Ruins of Mote's Bulwark Gatehouse, the White Cliffs below Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (7)

John Latter on July 25, 2011

In a posthumous account published in 1801 (1), the Welsh naturalist and antiquary Thomas Pennant describes how King Edward IV's expenditure of ten thousand pounds in improvements to Dover Castle led to a belief that no further defences were needed on the seaward side above the White Cliffs of Dover at East Cliff. He then goes on to say:

King Henry VIII was of a different opinion; possibly to guard against a surprise by sea, he built at the foot of the cliff on the shore one of the many little castles he erected in the year 1539, it was called the Mote's Bulwark, and remains garrisoned.

(The "long s", or "f", has been replaced with the letter s)

Originally Tudor, the "little castle" of Mote's Bulwark (alt. Moat's Bulwark) has been extensively modified over the years and the ruins now consist of a lower level semi-circular battery built of squared rubble with a revetted parapet (ie faced with masonry) at near sea-level, and an upper terrace set part-way up the cliff-side containing the West Gatehouse (or Guardroom) shown in the photo.

Visible through the arches of the gate house tower is the ivy-covered brickwork of the West Gateway itself, the only part of the bulwark that still has crenellations (the "up and down" bits shown, for example, in this photo of the hidden Court’s Folly, Dover's "Lost Castle").

The West Gateway is at a lower level than the West Gatehouse and only the top of the curved arch that once framed the door in the gateway wall can be seen above a shadow-enshrouded piece of masonry which has fallen down on the far side of the gatehouse.

A road once ran down the side of the cliff from the other side of the West Gateway to sea-level.

The two levels, or platforms, of the artillery fort are joined by a zig-zag, or switch-back, red-bricked stairway that will be shown in later photos (see subseqent comments for links).

The Mote's Bulwark lies directly below the outer moat of Dover Castle's Western Outer Curtain Wall and above the A20 Townwall Street dual carraigeway at East Cliff.

The top of the gatehouse is just about visible near the bottom right-hand corner of Panorama of Dover Castle and Seafront from the Prince of Wales Pier (above the beige-coloured Premier Inn).

The photo was taken at 10.59 am on Tuesday, 12th of April, 2011.

Click to see all Mote’s Bulwark photos.

English Heritage Pastscape entry for Moat's Bulwark (2)

(TR 32534152) Ruin (NAT)

TR 326415 Mote's Bulwark

Mote's or Moat's Bulwark was one of the forts built during the reign of Henry VIII. It is situated at the foot of the cliff below Dover Castle. A semi-circular battery built of squared rubble with a revetted parapet. On a terrace above are the ruins of a guardroom, probably 17th century.

Additional reference.

In 1539-40 King Henry VIII built three artillery fortifications at Dover to protect the newly constructed harbour. One of these, Moats's Bulwark, was situated at the foot of the cliff beneath Dover Castle, and provided additional protection to its southern flank. A 16th century plan depicts it as a timber revetted platform approached by tunnels in the cliff, although it was remodelled as a large semi-circular battery in around 1750, and in 1856 linked with the castle by a spiral stairway tunnelled into the cliff (Guildford Shaft). Scheduled.

(1) A Journey from London to the Isle of Wight: Volume I, London to Dover

(2) Pastscape entry for Moat’s Bulwark

A Dover British Army, Royal Artillery, and Coastal Artillery history photo.

Dover Castle is one of the town's Grade I Listed Buildings and a Dover English Heritage site.

Geology: The White Cliffs of Dover are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of coccoliths. Flint and quartz are also found in the chalk.

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 July 25, 2011

Click to see:

The Mote’s Bulwark of Henry VIII below the White Cliffs of Dover Castle

A general view showing both levels, the zig-zag stairway, East Buttress, West Gatehouse, and and West Gateway wall.

John Latter on October 9, 2011

Excerpt from The Naval chronicle, Volume 6, July to December, 1801, by James Stanier Clarke and Stephen Jones (published in 1801 by Bunnery and Gold of Shoe Lane, London):

The mote or bulwark was built by Henry the Eighth, 1539, it stands on the beach close under the cliff, beneath the southern end of the west wall, it was formerly called the mote-bulwark; it is difficult to conceive whence this name originated, as no mote ever was round it; although dependent on the castle it has its peculiar officers. In Peck's Desideiata Curiosa, it is mentioned under the article of Queen Elizabeth's Expence Civil and Military, and one Captain Parker is styled Captain in 1584.

Historical note: Desideiata Curiosa is the only known source for Richard of Eastwell (Richard Plantagenet) being a son of Richard III (2 October 1452 - 22 August 1485, reigned 1483 - 1485).

John Latter on January 11, 2013

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 25, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/04/12 10:59:17
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 24.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash