King’s Chamber of Henry II, Great Tower Royal Palace, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on January 29, 2011

This is a view of the King's Chamber on the second-floor of the Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover Castle after "a major transformation by English Heritage to re-create the splendour of a royal court in the late 12th century" (1).

Adjacent to the King's Chamber is the King`s Hall (to the right) which has been made to look "as it might have appeared when newly completed, and ready to receive an important visitor, Count Philip of Flanders, in 1184" (2)

As well as being a bedroom, the King's Chamber is where Henry II could have had private meetings and audiences. It was also known as a Solar (3):

The forebuilding staircase of Dover Castle leads to a grand entrance portal at second-floor level - one floor higher than usual and another parallel with Newcastle. No doubt this arrangement provided an extra degree of security, but it also means that the forebuilding took the form of a grand staircase communicating directly with the principal apartments, as this floor contained the royal hall and solar.

The solar was a room in many English and French medieval manor houses, great houses, and castles (4):

In such houses, the main room was known as the Great Hall, in which all parts of the household would eat and live, with those of highest status being at the end, often on a raised dais, and those of lesser status further down the hall. But a need was felt for more privacy to be enjoyed by the head of the household, and, especially, by the senior women of the household. The solar was a room for their particular benefit, in which they could be alone (or "sole") and away from the hustle, bustle, noise and smells (including cooking smells) of the Great Hall.

The solar was generally smaller than the Great Hall, because it was not expected to accommodate so many people, but it was a room of comfort and status, and usually included a fireplace and often decorative woodwork or tapestries/wall hangings.

The etymology of solar is often mistaken for having to do with the sun but it is more likely related to the french word for 'alone': seul(e). The name fell out of use after the sixteenth century and its later equivalent was the drawing room, itself a contraction of withdrawing room. (4)

From "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover", published in 1899 (5):

An "Inventory of the furniture in Dover Castle" exists for the year 1536, from which the following is an extract:-

King's Chamber, 2 tabylls, 2 formis, 1 pair of trestyll, 2 copbordis, 2 small formis, and a lader.

The Keep is 83 feet (25.3m) high and just under 100 feet (30m) square, with walls up to 21 feet (6.5m) thick. It was designed by 'Maurice the Engineer' (ie Mason) and built during the 1180s:

New research by Professor John Gillingham has shown that the spectre of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in 1170 by four of the King`s knights, was the main reason for Henry II to build something impressive at Dover.

The need to erect a symbol of royal power visible from afar to exploit and counter the growing cult around the saint was top on his mind, so was the need to have a suitably grand place to entertain dignitaries who were passing through Dover to visit Becket's shrine in Canterbury. (1)

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle.

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (6).

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

Building Details:

Building Name: DOVER CASTLE

Parish: DOVER

District: DOVER

County: KENT



LBS Number: 177823

Grade: I

Date Listed: 07/03/1974

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3249141696

Listing Text:


TR 3241 1/47

TR 34 SW 7/47



Norman keep C.1155 of rag-stone ashlar blooks picked out flints with Caen stone dressings. Around the keep are ranges of C18 (=18th Century) houses of 2 to 3 storeys ashlar with a flint galleting. Round headed windows. Surrounding these ranges are 2 concentric rings of walls and towers dating from Mediaeval times. Beneath the castle are a whole series of subterranean passages dating from the C13 and improved for defence during the Napoleonic period. Ancient Monument. (Abridged).

Listing NGR: TR3249141696

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

(1) The project, which costs £2.45 million, took over two years of research by English Heritage, "with a team of historians working closely with some 140 artists and craftspeople". The Great Tower re-opened on August 1st, 2009: Medieval Royal Palace at Dover Castle to re-open to the Public

(2) English Heritage webpage: The Great Tower of Dover Castle

(3) Abridged from English Castles: A Guide by Counties by Adrian Pettifer

(4) Wikipedia entry for Solar

(5) 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), page 285.

(6) Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

John Latter / Jorolat

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John Latter on February 2, 2011

On the first-floor directly below the King`s Hall (adjacent to the King's Chamber) is The Guest Hall of King Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

John Latter on February 26, 2011

On the first-floor directly below the King's Chamber is the The Guest Chamber of Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

John Latter on February 27, 2011

The reason for the size of King Henry II's bed was explained by speaker Steven Lang (Head Custodian of Dover Castle) at the 2010 General Meeting of The Dover Society:

The beds seem unusual and are small by today's standards. In Henry's reign people would not lie down to sleep. They were afraid that if they fell asleep and their mouths opened the devil would enter their bodies. With a shorter bed they could sleep in more of a sitting position and this would not happen.

An additional reason given by a Dover Castle English Heritage guide (Keith Ashley-Thomas) is that sleeping sitting up reduced wood smoke inhalation - for those who could afford such a luxury at night, that is!

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

This photo was taken indoors

Photo details

  • Uploaded on January 29, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/01/28 10:38:15
    • Exposure: 30.000s
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/22.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -1.00 EV
    • No flash