Victorian Clock Tower and Old Lifeboat Station at Sunrise, Dover Seafront, Kent, UK

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John Latter on August 24, 2011

The Clock Tower on Dover's seafront esplanade is located at the landward end of the Prince of Wales Pier (behind the viewer) close to Waterloo Crescent, Sue’s Seafood Stall (recommended - just don't eat all the whelks, 'cos they're my favourite!), Wellington Dock, the Tidal Harbour, the King Charles II Commemorative Walk - and not forgetting the beach, of course!

In the background are the Western Heights, part of the White Cliffs of Dover (1), which rise up from the town in the River Dour valley out-of-shot to the right and then carry on to Shakespeare Cliff and beyond, out-of-shot to the left.

In the treeline on top of the cliffs right-of-centre are gun positions of the Victorian and Second World War coastal artillery installation known as St Martin’s Battery.

The photo was taken at 7.28 am on Wednesday, 20th of April, 2011, while on my morning cycle ride along the seafront (2).

The Victorian Clock Tower, built in 1876-1877 to the designs of George Devey (architect, 1820-1886), was renovated in 2010.

Also in 2010, a news report said that a proposal to move the Clock Tower had been put on hold (3):

PLANS to move the Clock Tower – formerly the lifeboat station – on Dover seafront have been put on hold as a result of the landmark being listed as a monument.

The news was revealed by Mike Krayenbrink, Dover Harbour Board's port development director, when questioned at the Port Consultative Committee by Dover's deputy mayor David Hannent.

Mr Krayenbrink explained that it had been proposed that the Clock Tower be dismantled brick by brick and moved to the stem of a new pier on the seafront where the new marina is to be provided.

However, he added, the Clock Tower had recently been listed and as a result Dover Harbour Board now had to get involved with the authorities, including the district council, in order to obtain authorisation for the original proposal.

No decision had yet been made whether it would be possible to remove the structure, he added.

Dover Harbour Board wants to move the rebuilt Clock Tower because, in its existing position, it is in the way of the proposed second ferry terminal at the Western Docks. If the move does go ahead, then this will be the second time the Clock Tower has been moved.

An 1893 news report, in describing the proposals for constructing the Prince of Wales Pier and extending the Admiralty Pier, stated (4):

The scheme of the Dover Harbour Board, for the accommodation of commercial shipping east of the Admiralty Pier, is being carried into execution by Messrs. Coode, Son, and Matthews, engineers, successors to the late Sir John Coode, by whom the works were designed. There will be a new pier, starting from an open iron viaduct. 1260 ft. long, forming an agreeable marine promenade, which will be approached from the esplanade near the Granville Clock-tower (see Granville Dock). This involves the removal and rebuilding of the clock-tower.

The building to the right of the Clock Tower is Dover's first Lifeboat Station, or Lifeboat House, which was originally orientated with its doors to the north. Devey had located the Clock Tower to the east of the Lifeboat House and linked the two buildings to the north with an archway. Sometime after construction of the new Prince of Wales Pier began in 1892, the Clock Tower and Lifeboat House, in the way of the new pier approach, were both taken down and re-erected a very short distance away (as shown above) but on a different alignment with one another. The connecting archway was lost at this time.

A Dover Lifeboat webpage states (5):

Dover's lifeboat has had several different homes over the years. The first lifeboat station at Dover was the building under the clock tower at the landward end of the Prince of Wales Pier. When the Station reopened in 1930 it was in the Camber at the Eastern Docks. After the Second World War, the lifeboat moved into one of the Motor torpedo boat (submarine) pens.

In 1984, development works in the Eastern Docks meant that the MTB Pens were earmarked for destruction and so the lifeboat moved to the Tug Haven. 2000 saw the completion of the current boathouse and an official handover took place in August 2001.

The current Lifeboat Station is located on Crosswall Quay (and RNLB 17-09 City of London II lifeboat); a 2007 photo of the Clock Tower shows it topped by a white mast/flagpole.

Click to see all Clock Tower and Lifeboat-related photos.

The building to the left of the Clock Tower contains showers, wash-rooms, and a launderette for the use of people with yachts and boats berthed in Dover Marina.

The Clock Tower and Old Lifeboat House are a Grade II Listed Building group (6).

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

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: CLOCK TOWER AND FORMER LIFEBOAT HOUSE

List Entry Number: 1393606

Location

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Dover

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Dover

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 16th of December, 2009

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 507157

Asset Groupings

This List entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List Entry Description

Summary of Building

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The Clock Tower and former Lifeboat House at the Western Docks, Dover are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

The Clock Tower has special architectural interest as an unusual and distinguished design by an influential C19 (19th Century) English architect.

The former Lifeboat House has special historic interest as a relatively early example of this building type and as an evocative reminder of the altruism and charity which established the RNLI.

The buildings are two of the few remaining buildings in the Western Docks area which reflect the C19 development of this nationally important harbour.

The buildings have group value with the other designated assets within the Western Docks.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

DOVER

685/0/10034 Clock Tower and former Lifeboat House

16-DEC-09

II

Clock tower, 1876-7 by George Devey (1820-1886) and former Lifeboat House, 1866 with late 1870s and C20 (20th Century) alterations.

MATERIALS: Rough faced snecked ragstone (rag-stone) with dressed stone details. The Clock Tower has metal-framed casement windows, the Lifeboat House has timber framed casement windows.

PLAN: The Clock Tower has a square plan with four stages and an off-set hexagonal stair tower to the north west corner. The former Lifeboat House has a rectangular plan and is single storey.

EXTERIOR: Each face of the tower bears a circular clock-face beneath a projecting modillion cornice with parapet above. On the roof of the tower is a flag pole with a weather vane. Above the stair tower is a lead-covered hexagonal roof with ball finial, supported on shaped columns. Two doors to the first stage give access to the base of the stair tower and an electricity sub-station in the base of the main tower. The principal entrance to the building is on the second stage, accessed via a flight of stone steps with solid stone balusters. The door surround is of dressed stone with a four-centred head and stop-moulded jambs. Fenestration is irregular and sparse, generally comprising small rectangular openings surrounded by dressed stone. On the second stage of the east elevation is a canted oriel window with mullioned lights.

The former Lifeboat House is set at an angle to the north west of the Clocktower. The roof is pitched with gable end parapets to the east and west, a parapet to the north and eaves to the south. There is a central pitch-roofed half dormer to the north with a central louvred oculus and a pair of casement windows beneath, these are flanked by two casement windows. To the west the lifeboat doors have been replaced with a simple timber shop-front comprising a half-glazed door to the left and a shop window to the right. A continuous hoodmould runs around the timber lintel over the shop-front and continues along the length of the north elevation. Above the shop-front is a stone mullioned window with three six-light casements with an infilled oculus above the central casement. A hoodmould runs over the window. The west gable is topped with a ball finial.

INTERIOR: The Clock Tower contains a stone spiral staircase. The clock mechanism is contained in the fourth stage.

The Lifeboat House has a modern commercial interior that is not of special interest.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The buildings are linked by a short section of decorative cast iron railing.

HISTORY: The Lifeboat House was built in 1866 by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which had taken over the lifeboat service from the Dover Humane and Shipwreck Institution in 1855. The building was modified in the late 1870s to accomodate a bigger lifeboat.

The Clock Tower was built in 1876-7 to the designs of George Devey (1820-1886). The work was commissioned by the Dover Harbour Board, and following the completion of the Clock Tower, Devey was further commissioned to design a marine bathing establishment and to lay-out some adjacent building land. The building work was undertaken by a local builder, W.J. Adcock. The Clock Tower is all that remains of Devey's work, the rest being destroyed by shelling in World War II.

The Lifeboat House was originally orientated with its doors to the north, and Devey located the Clock Tower to the east of the Lifeboat House and linked the two buildings to the north with an archway. Devey created both a stylistic as well as physical link between the two buildings, giving the appearance of a complex, rather than two isolated structures. In 1892, construction started on the new Prince of Wales Pier so the Clock Tower and Lifeboat House, in the way of the new pier approach, were both carefully taken down and re-erected a very short distance away, but on a different alignment with one another. The connecting archway was lost at this time.

George Devey was born in London in 1820. During the latter part of his formal education, between 1832 and 1835, he attended King’s College School (KCS), London, where he was taught drawing by John Sell Cotman. A skilled draughtsman, he was articled to, and later employed by, architect Thomas Little in Northumberland Street, London, who appreciated his talent for drawing. It was not until 1846 that Devey set up an architectural practice by himself. As well as designing new houses, much of Devey's work was remodelling older houses and designing estate buildings. It was through these more modest buildings that he revealed most clearly his understanding of, and sympathy for, vernacular building. Devey is now recognised as a pioneer of the interest in English vernacular architecture in the late C19. He enjoyed the patronage of a number of Liberal politicians, and it was Devey's friendship with Lord Granville (Granville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville), Liberal statesman and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, that brought him the commission for the Clock Tower at Dover Harbour.

SOURCES

J Allibone, George Devey: Architect 1820-1886, (1991) p61-63, 171

English Heritage, Dover Harbour, Notes on Historical and Engineering Interest, (2008)

Dover Terminal 2 Historic Environment Baseline Report, Maritime Archaeology Ltd (2008)

Reasons for Designation

The Clock Tower and former Lifeboat House at the Western Docks, Dover, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

The Clock Tower has special architectural interest as an unusual and distinguished design by an influential English architect.

The former Lifeboat House has special historic interest as a relatively early example of this building type and as an evocative reminder of the altruism and charity which established the RNLI.

The buildings are two of the few remaining buildings in the Western Docks area which reflect the C19 development of this nationally important harbour.

The buildings have group value with other designated assets within the Western Docks.

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

End of Listed Building Entry

Source: English Heritage

Click to see photos of all Dover Listed Buildings.

(1) 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.

(2) Two laps of Robsons Yard - Eastern Docks - Prince of Wales Pier - Robsons Yard.

(3) Extract from the This is Kent article, Clock Tower move on hold, published Friday, June 18, 2010.

(4) Extract from the Illustrated London News article, The new Harbour works at Dover, published July 22,1893.

(5) Extract from the Dover Lifeboat website: The Dover Lifeboat Station

(6) Grade II: buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest".

A Dover Harbour history photo.

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.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 29, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/04/20 07:28:57
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 23.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/13.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash

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