Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Dover Castle, Kent

Dover Castle “the gateway to England “... from where the coast of France can be seen on clear days only 21 miles away ... in 55BC Julius Caesar landed nearby and from then on Dover became a significant fortification.

A view of Dover Castle, the harbour and English Channel

In the 650 years following the Roman invasion – Angles, Jutes and Saxons continued on that tradition  ... as too did the Normans.  William the Conqueror’s half brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux, landed with the prefabricated parts for a castle stronghold, to be erected on the heights above Dover!

Roman lighthouse at
Dover Castle
In the intervening thousand years Dover has remained a fortress stronghold playing a major part in the Civil War, fortified against invasion in the Napoleonic Wars, a strategic site in both the World Wars ... today there are many memorials in Dover to heroism, courage and valour.

Henry II (1133 – 1189) commissioned his architect, ‘Maurice the Engineer’, to build a Castle Keep here, the main fortifications being completed by later Kings.  When gunpowder use in wars became more commonplace, Henry VIII  (1491 – 1547) improved the Castle defences and added a Moat Bulwark.

The castle is of particular interest because it is one of the earliest in England in which the fortifications were arranged concentrically – much of this architecture was destroyed during the Napoleonic period.

The Great Tower after restoration
c/o English Heritage

Fortunately during the Civil War it was held for the King, but taken by trickery without a shot being fired in 1642 (hence it avoided being ravaged and survives far better than most castles).

The Second World War Coastal
Artillery Operations Room in the
secret tunnels under Dover Castle
During the Napoleonic War tunnels were dug into the chalk cliffs below the Castle – these are the only underground barracks ever built in Britain. 

These tunnels were converted first into an air-raid shelter and then later into a military command centre with an underground hospital during the Second World War. 

In recent years Dover Castle has been restored by English Heritage providing a range of ‘experiences’ for visitors to enjoy:

Ø see the underground tunnels and command centre,
Ø appreciate the importance to British history of this Castle,
Ø understand the various kingdoms and empires covering its 2,000 year history,
Ø while seeing the incredible opulence of  life in Medieval England.

The King's Hall inside the Great Tower, when Henry II
would have greeted foreign pilgrims and dignitaries
c/o English Heritage
That is D for Dover Castle – a fortification site for over 2,000 years, which is now open to the public under the auspices of English Heritage ... part of the ABC series Aspects of British Castles

Bob Scotney’s castle yesterday was C for Chillingham ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Amanda Heitler said...

Loving the castle tours you and Bob are providing for us. Such variety and so much history - it's a morning treat to visit you both.


Another lovely tour Hilary and I have actually been to Dover Castle.


Diane said...

Another interesting post, I have seen this one 'sort of' when my husband was working in Deal. Diane

Grace said...

Greetings Hilary,
I am VERY much enjoying this "tour of castles". And will add that though I had obviously heard of Dover Castle, I had no knowledge of the underground tunnels. What to spiffy "kernal of knowledge" this is. I like learning about such things.

As always, you are such a wonderful TEACHER.

Thank You!

In Him,

beccabooklover said...

Wow it looks like an amazing castle. Will definitely be telling family members about this! Maybe a trip can be planned sometime. Great to know that it wasn't damaged by Cromwell.

Old Kitty said...

Now this is one castle I'd love to explore!! Those tunnels are calling to me! Yay! Take care

Jenn said...

I really am enjoying your castle posts!! I love castles--I've not been to the British Isles, but really want to come and see these infamous castles!! Maybe one day soon!

Cheers, Jenn

Bob Scotney said...

That first aerial view is one of the best I've seen of any castle.
If I had 'done' Dover I would have told of the plummeting phantom!

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

I particularly liked this castle: the setting the view, the fortications... It's magnificent!


Jo said...

Ah, a castle I know. But I too didn't know about the tunnels and what they were used for. Hubby might, must ask him. Interesting post again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amanda .. wonderful news - & Bob's are so different - yet here he mentions a plummeting phantom - I wasn't going that route .. but thankfully we're picking up other aspects from each other ..

@ Yvonne and @ Diane - I have driven past it a few times!! Will rectify that ...

@ Grace - delighted to hear - thank you. The tunnels have been recently been restored, as well as the Castle .. I think it will be a fabulous place to visit ..

@ Becca - by the sound of it .. a visit would be well worth while - it's definitely on my list ... and yes it's good to know it wasn't pillaged (that's the word - couldn't think of it before!!) by Cromwell and his men ..

@ Old Kity - hope you can visit soon .. not too far from the Home Counties ...

@ Jenn - so pleased to read .. a little trip across the pond sometime soon? - to satisfy your desire to visit some castles!!

@ Bob - I suspect I picked it up from somewhere - can't quite remember! I wanted to use it - as you confirm it shows so much ..

Plummeting phantom .. ah ah I didn't come across the phantom!

@ Doris - it's probably one of our finest castles and one everyone sees if they approach England by boat via the English Channel ... Inside I'm certain it is even more incredible - the restorations look just great ..

@ Jo - glad you've got some castle walls to look at here! Let me know if your husband knew/knows about the tunnels ..

Thanks everyone - I'll be around to see you .. cheers Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Yay, I've heard of Dover Castle. I wonder if digging those tunnels were a horrible task. It makes me nervous just thinking about it.

Luanne G. Smith said...

What a great theme. If my guess is right, tomorrow's post may have something to do with the castle I visited today. ;)

Unknown said...

How beautiful those rooms are. And how clever it was to build those underground tunnels. I would like to learn more about that trickery though...I'll have to look it up.

Betsy Brock said...

Oooh...Dover Castle...what a beauty! I just love that overhead shot. Wouldn't it be fun to go exploring in there? What a great choice for "D"! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa .. I'm sure digging the tunnels was a ghastly, tough job - but we were more resilient then! I have to say I don't like being underground .. I do use the tube, but would rather not (when I'm in London) ..

@ Luanna - your A -Zs are fascinating .. and I think you'll be wrong for tomorrow's castle! Have you been at Edinburgh Castle today .. ? - then it's not that one ..

@ Clarissa - I think this Castle will be a wonderful place to visit .. The panelling of the tunnels is amazing and I gather the work was quite complex in its construction ..

.. can't quite remember what the trickery was - but the Roundheads gained access without force ... thankfully in the circumstances ..

@ Betty - an amazing place to look round .. and so much history available - that's what I like. The rooms look incredible now and would be fabulous to look round.

Thanks Teresa, Luanna, Clarissa and Betsy - good to see you all .. cheers Hilary

Tracy said... really is! My husband grew up near Ipswich England and talks all the time of how beautiful the castles were and the land is so clean...
great post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tracy .. many thanks - the castles are beautiful and stunning .. but the cleanliness of the land - not so sure now-a-days .. sad to say = our standards seem to have dropped .. and people drop litter here there and everywhere .. very irritating and irresponsible ..

Thanks for coming over .. cheers Hilary

MorningAJ said...

That's one I'd really love to see. I might get there one day.

susan said...

Must get back there now you have inspired me. Tunnels are always a pull too.

About JollyJilly said...

I am not sure far in Essex so I must make the trip to Dover castle. I know my daughter has been and loved it. Nice to see your A to Z and nice tour.
Pop over to Essex and visit my blog any time

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My dad was in Dover in the war. We couldn't get much information out of him, except to say it was an extraordinary place. My grandmother was from Bath, but stupid me didn't ask her questions either. Children don't realize how important it is to speak to their family until it's too late. I think that's why I love your posts so much, Hilary. I'm seeing the country through your eyes. Happy Easter.

Lynn said...


Robyn Campbell said...

Love, love it! That aerial view is wonderful. What a fantastic history lesson, Hilary. King's Hall is breathtaking. I would love to see it in person.

Anonymous said...

Jen sat in front of my computer as I scrolled through your Castle posts. She LOVES castles. Balmoral is her favorite, but her eyes widened at the gorgeous photo of the King's Hall. Now I'm off to get her on her bed where she can stretch out and relax her bad foot, and we'll see what great British movie or TV series we can find to watch. See you tomorrow!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is quite a castle. The Roman lighthouse is pretty cool too. Tried finding it in the first picture.

DonnaGalanti said...

Wonderful theme posts...looking forward to more castles. To walk the halls of such places wondering of all that came before thru the centuries. I lived in the UK years ago and visited many castles..alas not such historic places in the US!. Nice to be in the A o Z with you

scarlett clay said...

Hurrah for the A to Z, I had forgotten it had your series so far. I love all the husband and I have been watching the series 'The Monarchy' in the evenings...lots of kings and castles, so fascinating. Everything I see day to day has been built in the last 10-20 years, it's hard to comprehend something 2000 years old!

Julie Flanders said...

Now this castle I've heard of, the first one so far! But I definitely didn't know all of this about it. I love how much history can be present in one building, it's fascinating.

Thanks so much for recommending the Great Animal Orchestra to me! I've put it on hold at the library. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Fascinating information, Hilary. Sometimes we think of castles as romantic, but they were primarily for the defense of the nation.

Sue said...

Hilary, what a wonderful series. Yet again I realise my life will be too short to do all the things I want to do and see and experience the richness of the world. I'd love to visit some of these castles and spend time walking around them in different seasons. The next best thing will be visiting through your eyes. I wonder if the very few I've visited will feature?
Sue: An A-Z of Climate Matters

Patricia Stoltey said...

When I've traveled in Europe, I've enjoyed visiting castles almost as much as I've enjoyed the cathedrals. I never saw Croft or Dover Castles though. I guess that means it's time to take another trip. :D


Beth said...

I'm enjoying this. This is not the first castle post I've seen today and the castles have been different. I didn't realize how many castles there are I guess, and I LOVE CASTLES!!!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Incredible. I love castles, too, but I haven't been to Dover Castle yet. I just showed my husband the picture, though, and said WE HAVE TO GO!!!

Someday.... The history is fascinating, as usual!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anne - this isn't that far away is it.

@ Susan - if you haven't been to Dover for a while - it's been very refurbished, so will look very different - and the Tunnel tour will be fascinating ..

@ Jill - I'm sure you and your daughter would love the look around now, as it's quite sumptious. I'll be over to visit ..

@ Joylene - that's a pity that your father wouldn't talk about the place - but that seems to be thing of that generation. Your grandmother's history and time in Bath would have been fascinating to hear about - but we all do these things, not realising that once it's gone - it has gone.

Delighted that you're enjoying the updates on life and history in the UK and can get a feel for the place ..

@ Lynn - thanks so much!

@ Robyn .. the photos are wonderful aren't they ... and I'd love to see it in person one day .. that medieval splendour.

@ Ann - how lovely to hear Jen is enjoying the castle posts .. so pleased they are giving her something to feast her eyes on. Jen deserves some pleasure and enjoyment .. I hope she's having a good rest and can remember some of the photos ...

@ Susanne - I think the Roman lighthouse 'sits' on the highpoint - but is probably behind the church (I think) so you couldn't see it in the aerial photo ... because the high windows/openings would have needed to overlook the Channel for invaders.

@ Scarlett - no worries - I know you love history and thought you might enjoy these.

It always amazes me how old things are and how well-preserved buildings have stood the test of time ... and ours here aren't that old .. but yet 2,000 years is a good age!

@ Julie - I thought this Castle deserved a mention - and I learnt a great deal more about Dover, than I had known.

Delighted you've ordered Bernie Krause's Great Animal Orchestra .. I think it's one special book, CDs etc ..

@ Susan - they are romantic as we look at them .. for the rich they were probably fine, but everyone else would have been on the edges - freezing and fawning! Not so much fun .. or standing on the ramparts keeping their eyes open .. but defence was their main purpose ..

@ Sue - delighted you're enjoying the castles .. I'm not sure one or two might feature .. possibly only one!

If you were here visiting all the castles and in different seasons - I think you'd better emigrate here?!

@ Patricia - well that sounds as good an excuse as any to come on over for another visit?! A castle tour ...

@ Beth - yes there are one or two others doing castles (Bob - whose link I give) is looking at them from another view point. There are LOTS of castles ....

@ Amy - that's good to hear - it would be lovely to see you all and meet up at various castles .. fun to think about ..

Thanks everyone so much for visiting and commenting - I will catch up .. cheers Hilary

Susan Scheid said...

I do hope I get to see this castle one day. Fascinating! And who could resist a castle designed by someone called Maurice the Engineer?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. I thought that name was rather good "Maurice the Engineer" - and no-one has picked up on the prefabricated castle pieces brought over from France by Bishop William Odo ... I thought that was a modern invention = prefabrication!

Cheers - and it would be wonderful to see you here sometime .. Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

What an amazing idea for the A-Z! I'm hoping to visit Dover Castle next week, in fact!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz - how interesting .. it will be great if you'd come back here and give some feedback .. I imagine there is a great deal to see and the tours would be fascinating .. I'd really like to visit at some stage, especially now it's been so well restored and refurbished.

Looking forward to your feed back! Thank you in advance .... cheers and enjoy the visit .. Hilary