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Dover Castle - Moat’s Bulwark

The Moat’s Bulwark was built by Henry VIII as part of artillery  fortifications intended less as a strengthening of the castle than as  protection for the newly enlarged harbour. These fortifications took  the form of comparatively small block houses or batteries:  Archcliffe Fort under the Western Heights, the Black Bulwark on the Pier, Moat’s Bulwark below the castle cliff and a third bulwark in the castle moat. Moats Bulwark has been greatly altered and little of the original  structure remains. It is first mentioned as ‘the bulwark subtus  castrum Doveri’ and was probably built circa March 1539, when  Charles de Marillac, the French Ambassador, saw ‘the new ramparts and bulwarks in the rock where the sea beats’. It had ordnance and artillery and a captain at least by 1540. Of timber construction at a cost of about one-third of £1496 (the total recorded cost of the  three bulwarks), it appears on a sixteenth century map as a timber  revetted platform, with a roughly circular front, approached by  tunnels in the cliff. The large semicircular battery which is now the most obvious  feature, dates from the invasion scares of the 1740s when the  harbour defences from Archcliffe Fort to Moat’s Bulwark were  strengthened and barracks built at both places. An account of about 1772 describes it thus: 'Although dependent on the castle, it has its peculiar officers;  there are a captain, lieutenant, and master-gunner. It consists of  a gate, having rooms over and on both sides of it, a house for the  gunner, and a circular stone battery, to which there is a descent  by a flight of steps. The entrance is on the east side, by a gradual  ascent formed out of the chalk. A gunner, who formerly resided  here, with great industry embellished the sides of the cliff with  several parterres of flowers, which had a very pleasing effect:  indeed, both the forms and situation of these buildings conspire to  render the view extremely picturesque and romantick’. Between 1775 and 1783 Moat’s Bulwark and Achcliffe Fort were  again overhauled and their defences updated. In front of Moat’s  Bulwark, the Guilford Battery was built, armed with four 32 pdr  guns and a number of carronades. Along the waterfront were built  a further three detached works, known as North, Townsend and  Amherst batteries, all of which had much the same armament.  With the exception of some of the nineteenth century buildings  associated with Guilford Battery, no trace of any of these now  remains.  In 1853-4 Guilford Battery had its parapets raised and 42pdr guns  installed on traversing mounts. At the same time a certain amount  of modernisation work was carried out on Moat’s Bulwark.  In 1856 a spiral stairway of 214 steps was cut inside the cliff, just  south of Canon’s Gate, to link Moat’s Bulwark and Guilford Battery  to the castle. At intervals defensible landings and doorways with  firing slits were incorporated, while lighting passages led to  openings in the cliff face. In the Second World War, some of the  latter were converted to observation posts and had short  accommodation tunnels added to their rear. In 1908 Moat’s Bulwark passed to the care of the Ancient  Monuments Branch of the Ministry of Works and its military career  was at an end. It is now hemmed in between the A20 and the cliff,  a neglected ruin. In another town that does not have major  historical sites like the Castle and the Western Heights more would  be made of remains like this but poor old Moat’s Bulwark is just a  bit over shadowed by it’s big brothers.
18th Century plan showing Moat's Bulwark. An 18th Century view of Moat's Bulwark. The Gatehouse of Moat's Bulwark Moat's Bulwark today.  Photo taken from the Seafront. Back to Castle Index