Rare Panorama of Canons Gate Caponier, Western Outer Curtain Wall, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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Comments (3)

John Latter on July 29, 2011

A caponier (caponnier) is a type of fortification that projects into the ditch (moat) of a fortress, traverses it completely to a detached outwork such as the Ravelin of Dover Castle (alt. the Redan), or forms a blockhouse set in the "corners" of a moat-system like those surrounding the Drop Redoubt and North Centre Bastion on Dover's Western Heights.

Writing about Dover Castle in the seventh edition of a book first published in 1829 (1), William Batcheller said:

The New Entrance was constructed to the north-west of Canon-gate, in 1797, and has a drawbridge, a caponniere under it, a tete-du-pont, and other defences.

The "New Entrance" Batcheller refers to is today's Canons Gate (plural) while "Canon-gate" (singular) means the now-vanished Monk's Gate:

This gate had a tower and drawbridge, and was near the present new entrance. It probably took its name from the canons, or secular priests belonging to the castle, whose apartments were over the arched passage. The precise site of this gate is not known.

The present-day Canons Gate drawbridge was positioned where the white railings are on the left-hand side of the caponier, with the tete-du-pont (bridgehead) beyond it.

The "other defences" sound intriguing and may allude to the structures hidden behind the foliage in the top left-hand corner of the photo (these buildings, set into the outer moat embankment, appear to be forgotten about insofar as they aren't mentioned in any of the "usual sources").

The Canons Gate Caponier is usually described as "two-tiered" with access to each level being made by separate spiral staircases from within the castle, the entrances to which are shown in Canons Gate and Guardroom. There is, however, at least one reference to it being "three-tiered": at the bottom of the centre of the caponier, behind and to the left of the ivy, is evidence of more blocked-off embrasures, perhaps indicating a third level that didn't extend for the full width of the building (such as one might expect in association with a doorway, or some other military contrivance: there's no way of knowing how deep the moat was a century or two ago).

On the right, the road bridge on top of the caponier passes through the Western Outer Curtain Wall beneath the Canons Gateway. Only a small section of the arch is visible, however, due to the way the mysterious "Tudor Bulwark" juts out from the curtain wall so that its battered (ie splayed) base nearly reaches the moat floor.

This gun platform, or artillery position, identified by its darker brickwork and the slight angle it forms with the top of the curtain wall to the right of Rokesley Tower (the round tower above the caponier), is attributed to Henry VIII and associated with Mote’s Bulwark (Moat's Bulwark), a ruined coastal battery fort at the bottom of the White Cliffs of Dover at East Cliff (behind the viewer).

The building on the other side of the curtain wall immediately to the left of the mural Rokesley Tower is part of a complex bearing a plaque stating, "Royal Garrison Artillery Barracks 1913".

Further to the left, the red-tiled roof building has a plaque saying, "Cinque Ports' Prison. Medieval, 18th and 19th Centuries. A Debtors' Prison, later used as garrison married quarters."

Behind and to the left of the Cinque Ports' Prison is the rear turret of Fulbert Tower (alt.Chilham Tower, Chaldescot Tower - see the caption to Medieval Fulbert Tower at Night and its Horrifying History).

This "rare" photo was taken at 12.59 pm on Friday, 20th of May, 2011, from part-way down the counterscarp, or outer moat embankment (2).

Notes on the Napoleonic Dover Castle

Excerpt from a present-day account (3):

Massive rebuilding took place at the end of the eighteenth century during the Napoleonic Wars with France. Colonel William Twiss, the Commanding Engineer of the Southern District, as part of his brief to improve the town's defences, completed the remodelling of the outer defences of Dover Castle adding the Horseshoe Bastion, Hudson Bastion, East Arrow Bastion, and East Demi-Bastion to provide extra gun positions on the eastern side, and constructing the Constable's Bastion (Constable’s Barbican) for additional protection on the west.

Twiss further strengthened the Spur (remodelling its shape) at the northern end of the castle, adding a redan, or raised gun platform. By taking the roof off the Keep (or "Great Tower") and replacing it with massive brick vaults he was able to mount heavy artillery on the top. Twiss also constructed Canon’s Gateway (night view) to link the defences of the castle with those of the town.

Excerpt from a Victorian account (1899) (4):

In 1779, England being at war, not only with her American colonies, but also with France and Spain, fears were entertained of an invasion, and Dover was hastily placed in an extra state of defence. In the summer of 1779 the first earthwork was thrown up on the Western Heights...

...Considerable repairs were made in the Castle in 1793, and in the next year further accommodation was found for troops in the old church in the Castle (St Mary-in-Castro). In 1794 Guildford Shaft (behind Henry VIII's Mote’s Bulwark) was commenced and finished in 1795. The Castle was at that time supposed to contain accommodation for 724 men. The modern alterations visible in the Debtors' Prison (Fulbert Tower) were made in the same year, and the present gateway and caponiere at Canon’s Gate were constructed. The Spur was also extensively altered, and its present form is much what it was in 1795.

Hudson's Bastion, the east demi-bastion and other work's on the east front, including the caponieres and galleries, were completed about the same time. The cliff casemates (the "Secret Wartime Tunnels") were also finished at this date, and the C.R.E. (Commander Royal Engineers: Twiss) reported that they "exceeded his expectations both in point of solidity and dryness"...

...In 1800 the Castle was armed with 211 pieces of ordnance, which included twenty-eight mortars, four ten-inch howitzers and one eight-inch howitzer, forty-four carronades, ten of which were sixty-eight pounds; seventy-four guns, ten amusettes and fifty wall pieces.

In 1802 the bomb-proof guardroom, passages and hanging doors, with "a proper drawbridge" in the Spur, were constructed, and the ravelin cut to its present slope.

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (5)

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

Postcode:

Details:

LBS Number: 177823

Grade: I

Date Listed: 07/03/1974

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3249141696

Listing Text:

1050 DOVER CASTLE

TR 3241 1/47

TR 34 SW 7/47

I

2.

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.

(1) The new Dover guide, by William Batcheller (1853)

(2) 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.

(3) Wikipedia entry for Dover Castle (Abridged)

(4) 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).

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

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 Dover Castle and Dover Panorama photos.

The castle is a Dover English Heritage site; as stated above, it is also a Grade I Dover Listed Building.

A Dover Middle Ages, Napoleonic Era, and British Army history photo from the forbidden zone.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

John Latter on July 29, 2011

A caponier (caponnier) is a type of fortification that projects into the ditch (moat) of a fortress, traverses it completely to a detached outwork such as the Ravelin of Dover Castle (alt. the Redan), or forms a blockhouse set in the "corners" of a moat-system like those surrounding the Drop Redoubt and North Centre Bastion on Dover's Western Heights.

Writing about Dover Castle in the seventh edition of a book first published in 1829 (1), William Batcheller said:

The New Entrance was constructed to the north-west of Canon-gate, in 1797, and has a drawbridge, a caponniere under it, a tete-du-pont, and other defences.

The "New Entrance" Batcheller refers to is today's Canons Gate (plural) while "Canon-gate" (singular) means the now-vanished Monk's Gate:

This gate had a tower and drawbridge, and was near the present new entrance. It probably took its name from the canons, or secular priests belonging to the castle, whose apartments were over the arched passage. The precise site of this gate is not known.

The present-day Canons Gate drawbridge was positioned where the white railings are on the left-hand side of the caponier, with the tete-du-pont (bridgehead) beyond it.

The "other defences" sound intriguing and may allude to the structures hidden behind the foliage in the top left-hand corner of the photo (these buildings, set into the outer moat embankment, appear to be forgotten about insofar as they aren't mentioned in any of the "usual sources").

The Canons Gate Caponier is usually described as "two-tiered" with access to each level being made by separate spiral staircases from within the castle, the entrances to which are shown in Canons Gate and Guardroom. There is, however, at least one reference to it being "three-tiered": at the bottom of the centre of the caponier, behind and to the left of the ivy, is evidence of more blocked-off embrasures, perhaps indicating a third level that didn't extend for the full width of the building (such as one might expect in association with a doorway, or some other military contrivance: there's no way of knowing how deep the moat was a century or two ago).

On the right, the road bridge on top of the caponier passes through the Western Outer Curtain Wall beneath the Canons Gateway. Only a small section of the arch is visible, however, due to the way the mysterious "Tudor Bulwark" juts out from the curtain wall so that its battered (ie splayed) base nearly reaches the moat floor.

This gun platform, or artillery position, identified by its darker brickwork and the slight angle it forms with the top of the curtain wall to the right of Rokesley Tower (the round tower above the caponier), is attributed to Henry VIII and associated with Mote’s Bulwark (Moat's Bulwark), a ruined coastal battery fort at the bottom of the White Cliffs of Dover at East Cliff (behind the viewer).

The building on the other side of the curtain wall immediately to the left of the mural Rokesley Tower is part of a complex bearing a plaque stating, "Royal Garrison Artillery Barracks 1913".

Further to the left, the red-tiled roof building has a plaque saying, "Cinque Ports' Prison. Medieval, 18th and 19th Centuries. A Debtors' Prison, later used as garrison married quarters."

Behind and to the left of the Cinque Ports' Prison is the rear turret of Fulbert Tower (alt.Chilham Tower, Chaldescot Tower - see the caption to Medieval Fulbert Tower at Night and its Horrifying History).

This "rare" photo was taken at 12.59 pm on Friday, 20th of May, 2011, from part-way down the counterscarp, or outer moat embankment (2).

Notes on the Napoleonic Dover Castle

Excerpt from a present-day account (3):

Massive rebuilding took place at the end of the eighteenth century during the Napoleonic Wars with France. Colonel William Twiss, the Commanding Engineer of the Southern District, as part of his brief to improve the town's defences, completed the remodelling of the outer defences of Dover Castle adding the Horseshoe Bastion, Hudson Bastion, East Arrow Bastion, and East Demi-Bastion to provide extra gun positions on the eastern side, and constructing the Constable's Bastion (Constable’s Barbican) for additional protection on the west.

Twiss further strengthened the Spur (remodelling its shape) at the northern end of the castle, adding a redan, or raised gun platform. By taking the roof off the Keep (or "Great Tower") and replacing it with massive brick vaults he was able to mount heavy artillery on the top. Twiss also constructed Canon’s Gateway (night view) to link the defences of the castle with those of the town.

Excerpt from a Victorian account (1899) (4):

In 1779, England being at war, not only with her American colonies, but also with France and Spain, fears were entertained of an invasion, and Dover was hastily placed in an extra state of defence. In the summer of 1779 the first earthwork was thrown up on the Western Heights...

...Considerable repairs were made in the Castle in 1793, and in the next year further accommodation was found for troops in the old church in the Castle (St Mary-in-Castro). In 1794 Guildford Shaft (behind Henry VIII's Mote’s Bulwark) was commenced and finished in 1795. The Castle was at that time supposed to contain accommodation for 724 men. The modern alterations visible in the Debtors' Prison (Fulbert Tower) were made in the same year, and the present gateway and caponiere at Canon’s Gate were constructed. The Spur was also extensively altered, and its present form is much what it was in 1795.

Hudson's Bastion, the east demi-bastion and other work's on the east front, including the caponieres and galleries, were completed about the same time. The cliff casemates (the "Secret Wartime Tunnels") were also finished at this date, and the C.R.E. (Commander Royal Engineers: Twiss) reported that they "exceeded his expectations both in point of solidity and dryness"...

...In 1800 the Castle was armed with 211 pieces of ordnance, which included twenty-eight mortars, four ten-inch howitzers and one eight-inch howitzer, forty-four carronades, ten of which were sixty-eight pounds; seventy-four guns, ten amusettes and fifty wall pieces.

In 1802 the bomb-proof guardroom, passages and hanging doors, with "a proper drawbridge" in the Spur, were constructed, and the ravelin cut to its present slope.

Dover Castle is a Grade I Listed Building (5)

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

Postcode:

Details:

LBS Number: 177823

Grade: I

Date Listed: 07/03/1974

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3249141696

Listing Text:

1050 DOVER CASTLE

TR 3241 1/47

TR 34 SW 7/47

I

2.

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.

(1) The new Dover guide, by William Batcheller (1853)

(2) 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.

(3) Wikipedia entry for Dover Castle (Abridged)

(4) 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).

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

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 Dover Castle and Dover Panorama photos.

The castle is a Dover English Heritage site; as stated above, it is also a Grade I Dover Listed Building.

A Dover Middle Ages, Napoleonic Era, and British Army history photo from the forbidden zone.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 28, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/20 12:59:26
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 24.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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