Posted by: travelrat | October 17, 2011

Dover Castle

Dover: 17th July 2011

I think just about everyone will have heard of the white cliffs of Dover, which many still associate with the first sight of Britain from a cruise ship or a cross-channel ferry. But, how many people dash horse-blinkered through Dover, either on their way to a ferry, or to a preferred destination in Britain.

It’s nor really surprising, for, at first glance, Dover doesn’t seem to have very much to offer. Except Dover Castle, perched on top of those cliffs

There was probably a fortification even before the Romans landed, for it’s believed there may have been an Iron Age defensive earthwork here. What is certain is that the Romans built two lighthouses on the cliff-top, one of which still survives near the church of St Mary-in-Castro.

The castle began to take the shape we know today during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), when the keep and the inner and outer walls were built.

During the Civil War, Royalist forces held the castle, but the opposing Parliamentarians managed to gain it by trickery, without a shot being fired. Thus, Dover Castle avoided being ‘slighted’, or damaged so as to be rendered useless, which was the fate of so many castles during these times.

Much rebuilding took place during the Napoleonic wars in the late 18th and early 19th Century. The fortifications were strengthened and great guns installed, although, I suspect, they weren’t used so much for defence as to attack enemy shipping, for, at this point, the English Channel is only about 20 miles wide.

An important work at this time was the digging of the tunnels, which, after a short while, fell into disuse until the Second World War. They were restored first as an air raid shelter for the troops garrisoned at the castle, and later, as an underground hospital and a military Command Centre, from which the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 was overseen. The Royal Navy continued to use them as a communications centre, to contact ships at sea, and as a Rescue Control Centre to direct rescue craft to pilots downed in the English Channel.

Nowadays, the castle is owned by English Heritage. It’s the biggest castle in England, and exhibits, sometimes with live re-enactors, show almost all aspects of its use from mediaeval times right up to relatively modern days. It’s home to the museum of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, which shows artefacts and records of the Regiment right up to their service in Afghanistan in the present day.

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Responses

  1. Hi Keith,
    Really fascinating, I love reading about the history of places like this. The tunnels sound like they would be a good place to explore. 🙂

    • Unfortunately, there was so much to see and do on that day, we didn’t have time to visit the tunnels. In my Qype review, I did advise anyone who isn’t a member of English Heritage (who get in free!) to devote a full day to the castle, in order to see everything.

  2. I enjoyed reading about the history of it too and I really like the medieval outfit. The brooch is gorgeous!

    • I’m always in admiration of the amount of detailed research, and painstaking work that goes into those re-enactors’ costumes.


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