Dover Castle



Dover Castle is located on a chalk and flint ridge on the north side Dover, Kent, England, right on the edge of the “White Cliffs of Dover,” overlooking the English Channel. It has been called the “Key to England” because of its defensive significance throughout British history. It has also been styled as the largest castle in England, a title for which it competes with Windsor Castle.

This site of the castle was probably early on that of an Iron Age hill fort. There are a number of earthworks of unusual pattern both within the outer bailey and outside the castle, suggesting Iron Age occupation of the site. This proposal is supported by archaeological excavations.

A Roman lighthouse, built in the early second century AD, still stands in the outer bailey near the cliffs. It is Britain’s oldest standing building, the most complete and tallest standing Roman structure in England, and one of only three Roman lighthouses in the world.

The Saxons probably built a church next to the lighthouse in the seventh century. The cruciform church, St Mary de Castro, which stands there now was built around 1000 AD and the Roman lighthouse was used as a belfry. The Saxon castle was probably built mainly of wood.

After the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror came to Dover with his army, burned and captured the castle. He spent eight days building a replacement castle, largely of clay, which collapsed and the clay was used as the flooring in many of the ground-floor rooms of the later castle.

William’s son, Henry II began the stone castle we see today. He built the great keep, as well as the inner and outer baileys. Maurice the Engineer oversaw the construction of the classic Norman keep. From 1179 to 1188, King Henry spent over £6,500 on the castle, which was an enormous sum, considering that his total income was around £100,000 for those ten years.

Henry’s son, King John, so enraged the barons, by his terrible behavior and his breaking of Magna Carta in 1216, that a group of them rebelled against the king and invited Louis VIII, the future king of France, to come and take the English crown. The French army, brought across the channel to Dover by Louis, managed to breach the outer bailey walls at the postern gate on the northwest side of the castle, but was unable to take the inner bailey and keep. Defense of the castle was under the command of Hubert de Burgh, with his 140 knights and other soldiers. The siege ended with the death of King John at Newark Castle, probably from dysentery but there were rumors he was poisoned, on 19 October 1216. His successor, Henry III was just nine years old. The barons ceased the rebellion and Louis withdrew his army back to France.

Following the 1216 attack, the northwest portion of the castle was heavily reinforced by the construction of the semi-round, “D” towers of Fitzwilliam’s Gate, making it probably the most heavily fortified postern gate in the world. It remains a back, service gate today.

At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Dover Castle was held by only a small Royalist garrison of 20 men. Most of the townspeople were loyal to the Parliamentarians, and on the night of 21 August 1642 a small group of eleven civilian town folk, led by Richard Dawkes, a local merchant, scaled the cliffs, surprised the garrison and captured the castle, without a shot being fired. Dover remained a Parliamentarian castle for the remainder of the war.

During the Napoleonic Wars of the 18th century, the castle was massively remodeled, under the direction of the Royal Engineer William Twiss. Large gun platforms were added on the east, west and north sides of the castle. He also remodeled the keep roof with massive brick vaults that could support heavy artillery. The underground tunnel system, begun by Hubert de Burgh in 1216, were greatly expanded during this period of reconstruction. Barracks tunnels were also added to house additional troops and supplies.

During the Second World War, the tunnels were used, first as an air-raid shelter and then as a military command center and hospital. During the evacuation of French and British troops from Dunkirk in May-June 1940, Admiral Bertram Ramsay directed the evacuation from his headquarters in the Dover tunnels. A military telephone exchange was installed in the underground headquarters in 1941.

This model of Dover Castle is designed to be printed onto paper (I use 110 pond card stock), cut out and glued together (I prefer Tacky Glue) to make the model. The stones of the walls are taken from close-up photos I took of the actual walls at Dover. The model includes the keep and inner bailey. The walls of the outer bailey may be built by simply making more wall sections and towers. Some of the outer bailey towers are “D” towers, so the plans for those are included.