Main Entrance Steps, Victorian Officers Mess, Queen Elizabeth Road, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on April 20, 2010

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

Also called the Officers Quarters, this view from the south shows the steps leading up to the Main Entrance (West Wing to the left, East Wing to the right).

The building was constructed between 1856 and 1858 and the civilian architect involved, the eminent Anthony Salvin (see below), 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.

The transcript also refers to how some field officers objected to the cost of furnishing such large quarters - described as being on "a very liberal scale" - especially, I would imagine, those quartered in the West Wing where it was "so damp as to cause the paper to come off".

A more complete view of the Officers Quarters facade (it is 120 yards long) can be seen in the wide-angle The Victorian Officers Mess, Queen Elizabeth Road, Dover Castle photo.

Queen Elizabeth Road runs in front of the Officers' Mess (just below the bottom of the photo) and then turns into Godwin Road, some 70 yards to the right. The other end of Queen Elizabeth Road joins Knights Road by the Naafi Restaurant, about 200 yards to the left (the building housing the Naafi Restaurant also contains Queen Elizabeth`s Pocket Pistol - ie Queen Elizabeth I).

According to a Heritage Statement, the more correct name for the Victorian Officers Mess 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, an English Heritage site, 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 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.

John Latter on November 27, 2010

The "Dwarf Wall, Piers and Lamps to Steps Beneath Officers Barracks" are a Grade II Listed Building (1).

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016): Building Details:



LBS Number: 469566 Grade: II Date Listed: 08/07/1998 Date Delisted: NGR: TR3272241693

Listing Text:

TR 3242 DOVER QUEEN ELIZABETH ROAD (north side), Dover Castle 685/1/10006 Dwarf walls, piers and lamps to Steps beneath Officers' barracks


Steps, walls, piers and lamps. c1858. Ashlar and cast-iron. Long flight of steps in 2 sections with dwarf walls each side terminating at the top in moulded plinths to tall iron lamp standards. Forms the approach to the officers barracks (qv).

Listing NGR: TR3272241693

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage sites in the town of Dover, England.

(1) Grade II: buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest".

Christos Theodorou on March 23, 2011

Very nice capture - Best regards from Athens - LIKE

John Latter on March 24, 2011

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

Very nice capture - Best regards from Athens - LIKE

Thank you, Christos :)

John Latter on January 9, 2013

The Victorian Officers Quarters also appear in the White Cliffs of Dover Castle from the Roman Empire to the Cold War photo.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 17, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2010/04/13 12:08:27
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash