, but the one at the Palace Gate has been entirely destroyed.

The Wikipedia 'Barbican' entry reads:

A barbican (from medieval Latin barbecana, "outer fortification of a city or castle," a general Romanic word, perhaps from Arabic or Persian cf. bab-khanah "gate-house" and "towered gateway" or from the mediaeval English burgh-kenning) is a fortified outpost or gateway, such as an outer defense to a city or castle, or any tower situated over a gate or bridge which was used for defensive purposes. Usually barbicans were situated outside the main line of defences and connected to the city walls with a walled road called the neck.

In the 15th century, with the improvement in siege tactics and artillery, barbicans lost their significance. However, several barbicans were built even in the 16th century.

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 30, 2011

John Latter, on December 27, 2009, said:

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"

This should be Volume 1, dedicated on May 13th, 1813.


NB The King's Gateway is part of the Inner Curtain Wall.

John Latter on March 19, 2013

This photo shows the archway and drawbridge of:

The King’s Gate, Inner Curtain Wall, Dover Castle, United Kingdom

John Latter on March 22, 2013

A view from the stone bridge in front of the barbican:

The King’s Gate Barbican Causeway, Dover Castle, United Kingdom

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 27, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/10 13:40:29
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 31.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash