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Guest Hall of King Henry II, Great Tower Royal Palace, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (3)

John Latter on February 25, 2011

This is a view of the Guest Hall on the first-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).

The Guest Hall, or lower hall, is shown being prepared for a feast, although it would have been a multi-purpose room (see below). Leading off this hall are the pantry and the buttery. (2)

The Guest Hall backcloth above the 'high table', a powerful reminder to the guests of whose palace they are visiting, shows the mounted King Henry II (Curtmantle), ready for battle in mail, although without helmet so that all might see his face, wearing his crown and holding his sword aloft. (3) The backcloth was made by the Royal School of Needlework (RSN):

2009 for the re-presentation of The Great Hall, Dover Castle. Six large pieces were produced in an extremely short timescale including the King’s Hall backcloth; a canopy and tester; the Guest Hall backcloth and a standard and altar frontal. These were completed with the help of volunteers from the RSN Certificate Course. (4)

As part of the re-presentation of the Norman Keep, Alexandra Buckle, a junior research fellow in the Music Faculty at Oxford University, was employed by English Heritage as a music consultant for the project (5):

"Henry II was married to Eleanore of Aquitaine, a lifelong patron of the troubadours (composers and performers of Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages, 1100-1350) and someone who is credited with spreading the influence of the troubadours to England. Therefore we hear troubadour music in the Guest Hall, reflecting this." (The female equivalent of a troubadour is a trobairitz)

At other times:

The first floor was probably intended as the Constable of Dover Castle`s residence (presumably only up until the Constable Gateway became available). (6)

A 1787 book, employing the "long s" (f instead of s, formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word), has the following entry, but uses "ground", "second", and "third" to describe what are currently termed ground, first, and second floors:

The prefent entrance (ie the Forebuilding) is on the fourth fide of the Keep; and by a grand ftight of Stone Steps you ascend round the eastern fide to the third ftory; on which, in Gundulph's Caftles, were the royal, or governor's apartments. The rooms are large, and lofty; but they have very little at this time, except ftrength, and fecurity, which can recommend them to our refined taftes.

The fecond ftoor was intended for the ufe of the garrison; and that on the ground, for ftores. (7)

Out-of-shot to the right of the Guest Hall is the Guest Chamber (see later "comments" for a photo link) with the King`s Chamber directly above it on the second floor.

The King`s Hall is above the Guest Hall.

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 (8).

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) Making a Visit to Dover Castle: Notes for Teachers

(3) The Textile Society: Traditional Crafts Bring Dover Castle Back to Life

(4) RSN work on display

(5) Oxford academic brings music to Dover Castle

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

(7) A brief history Dover Castle; or description of Roman, Saxon Norman, fortifications. Unknown author but: "Printed for the author, and sold by G. Ledger, Dover, sold also by Simmons and Kirkby, T. Smith, and Flackton and Marrable, Canterbury; W. Gillman, Rochester; J. Hall, Margate; P. Burgess, Ramsgate; and T. Evans, London, 1787".

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

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 February 26, 2011

Out-of-shot to the right, and directly below the King's Chamber, is the The Guest Chamber of Henry II in the Great Tower of Dover Castle.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on February 2, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/02/01 11:03:28
    • Exposure: 25.000s
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/22.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.70 EV
    • No flash