The Keep, Inner Curtain Wall, and Bell Battery of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on August 2, 2011

This mid-morning view from the west shows the Keep (or "Great Tower") and the Inner Curtain Wall of Dover Castle with an oblique view of the 18th Centuty Bell Battery on the right.

The photo was taken at 10.35 am on Monday, 25th of July, 2011, from above the casemates on Godwin Road (bottom-left). The Eastern Battlements on the line of the now-vanished Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (South) are out-of-shot to the right. On the left-hand side of Godwin Road is the beginning of a Roman mound that rises up out-of-shot to become Harold's Earthwork. On or around the earthwork are the East Roman Pharos and the adjacent Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro, the Four Gun Battery artillery position (contemporary with Bell Battery), and a Victorian building that was once the Garrison School.

As usual, the seagull has been included at no extra charge.

The Great Tower and Forebuilding

The sun-lit south-eastern side of what was once called Palace Tower has the Keep's South Tower (the Union Jack Flag Tower) on the left with the East Tower to its right; the North Tower is on the far right of the unlit north-eastern face.

The North and South Towers have spiral staicases going from roof 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)

The Forebuilding entrance to the Keep is not in view. 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-eastern 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

On the far left of the Inner Curtain Wall are the two flanking towers of the Palace Gate, or the Duke of Suffolk's Gate (Duke of Suffolk's Tower). The English Heritage flag above the left-hand tower is fluttering head-on to the camera owing to a westerly wind (as is the Union Jack on the Keep's Flag Tower).

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 (moat), which is now filled in on the south front. Two gates led in to the inner ward (Keep Yard, or Quadrangle), 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 (in ruins, see the King’s Gate Barbican, alt. North Barbican), but the one at the Palace Gate has been entirely destroyed (see Palace Gateway and Inner Curtain Wall).

Bell Battery

The four guns (originally six) of Bell Battery are located on a low wall that runs from the Inner Curtain Wall to where Pencester Tower once stood on the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (South), specifically at the junction of Avranches Lower Flank and what I currently believe to be Avranches Upper Flank (needs more research - online sources are ambiguous).

The photo shows cannon in gun positions 3 and 4 on the right of the photo with the cascable (cascabel) and part of the first reinforce of the cannon in position 1 visible to the left of what looks like an expense magazine (powder and shot for immediate use), the building is unusual in not being covered in earth.

The cannon currently in situ are about 10 feet long with a bore of just under 6 inches. If the encrustation of corrosion has reduced the bore from just over 6 inches then these would fit the criteria for 32-pounders.

Four Gun Battery and Bell Battery were built in 1756 during the reign of George II, the last British monarch to lead an army in battle (Dettingen 1743), by the military engineer, John Peter Desmaretz ( c. 1686-1768).

J P Desmaretz also "remodelled" (ie sliced the top off) the whole of the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) 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 (4):

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 (5) - 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...

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

(5) 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.

(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.

A Middle Ages (5th century to the 15th century) and British Army Royal Artillery (Royal 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.

Andrey Sulitskiy on February 3, 2012

Dear John,

Your wonderful gallery contains so many perfect pictures of Dover. I kindly ask you to enter the group Dover otherwise the group doesn't make sence indeed :)

Looking forward to your kind answer,

Best wishes, Andrew

Andrey Sulitskiy on February 3, 2012


John Latter on February 3, 2012

andreisss, on 4th February 2012, said:

Dear John,

Your wonderful gallery contains so many perfect pictures of Dover. I kindly ask you to enter the group Dover otherwise the group doesn't make sence indeed :)

Looking forward to your kind answer,

Best wishes, Andrew

Thank you for your comment, Andrew :)

I haven't had much time for photography in the last couple of months, but I'll take another look at whether its a good idea to join groups or not when I'm less busy.


Andrey Sulitskiy on February 4, 2012

Dear John,

Thank you for your answer. It would be great if you could join us. And what do you think if you become a moderator of the group?

Have a nice weekend! Andrew

John Latter on February 4, 2012

andreisss, on 4th February 2012, said:

Dear John,

Thank you for your answer. It would be great if you could join us. And what do you think if you become a moderator of the group?

Have a nice weekend! Andrew

Thank you for your offer, Andrew - I'll let you know once I have more time to spend on Panoramio and have come to a decision regarding groups.

Hope you enjoy your weekend, too!


Andrey Sulitskiy on February 6, 2012

Dear John,

So I'm looking forward to your decision. Let's stay in touch!

Kindest regards, Andrew

John Latter on February 6, 2012

andreisss, on 6th February 2012, said:

Dear John,

So I'm looking forward to your decision. Let's stay in touch!

Kindest regards, Andrew

Okay, Andrew!

John Latter on March 18, 2013

This photo shows the archway and drawbridge of:

The King’s Gate, Inner Curtain Wall, Dover Castle, United Kingdom

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Photo taken in Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent CT16 1HU, UK

Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 2, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/07/25 10:35:26
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 26.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/13.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash