Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Rare view of the 13th Century Norfolk Towers at Sunrise, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

The medieval Norfolk Towers at the northern end of Dover Castle viewed from a field adjacent to the hidden East Wing Battery of the Victorian Fort Burgoyne. The field (no access without permission) is where part of the French army were arrayed during the Great Siege of 1216:

Medieval Norfolk Towers replaced the Northern Entrance (Northgate) after the 1216 Siege of Dover Castle by Dauphin of France (later Louis VIII) when Hubert de Burgh was Constable. British Army flag.
(Click this Dover Castle Norfolk Towers text link to see the largest size)

The ivy-clad Norfolk Towers are in the fobidden zone that surrounds the entire perimeter of the castle. Despite their massive size, if this photo were to be mixed with half-a-dozen photos of other Norman castles, then I would be very surprised if the average Dovorian "man or woman in the street" would recognize that the Norfolk Towers are part of the ancient monument they see almost every day.

This post-sunrise zoomed photo of 400 yards was taken at 6.48 am on Monday, 27th of June, 2011. The flag-pole and collection of chimney stacks at top-left are part of Constable's Gateway (alt. Constable's Tower), 120 yards beyond the Norfolk Towers. The British Army flag is that of "Deputy Constable of Dover Castle". On a less-hazy day, the English Channel is visible above the skyline to the right of the towers.

The main entrance to Dover Castle prior to the 1216 Siege of Dover Castle (First Barons War) was the Northern Entrance (North Entrance, or Northgate).

During the siege, which broke off and then resumed briefly in 1217 when a trebuchet catapult was used (french: Malvoisin, or "Bad Neighbour"), the engineers of the Dauphin (Prince Louis, later Louis VIII of France) so damaged the eastern gate tower of the North Entrance by mining that Hubert de Burgh (Constable of Dover Castle under King John and Henry III) subsequently sealed the gateway, replacing it with the Norfolk Towers, and new entrances were made at Constable's Gate (in the west) and Fitzwilliam's Gate (alt. Fitzwilliam's Gateway, Fitzwilliam's Tower; in the east: a postern, or secondary entrance).

Hubert de Burgh also constructed the Spur earthwork (originally a tear-drop shaped affair, out-of-shot to the right) and St John's Tower, a round tower and the only tower located in the Dover Castle's surrounding moat (or ditch).

When the Norfolk Towers replaced Northgate (termed King John's Gatehouse by Goodall), communication from St John's Tower with the castle interior was made via an underground passage that runs beneath the Norfolk Towers and surfaces below a keyhole-shaped pier, or tower at the end of the North Barbican causeway (alt. King's Gate Barbican, King's Barbican).

Another passageway connects St John's Tower to the Spur earthwork and Ravelin (other tunnels go elsewhere).

The Ravelin, or Redan, is a raised artillery gun platform added to the castle defences during the Napoleonic Wars with France: see the caption to The Canons Gate and Rokesley Tower photo.

Below the trees at top-left in the main photo, the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall (North) runs for 180 yards down to Avranches Tower (for crossbows) where it does a 30-yard "dogleg" (or zig-zag) across the Avranches Gap before continuing on towards the sea.

For ease of reference in describing this and other Dover Castle photos, the Eastern Outer Curtain Wall is determined to end on this side of St John's Tower and the Norfolk Towers, and the Western Outer Curtain Wall to begin on the other.

Excerpt from "Dover Castle and the Great Siege of 1216" (1)

The fabric of the northern tip of the castle is an impossibly complex hotchpotch of different periods of documented and undocumented building work, to such an extent indeed that, in the absence of a full archaeological survey, much informed guess-work is involved in establishing its development.

Externally the medieval castle has been smothered by eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century accretions. In this period the backs of the walls were buttressed with earth and backed by casemates; the towers cut down for the sighting of artillery; and an elaborate fortified Spur, incorporating a series of medieval tunnels, constructed to the north of the walls.

Excerpt from "Annals of Dover" (2)

Magminot's Towers: There were two towers here originally, but they, having been altered, are now represented by four towers (the Norfolk Towers) occupying the angle facing the high ground northward. There was within the walls, adjoining these towers, a guard-house intended to contain men-at-arms always alert to protect this assailable part of the fortress.

After the French Siege in 1216, a souterrain was carried under these towers across the exterior ditch, and, dividing into three branches, gave egress to the centre, and to each side of the Spur, to facilitate sallies and retreats. The Spur, which still remains, was made in the 13th Century, and altered to suit artillery in 1796.

St. John's Tower: This is a round isolated tower in the exterior ditch, where the souterrain branches into three outlets. It is named after St. John of Basing, a descendant of the Peverells (see The Peverell Gateway - NYA).

Notes and Sources

(1) "Dover Castle and the Great Siege of 1216", by John Goodall. From: Chateau Gaillard XIX: Actes du Colloque International de Graz, (Autriche), 22-29 août 1998 (published 2000).

A paper from the Acts of the International Colloquium held in Graz (Austria) in August 1998, a biennial meeting of scholars studying medieval castles.

(2) "Annals of Dover", by John Bavington Jones. Published by the Dover Express works (1916).

The main photo first appeared at:

Rare view of the 13th Century Norfolk Towers at Sunrise, Dover Castle

Not yet available:

Rare view of the Middle Ages Norfolk Towers at Sunrise, Dover Castle (front)
Rare view of the Medieval Norfolk Towers at Sunrise, Dover Castle (flank)

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, King John, Henry III, History, and Sunrise 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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