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Colton Gateway, Roman and Saxon Entrance to pre-Norman Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on August 3, 2011

The octagonal Colton Gateway or Colton Tower (alt. Coclico Tower) is a Norman tower built upon a square Saxon, or even earlier base. It is the entrance though which Romans, Saxons, and probably their Iron Age predecessors, too, once entered their respective fortifications.

The octagon is irregular with the remaining faces shown in The Norman and Saxon Colton Tower from Harold’s Earthwork and The Medieval Colton Tower of Dover Castle photos.

This view of the rear of the ruin was taken from near Harold's Road at 4.45 pm on Friday, 21st of May, 2011.

The road on the other side of Colton Gate is called the West Roman Ditch which becomes the East Roman Ditch as it swings around the base of Harold's Earthwork, mostly out-of-shot to the left, upon which stand the East Roman Pharos (a watchtower or lighthouse) and the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro. A few yards beyond the archway, a junction with Mortimer Road on the right-hand side leads down through a cutting in the chalk to join Knights Road at Hurst’s Tower on the Western Outer Curtain Wall.

The second of the Victorian quotes given below states:

Passing under the gateway, the space to the left, within the double line of defence, is described as the site of the buildings serving for the primitive residences of the canons of Eadbald's foundation, close to the Church (ie St Mary-in-Castro) they had to serve.

The "space" - now Palace Green Carpark - is to the right in the above photo.

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

Abridged excerpts from an 1899 account (1):

The Keep and curtain wall (Inner Curtain Wall, Inner Bailey) formed the inner ward of the defences; the outer, or as it afterwards became, the middle ward, consisted of the old Roman (1) and Saxon earthworks... ...(and the) entrance to this ward was defended by the Colton Gate. This, as it now stands, is a Norman octagonal tower on a square base, but there is reason to believe that it was either built on a Saxon foundation, or entirely replaced some stone defensive work of an earlier period. As has already been described, it was the regular residence of the military chaplains of the Castle and it was from this circumstance that they derived their peculiar title of "Coclico". The manor of Cocklescombe in the hundred of Bewsborough, Kent, was charged with its repair, and the gradual wear and tear of language will easily explain the change from Cocklescombe to Cocklico. This tower was known by several different names at various periods, Sir Edward Dering in the sixteenth century calling it "Caldicott, Coclico or Pennington" Tower, and in a bill of repairs for 1582 it is spoken of as "Cocklicowe called Colton". The wall running round the Roman rampart was originally connected with this gate, and it was not pulled down until the year 1772, when one workman was killed, and several hurt, by its fall. (Pages 259 - 260)


The queen (Elizabeth I) did not make her expected visitation (to Dover) until 1573, and before her arrival considerable repairs were effected. Beauchamp (ie Peverell), Hirst (Hurst), " Withred," Mortimer, Colton and two other towers, Arthur's Hall, the gates (King’s Gate?), the north wall and "King Lucius' Church" (ie St Mary-in-Castro) were put in order in 1576. The armoury and the Duke of Suffolk and the Monk's Towers and several other parts of the defences in 1578. After the queen's visit in 1580 the Duke of Norfolk's Tower, or the "old sally," Mortimer, Ashford, St John and Rokesley Towers, Arthur's Hall, the Pharos, and a "great breach" in the wall near the Coclico Tower were repaired. The sums expended on these works have come down to us, and it is therefore just to presume that Elizabeth, or her ministers, were determined to keep this ancient place of arms in a proper state of defence. Other work, of which no record survives, may reasonably be supposed to have been undertaken and carried out. In 1580 a severe earthquake threw down a portion of the cliff on which the Castle stands, and a part of the walls; the breach above referred to was probably caused by this tremblement de terre. (Page 287)

Abridged excerpts from an 1864 account (2):

It seems that the way of entering by Colton Gate has always remained the same, having afforded access successively to the Roman and Saxon fortress; and visitors, still winding their way up the chalk cutting and under the Octagon Tower, are probably following the footsteps of Roman garrisons, British chiefs, Thanes (Thegns) and Churchmen of Saxon times, the forces of Earl Godwin, and many others of earlier generations, till the Normans made their own approach to their statelier towers and Keep. Passing under the gateway, the space to the left, within the double line of defence, is described as the site of the buildings serving for the primitive residences of the canons of Eadbald's foundation, close to the Church they had to serve. From thence, by a zigzag descent to the extreme angle on the cliff, under a tower long called the Canons’ Gate (Canons Gateway), they could hold communication with the town. (Page 56)

...The tower over this Gate - a Saxon work at first - has undergone much later alteration; the entrance arch having the character of the time of Edward III., when it was commanded by Lord Burghersh (Robert or Bartholomew de Burghersh), whose coat of arms are borne on the stone shield above (3).

Eadbald was King of Kent from AD 616 until his death in 640. He succeeded his father Ethelbert (also Æthelberht, Æthelbert, Aethelberht, or Aethelbert), who made Kent the dominant force in England during his reign and became the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity from Anglo-Saxon paganism.

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].

Also see the Dover Museum webpages on Roman, Saxon, Norman, and Medieval Dover. The museum is located in the Market Square.

(1) From "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).

(2) From Canon John Puckle's "The Church and Fortress of Dover Castle" (published 1864).

(3) Heraldry: "Or (ie tincture of gold), a lion rampant; Gules (red), double tailed."

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 24, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/20 16:45:39
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 28.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash