Colton Gateway from Harold's Earthwork, Dover Castle, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on January 1, 2010

A southern view of Colton Gateway from partway up Harold's Earthwork, upon which stand the East Pharos (Roman) and church of St Mary-in-Castro (Saxon).

Colton Gate or Colton Tower (alt. Coclico) is a Norman tower built on a Saxon or even earlier base. The entrance though which Romans, Saxons, and probably their Iron Age predecessors once entered their respective fortifications.

Click to see Colton Gate in 2007 and all photos of Dover Castle (an English Heritage site).

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 (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899):

The Keep and curtain wall (of the Inner Bailey) formed the inner ward of the defences; the outer, or as it afterwards became, the middle ward, consisted of the old Roman (1) and Saxon earthworks... ...(and the) entrance to this ward was defended by the Colton Gate. This, as it now stands, is a Norman hexagonal tower on a square base, but there is reason to believe that it was either built on a Saxon foundation, or entirely replaced some stone defensive work of an earlier period. As has already been described, it was the regular residence of the military chaplains of the Castle and it was from this circumstance that they derived their peculiar title of "Coclico". The manor of Cocklescombe in the hundred of Bewsborough, Kent, was charged with its repair, and the gradual wear and tear of language will easily explain the change from Cocklescombe to Cocklico. This tower was known by several different names at various periods, Sir Edward Dering in the sixteenth century calling it "Caldicott, Coclico or Pennington" Tower, and in a bill of repairs for 1582 it is spoken of as " Cocklicowe called Colton". The wall running round the Roman rampart (2) was originally connected with this gate, and it was not pulled down until the year 1772, when one workman was killed, and several hurt, by its fall. (Pages 259 - 260)


The queen (Elizabeth I) did not make her expected visitation (to Dover) until 1573, and before her arrival considerable repairs were effected. Beauchamp (ie Peverell), Hirst (Hurst), " Withred," Mortimer, Colton and two other towers, Arthur's Hall, the gates (King`s Gate?), the north wall and "King Lucius' Church" (ie St Mary-in-Castro) were put in order in 1576. The armoury and the Duke of Suffolk and the Monk's Towers and several other parts of the defences in 1578. After the queen's visit in 1580 the Duke of Norfolk's Tower, or the "old sally," Mortimer, Ashford, St. John and Rokesley Towers, Arthur's Hall, the Pharos, and a "great breach" in the wall near the Coclico Tower were repaired. The sums expended on these works have come down to us, and it is therefore just to presume that Elizabeth, or her ministers, were determined to keep this ancient place of arms in a proper state of defence. Other work, of which no record survives, may reasonably be supposed to have been undertaken and carried out. In 1580 a severe earthquake threw down a portion of the cliff on which the Castle stands, and a part of the walls; the breach above referred to was probably caused by this tremblement de terre. (Page 287)

(1) Also see the Dover Museum webpages on Roman, Saxon, Norman, and Medieval Britain. Dover Museum is located in the Market Square.

(2) Presumably referring to the large earthwork to the right of the above photo (ie Harold's Earthwork).

From Canon John Puckle's "The Church and Fortress of Dover Castle" (published 1864):

It seems that the way of entering by Colton Gate has always remained the same, having afforded access successively to the Roman and Saxon fortress; and visitors, still winding their way up the chalk cutting and under the Octagon Tower, are probably following the footsteps of Roman garrisons, British chiefs, Thanes (Thegns) and Churchmen of Saxon times, the forces of Earl Godwin, and many others of earlier generations, till the Normans made their own approach to their statelier towers and Keep. Passing under the gateway, the space to the left, within the double line of defence, is described as the site of the buildings serving for the primitive residences of the canons of Eadbald's foundation, close to the Church they had to serve. From thence, by a zigzag descent to the extreme angle on the cliff, under a tower long called the Canons` Gate, they could hold communication with the town. (Page 56)

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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Photo details

  • Uploaded on January 1, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/12/18 12:07:27
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 40.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash