Dover Castle: Gateway and Key to England

Dover Castle: Gateway and Key to England
Dover Castle, seen from the north

“Then he went to Dover, where, according to reports, a large army had gathered. The English, terrified at his approach, had no confidence either in the strength of the walls or in the number of soldiers ... While the inhabitants were preparing to unconditionally surrender to the mercy of the winner, the Normans, greedy for profit, set fire to the city, and soon most of it was on fire. [William then paid for the repairs and] took the castle and spent eight days adding new fortifications to the castle."
William of Poitier, Norman historian, on the capture of Dover by William the Conqueror.

History and castles. It is not for nothing that Dover Castle is called the "Gateway to England", although, on the other hand, it is also the key to it, and in the truest sense of the word. Everyone who crossed the Pas de Calais, or simply the Canal - that is, the narrowest place between England and France, simply could not help but fall into the field of view of his garrison.

Dover Castle from the Napoleonic Wars. Watercolor by Thomas Whitcomb

Before the Romans

It is clear that this castle on the shore of the strait was not built for the sake of beauty, but precisely in order to find out in advance about the approach of both “invited” and uninvited guests and have time to gather strength to repulse the latter. Therefore, fortifications in these places began to be erected long before the arrival of the Romans here in the XNUMXst century BC. True, who erected them is unknown. Archaeologists have not yet found out any details on this matter. But ... the fact, nevertheless, remains a fact: “a holy place is never empty”, here are the fortifications here, as well as the lighthouse, and they appeared here a very long time ago. According to the most conservative estimates, Dover Castle has about two thousand years. And today it is one of the oldest and largest defensive fortifications in Great Britain.

Well, this is how the place depicted in the watercolor looks today

Guillaume Bastard... deceiver

Having landed on the island in the 1600st century, the Romans not only built a fortress and a port here, but also took care of building two lighthouses, one of which is still intact. But when the Romans left England more than XNUMX years ago, the city of Dover remained in its place, and with it the lighthouses, the port, and the "anti-amphibious fortifications."

In the XNUMXth century, King Harold II ordered the construction of a church on the site of the Roman fortifications and a moat around the building. The ditch was dug, the church was built, but then in England landed to conquer its throne, none other than William the Conqueror, who was actually called Guillaume Bastard at that time. He captured Dover, burned the fortifications, but then changed his mind and built several more walls and towers around the church. What the Lord God, no doubt, rejoiced at, because in this way the newly-appeared pretender to the throne guarded not just anything, but the house of God!

Let's go to the gate...

But here's what's strange: the remains of Roman fortifications are still visible, but from the buildings of the Conqueror, well, nothing, not a pebble. And the question is - maybe he invented all this, and the court flatterers took it, and painted his glorious deeds in the court chronicle and exaggerated ... the achievements of their monarch?

And we're getting really close...

And now again we look at the castle from afar. “Autumn has come, the fields and forests have turned yellow ...”

The Builder King, nicknamed "Short Cloak"

For 100 years, everything seems to have somehow calmed down. None of the chronicles said anything about Dover Castle until Henry II Plantagenet, who received the strange nickname "Short Cloak", ascended the English throne. Heinrich was very restless, he didn’t like to sit on the throne just like that, but preferred to travel around those lands of England that he considered his own and build castles there. And he succeeded in this occupation (you might think that he either participated in the competition “who will build more”, or simply collected them), as he managed to build about 90 castle fortifications!

Reconstruction of the siege of Dover by the French. By Peter Dunn ®Historic England

His favorite building, in which this king invested the most money, was Dover Castle. Until his death, Henry II "played at the castle" - he built everything and rebuilt it, but in the end he did not finish the construction. Another king, John the Landless, had to bring it to mind. John completed a lot of things - walls, new towers - and completed the work just in time. The fact is that in 1216 a rebellion began in England, followed by a foreign invasion - the French landed in the country and took many fortresses. But Windsor and Dover could not be taken.

Why was it so difficult to storm medieval castles?

Let's look at a drawing by a modern artist, in which he depicted a typical knight's castle of the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries, moreover, owned by a very rich lord, and possibly even by the king himself. Rice. A. Sheps

Everything in it is drawn as it should, down to the smallest detail. On the left is a bridgehead fortification, behind which is a bridge leading to the second fortification - a round barbican tower. The barbican was “crowned”, that is, on the eve of hostilities, a wooden superstructure with loopholes was installed on it, covered with a tiled roof on top. Another stone bridge leads from the barbican to the castle, possibly with a secret exit directly to the water, along with a drawbridge in front of the gate. A balcony hangs over the gate with machicols - loopholes directed downwards, through which stones were thrown from above and boiling water was poured. So that's how easily the enemies would not have been able to approach the gate! Two towers on a strong foundation protect the gates on the right and left, and the crossbowmen sitting on them could, while remaining "invisible", shoot through both the barbican and the bridgehead. As you can see, wooden combat galleries have already been mounted on the towers, but on the walls to the left and right of the towers they are not yet there, but in them, just above the loopholes in the walls, holes for fastening wooden beams protruding from the wall are clearly visible. There are already galleries on the wall that goes to the right, and here we see a collapsible bridge, along which food for people and horses was brought to the castle in peacetime. The war began - and he was immediately removed. A little further - a mighty ten-sided corner tower with hinged stone galleries, machicolations and ... a small wall-mounted toilet cubicle. The walls of the tower are supported by powerful buttresses. Only God knows how deep they go into the ground, so digging under this corner tower is a dead business. Next - the premises in which the owner of the castle lives with his family. The donjon is the highest tower of the castle, apparently built a long time ago, it is also built on with a watchtower, from where the guards can see far around ... And - let's think, is it really so easy to take this castle? From the side of the river, digging is impossible due to groundwater. Where it is drier, the towers, and most likely the foundations of the walls, are buried so deep that it is impossible to get to the bottom of them. Well, the garrison of the castle. He doesn't sleep either!

Storming of Kenilworth Castle. Miniature from a medieval manuscript. That's how the besiegers "bombed" the castles then!

Impregnable fortress

As a result, Dover was simply too tough for the French. What they didn’t do: they dug tunnels, they undermined and blew up the towers, they tried to break through the walls, but its defenders held on tight. And after sitting at its walls for three months, they, annoyed, left. In 1217, the French again besieged Dover Castle, but this time without success. As a result, they went home, and Henry III, who appreciated the usefulness of the castle, not only restored everything that was destroyed, but also strengthened it even more. So, on the western side, a new gate was built, protected by six towers at once. The unusually high new tower of St. John's was built in order to view not only the fortifications, but also all the surroundings of the castle for many miles in all directions, and even look at the sea in the distance. Warehouses for grain and even a windmill were built to grind flour and bake bread for the garrison. And the king increased the number of garrison in the castle, ordering to protect almost the entire coast of England in the Canal zone.

A lot of money was allocated from the royal treasury for this. Well, yes, and the goal was good - the security of the country from invasion from the sea!

Trouble from their own!

As it often happened in the old days, the castle successfully fought against external enemies, but could not defend itself from its own, “internal” ones. When in 1642 the era of civil war began in England, the city of Dover was occupied by supporters of parliament, and the castle was occupied by supporters of the king. But they did not triumph in it for long: the townspeople, who knew all the entrances and exits from it, made their way inside, and the royalists who defended it had only to surrender.

City of Dover and castle on a 1661 plan

In the XNUMXth century, the castle was re-equipped with new cannons, new infantry barracks were built in it, and then, when there was no more free space left on the surface, they began to build barracks and warehouses deep underground. So by the time England took it into her head to threaten Napoleon, Dover Castle was most reliably protected both from the sea and from land - and was a truly impregnable fortress.

One of their corner towers with a loophole at the bottom

Hexagonal tower covered with ivy. View in the spirit of romanticism. Wild and poetic. “The ruins of dilapidated stone buildings, and wild branches braided all the towers ...”

What does a medieval castle smell like?

During the First World War, anti-aircraft batteries and powerful searchlights were located in the castle. By the beginning of World War II, Dover Castle gained “foreseeing” - the latest radars were placed on its towers, and in the underground tunnels, which were further expanded and further strengthened, there was a hospital and the headquarters of the command of all anti-aircraft and coastal artillery on the southwest coast of England.

We go down into the ditch. It is ancient, but the trace of a jet plane in the sky is already ours today

It served as headquarters and military base until May 1945. In 1958, some part of its garrison was disbanded, but it did not lose its military significance: due to the Caribbean crisis that happened four years later, the tunnels of Dover Castle began to be considered as a bomb shelter in case of a nuclear war. Everything related to the internal structure of the castle was immediately classified. And the secrecy regime was removed only in 1984, when it was turned into a museum.

Just look at the bastions there. It's not medieval anymore. It was these stone structures that were the support for the “royal cannons” - guns of special power that hit for as many as four miles.

This photo clearly shows the thickness of the parapet.

But in this photo, the moat of the castle overlooks the sea. Another very wild, but pretty place... Look, there is a line of French warships clearly visible in the distance. A little more and the battle of the fortress with fleet will begin!

Moreover, the museum of the original British came out very unusual. The rooms at the top are decorated under the Middle Ages, but the underground shelters are in the spirit of the Second World War. Going underground into the tunnels made in the thickness of the chalk rocks, you can hear the roar of diving German bombers, the groans of the wounded who were in the hospital, and even smell the smell of antiseptics and strong soldier's tobacco. Previously, to enhance the effect, the smell of blood was also added to all these “military aromas”. But since some visitors could not withstand such a maximum immersion in the past and fainted, they decided to remove the smell of blood.

Just a gate. Alone among several ... And above them is a wall

PS The author and administration of the site express their most sincere gratitude to our reader Alexei Sviridov ("Bolt Cutter") for the photographs of Dover Castle taken by him.
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  1. +11
    3 January 2023 06: 22
    Probably many boys in childhood, and then already adult uncles, wander around such castles and think about assaults. Rather, how to take such a castle. I always do this drinks
    Happy New Year to everybody!
  2. +8
    3 January 2023 07: 04
    Thank you, Vyacheslav Olegovich and Alexey!

    Henry II had a good hobby - to build castles.
    If the collection is royal.
    1. +7
      3 January 2023 07: 44
      I join the kind words of Sergey!
      It's better for subjects when monarchs build castles on their own land than play soldiers on someone else's!
      1. +7
        3 January 2023 08: 12
        It is we, Vladislav, who are approaching the eternal question without an answer: “What is the life of a person worth?” And the life of a subject?

        Through the price of a slave in different civilizations, you can’t especially calculate the virus.
    2. +6
      3 January 2023 12: 57
      Henry II had a good hobby - to build castles.
      This is not a hobby. Old Harry, being a child of the civil war and himself involved in one, perfectly understood the importance of castles as strongholds.
      1. +3
        3 January 2023 14: 13
        The phrase to the fact that any game is a model of life. And it can be implemented.
  3. +4
    3 January 2023 07: 46
    From the work of Vyacheslav -
    As a result, Dover was simply too tough for the French. What they didn’t do: they dug tunnels, they undermined towers and blew up,

    I wonder how? In the courtyard of the 12th century.
    1. +3
      3 January 2023 07: 56
      Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
      and blew up

      Really... how?
      1. +1
        3 January 2023 19: 20
        Mining. You dig below the level of the foundation, put up wooden supports, and then set fire to it. The wall is crumbling
    2. +7
      3 January 2023 09: 44
      Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
      I wonder how?

      Difficulties in translation, I think.
      The English "to undermine" translates to "undermine". Formally, such a translation is correct, but in this case it should be understood not as "exploding", but as "undermining". The French tried to undermine the tower (and successfully), and not blow it up.
      1. +4
        3 January 2023 09: 59
        Quote: Trilobite Master
        Quote: Kote pane Kohanka
        I wonder how?

        Difficulties in translation, I think.
        The English "to undermine" translates to "undermine". Formally, such a translation is correct, but in this case it should be understood not as "exploding", but as "undermining". The French tried to undermine the tower (and successfully), and not blow it up.

        Thanks Michael for the explanation!
  4. +4
    3 January 2023 08: 03
    Judging by the large windows and the balcony, the castle was rebuilt several times and there was absolutely nothing left of the late Roman and early Anglo-Uto-Saxon architectural and engineering solutions. Tourist facility...
    1. +5
      3 January 2023 08: 40
      Quote: Luminman
      there is absolutely nothing left of late Roman and early Anglo-Utean-Saxon architectural and engineering solutions

      Foundation and lighthouse!
  5. +11
    3 January 2023 10: 01
    I would also remind my colleagues that it is in the Dover region that the chalk cliffs are located, thanks to which, according to one version, England received the name "Albion". smile
    1. +5
      3 January 2023 10: 08
      And, they say, they can be seen from the French Cape Gray.
      1. +7
        3 January 2023 10: 27
        Yes, apparently, I checked it myself. In good weather.

        Only the cape is called Cap Gris-Nez - "Gray Nose".
        1. +2
          3 January 2023 11: 00
          Quote from Passeur
          Only the cape is called Cap Gris-Nez

          Some non-English word and letter combination ......
          1. +6
            3 January 2023 11: 18
            non-English word- and letter combination
            This is from France. Not far from there, in Odingen, the Germans built the Siegfried battery in 1940 for artillery strikes on Dover.

            Part of the armored shield from the Lindemann battery with a propaganda poster, taken by the British as a trophy and installed on the Dover promenade.
            1. +3
              3 January 2023 11: 57
              Quote: Bolt Cutter
              This is from France

              Never been to those parts. Is the opposite shore really so clearly visible?
              1. +9
                3 January 2023 12: 06
                Yes OK. From Dover, in good weather, I also saw France. At the bottleneck there is 34 km.
        2. +2
          3 January 2023 14: 18
          Thank you so much! Wonderful photo.

          This is how Tyutchev could look at Mont Blanc from afar:

          And there, in solemn peace,
          Undressed in the morning
          The White Mountain shines
          Like an unearthly revelation.
          1. +5
            3 January 2023 15: 36
            This is from France. Not far from there, in Odingen, the Germans built the Siegfried battery in 1940 for artillery strikes on Dover.

            "Not far from there" the Germans built six batteries. Directly on Cape "Grey Nose" was a battery of Großer Kurfürst of four 280 mm guns in turret mounts.

            And this is the same place in 2010. I had to climb onto the roof of the bus to take it off. By "same place" is meant not a specific tower, but a battery.
    2. +7
      3 January 2023 10: 47
      chalk cliffs in the Dover area
      There goes a city bus (15 min) but the weather on the day of filming was so bad that we decided to go another time. And the castle itself was closed for filming and it was not possible to get inside.
  6. +7
    3 January 2023 13: 10

    His favorite building, in which this king invested the most money, was Dover Castle.

    Approximately from 5 to 10 thousand pounds.
    Thank you, Vyacheslav Olegovich and Alex!
    1. +7
      3 January 2023 13: 32
      This is always with me please.
      Taking this opportunity, we also noted this matter (in London, although seafood is not bad, it’s not that).
      And I have proletarian-Jewish tastes laughing

      A good day at Dover Yes
      1. +6
        3 January 2023 13: 40
        It just seems that Vyacheslav Olegovich finally began to realize that instead of scouring the Internet in search of illustrations in the "public domain" format and fruitless attempts to contact the administration of museums, you can ask your readers about it.
        1. +2
          3 January 2023 15: 14
          Quote: 3x3zsave
          you can ask your readers about it.

          You are right Anton! Who will shoot me a black crow and send neatly packed feathers from the wings - left and right and from the tail? All expenses will be paid!!!
          1. +2
            3 January 2023 15: 32
            Who will shoot a black crow for me
            Try to contact Sergey "Bongo" Linnik.
          2. +2
            3 January 2023 17: 30
            Somewhere Raven (Corvus Corax) in the Red Book.
            1. +1
              3 January 2023 20: 45
              I have a lot of fly around the city. But what should I shoot him with? From a slingshot?
              1. +2
                3 January 2023 20: 50
                what should I shoot him with?
                And what did this Corvus Corax do wrong to you? Fucked up the car? Their amazon and ebay feathers are sold, and both black cock feathers are for a penny, and real ones are a little more expensive.
      2. +4
        3 January 2023 15: 17
        Quote: Bolt Cutter
        in London, seafood, although not bad, but not that

        Oh, all the same things that I love. And all this is now sold in Penza + crayfish from the surrounding ponds. Oysters and those alive are on sale. But probably not like in London. But halibut is good, and mussels. I roast them with garlic and serve them with pesto... Mmmm...
        1. +3
          3 January 2023 15: 46
          all the same as I love.
          I am practically indifferent to any artsy sea animals. That's just fish & chips - a brilliant invention of London Jews - I respect.
          1. +2
            3 January 2023 17: 24
            Quote: Bolt Cutter

            I love shrimp in batter, fried mussels, Korean miyo-kook soup from seaweed.
    2. +2
      3 January 2023 15: 49
      Approximately from 5 to 10 thousand pounds.

      There is an exact figure - 6300 pounds. The head of the project, Mauricius 'Caementarius, received 8 to 12 pence a day.
      1. 0
        4 January 2023 14: 38
        I basically assumed that there was an exact amount, but, unfortunately, I did not find this information on my own, thanks! He based his constructions on the cost of building Chateau Gaillard, which cost 2-3 times more.
  7. +2
    3 January 2023 18: 26
    One of the most famous World War II songs in the West, "the White cliffs of Dover", is dedicated to the White Cliffs of Dover.
    The song was written by the Americans, but since 1942 it has become a hit in the repertoire of the British singer Vera Lynn.
    Incredibly, the song has a very soothing melody and is dedicated to the dreams of peace, but has become one of the symbols of the hope of the British, which helped them survive the dark times:

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