Rare view of the South Watchtower near Avranches Tower, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

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John Latter on June 25, 2011

A post-sunrise frontal view of the South Watchtower, or Avranches Watchtower, showing more of the splayed base than is visible in the obliquely-angled South Watchtower and Avranches Crossbow Tower photo.

The following quotation (1) from the 1875-1889 "Scholar's Edition" of the Encyclopaedia Britannica states that towers were usually higher than walls. The reason the South Watchtower and other towers of Dover Castle are now more-or-less the same height as the adjoining walls is due to the "remodelling" mentioned later in the caption:

On the (curtain) wall, and projecting out from it were built at proper distances square or round towers, sometimes called bastions, generally one story (storey) higher than the wall so as to command it. The lower story of the walls and towers was often built with a batter, or slope outwards to strengthen, and also to keep the assailants farther from, the walls. Thus the defenders were not compelled to lean far over the parapet, and expose their bodies to the archers of the enemy who were placed at a distance to guard those engaged in undermining the walls.

The Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) runs for 180 yards (2) from Avranches Tower (out-of-shot, left) to the Fitzwilliam Gateway (Fitzwilliam's Gate; out-of-shot, right) and then further on to the Norfolk Towers that stand above St John`s Tower at the northern end of Dover Castle.

Between Avranches Tower and the Fitzwilliam Gateway are two small watchtowers, each about 23 feet wide and projecting from the curtain wall by 10 feet or so. The South Watchtower stands 45 yards from Avranches Tower, and to the right: 44 yards from the North Watchtower, or Fitzwilliam's Watchtower, and 67 yards from Fitzwilliam's Gate itself.

The front of the Avranches Watchtower above has a "triple-loop" embrasure indicating it was designed for crossbowmen (Avranches Tower is a crossbow tower). The central "arrow-loop" in this watchtower, however, has been modified and had bars set into it (should be "quarrel-loop" or "bolt-loop", I suppose!)

The modification may have been done in 1756 when John Peter Desmaretz (J P Desmaretz, c. 1686-1768) remodelled the whole of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North), 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).

Alternatively, the changes to the window may have been made by Lieutenant Colonel William Twiss (Royal Engineers) during, or prior to, the Napoleonic Wars.

The presence of the bars may be just prudence, or perhaps the room beneath the embankment built up on the other side of the curtain wall was once used as holding cells, or temporary prison, for wayward soldiers. I dunno - I'll have to see if anyone knows, sometime!

Anyway, in plan view a triple-loop window looks like this:

outer moat


tower interior

From a single position within the tower, a crossbowman is able to shoot straight ahead ("upwards" in the magnificent diagram), or at an angle to either side.

The 1786 book, "The History of Dover Castle" (3) has an entry for the North Watchtower, or Fitzwilliam Watchtower, and then goes straight on to describe Avranches Tower without saying a word about the South Watchtower. Oh well, its too late to ask the author about it now!

Excerpt from the 1813 book, "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle" (4):

Watch Towers: As these towers never had any knights appointed to them, nor any land given to keep guard in them, they might have been a part of the Saxon masonry left standing in the curtain.

Excerpt from the 1828 book, "A Short Historical Sketch of the Town of Dover" (5):

Watch Towers: The two next towers in the curtain are watch towers, that never had any commanders appointed to them, nor any accommodations for resident captains. They were probably considered as appendages to the two adjoining towers; or they might occasionally be made places of defence.

This "rare view" photo was taken from the counterscarp (6), or outer moat embankment, at 6.34 am on Tuesday, 31st May, 2011. At Avranches Tower, the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall does a 30-yard "dogleg" (or zig-zag) across the Avranches Gap (presumed Iron Age hillfort entrance) before continuing on towards the sea.

Avranches Tower (late 12th Century, c. 1185 -1190) is a very early example of a purpose built crossbow tower and was probably built by King Henry II's architect, Maurice the Engineer, who also built the Keep, or Great Tower (night view).

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 (7).

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 (8):

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, 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) The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, and general literature, Ninth Edition, Volume 5 (1888), by Thomas Spencer Baynes

(2) All measurements are approximate and were made using Google Earth, build Updates to Google Earth may cause the measurements to vary a little if any future satellite image is taken from a significantly different angle that of the program version being used.

(3) Although not published until 1786, The History of Dover Castle was written in Latin during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I by William Darell (alt. William Darel), Chaplain to the Queen.

(4) "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.

(5) Sixth edition published 1828, attributed to Unknown Author or Anonymous:

"A Short Historical Sketch of the Town of Dover, and its Neighbourhood; containing a Concise History of the Town and Castle, from the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time; with a Description of the Villages near Dover, within a distance of Six Miles".

Printed by and for Z. Warren at the Albion Library, 86 Snargate Street, and Marine Library on the Parade.

(6) Outer moat embankment, or earthwork: 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.

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

(8) 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 24, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/31 06:34:32
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 40.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash