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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Dover Castle - The Outer Curtain Wall

The outer curtain wall was started by King Henry II in the 1180s.  The extent of the wall built during Henry’s reign is unknown but it  was unfinished at his death in 1190. Although the outer defences  of the Castle were incomplete there is no record of any substantial  work at Dover until the reign of King John (1199-1216). Between  1205 and 1214 John spent over £1000 on Dover, the bulk of this  was spent on continuing his father’s outer defences. In 1216 the outer defences were tested when the Castle was  besieged by French forces under Prince Louis in an attempt to  depose King John. The gate at the northern extremity of the outer  defences was undermined by the French and collapsed. The Castle  was held for the King by Hubert de Burgh, who with his heroic  defenders was able to plug the breach with timber baulks. In this  way they continued to hold out until the death of King John, and  the accession of his infant son Henry III, occasioned the  withdrawal of Prince Louis and his forces. The siege had exposed the weaknesses of Dover’s defences and it  was to be the business of Hubert de Burgh and the new King’s  government to make it good. Between 1217 and 1256 some £7500  was spent on the castle. The damaged gateway was rebuilt, not as a gateway but as a massive triple tower to strengthen this  vulnerable point. The great outer curtain wall was completed and a  new gateway, the Constable’s Gate was built to replace the now  blocked northern entrance. The towers of the outer curtain wall once made a far more splendid sight than they do today, towering over the wall itself. In the  eighteenth century the towers were reduced to their present height to make bases for the new artillery.
The outer curtain wall on the seaward side of Constable's Gate viewed from the approach to the gate.  The large windows are part of the Victorian remodelling of the Constable's Gate. The outer curtain wall on the landward side of Constable's Gate viewed from the approach to the gate. Crevecoeur Tower is a good example of how the towers of the outer curtain wall were reduced in height to make gun platforms in the 18th Century. Back to Castle Index