Canons Gate and Guardroom, Western Outer Curtain Wall, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (4)

John Latter on April 18, 2010

The Canons Gateway seen from the inside. The casemate (1) on the left of the photo has a sign saying "Guardroom" on the bricked-up doorway.

The last regiment stationed at Dover Castle left in 1958. At that time my overwhelming interest was in exploring the abandoned fortifications on the Western Heights (I lived just below the Heights in Westbury Road, and later in Clarendon Place).

On several occasions prior to the soldiers departure, however, my friends and I visited the castle whereupon those on guard duty at Canons Gate (alt. Canons Gateway) would let us wander around and poke our noses into anything and everything. If I remember correctly, the unseen casemate to the left of the guardroom had beds in it for the off-duty soldiers.

The Canons Gate tunnel has double doors at either end which end fit snugly into purpose-built recesses in the tunnel walls when fully opened (as shown above). Between the inner and outer doors on the left-hand side of the tunnel is another entrance into the guard room.

I remember reading somewhere that the two grey doors on the right of the photo contain a spiral staircase leading to the caponier (2) beneath the main part of the Canons Gate bridge.

It would appear Dover Castle once had so many surplus cannon barrels that a number of them were painted in alternate black and white bands and then had red-painted cannon balls half-inserted into each of their open mouths. These were then set upright and used as traffic bollards - you can see one above the far end of the bridge walkway on the right-hand side.

Above the greenery at top-right is part of Rokesley`s Tower (click to see the Interior of Rokesley Tower), to the left of which the Western Curtain Wall slopes down to the cliff-edge, about 50 yards to the left of the chimney pots.

The Rokesley`s Tower and the Canons Gateway photo shows the open doors of Canons Gateway from near the traffic bollard; Canons Gateway and Rokesley Tower is a similar view, but with the doors closed.

Other photos taken on or near the Canons Gateway currently include:

Western Curtain Wall from Canons Gate Bridge

Fulbert`s Tower and Debtors Prison

Hurst`s Tower and the Naafi Restaurant

Constable`s Barbican from Rokesley Tower

Extract from Castle Explorer's page on Dover Castle:

At the end of the eighteenth century, during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France, Colonel William Twiss continued the modernisation of (Dover) castle. Twiss completed the remodelling of the outer defences adding the huge Horseshoe Bastion, Hudson's Bastion, East Arrow Bastion and East Demi-Bastion (3) to provide extra gun positions on the eastern side, and constructing Constable`s Bastion for additional protection on the west.

Twiss further strengthened the Spur at the northern end of the castle, adding a redan or raised gun platform. By taking the roof of the keep and replacing it with massive brick vaults he was able to mount heavy artillery on the top. To help troop movements between castle and town defences, Twiss constructed Canon's Gateway. He filled every available space within the castle with barracks and storerooms, and even constructed underground cliff barracks.

Colonel Twiss (of the Royal Engineers) also argued for the construction of the Grand Shaft spiral triple-staircase as part of Dover's Napoleonic defenses on the Western Heights. Also see Shorncliffe Redoubt.

Dover Castle is an English Heritage site whose Pastscape entry for Dover Castle states:

Medieval castle possibly originating as a pre-1066 motte and bailey castle, remodelled during the reign of Henry II, to became a castle with concentric defences, one of the first examples of its kind in western Europe.

Much of this work was supervised by Maurice the Ingeniator (Maurice the Engineer) and started with piecemeal additions to the defences during the 1160s and 1170s and major construction work, including the Keep (or Great Tower), walls of the Inner Bailey and parts of the Outer Curtain Wall between 1179 and 1188.

Work during the reign of Henry III included strengthening of the defences and the modernising of the castle's accomodation. Much of this took place between 1217-57 and was supervised by Hubert de Burgh (first Earl of Kent). Additions included construction of St John's Tower outside the northern defences which was linked to the castle by a tunnel. Limited work on the castle and its defences took place during the 14th and 15th century and by the 17th century it was in neglect.

The castle was in use as a prison for prisoners of war from 1690 and until the 1740s when a programme of modernisation was started. This included the updating of the defences and construction of barracks, supervised by John Peter Desmaretz (military engineer, c. 1686-1768) . Further changes took place in response to the Napoleonic Wars. Much of this took place between 1794 and 1805 and was implemented by Lieutenant Colonel William Twiss, and included bombproofing of the keep, installation of additional gun batteries and outworks and the excavation of underground tunnels for communication and additional accomodation.

The castle was also adapted to protect itself from new explosive shells in 1853 and new barrack were constructed. The castle was used during World War I and World War II when features including anti aircraft and search light batteries were constructed. (Abridged)

Dover Castle is located upon the famous White Cliffs overlooking the town and port below. The Normans, beginning with William the Conqueror, built upon earlier Roman and Saxon fortifications on a site first selected by their Iron Age predecessors.

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.

(1) Casemate:

A casemate was originally a vaulted chamber usually constructed underneath the rampart. It was intended to be impenetrable and could be used for sheltering troops or stores. With the addition of an embrasure through the scarp face of the rampart, it could be used as a protected gun position.

(2) Caponier:

It usually takes the form of a low blockhouse, often partly sunk into the floor of the ditch, projecting outward into the ditch with access from the main fortress via a passage through the curtain wall, or as fortresses became largely underground, via a tunnel from within the fort. The roof is vulnerable to plunging fire, and is thus usually exceedingly thick and curved to deflect falling shells, or covered with a thick layer of earth.

The roof of the Canons Gate caponier is the bridge itself.

(3) Bastion

A bastion is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall (termed curtain), facilitating active defence against assaulting troops. It allows the defenders of the fort to cover adjacent bastions and curtains with defensive fire.

The bastion was designed to offer a full range on which to attack oncoming troops. Previous fortifications were of little use within a certain range. The bastion solved this problem. By using a cannon to cover the curtain side of the wall, the forward cannon could concentrate on oncoming targets.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on January 7, 2011

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

Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 18, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2010/04/12 11:26:43
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash