King's Gate Barbican, Inner Curtain Wall, and Keep of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on July 22, 2011

There are four main components in the photo: The Keep (or Great Tower), the Inner Curtain Wall (Inner Bailey wall), the North Barbican (King's Barbican, King's Gate Barbican), and the Causeway.

The north-west face of the Keep is at top-centre with the North Tower (spiral staircase) on the left and the West Tower (no staircase) on the right.

The Keep is located in the Keep Yard (Quadrangle, Inner Bailey) surrounded by the fourteen uncrenellated (flat-topped) towers of the Inner Curtain Wall. Two of these towers are part-way down and in front of the Keep's West Tower. These are the two flanking towers of King’s Gate, or King's Gateway, the northern entrance to the Keep Yard.

To the right of the King's Gate flanking towers, the Inner Curtain Wall veers away to the first of three towers before reaching the west flanking tower of Palace Gate (Palace Gateway), the southern entrance to the Keep Yard.

On the left of the photo, below the chimney stacks, is the first of seven towers which eventually takes the Inner Curtain Wall to the east flanking tower of Palace Gate.

In front of the King's Gate flanking towers and the "chimney stack" tower are the outer walls of the D-shaped (plan view) North Barbican, above the entrance are four shields. A Barbican is a small, walled enclosure built in front of a main entrance.

The foreground West Norman Road becomes the East Norman Road on the other side of the arch at bottom left. The white spotlights illuminate Dover Castle at Night. A Victorian-style lamp-post, right of bottom-centre.

The photo was taken at 5.01 pm on Wednesday, 8th of June, 2011, from the steps of Crevecoeur's Tower (alt. Crevequer's Tower; shown on the left of Trebuchet Siege Engine) on the Western Outer Curtain Wall. The Norfolk Towers are to the north of Crevecoeur's Tower, and Godsfoe Tower (the "Devil’s Tower") is to the south.

The Keep

The 12th Century Norman Keep was 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 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 flies from the South Tower (Flag Tower) (behind the West Tower in this view).

In 2010, English Heritage created a re-presentation 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 Forebuilding attached to the Keep 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).

The Inner Bailey

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 (1216-72), is the centrepiece of this range. (1)

Other buildings 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)

The Inner Curtain Wall and King's Barbican

Excerpt from the 2006 book, "Britain's Medieval Castles" (3):

Numerous examples exist throughout Britain, including the D-shaped barbican that defends the King's Gate at Dover Castle. Probably erected in the late twelfth century, this barbican is one of England's oldest.

Abridged excerpt from the 1899 book, "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" (4):

The inner curtain wall forms an irregular polygon about 120 yards each way, supported by fourteen rectangular towers with no inward projection. These towers are nearly of the same height as the curtain, which is a very lofty wall. It is built of flint rubble quoined with ashlar, and battered (splayed, sloping) on the outside at the base. The wall was surrounded by a broad and deep ditch, which is now filled in on the south front. Two gates led in to the inner ward, the one on the north, called the King's Gate; that on the south being named the Palace Gate, or the Duke of Suffolk's Gate. They are vaulted passages between two flanking square towers, and are early English in character. Both were fitted with a portcullis.

An outwork (the barbican), consisting of a wall with towers, was thrown out in front of each of these gates, and the entry to these works was placed obliquely to the main gate so as to allow the approach to be commanded. That at the King's Gate remains much as it was first built, but the one at the Palace Gate has been entirely destroyed.

Abridged excerpts from the 1813 book, "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)" (5):

The King's Gate, and Bridge

The entrance into the Saxon keep, at this place, was defended by a strong out-work (the barbican), which enclosed a small area before the great gates (of King's Gate). Some of the ruins of it are still remaining. From the walls of this out-work, the archers could command the whole vallum, from Peverell’s Gateway (Peverell's Gate, Peverell's Tower) to Albrincis's Tower (ie Avranches Tower).

As there is no appearance of there ever having been a portcullis at the entrance into this out-work, it is probable, that they had only a drawbridge, to secure the passage at this bridge.

The walls at this place were, in some parts, ten feet thick, cased with flint, and filled up with chalk, rubbish, and mortar, which has been considered proof of its being Saxon masonry.

The Causeway

The Causeway leading from the North Barbican gateway now terminates in a keyhole-shaped tower (plan view) of the same height, just out of shot to the left.

Previously, the Causeway - or its antecedent - once exited Dover Castle through the Northern Entrance (Northgate) in the Outer Curtain Wall.

In the 1216 Siege of Dover, however, the engineers of the Dauphin (Prince Louis, later Louis VIII of France) so damaged the eastern gate tower of the North Entrance by mining that Hubert de Burgh (Constable of Dover Castle under King John and Henry III) subsequently sealed the gateway and new ones were made at Constable’s Gateway (in the west) and the Fitzwilliam Gateway (Fitzwilliam's Gate: in the east; a postern, or secondary entrance).

Hubert de Burgh also constructed the Spur earthwork (originally a tear-drop shaped affair) and St John’s Tower, a round tower and the only tower located in the Dover Castle's surrounding moat (or ditch).

The keyhole-shaped tower at the end of the Causeway sits above a shaft at the bottom of which an underground passage (tunnel) runs beneath the Norfolk Towers to St John's Tower, and then on to the Spur (and its Napoleonic Redan, or Ravelin).

Standard entry for Dover Castle photos (May, 2011)

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (6).

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 (7):

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

(1) English Heritage Research News, August 2009

(2) The Army Museums Ogilby Trust

(3) "Britain’s Medieval Castles", by Lise Hull (2006)

(4) "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" by Reverend S. P. H. Statham, Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle (ie St Mary-in-Castro) (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899).

(5) "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 "Saint Mary’s" (St Mary the Virgin), dedicated on May 13th, 1813, and published the same year.

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

(7) 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.

Other Dover Panorama views.

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.

John Latter on March 18, 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 June 26, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/06/08 17:01:29
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 21.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash