Rare view of Avranches Tower and the Keep of Dover Castle at Sunrise, Kent, UK

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John Latter on July 1, 2011

The Avranches Tower (left) stands at the end of a long stretch of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) that begins at the Norfolk Towers above St John’s Tower, 180 yards to the right. This section of the curtain wall also includes the South Watchtower, the North Watchtower, and the Fitzwilliam Gate (or gateway); the latter converted into an entrance after the 1216 Siege of Dover.

The late 12th Century Avranches Tower is an early example of a purpose-built crossbow tower, complete with "triple-loop" windows (see Avranches Crossbow Tower for more information). Construction probably took place between AD 1185 and 1190 under the supervision of Maurice the Engineer (Ingeniator; mason), Henry II's architect who was also responsible for the Keep, or Great Tower (night view).

The Outer Curtain Walls of Dover Castle are built above the ditches (moats) of a much earlier Iron Age hillfort. The left-hand panel of Avranches Tower in the above photo faces the point where the main entrance to the hill fort was believed to be - see the Avranches Gap.

To the left of the tower, the curtain wall changes direction for 30 yards (the "Avranches Flank") before resuming its previous course at the point where Pencester Tower once stood (out-of-shot).

The top, or roof level of Medieval Avranches Tower was "lowered" (removed) in 1755-1756 by the military engineer, John Peter Desmaretz (J P Desmaretz, c. 1686-1768) in order to strengthen the northern defences. In fact, Desmaretz remodelled the whole of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall all the way from Avranches Tower to the Norfolk Towers, thereby 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).

Behind Avranches Tower, and above the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North), is the Inner Curtain Wall, or Inner Bailey wall. This has fourteen towers, two of which flank Palace Gateway (Palace Gate, Duke of Suffolk's Tower), and two the King’s Gateway (King's Gate).

The red-tiled roofs and chimney stacks of the buildings set against the inside of the Inner Curtain Wall range in age from the 13th Century to the 18th Century:

Along the north-east side of the Inner Bailey is a suite of buildings created in the mid-13th century as the King’s Lodgings. Arthur’s Hall, a 14th-century name given to the hall built during Henry III’s reign (1216-1272), is the centrepiece of this range. (1)

Other buildings in the Keep Yard now house the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment and Queen's Regiment Museum:

The collection traces the history of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR), direct successor of twelve forbear regiments through four and a quarter centuries of service to the Crown. (2)

Dominating the skyline is the 12th Century Norman Keep, built in the 1180s with AD 1180-1185 often being the range quoted.

The length of the sides and height of the corner towers vary, but the Keep, or Great Tower, 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), based on designs used by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester (alt. Gundulph).

The Union Jack flag is flying from the South Tower (Flag Tower); the North Tower is on the right with the East Tower in between.

In 2010, English Heritage created a representation of a medieval Royal Palace, or Royal Court, occupying the upper two floors of the Keep:

The King’s Hall (Great Hall or Throne Room; second floor)

The King’s Chamber (Solar, second floor)

The Guest Hall (or Lower Hall; first floor)

The Guest Chamber (first floor)

The top of the massive Forebuilding attached to the Keep projects outwards from the right-hand side of the North Tower, its roof more-or-less in a line with the top of the chimney stacks.

The forebuilding is three storeys high and has a small chapel on the corner of the middle floor with the larger Thomas a Becket chapel directly above it on the top floor (Thomas Becket was murdered by Henry II's knights at Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170).

This "Rare view of Avranches Tower and the Keep of Dover Castle" photo was taken at 6.41 am on Tuesday, 31 st of May, 2011, from the Horseshoe Bastion (a huge earthwork added to the north-western defences of the castle by Colonel William Twiss of the Royal Engineers sometime during the Napoleonic Wars) near the counterscarp (outer moat wall).

Alternative names: Avranche's Tower, Averanches Tower, Averenches Tower, Averanche's Tower, Averenche's Tower, Maunsell's Tower, Maunsel's Tower, Albrincis Tower.

Standard entry for Dover Castle photos (May, 2011)

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (3).

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 (4):

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 between 1794 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

(1) English Heritage Research News, August 2009

(2) The Army Museums Ogilby Trust

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

(4) 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 7, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/31 06:41:54
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/400)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash