Medieval Castles: Dover Castle

Dover Castle - England - Kent - Medieval England - Medieval History - Medieval Castles - Middle AgesConstructed around the same time as the Tower of London (late 11th century), Dover Castle stands as one of the earliest castles built by William the Conqueror after his conquest of Anglo-Saxon England. Duke William had the castle built near an old Roman lighthouse and burgh, which King Harold (the last Saxon king of medieval England) established sometime before the Norman invasion in 1066. None of William’s constructions, however, survive to this day. The great keep dates back to King Henry II’s reign in the 1180s and is still there today.

The keep is nearly 29 meters high with walls as thick as 6.5 meters in some places; these walls are reinforced by a plinth. Each side stretches to over 30 meters in length, and at each corner is a large turret tower. Securing the entrance to the keep is a massive fore-building with three towers covering the stairs. This fore-building was one of the largest of its kind in medieval England. An interior wall divides the keep into two sections.

The keep consists of three stories, each level being accessed by two stairwells spiraling up the corner turrets. Fourteen projecting rectangular towers, each open to the rear, extend around the inner wall that encircles the keep, with two barbicans defending the north and south gates.

In 1216, Phillippe Augustus’ son, Louis of France, besieged Dover Castle. This was at the time of the barons’ revolt against King John. After assaulting and taking the barbican protecting the northern gate, Louis had his men tunnel beneath the walls and collapse one of the gate’s two towers. Louis then ordered his armies to assault the collapsed section of the wall, but the soldiers within managed to plug the breach and hold off the enemy, preserving the victory and the fall of Dover Castle. Louis would eventually give up and retire his armies from the area.

*Correction to the first paragraph above: The site chosen for Dover Castle was first cleared around 1168 and the area prepared for building. It then lay fallow for over ten years and building work began proper in 1180 overseen by a Master Mason called Maurice who also built the New Castle at New Castle. By 1188 the keep and inner bailey curtain wall were complete.

Sources:

J.E. Kaufmann, H.W Kaufmann, and Robert M. Jurga. The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages. De Capo Press, 2001.

*image retrieved from http://www.uk-photos.co.uk/aerial/kent_dover_castle.jpg

23 thoughts on “Medieval Castles: Dover Castle

  • Greetings,
    I’m researching my Ancestry and was searching for images and history of Dover Castle when I stumbled upon your website. You provide better information than most of the “official” websites that I have encountered.

    Thank you for creating an interesting and user-friendly website.

    Happy Holidays!

    – judi

  • Judi, I’m glad you’ve found my site interesting. Thanks so much for stopping by! Please continue to visit and leave comments. If there is anything specific I can answer, just let me know.

    When you said you were researching ancestry, it made me think of an article I posted a while back. There is a Web site where you can look up the battle records of soldiers that served in the Hundred Years War. Below is a link to the post. You might find it interesting:

    http://steventill.com/2009/07/20/online-medieval-battle-records/

  • I am researching on castles and I’ve decided to do this one, thanks for the information you’ve provided

  • I was looking for a site on dove castle for a report i wanna do, and i found yours, and i got a 95% thanks for the help mate.

  • Hi there,

    I’ve just come across your website – I worked at Dover Castle for 12 years and I’m sorry but William the Conquerer did not build Dover Castle.

    The site chosen for Dover Castle was first cleared around 1168 and the area prepared for building. It then lay fallow for over ten years and building work began proper in 1180 overseen by a Master Mason called Maurice who also built the New Castle at New Castle. By 1188 the keep and inner bailey curtain wall were complete.

    This is a matter of public record – the Pipe Rolls which list the medieval kings expenditure on royal buildings notes the cost of building Dover Castle during the reign of Henry II and can be found in the extensive work of Colvin, Allan Brown and Taylor in The History of the King’s Works which distills the details of the Pipe Rolls into book form.

  • Hi Lisa, sorry for my delayed response. I’ve been out of town last week, hiking and camping in Colorado. Thanks for pointing out the incorrect info on my post. I guess the source I have is incorrect in that regard. I will make a correction to the content above.

  • hi,
    wat is poppin” well anyways i am researching castles in my school nd i wanted to say tnx for da info !!!!!!! ur badass haha well yea see ya laterz!!! su woo

  • yo yo was hannenin dis website is ill helped out a lot got bomb grade on ma report oh and by bomb i mean i gots an A ye boi!!!!!!

  • I was just randomly doing research on some castles and stumbled across this one. Cool info and I love the picture!!! Awesome!!!

  • It looks like the fortress extends out into the sea from the picture.
    I was just wondering if any of it is underground and willya be posting any pictures of the rooms?

    Awesome site.

  • hey dude thanks this info helped me alot on the brochure i had to do for my 8th grade semi-project.

  • I love castles of all kinds. It is interesting to me how the English castles are very masculine vs. the French ones that are so ornate and feminine. Both have great beauty.

  • hello,

    im doing a project report on castles and this was very impressive 🙂 i hope i get an A+ 🙂 but i need some more basic info. do u think u can help me out a bit?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Protected by WP-SpamShield Spam Blocker