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Medieval Colton Gate or Tower, Harold Earthwork, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (10)

John Latter on March 16, 2009

Colton Gate or Colton Tower (alt. Coclico) from the south. A Norman tower built on a Saxon or even earlier base. The entrance though which Romans, Saxons and probably their Iron Age predecessors once entered their respective fortifications.

The replica Victorian-style lamp post in the foreground is a reminder of the many buildings erected, and alterations made, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

The bank on the right leads up to the large horseshoe-shaped earthwork upon which the Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro are located.

Scaffolding can be seen through the archway denoting current restoration work being carried out by English Heritage.

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

The keep and curtain wall [of the Inner Bailey] formed the inner ward of the defences; the outer, or as it afterwards became, the middle ward, consisted of the old Roman [1] and Saxon earthworks... ...[and the] entrance to this ward was defended by the Colton Gate. This, as it now stands, is a Norman hexagonal tower on a square base, but there is reason to believe that it was either built on a Saxon foundation, or entirely replaced some stone defensive work of an earlier period. As has already been described, it was the regular residence of the military chaplains of the Castle and it was from this circumstance that they derived their peculiar title of " Coclico ". The manor of Cocklescombe in the hundred of Bewsborough, Kent, was charged with its repair, and the gradual wear and tear of language will easily explain the change from Cocklescombe to Cocklico. This tower was known by several different names at various periods, Sir Edward Dering in the sixteenth century calling it "Caldicott, Coclico or Pennington" Tower, and in a bill of repairs for 1582 it is spoken of as " Cocklicowe called Colton". The wall running round the Roman rampart [2] was originally connected with this gate, and it was not pulled down until the year 1772, when one workman was killed, and several hurt, by its fall. [Pages 259 - 260]


The queen [Elizabeth I] did not make her expected visitation [to Dover] until 1573, and before her arrival considerable repairs were effected. Beauchamp, Hirst, " Withred," Mortimer, Colton and two other towers, Arthur's Hall, the gates, the north wall and "King Lucius' Church" [ie St Mary-in-Castro] were put in order in 1576. The armoury and the Duke of Suffolk and the Monk's Towers and several other parts of the defences in 1578. After the queen's visit in 1580 the Duke of Norfolk's Tower, or the "old sally," Mortimer, Ashford, St. John and Rokesley Towers, Arthur's Hall, the Pharos, and a " great breach " in the wall near the Coclico Tower were repaired. The sums expended on these works have come down to us, and it is therefore just to presume that Elizabeth, or her ministers, were determined to keep this ancient place of arms in a proper state of defence. Other work, of which no record survives, may reasonably be supposed to have been undertaken and carried out. In 1580 a severe earthquake threw down a portion of the cliff on which the Castle stands, and a part of the walls; the breach above referred to was probably caused by this tremblement de terre. [Page 287]

[1] Also see the Dover Museum webpages on Roman, Saxon, and Norman Britain.

[2] Presumably referring to the large earthwork to the right of the above photo.

From Canon John Puckle's "The Church and Fortress of Dover Castle" (published 1864):

It seems that the way of entering by Colton Gate has always remained the same, having afforded access successively to the Roman and Saxon fortress; and visitors, still winding their way up the chalk cutting and under the Octagon Tower, are probably following the footsteps of Roman garrisons, British chiefs, Thanes [Thegns] and Churchmen of Saxon times, the forces of Earl Godwin, and many others of earlier generations, till the Normans made their own approach to their statelier towers and Keep. Passing under the gateway, the space to the left, within the double line of defence, is described as the site of the buildings serving for the primitive residences of the canons of Eadbald's foundation, close to the Church they had to serve. From thence, by a zigzag descent to the extreme angle on the cliff, under a tower long called the Canons' Gate, they could hold communication with the town. [Page 56]

A webpage on the origin of Dover's name.

Originally posted on October 23, 2007

Evangelo Agneos on July 21, 2009


John Latter on November 18, 2010

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (1).

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 and improved for defence during the Napoleonic period. Ancient Monument. (Abridged).

Listing NGR: TR3249141696

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage locations in the town of Dover, England.

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

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.

John Latter on November 22, 2010

A similar view is shown in The Colton Gateway from Harold Earthwork. Click to see all Dover Castle photos.

Andrey Sulitskiy on April 13, 2012

Dear John,

Perhaps you remember I've been inviting you to the group Dover. The invitation is still valid. Actually the group contains 80+ members and 500+ photos. But nevertheless your unprecedented collection of pictures taken in Dover area and especially their superb quality is very wanted here. Is there any chance that you join us? :)

Have a nice weekend and I'm lookiing forward to your answer. Andrew

John Latter on April 13, 2012

I haven't had anytime for photography since about December of last year, Andreiss - I'll let you know when I've decided about groups.

Thank you for the reminder, though :)


Andrey Sulitskiy on April 13, 2012

Sure, John, take your time and let me know!

Kindest regards, Andrew

John Latter on April 14, 2012

Okey-doke, Andrew :)

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on October 23, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2007/10/19 10:49:32
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 35.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash