St John's Tower, a 13th Century Round Tower, Dover Castle Moats, Kent, UK

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John Latter on June 3, 2011

A second "rare view" of St John's Tower which is situated in the moat (ditch) at the northern end of Dover Castle. It is connected to the castle interior by an underground tunnel and gallery, or sousterrain, that passes beneath the Norfolk Towers, the earth-banked lower walls of which can be seen in the upper left-hand corner.

The photo was taken at 7.05 am on Wednesday, 25th of May, 2011, from the eastern outer moat wall. The first Rare View of St John`s Tower, taken from near enough the same location but under different light conditions, was taken at 11.32 am on Friday, 13th of May.

This unusual round tower effectively divides the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (out-of-shot to the left) from the Western Outer Curtain Wall (on the far side of the tower).

The roof of a two-level caponier (alt. caponnier: fr. "chicken cage") at bottom-right of St John's Tower connects it to the Redan (1), a brick structure, partially visible behind the trees near the right-hand edge, that had been added to the Spur by Colonel William Twiss of the Royal Engineers between 1801-1803 during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Spur itself, now a huge arrow-shaped earthwork at the northern apex to Dover Castle, was built after the 1216 Siege of Dover when engineers of the Dauphin (Prince Louis, later King Louis VIII of France) succeeded in bringing down the existing eastern gate tower of the castle's northern entrance.

Prince Louis had landed in England after being offered the throne of England by a group of barons rebelling against King John (also known as John Lackland or Softsword) during the First Barons War. Although the french soldiers gained entry to the castle after the eastern gate tower fell they were repulsed by Hubert de Burgh, then Constable of Dover Castle, who had even armed his servants.

Eventually a truce was called and Prince Louis moved north only to return in 1217 after Henry III had become king (which caused many barons to change sides) to besiege the castle once more, this time employing a medieval catapult known as a trebuchet: a replica of this type of siege engine now stands near the Devil`s Tower: see the Medieval Trebuchet and Godsfoe Tower photo.

It was during the gap between the two sieges that work on St John's Tower and the Spur began. Extract from a 1787 account (2):

The tower in the ditch, and the adjoining subterraneous works are supposed by some to have been built by Hubert de Burgh, while the Castle was besieged by the Dauphine (? feminine form), in the reign of King John; but this I consider as impracticable; it cannot be supposed that the besiegers would have suffered the besieged to have carried up materials for the building of such a Work, when they could have so easily prevented them. If this tower, and the barbican (ie the new Spur, not a previous barbican) were raised by Hubert de Burgh; it must have been in the interval of the Dauphine's quitting the siege, and returning to it again. That he might then erect them, will indeed appear highly probable, when we consider how indefatigable Hubert de Burgh was, in fortifying, and defending this Castle for his sovereign.

Lord Saint John had a grant of Burleigh, and Pising, in Kent; and Popeshall, in Hertfordshire, to repair, and defend it (ie St John's Tower).

NB I've replaced the original long s used throughout the above quotation (as in "the adjoining fubterraneous works are fuppofed by fome", "Caftle", etc.) to aid readability.

The war effectively ended with the defeat of the Dauphin's troops, under the command of the Comte de la Perche, at the Second Battle of Lincoln (20th of May, 1217) and the siege of Dover Castle lifted.

The old north entrance to Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle was more permanently sealed and new entrances made at the Constable Gateway on the Western Outer Curtain Wall and at Fitzwilliam`s Gate on the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (1).

Between 1217 and 1256 Henry III spent GBP 7500 on improving the castle's defences (3).

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle, a Dover English Heritage site.

The castle is also a Grade I Dover Listed Building: the full listing text is given in the captions to a number of other photos including The Medieval Fulbert Tower of Dover Castle at Night and its Horrifying History.

(1) Photos of the Redan, Spur, Fitzwilliam's Gate and other Eastern Outer Curtain Wall structures, will be uploaded at a later date: check subsequent 'comments' for links.

(2) A brief history of Dover Castle; or description of Roman, Saxon and 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".

(3) Pastscape: Dover Castle (Pastscape Homepage)

A Dover Middle Ages (5th century to the 15th century) history photo.

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 25, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/25 07:05:42
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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