Victorian Caponier 4, Drop Redoubt Fortress, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK

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John Latter on December 26, 2010

The Drop Redoubt is a 5-sided polygonal fortress embedded into the Western Heights above the town of Dover, England.

The basic structure, with sides between 70 and 100 yards long, was completed by the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Four caponiers were subsequently added in Victorian times (see below).

A caponier is a two-storey chamber extending into the moat as shown above. Instead of a floor, there is a slate balcony running around the inside of the upper storey.

The two bricked-up square openings on the bottom floor were designed for carronades: "a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland".

Near the top of the caponier are two round holes which allow smoke to escape.

On the right of the photo is a "slip" moat running down to the cliff-edge above Snargate Street which also contains the South-East Entrance to the Drop Redoubt moat system (usually accessed via The 64 Steps next to Cowgate Cemetery).

There are gunrooms on the Drop Redoubt wall opposite the entrance to the slip moat (East Moat, South-East Lines). These gunrooms, along with a main doorway, are internally connected to the caponier and from there to the surface of the Drop Redoubt. The gunrooms and door are more visible in the 2007 Drop Redoubt Caponier No.4 photo.

Standard Information

Click to see all photos of the Drop Redoubt, including an Annotated Satellite Map.

This is an English Heritage site. Abridged extracts from English Heritage's Pastscape entry for the Bredenstone and Drop Redoubt are as follows:

A Roman pharos was situated on the Western Heights at Dover and was known as Bredenstone and Caesar's Altar in the 16th and 17th century and Devil's Drop in the 18th century. The latter name is perpetuated in "Drop Redoubt" the structure built on the site of the lighthouse.

The site of the lighthouse, one of a pair constructed around the 1st century AD on the headlands flanking the Roman port of Dubris, is marked by two fragments of flint walling, each a metre square, the flints bonded with pink Roman cement. They are not in situ but rest on a concrete slab contained by railings and were apparently moved to their present site in 1850.

The other lighthouse is the East Roman Pharos, located in the grounds of Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle adjacent to the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro.

The Drop Redoubt formed the westernmost component of the Dover Western Heights Fortress, a series of fortifications situated upon the escarpment west of Dover, overlooking and protecting both the town and the harbour primarily from a landward attack but also from seaward bombardment.

Built in the early years of the 19th century, the Drop Redoubt was the only free-standing work completed on the Western Heights by the end of the Napoleonic Wars and it remained garrisoned thereafter. The redoubt comprised a massive rampart with external ditch (moat), the latter connected to defensive lines (moats) running west towards the Citadel and south to the cliff. There was provision for 14 artillery pieces and access was over a bridge across the south side of the ditch.

With renewed threat from France in the 1860s, plans were drawn for revision of the Western Heights Fortress. At the Drop Redoubt these included the provision of four caponiers ("chicken-cage") in the ditch (see the 2007 Caponier No. 1 photo as an example), improved accommodation for officers and soldiers in the fort and new rifled breech-loading artillery as the main armament.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Drop Redoubt declined as an effective artillery defence and was utilised principally as barrack accommodation, probably until the end of the First World War. Thereafter it was used intermittently, notably in the Second World War when an artillery observation post was established there.

The Drop Redoubt was surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England as part of the Dover Western Heights Survey project, between 1998 and 2000.

(1) Dover's Napoleonic and Victorian 'Forgotten Fortress' on the Western Heights also includes the Grand Shaft, North Centre Bastion, North Entrance, North Military Road, Outer Bastion, Pre-Napoleonic Earthworks, St Martins Battery, and The 64 Steps.

John Latter / Jorolat

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RNLatvian on January 29, 2011

Beautiful picture my friend!

Like 1 & Voted!

Good luck!

Greetings from Brazil, RN Latvian31!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 26, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2010/12/15 11:16:20
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 45.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/7.100
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash