Union Jack at Sunset, Flag Tower, Dover Castle Keep, Kent, England, UK

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John Latter on May 26, 2011

The massive Keep, or Great Tower (night view), of Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle is about 100 feet square, 83 feet high, and has walls up to 21 feet thick.

It was designed by Henry II’s architect, ‘Maurice the Engineer’ (or mason), and has four corner towers, the one shown above being the South Tower, or Flag Tower.

The photo was taken from the roof of the Keep on Friday, 20th of May, 2011.

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle, a Dover English Heritage site and a Grade I Dover Listed Building.

The Union Jack (1):

The Union Flag, or Union Jack, is the national flag of the United Kingdom.

It is so called because it combines the crosses of the three countries united under one Sovereign - the kingdoms of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Ireland (although since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom).

The flag consists of three heraldic crosses.

The cross of St George, patron saint of England since the 1270's, is a red cross on a white ground. After James I succeeded to the throne, it was combined with the cross of St. Andrew in 1606 (Union of the Crowns 1603).

The cross saltire (ie diagonal) of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, is a diagonal white cross on a blue ground.

The cross saltire of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, is a diagonal red cross on a white ground.

This was combined with the previous Union Flag of St George and St Andrew, after the Acts of Union of Ireland with England (and Wales) and Scotland on 1 January 1801, to create the Union Flag that has been flown ever since.

The Welsh dragon does not appear on the Union Flag. This is because when the first Union Flag was created in 1606, the Principality of Wales by that time was already united with England and was no longer a separate principality.

...The term 'Union Jack' possibly dates from Queen Anne's time (r. 1702-14), but its origin is uncertain.

It may come from the 'jack-et' of the English or Scottish soldiers, or from the name of James I (also James VI of Scotland) who originated the first union in 1603.

Another alternative is that the name may be derived from a proclamation by Charles II that the Union Flag should be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a jack, a small flag at the bowsprit; the term 'jack' once meant small.

Union Jack Design and Specification (2)

The Union Flag is normally twice as long as it is wide, a ratio of 1:2. In the United Kingdom land flags are normally a ratio of 3:5; the Union flag can also be made in this shape, but is 1:2 for most purposes. Flags that have the Union Flag in the canton should always be 1:2 to preserve the square fly area.

The flag does not have reflection symmetry, due to the slight pinwheeling of St Patrick's cross, which is technically called the counterchange of saltires. Thus, it has a right side and a wrong side up. To fly the flag the correct way up, the broad portion of the white cross of St Andrew should be above the red band of St Patrick (and the thin white portion below) in the upper hoist canton (the corner at the top nearest to the flag-pole), giving the Scottish symbol precedence over the Irish symbol. This is expressed by the phrases wide white top and broad side up.

Traditionally, flying a flag upside down is understood as a distress signal.

The 3:5 version is most commonly used by the British Army and is sometimes known as the War flag.

Elsewhere in the photo

The doorway on the right-hand side of the South Tower leads to a spiral staircase going all the way down to the ground floor. After English Heritage created a representation of a medieval Royal Palace in 2010, and ignoring side-galleries, this stairway now gives access to:

The King`s Chamber (second floor)

The Guest Chamber (first floor)

Kitchens and Store Rooms (ground floor; photo not yet available)

Behind the viewer, the North Tower spiral staircase leads to:

The King`s Hall (or Great Hall; second floor)

The Guest Hall (or Lower Hall; first floor)

Kitchens and Store Rooms (ground floor; photo not yet available)

The East Tower and West Tower do not have spiral staircases (as far as anyone knows, that is!)

Fires are lit in the royal apartments as part of the representation, hence the re-built chimney stack on the left of the photo.

Massive rebuilding of military installations in and around Dover took place at the end of the eighteenth century during the Napoleonic Wars with France. Colonel William Twiss,the Commanding Engineer of the Southern District, as part of his brief to improve the town's defences, completed the remodelling of the outer defences of Dover Castle.

In addition, by taking the roof off the Keep ("Great Tower") and replacing it with massive brick vaults, he was able to mount heavy artillery on the top.

Extract from an English Heritage webpage (3):

At its core stands the mighty Keep or 'Great Tower', 83 feet (25.3m) high and just under 100 feet (30m) square, with walls up to 21 feet (6.5m) thick. Designed by Henry II’s architect, 'Maurice the Engineer' and built during the 1180s, it houses three floors of rooms, the topmost being 'state apartments' for the monarch himself. As the ultimate strong-point of the castle as well as an occasional royal palace, it could only be entered via a heavily fortified Forebuilding: this also contains two chapels, the richly decorated upper chapel being dedicated to St Thomas Becket.

For all its strength, the Great Tower was not intended to stand alone. Around it Henry built a powerful curtain wall with fourteen square towers and two gateways, the earliest example of this type of fortification in Britain. Still more revolutionary was Henry's decision to begin an outer curtain wall, surrounding the inner wall. These three mutually-supporting lines of defence - Great Tower, inner and outer curtain walls - made Dover the first 'concentric' fortress in Western Europe.

An 1813 description of the Keep (4):

The Keep: This tower derived its name, by being built in the centre of the quadrangle (Keep Yard), which was the Saxon keep, or a place of safety.

The foundation of it was laid about the year 1153, according to an ancient chronicle, by the advice of Henry the Second (Curtmantle), son of Henry the First (or Henry I Beauclerc), when he came from Normandy, to the relief of Wallingford castle, not long before he ascended the throne.

The architect, in erecting this building, adopted the plan which had been introduced into England by Gundulph, bishop of Rochester, for defending their strong holds. This edifice is still remaining, after a lapse of several centuries; and it has undergone many alterations since it was first built. As the mode of defence has altered in different periods, doors and windows have been added, and enlarged; and as dangers have decreased, conveniencies have been sought after, to make the apartments more comfortable.

Though time, and the mutilating hand of man, are continually making innovations, there are several characteristic parts of this building still remaining, which point out their antiquity; and they shew the inventions which were adopted by our ancestors, to defend their strong holds, when they could not face their enemy in the field.

At the time of building this keep, elegant apartments were not sought after by warriors. In places they intended to retire to, as their last resource, they chiefly required solidity and strength in the masonry, security for themselves and their stores, and concealed places for annoying the enemy in a close siege.

The foundation of this keep is upwards of twenty-four feet thick, and, on the north-east side, forty-four feet of solid masonry under the stairs.

The sides of this tower are of unequal lengths. On the northwest, the side is one hundred and eight feet; on the south-west, one hundred and three feet; and on the other two sides, one hundred and twenty-three feet each.

The ground floor, where they deposited their stores, in the centre of the keep, is about fifty feet square, including the partition wall, in which there are three arches; and through them there was formerly a communication with the stairs in the north and south angles of the tower.

There were originally two windows on the south-east, and as many on the north-west side of this apartment, which yielded a faint glimmering of light, and they admitted a current of air; but the architect had a further view in making them.

The two windows on the north-west side were evidently intended to defend the entrance at the gate; and the besieged could command the whole space between it and the keep; and the besiegers would have been exposed to the arrows of a concealed enemy.

The two windows on the south-east side commanded all the space between Palace Gate and the stairs leading to the vestibule (ie forebuilding); and it would have been a desperate and a fruitless attempt, to have endeavoured to force the passage, as they were sure of sacrificing their lives, without vanquishing a besieged enemy.

The windows, or rather loop holes, were constructed in a peculiar manner; and there are still remaining sufficient traces of their outline, and the uses for which they were intended, in the ancient mode of defence, before the invention of gunpowder.

Dover Castle appears in "Dover in World War Two: 1942", a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow.

(1) Official website of the British Monarchy: Symbols of the Monarchy - The Union Jack

(2) Wikipedia entry for Union Flag

(3) Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels (nb the text on this webpage has been updated to put more emphasis on the medieval Royal Palace since the quote was taken)

(4) Abridged extract from "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)", Volume 1. Dedicated by the Reverend John Lyon, Minister of St Mary the Virgin of Cannon Street, to John Gunman, Esquire, on May 14th, 1813, and published the same year.

Dover Castle appears in the video, "Dover in World War Two: 1942",a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow].

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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

Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 23, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/20 17:21:13
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 23.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/14.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash