Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover Castle from the King's Gateway, Kent, UK

The north-western face of Dover Castle's Keep, or Great Tower, with the North Tower on the left and the West Tower on the right:

Henry II's Keep, or Palace Tower, designed by architect Maurice the Engineer or Mason and built 1180-1185. Royal Palace: King's Hall or Great Hall, King's Chamber, Solar, bedroom, Guest Hall, Guest Chamber. Keepyard.
(Click this Great Tower of Dover Castle text link to see the largest size)

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' (or mason; Latin: Ingeniator).

The North Tower and South Tower (or Flag Tower) both have spiral staircases leading from ground level up to the roof; the East Tower and West Tower do not.

To the left of the North Tower, and about two-thirds of its height, is the Forebuilding (main entrance), the largest of the period in England.

The Keep has three floors (ground, first, and second) that now contain a 2010 English Heritage representation of a medieval Royal Palace and Royal Court.

The largest pair of windows - in line with the top of the Forebuilding - are those of the second floor:

English Heritage replica Royal Palace. Great Hall with thrones for Henry II, Prince John (later King John of Magna Carta fame), and Princess Alice of France (Alys, Countess of the Vexin). Architect Maurice built the KeepOn the other side of the window to the left of the central pilaster buttress is The King's Hall (Great Hall, or Throne Room).
King's Chamber, or Solar, adjacent to King's Hall, Great Hall. Bedroom furniture, tapestries. English Heritage Listed Building. 12th Century Medieval PalaceThe window to the right of the buttress is The King's Chamber (Solar, or bedroom).

The first floor windows are slightly smaller:

Guest Hall of Royal Palace also used by garrison and Constable. Keep, or Great Tower, by Maurice the Engineer. Backcloth by RSN. Troubadour music: Alexandra Buckle, Oxford University. English Heritage Listed Building.The window to the left of the central buttress belongs to the Guest Hall (Lower Hall, a multi-purpose room).
Royal Palace Guest Chamber also used by garrison and Constable. Angevin Keep, or Great Tower, by Maurice the Engineer. Textiles by RSN. Musical instrument: harp; board game: backgammon. English Heritage Listed Building.The window to the right of the buttress belongs to the Guest Chamber (bedroom)

The ground floor windows are those of the kitchens and store rooms, photos not yet available (links will be added here later).

The photo was taken from the Keep Yard close to the King's Gate (alt. King's Gateway) in the Inner Curtain Wall (Inner Bailey walls) at 4.49 pm on Friday, 20th of May, 2011.

Excerpt from an book published in 1814 (1):

The Keep

This tower derived its name, by being built in the centre of the quadrangle (keepyard), which was the Saxon keep, or a place of safety.

The foundation of it was laid about the year 1153, according to an ancient chronicle, by the advice of Henry the Second (Curtmantle), son of Henry the First (or Henry I Beauclerc), when he came from Normandy, to the relief of Wallingford castle, not long before he ascended the throne.

The architect, in erecting this building, adopted the plan which had been introduced into England by Gundulph, bishop of Rochester, for defending their strong holds. This edifice is still remaining, after a lapse of several centuries; and it has undergone many alterations since it was first built. As the mode of defence has altered in different periods, doors and windows have been added, and enlarged; and as dangers have decreased, conveniencies have been sought after, to make the apartments more comfortable.

Though time, and the mutilating hand of man, are continually making innovations, there are several characteristic parts of this building still remaining, which point out their antiquity; and they shew the inventions which were adopted by our ancestors, to defend their strong holds, when they could not face their enemy in the field.

At the time of building this keep, elegant apartments were not sought after by warriors. In places they intended to retire to, as their last resource, they chiefly required solidity and strength in the masonry, security for themselves and their stores, and concealed places for annoying the enemy in a close siege.

The foundation of this keep is upwards of twenty-four feet thick, and, on the north-east side, forty-four feet of solid masonry under the stairs.

The sides of this tower are of unequal lengths. On the northwest, the side is one hundred and eight feet; on the south-west, one hundred and three feet; and on the other two sides, one hundred and twenty-three feet each.

The ground floor, where they deposited their stores, in the centre of the keep, is about fifty feet square, including the partition wall, in which there are three arches; and through them there was formerly a communication with the stairs in the north and south angles of the tower.

There were originally two windows on the south-east, and as many on the north-west side of this apartment, which yielded a faint glimmering of light, and they admitted a current of air; but the architect had a further view in making them.

The two windows on the north-west side were evidently intended to defend the entrance at the gate; and the besieged could command the whole space between it and the keep; and the besiegers would have been exposed to the arrows of a concealed enemy.

The two windows on the south-east side commanded all the space between Palace Gate and the stairs leading to the vestibule (ie forebuilding); and it would have been a desperate and a fruitless attempt, to have endeavoured to force the passage, as they were sure of sacrificing their lives, without vanquishing a besieged enemy.

The windows, or rather loop holes, were constructed in a peculiar manner; and there are still remaining sufficient traces of their outline, and the uses for which they were intended, in the ancient mode of defence, before the invention of gunpowder.

(1) "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)".

Volume I dedicated by the Reverend John Lyon, Minister of St Mary the Virgin of Cannon Street, to John Gunman, Esquire, on May 14th, 1813, and published the same year.

Volume II dedicated to Jonathan Osborn, Edward Thompson, and John Shipdem on April 21st, 1814, and published the same year.

More information (including sources used) can be found on this photo's original webpage at:

The Keep, or Great Tower, of Dover Castle from the King's Gateway

Also see:

The Union Jack on the Flag Tower of Dover Castle Keep at Sunset (not yet uploaded)

The English Heritage "Pastscape" entry for Dover Castle states:

"Medieval castle possibly originating as a pre-1066 motte and bailey castle, remodelled during the reign of Henry II (Curtmantle; Angevin), to became a castle with concentric defences, one of the first examples of its kind in western Europe."

All castle photos first appear under the Dover Castle and Castles category labels.

The castle is one of Dover's Grade I Listed Buildings and English Heritage sites.

A Dover Medieval (Middle Ages) and Norman history photo.

More Dover Architecture and History photos.

Clickable thumbnails of all Dover Castle-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog on the Dover Castle Page (also linked to below the blog title).

The Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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