Mote’s Bulwark Gatehouse Ruins, White Cliffs below Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on August 10, 2011

A second view of the Mote’s Bulwark Gatehouse, this time taken from behind the low parapet wall of the East Buttress and showing the opening to the red-bricked switch-back, or zig-zag, staircase leading to the lower level (see General view of the Mote’s Bulwark).

In a posthumous account published in 1801 (1), the Welsh naturalist and antiquary Thomas Pennant describes how King Edward IV's expenditure of ten thousand pounds in improvements to Dover Castle led to a belief that no further defences were needed on the seaward side above the White Cliffs of Dover at East Cliff. He then goes on to say:

King Henry VIII was of a different opinion; possibly to guard against a surprise by sea, he built at the foot of the cliff on the shore one of the many little castles he erected in the year 1539, it was called the Mote's Bulwark, and remains garrisoned.

(The "long s", or "f", has been replaced with the letter s)

Originally Tudor, the "little castle" of Mote's Bulwark (alt. Moat's Bulwark) has been extensively modified over the years and the ruins now consist of a lower level semi-circular battery built of squared rubble with a revetted (ie faced with masonry) parapet, built just above sea-level, and an upper terrace set part-way up the cliff-side containing the West Gatehouse (or Guardroom) shown in the photo.

Half-way down the left-hand side of the gate house tower is an ivy-covered column that belongs to the West Gateway. The gateway is set at a lower level than the gatehouse and is the only part of the bulwark that still has crenalletions (the "up and down" bits shown, for example, in this photo of the hidden Court’s Folly, Dover's "Lost Castle").

A road once ran down the side of the cliff from the Mote's Bulwark West Gateway to sea-level.

To the left of the gateway are the distant hills of the Western Heights on the far side of the River Dour valley. The small plateau on the skyline shows the upper brickwork of the Drop Redoubt's Caponier Number 3, and not Caponier Number 4 as might be expected (alt. Caponnier). The Drop Redoubt is part of an extensive Napoleonic and Victorian defence system embedded in the Western Heights.

Also visible on larger sizes is the ventilation shaft located just above Cowgate Cemetery Nature Reserve (the design of Cowgate Cemetery is attributed to the architect, Stephen Geary who also designed London's Highgate Cemetery).

The Mote's Bulwark lies directly below the outer moat of Dover Castle's Western Outer Curtain Wall and above the A20 Townwall Street dual carraigeway at East Cliff.

The top of the gatehouse is just about visible near the bottom right-hand corner of Panorama of Dover Castle and Seafront from the Prince of Wales Pier (above the beige-coloured Premier Inn).

Click to see all Mote’s Bulwark and Dover Castle photos.

English Heritage Pastscape entry for Moat's Bulwark (2)

(TR 32534152) Ruin (NAT)

TR 326415 Mote's Bulwark

Mote's or Moat's Bulwark was one of the forts built during the reign of Henry VIII. It is situated at the foot of the cliff below Dover Castle. A semi-circular battery built of squared rubble with a revetted parapet. On a terrace above are the ruins of a guardroom, probably 17th century.

Additional reference.

In 1539-40 King Henry VIII built three artillery fortifications at Dover to protect the newly constructed harbour. One of these, Moats's Bulwark, was situated at the foot of the cliff beneath Dover Castle, and provided additional protection to its southern flank. A 16th century plan depicts it as a timber revetted platform approached by tunnels in the cliff, although it was remodelled as a large semi-circular battery in around 1750, and in 1856 linked with the castle by a spiral stairway tunnelled into the cliff (Guildford Shaft). Scheduled.

(1) A Journey from London to the Isle of Wight: Volume I, London to Dover

(2) Pastscape entry for Moat’s Bulwark

A Dover British Army, Royal Artillery, and Coastal Artillery history photo.

Dover Castle is one of the town's Grade I Listed Buildings and a Dover English Heritage site.

Geology: The White Cliffs of Dover are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of coccoliths. Flint and quartz are also found in the chalk.

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 January 11, 2013

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 25, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/04/12 11:01:38
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 50.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash