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The Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover Castle from the King’s Gateway, Kent, UK

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John Latter on May 26, 2011

The north-western face of Dover Castle's Keep, or Great Tower (night view), with the North Tower on the left and the West Tower on the right.

The 12th Century Norman Keep was built in the1180s with AD 1180-1185 often being the range quoted.

The length of the sides and height of the corner towers do vary, but the Keep is approximately 100 feet square, over 80 feet high, and has walls up to 21 feet thick. It was designed by Henry II’s architect, ‘Maurice the Engineer’ (or mason).

The North Tower and South Tower (or Flag Tower) both have spiral staircases leading from ground level up to the roof; the East Tower and West Tower do not.

To the left of the North Tower in the photo, and about two-thirds of its height, is the Forebuilding (main entrance), the largest of the period in England.

The Keep has three floors that now contain a representation of a medieval Royal Palace created by English Heritage in 2010.

The largest pair of windows - in line with the top of the Forebuilding - are those of the second floor.

On the other side of the window to the left of the central pilaster buttress is The King`s Hall (Great Hall, or Throne Room); on the other side of the window to the right of the buttress is The Solar (or King's Chamber).

The first floor windows are slightly smaller: the window to the left of the central buttress belongs to The Guest Hall (or Lower Hall); the window to the right of the buttress belongs to The Guest Chamber.

The ground floor windows are those of the kitchens and store rooms, photos not yet available (but check later "comments" for updates).

The photo was taken from the Keep Yard close to the King`s Gate (alt. King's Gateway) in the Inner Curtain Wall (Inner Bailey walls) at 4.49 pm 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.

Extract from an English Heritage webpage (1):

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' (Latin: Ingeniator) 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 (2):

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 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.

(1) 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)

(2) 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.

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.

Volkert Weidl on June 9, 2011

It's a very nice picture, excellent light and shadow! Vote + Like! Greetings from Germany, Volkert

John Latter on June 10, 2011

Volkert Weidl, on June 9th, 2011, said:

It's a very nice picture, excellent light and shadow! Vote + Like! Greetings from Germany, Volkert

Thank you, Volkert - Greetings from Dover, England!

americatramp.the2nd on June 16, 2011


John Latter

Really Great shot!



Good luck

The heartiest greetings, Christian

John Latter on June 17, 2011

americatramp.the2nd, on June 16th, 2011, said:


John Latter

Really Great shot!



Good luck

The heartiest greetings, Christian

Thank you very much, Christian :)

And Greetings from Dover, England!

József Rózsa on June 26, 2011

Hello John !

This shot is very nice! Voted & LIKE # 3 !!

Best wishes from Hungary: József Rózsa

John Latter on June 26, 2011

rózsák, on June 26th, 2011, said:

Hello John !

This shot is very nice! Voted & LIKE # 3 !!

Best wishes from Hungary: József Rózsa

THank you very much for your comment, József - and Greetings from Dover, England!

John Latter on March 19, 2013

This photo shows the archway and drawbridge of:

The King’s Gate, Inner Curtain Wall, Dover Castle, United Kingdom

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 26, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/20 16:59:55
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash