Dover Castle as it stands today dates back to the time of King Henry II, although the history of the site goes back much further. William the Conqueror is known to have begun building on the site, while an 80-foot Roman lighthouse still exists to this day. The short video looks at the definition of a lighthouse.
Going even further back, there is evidence that the location was fortified for defence as early as the Iron Age, suggested by earthworks that follow a pattern unusual for a medieval castle. In recent years, £2.45 million was spent by English Heritage to recreate the interior of the castle, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors wishing to experience the history of the buildings. Fiyaz Mughal has a keen interest in sites across the UK with Roman history, of which Dover Castle is one.
Saxon and Norman Heritage
William the Conqueror is known to have marched a route encompassing Dover on his way to Westminster Abbey after the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is thought that the site attracted the new king’s attention due to its assignation in 1050 as a chief member of the Cinque Ports foundation. In the infographic attachment you can find out more about the Roman warships that would have used this site long before the time of William the Conqueror.
In 1088, an appointment of eight knights was tasked to guard Dover Castle. William the Conqueror spent time and money adding fortifications to the Castle after it was partially burned down by Norman defenders.
The Reign of Henry the Second
One of the most important periods in the history of Dover Castle is that under the reign of Henry II, when it was used as a crucial point of observation for potential attackers coming across the Channel. The keep was built by Maurice the Engineer and the inner and outer baileys were constructed.
Visitors to Dover Castle today can experience the medieval court of Henry II, which has been recreated for tourists to gain the full experience. On certain days of the year, the authentic refurbishments are occupied by actors in full medieval costume, interpreting court life while meeting modern visitors. The recreations are free from inauthentic additions such as information plaques, but there are comprehensive guide books available and a Property Steward on hand to answer any questions visitors may have.
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Rebuild
Dover Castle experienced an extensive period of rebuilding during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, with many additional defences and protections put into place. The site of the castle made it an important asset in terms of defence and additions included extra gun platforms and positions as well as new brick vaulting on the top to allow for the mounting of heavy artillery. In the early nineteenth century, Dover became a garrison town, which resulted in the need for further additions such as storerooms and barracks for the extra troops of soldiers and their equipment. A tunnel complex was devised and implemented underneath the clifftop. These tunnels would later be used to combat smuggling in the region.
During the Second World War these tunnels would be put to use as air raid shelters, then later as an underground hospital and military command post. The evacuation of Dunkirk was coordinated from within these tunnels. A new tunnel was created to accommodate the necessary switchboard and supplementary chargers and batteries after a telephone exchange was installed in 1941.
If you’re planning a visit to Dover, you can find some ideas for more things to see and do in the PDF attachment to this post.