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Dover Castle

One of the finest historic buildings in the world, has survived countless wars and invasions, and today stands at the top of Dover's famous White Cliffs in remarkably good condition. Attracting thousands of visitors every year from all over the world, Dover Castle is renowned for both its superb upkeep and its fascinating history.


In the 1180s Henry II remodelled the castle, planning its great tower as a palace in which to entertain great visitors as well as a last redoubt for a strategically important castle. At 83 feet (25.3 metres) high, just under 100 feet (30 metres) square and with walls up to 21 feet (6.5 metres) thick, it has three floors of rooms, the topmost being state apartments for the king himself.

Within this magnificent showpiece, Henry could welcome and impress distinguished visitors to England – particularly noble pilgrims travelling to the new shrine in Canterbury Cathedral of Thomas Becket. The archbishop was slaughtered in front of the altar there by Henry’s household knights on 29 December 1170, ten years before the great tower was begun. On the second floor of the great tower is a chapel dedicated to Becket, with richly decorated stonework. 

Building work continued in the first half of the 13th century under King John and Henry III, who completed the successive rings of defensive walls surrounding the great tower.


By 1905 advances in technology made it possible for coastal artillery around the harbour to be controlled from a central Fire Command Post built on the cliff edge. Its commanding position led the Admiralty to site a signal station on top of it in 1914, from which the Navy controlled the movement of all ships in and out of the harbour.

The Napoleonic tunnels were brought back into service in the Second World War, when they made their most notable contribution to British history. From 1939 they housed the command centre that controlled naval operations in the Channel. It was from here that in May 1940 Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay organised the extraordinary evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk.

Over the next few years the tunnels were greatly extended to serve as both a hospital and a large combined headquarters, responsible for guarding the Straits of Dover and involved in preparing for the 1944 invasion of Europe.

Later, during the Cold War, this network of tunnels was transformed into the secret location of one of Britain’s Regional Seats of Government, with the role of organising life in the event of a nuclear attack. 

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