Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Norman Keep or Great Tower of Henry II, Dover Castle at Night, Kent, UK

The north-western face of the 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, was designed by architect Maurice the Engineer (or Mason) and built 1180-1185. Also: Palace Gate, Inner Curtain Wall (Inner Bailey), and saxon church tower of St Mary-in-Castro.
(Click this Dover Castle Keep at Night text link to see the largest size)

The East Tower is behind and to the left of the North Tower, the South Tower (Flag Tower) is out of view, although the Union Jack flag can be seen flying above it.

The Keep, once known as the Palace Tower, was designed by Henry II's architect 'Maurice the Engineer' (or mason) and built between 1180 - 1185. It is 83 feet high, just under 100 feet square, and has walls up to 21 feet thick.

Half-way down the Norman great tower on its north-eastern side (ie to the left) is the Forebuilding with its two chapels.

The Keep's largest pair of windows (difficult to spot at first glance - they're 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 aren't visible in the main photo but are those of the kitchens and store rooms (photos to follow).

The dimly-lit structure furthest to the left from the Forebuilding is the square church tower of the Saxon St Mary-in-Castro (more Dover churches).

Below the Keep are 3 of the 14 uncrenellated (ie flat-topped) towers of the Inner Bailey wall, or Inner Curtain Wall. The two close together on the right-hand side flank the King's Gateway (or King's Gate), entrance to the Keepyard.

The Norfolk Towers are silhouetted against the bottom of the Inner Curtain Wall. These towers were built by Hubert de Burgh to replace the Northen Entrance damaged by King Louis VIII of France during the Great Siege of Dover Castle in 1216. New entrances were made at Constable's Gate (Constable's Gateway, in the west) and Fitzwilliam's Gate (Fitzwilliam's Gateway, in the east).

In front of the Norfolk Towers, unseen in the darkness (and under snow), is The Spur earthwork with its Ravelin and surrounding Second Word War (World War II) "Dragon's Teeth" anti-tank defences. The Ravelin, or Redan, is a raised artillery gun platform built during the Napoleonic Wars (see Twiss and the Canons Gate).

Below bottom-left is Upper Road leading to the Louis Bleriot Memorial in Northfall Meadow.

Louis Bleriot, a 37-year old French inventor, aircraft designer, and self-trained pilot, flew across the English Channel early on July 25, 1909, in an aircraft he designed himself - the Bleriot XI.

After he had landed, Bleriot crossed to the other side of Dover for breakfast at the Lord Warden Hotel where customs officials declared him to be, "Master of a vessel, Monoplane, lately arrived from Calais."

The Memorial was presented to the Aero Club of the United Kingdom by Alexander Duckham.

A description of Dover Castle published in 1818 (1)

It is now generally believed, that the ancient Britons had a place of defence on Dover cliffs before the invasion of the Romans, notwithstanding historians attribute the foundation of the Castle to the latter; yet the natural strength of the situation must have rendered it a very obvious post for defence to the former; and its contiguity to an enemy's shore must have pointed it out as very necessary to be defended.

That the Romans occupied the cliffs, and greatly enlarged and improved the fortifications, there is no doubt, as many remains of Roman erections are yet distinguishable; particularly part of a pharos or lighthouse, within an advanced circular work (Harold's Earthwork) in the southern division of the Castle, which is built partly with Roman tiles intermixed with flint, its outward form octagonal but internally square, and at an earlier period considerably higher than at present. Near it are the remains of an ancient church (St Mary-in-Castro), in which is still to be discerned Roman workmanship.

The ancient parts of this Castle occupy an area of about six acres, in the midst of which stands pre-eminently conspicuous the keep or citadel. The other buildings of the Castle are very extensive, and erected at different times.

Within the outer walls are included about thirty-five acres of ground: nearly the whole of it covered with erections, to describe, or even to name all which, within our limits, is impossible. They comprehend a great variety of fortification adapted for defence in ancient and modern warfare, and are now garrisoned by a large force. All the parts of the works are connected with each other by subterranean passages and covered ways cut through the solid rock.

The hills opposite to the Castle (the Western Heights) have also been fortified, and every other means employed to render the works impregnable.

Dover's white cliffs have been celebrated from the earliest period of our annals, their magnitude and grandeur exciting the admiration of all visitors. The views from the north turret of the Castle are unparalleled for beauty and extent. The whole breadth of the channel (English Channel) is distinctly to be seen, together with a considerable extent of the coast of France, including Dunkirk, Calais, and the hills between Calais and Boulogne.

On the English side, the town and singularly situated harbour of Dover strike the eye, with the North Foreland light-house, the towns of Ramsgate and Sandwich, Richborough Castle, Reculver and Minster churches, intermingled with a vast extent of highly cultivated land. The interest of this scene is greatly heightened by the vicinity of the sea, though so far below, that:

The murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high.

(Spoken by Edgar in William Shakespeare's King Lear - see the King Lear and Shakespeare Cliff photo for an extended quotation: NYA).

Notes and Sources

(1) An excerpt from the Georgian book, The antiquarian and topographical cabinet; containing a series of elegant views of the most interesting objects of curiosity in Great Britain. Accompanied with Letter-Press descriptions, by James Andrew Storer, John Greig (engraver). London 1809, 1818.

The main photo first appeared at:

The Keep or Great Tower of Henry II, Dover Castle at Night, Kent, UK

Also see:

Guardian of the Road: The Great Tower of Dover Castle at Night (NYA)

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 Medieval (Middle Ages) and Norman history photo.

More Dover Architecture and History photos.

More Panorama and Night views.

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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