Victorian Officers Mess, Queen Elizabeth Road, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (10)

John Latter on April 15, 2010

The Victorian Army Officers' Mess is located at the southern end of the grounds of Dover Castle, overlooking the harbour and English Channel beyond.

On top of Harold's Earthwork behind the Officers' Mess are the ruins of the East Pharos, a Roman lighthouse and watchtower, and the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro (Dover Castle itself is largely Norman and is now an English Heritage site).

Queen Elizabeth Road runs in front of the Officers' Mess and then turns into Godwin Road as it exits the photo on the right-hand side. The other end of Queen Elizabeth Road joins Knight's Road by the Naafi Restaurant (which also contains Queen Elizabeth`s Pocket Pistol - ie Queen Elizabeth I).

According to a Heritage Statement, the building's more correct name is "Officers’ New Barracks":

The Officers’ New Barracks was constructed between 1856 and 1858 to designs by Anthony Salvin (an English architect) and George Arnold, a clerk in the (British Army's) Royal Engineers. While Arnold was responsible for the plan and general arrangement of the barracks, its outward appearance and the decoration and detailing of its principal public rooms was the work of Salvin, who also designed the fireplaces and window shutters used throughout the building.

Salvin employed a Tudor gothic revival style in the design of the Officers’ New Barracks, which referenced the medieval environment in which the barracks were located. The building’s central block housed the main entrance, leading to a hallway with timber screen acting as a draught lobby and a staircase at the north end. Central doorways led to the main mess on the west side of the hall, and to an anteroom on the east side. The mess and anteroom were the most finely finished rooms in the barracks, with large stone fire places with moulded panels and traceried mantels, wooden dado panelling and wooden doorcases.

The building originally contained accommodation for 45 officers in two wings on either side of the centrally located mess. All the general accommodation consisted of two-room suites (sitting room and bedroom) opening from communal corridors. Superior accommodation was provided for the Commanding Officer and two Field Officers, who enjoyed larger rooms in self-contained apartments with their own private toilet facilities. The other officers had to use shared facilities.

The basement rooms provided accommodation for the officers’ servants, as well as the Commanding Officer and Field Officers’ personal kitchens, larders and private wine cellar

Gardens were planted on the north side of the barracks, while the terraced area currently used for car parking and containing the admissions building was originally occupied by stables and a coach house.

Following the departure of the army the building remained vacant except for the western part, which was used by the Immigrations Appeal Service into the 1980s. The interior suffered badly from dry rot, leading to the removal of much timber. Radical changes were made to the interior of the eastern half of the building in the 1970s when it was proposed to use it as a visitor centre. The scheme was never executed and the building remains largely empty.

Issue 3 of the Friends of Dover Castle magazine has an article on the Officers Mess which states:

On the same site (as the Mess), between the Roman Oval fortifications and the edge of the cliff, civilian inhabitants of Dover in Roman and Saxon times are reported to have had their dwellings.

This wide-angle view was taken from the Eastern Battlements (Curtain Wall); part of the Officers' Mess is visible in the Statue of Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay photo.

Extract from the Wikipedia entry for "Mess":

A mess is the place where military personnel socialise, eat, and (in some cases) live. In some societies this military usage has extended to other disciplined services eateries such as civilian fire fighting and police forces. The root of "mess" is the Old French "mes," portion of food, drawn from the Latin verb "mittere," meaning "to send" or "to put," the original sense being "a course of a meal put on the table." This sense of "mess," which appeared in English in the 13th century, was often used for cooked or liquid dishes in particular, as in the "mess of pottage" (porridge or soup) for which Esau in Genesis traded his birthright. By the 15th century, a group of people who ate together was also known as a "mess," and it is this sense that persists in the "mess halls" of today's military.

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

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John Latter on April 20, 2010

As stated in the first comment, the Victorian Officers Mess was constructed between 1856 and 1858.

The civilian architect involved in the project, the eminent Anthony Salvin, was subsequently asked to appear before a military committee in February of 1862.

The committee questioned the costs of the project in general, and the reasons for dampness in the West Wing in particular.

A transcript of Salvin's cross-examination has been attached to the The West Wing Controversy, Officers New Barracks, Dover Castle photo.

John Latter on November 21, 2010

The nearby former Regimental Institute was designed "in a similar style to the nearby Officers' Barracks" (ie the above photo) by Anthony Salvin.

Christos Theodorou on March 23, 2011

Beautiful perspective and point of view. - LIKE - Kind regards from Athens

John Latter on March 24, 2011

Christos Theodorou, on March 23rd, 2011, said:

Beautiful perspective and point of view. - LIKE - Kind regards from Athens

Thank you, Christos - Greetings from Dover, England!

John Latter on January 8, 2013

The Victorian Officers New Barracks also appears in the White Cliffs of Dover Castle from the Roman Empire to the Cold War photo.

John Latter on March 6, 2013

Dover Castle's 25-pounder Saluting Platform is out-of-shot to the left of the Victorian Officers Mess.

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Photo taken in Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent CT16 1HU, UK
Dover Castle

Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 31, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/04 12:30:04
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 20.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
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