Rare view of the Great Tower and Forebuilding of Dover Castle at Sunrise, Kent, UK

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John Latter on July 3, 2011

Looking vaguely like a skewed Mesoamerican step-pyramid, this post-sunrise view from the north-east shows the Keep (or "Great Tower"), the Forebuilding, and the Inner Curtain Wall of Dover Castle with part of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) running along the bottom of the photo.

The shot was taken at 6.45 am on Monday, 27th of June, 2011, from 450 yards away in a field adjacent to the hidden East Wing Battery of the Victorian Fort Burgoyne (originally known as Castle Hill Fort). The field (definitely no access without permission) is where part of the French army were arrayed during the Great Siege of 1216 (see the St John Round Tower caption).

This is the first of four different photos that show the same general view but with progressively less zoom. Second photo:

Rare view of the Keep and Inner Curtain Wall at Sunrise, Dover Castle

Links to the others will be added here (or in subsequent "comments") as they're uploaded, along with a brief description of any changes to the following caption.

The Great Tower and Forebuilding

The sun-lit north-eastern side of what was once called Palace Tower has the Keep's East Tower on the left and the North Tower to its right, with the Union Jack flying from the South Tower (Flag Tower) behind and between the two; the West Tower is on the far right of the unlit north-western face.

The North and South Towers have spiral staicases going down to ground level, the East and West Towers do not.

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’ (mason), based on designs used by Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester (alt. Gundulph).

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)

Half-way down and projecting outwards from its left-hand side is the Forebuilding entrance to the Keep. 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).

The Inner Bailey

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 (1216-72), 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

Abridged excerpt from the 1899 book, "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" (3):

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 (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 Gateway remains much as it was first built (see King’s Gate Barbican), but the one at the Palace Gate has been entirely destroyed (see Palace Gateway and Inner Curtain Wall).

In contrast to the Union Jack on the Keep, the English Heritage flag above Palace Gate is hanging limply against its flag-pole (to the left of the Forebuilding).

The Eastern Outer Curtain Wall

The Fitzwilliam Gateway (c. 1227; once a BBC Television, Doctor Who "Strangmoor Prison" set location) in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo is located 45 yards from the Norfolk Towers (out-of-shot to the right) and 120 yards from Avranches Tower (made for crossbows, out-of-shot to the left).

The two flanking towers either side of the column above the 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.

Between Avranches Tower and Fitzwilliam's Gateway are two small watchtowers, each about 23 feet wide and projecting from the outer curtain wall by 10 feet or so. The one casting a shadow near bottom-centre of the ivy-clad outer wall is the North Watchtower, 15 yards from Fitzwilliam's Gate, and to the left: 44 yards from the South Watchtower, and 97 yards from Avranches Tower.

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).

Standard entry for Dover Castle photos (May, 2011)

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (4).

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 (5):

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) "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).

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

(5) 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.

John Latter on August 5, 2011

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 1, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/06/27 06:45:14
    • Exposure: 0.008s (1/125)
    • Focal Length: 0.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash