The Bell Battery Field of Fire at Sunrise, Dover Castle, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on July 13, 2011

From left to right on the skyline are: the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro (restored Gilbert Scott 1862), the medieval upper storey of the Pharos (a 1st Century AD Roman watchtower or lighthouse) (1), the Victorian multiple chimney stacks and roof of the Garrison School, and the ruins of the composite Norman and Saxon Colton Gateway (Colton Gate, Colton Tower).

The trees in front of the Pharos mark the location of Four Gun Battery. The left-most masonry below the trees is where Pencester Tower (Veville Tower) once stood on the outer curtain wall.

The Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (South) extending from Pencester Tower towards the cliff-edge (ie to the left) at the southern limit of Dover Castle has all been destroyed. In front of Pencester Tower, the curtain wall of Avranches Lower Flank runs for 30 yards across the Avranches Gap (presumed entrance to the earlier Iron Age hillfort) until it reaches Avranches Tower itself.

From Avranches Tower, the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) turns through 90 degrees again and then exits the photo on the right just after the South Watchtower (Avranches Watchtower) (2).

To the right of the Pencester Tower site is a low wall which ends at the out-of-shot Inner Curtain Wall. On top are four V-shaped openings of the Bell Battery gun positions (apparently it originally had 6 guns). If you're looking at a high enough resolution of this photo, you might be able to make out black dots in each of the embrasures which are the muzzles of the cannons currently in situ (10 feet long with a 6 inch bore).

Four Gun Battery and Bell Battery were built around 1755-1756 by the military engineer, John Peter Desmaretz (J P Desmaretz, c. 1686-1768) who also "remodelled" (ie sliced the top off) the whole of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall all the way from Avranches Tower to the Norfolk Towers, thereby giving the two artillery positions clear fields of fire.

In 1867, the Illustrated London News printed an article titled, "The Volunteer Review at Dover" which began (3):

The grand review and field-day of the metropolitan volunteer corps at Dover, on Easter Monday, was the most interesting and successful that has yet been held. Though it was not favoured, like that of last year, at Brighton, with the presence of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales - we are sorry to think of the cause which disables the Princess just now from being present on such an occasion (4) - it exhibited several features of great novelty and importance, with regard both to the capabilities of special branches of the volunteer force and to their co-operation with the land and sea services of the Crown.

The articles goes on to describe a combined Army and Royal Navy military exercise involving over 25,000 men:

The signal for the commencement of the action, precisely at 1.40, pm, was the firing of a gun from the old keep of the castle. The defenders gave the enemy battle by making a direct attack with the third division on the invading force, this movement being covered by the fire of field artillery and by that of four 42-pounders on the Bell battery of the castle. This battery is to the north-east of the castle, and its guns played with fine effect on the invaders, who, in the face of a tremendous fire, were seen steadily advancing, supported by their own field guns.

The encounter had lasted about a quarter of an hour, and the invading party were getting the worst of it, when the vessels of war which had gone round to Deal in the morning were observed approaching from that direction, the Terrible (HMS Terrible), under full steam, heading the naval squadron, with the Virago (HMS Virago), the Lizard (HMS Lizard), and one of the gun-boats. Every sail was closely furled, and the yards were all squared as the four war-steamers approached the town. But for ten minutes not a shot was fired from the flagship. Meanwhile two of the 68-pounders on the top of the keep had joined in firing on the land forces...

The photo, best viewed in a larger size, was taken at 7.01 am on Monday, 27th of June, 2011, from 360 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 1216 Great Siege of Dover Castle (see the St John Round Tower caption).

Note the line of the counterscarp (outer moat embankment) running along the bottom of the picture (5) and the "triple-loop" crossbow windows of Avranches Tower and the South Watchtower.

Alternative names: Avranche's Tower, Averanches Tower, Averenches Tower, Averanche's Tower, Averenche's Tower, Maunsell's Tower, Maunsel's Tower, Albrincis Tower; Church of St Mary, St Mary-sub-Castro, St Mary de Castro, King Lucius Church. Pincester Tower.

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 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 East Roman Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro are located on Harold's Earthwork. The west Roman Pharos, or Bredenstone, is located in the Napoleonic and Victorian Drop Redoubt on the Western Heights.

(2) The curtain wall subsequently passes the North Watchtower (Fitzwilliam Watchtower) and Fitzwilliam’s Gate (Fitzwilliam's Gateway, Fitzwilliam's Tower; a postern, or secondary entrance) before ending at the Norfolk Towers (flank view) above St John’s Tower, 180 yards from Avranches Tower.

(3) The Illustrated London News, Volume L (50), January to June, 1867. The article quoted was published on April 27th.

(4) in 1867 the Prince and Princess of Wales were the future Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark. During the birth of her third child (Louise) in February of 1867, the added complication of a bout of rheumatic fever threatened Alexandra's life, and left her with a permanent limp.

(5) 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.

(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 Dover Panorama and Middle Ages (5th century to the 15th century) history photo.

A British Army Royal Artillery (Garrison Artillery) 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 November 16, 2012

Also see an 1834 "in days gone by" woodcut of the Roman lighthouse and Saxon church at:

Georgian Engraving of St Mary-in-Castro Church and the Pharos, Dover Castle

A photo on the Pinterest Old Dover board.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 10, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/06/27 07:01:12
    • Exposure: 0.008s (1/125)
    • Focal Length: 0.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash