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Twin Towers of Fitzwilliam Gate at Sunrise, Dover Castle, Kent, England, UK

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Comments (5)

John Latter on July 1, 2011

The Fitzwilliam Gateway (c. 1227) on Dover Castle's Eastern Outer Curtain Wall is located 45 yards from the Norfolk Towers (to the right) and 120 yards from Avranches Tower (made for crossbows, to the left) (1).

A BBC Television (BBC TV), Doctor Who set location (see below).

After the Dauphin of France (Prince Louis, later Louis VIII) failed to take Dover Castle in the Great Siege of 1216 (resumed, and then finally abandoned in 1217) during the First Barons War, Hubert de Burgh, then Constable of Dover Castle, had the damaged Northern Entrance sealed up and the Norfolk Towers constructed in its place. A new main entrance was made at Constable’s Gate and other entrances were also built (2):

After dark, the Great Gate (ie Constable’s Gateway) was closed entirely, and even the king was admitted only at the Fitzwilliam Gate on the far side of the outer wall, and that only with a few of his followers. The Fitzwilliam Gate was one of the castle's secondary gates, or posterns. There was another at the southwest edge of the castle, near the cliffs (now the Canons Gate entrance). These posterns were smaller than the great gate, and offered little access for an attacking force. Their principal purpose was to allow the defenders additional points of issue from which to harass a besieging force. For the same reason, there were even smaller sally ports in both the Great Gate and the Fitzwilliam Gate. All of the gates dated to the reign of Henry III.

The flanking towers of Fitzwilliam's Gateway are en bec (ie "beaked" in outline when viewed from above, indicated by the vertical centre line). This design was fashionable in France in the early 13th Century and apparently strengthened the base of a tower, especially against mining (3) - which is how the Dauphin's engineers had collapsed the eastern gate tower of the Northern Entrance during the siege!

In 1755-1756, the military engineer, John Peter Desmaretz (J P Desmaretz, c. 1686-1768) remodelled the whole of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall all the way from Avranches Tower (Averanches Tower) to the Norfolk Towers, thus giving clear fields of fire to the two artillery positions of Four Gun Battery (near the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro and the Roman Pharos) and Bell Battery (between the Inner Curtain Wall and Pencester Tower).

The photo was taken from on top of the counterscarp, the outer side of the moat (or ditch) (4), at 6.31 am on Tuesday, 31 st of May, 2011.

The steps leading from the Fitzwilliam Gate (alt. Fitzwilliam Tower) go to a tunnel beneath the counterscarp which emerges above Northfall Meadow (site of the Louis Bleriot Memorial). More information on the steps, and the caponier beneath them, will be included in the captions to other photos of the Fitzwilliam Gate (check subsequent "comments" for links).

Fitzwilliam Gate was filmed on 27th of October, 1970, for an episode of the BBC 1 science fiction program, Doctor Who.

"The Mind of Evil", in which the scenes appear, was subsequently broadcast in six weekly parts from 30 January to 6 March 1971. See Doctor Who Locations Guide: Fitzwilliam Gateway: "Benton's team emerge from the secret tunnel into the prison" (Strangmoor Prison).

(1) There are also two small watchtowers, North Watchtower and South Watchtower, between Fitzwilliam's Gateway and the Avranches Tower.

(2) Daily life in medieval Europe, by Jeffrey L. Singman.

(3) Page 13 of The Fortifications of Gibraltar 1068-1945, by Darren Fa and Clive Finlayson, illustrated by Adam Hook.

(4) A scarp and a counterscarp are the inner and outer sides of a ditch used in fortifications. In permanent fortifications the scarp and counterscarp may be encased in stone. In less permanent fortifications, the counterscarp may be lined with paling fence set at an angle so as to give no cover to the attackers but to make advancing and retreating more difficult. See Profile of the European fortress wall from the 16th century.

Standard entry for Dover Castle photos (May, 2011)

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (5).

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

Building Details:

Building Name: DOVER CASTLE

Parish: DOVER

District: DOVER

County: KENT



LBS Number: 177823

Grade: I

Date Listed: 07/03/1974

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3249141696

Listing Text:


TR 3241 1/47

TR 34 SW 7/47



Norman keep C.1155 of rag-stone ashlar blooks picked out flints with Caen stone dressings. Around the keep are ranges of C18 (=18th Century) houses of 2 to 3 storeys ashlar with a flint galleting. Round headed windows. Surrounding these ranges are 2 concentric rings of walls and towers dating from Mediaeval times. Beneath the castle are a whole series of subterranean passages dating from the C13 (13th Century) and improved for defence during the Napoleonic period. Ancient Monument.(Abridged).

Listing NGR: TR3249141696

Source: English Heritage.

The English Heritage Pastscape entry for Dover Castle (6):

Medieval castle possibly originating as a pre-1066 motte and bailey castle, remodelled during the reign of Henry II (Curtmantle), to became a castle with concentric defences, one of the first examples of its kind in western Europe.

Much of this work was supervised by Maurice the Ingeniator (Maurice the Engineer, Architect, or Mason) and started with piecemeal additions to the defences during the 1160s and 1170s and major construction work, including the Keep (or Great Tower), walls of the Inner Bailey (Inner Curtain Wall) and parts of the Outer Curtain Wall between 1179 and 1188.

Work during the reign of Henry III included strengthening of the defences and the modernising of the castle's accomodation. Much of this took place between 1217-57 and was supervised by Hubert de Burgh (first Earl of Kent). Additions included construction of St John’s Tower outside the northern defences which was linked to the castle by a tunnel. Limited work on the castle and its defences took place during the 14th and 15th century and by the 17th century it was in neglect.

The castle was in use as a prison for prisoners of war from 1690 and until the 1740s when a programme of modernisation was started. This included the updating of the defences and construction of barracks, supervised by John Peter Desmaretz (military engineer, c. 1686-1768). Further changes took place in response to the Napoleonic Wars. Much of this took place between1794 and 1805 and was implemented by Lieutenant Colonel William Twiss, and included bombproofing of the keep, installation of additional gun batteries and outworks and the excavation of underground tunnels for communication and additional accomodation (see Casemates Balcony, Entrance to the Secret Wartime Tunnels of Dover Castle).

The castle was also adapted to protect itself from new explosive shells in 1853 and new barrack were constructed. The castle was used during World War I and World War II when features including anti aircraft and search light batteries were constructed. (Abridged)

Dover Castle is located upon the famous White Cliffs overlooking the town and port below. The Normans, beginning with William the Conqueror, built upon earlier Roman and Saxon fortifications on a site first selected by their Iron Age predecessors.

See wikipedia entries for Portus Dubris and Anglo-Saxons

(5) Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

(6) Pastscape: Dover Castle (Pastscape Homepage)

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.

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

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

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on June 3, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/31 06:31:17
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 28.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash