A cross-section diagram of the Admiralty Pier
During the 1870s the Admiralty had been developing
a new naval gun with armour piercing capabilities, the design
of which was finally perfected in 1876. A Rifled Muzzle Loader
or R.M.L. it weighed 81 tons, was 26 feet 9 inches long and
fired a 1,700 pound shell just under 7 miles. Each gun cost
£10,000 and each round of ammunition over £26.
It was first regarded as purely a naval weapon, but in 1877
the Admiralty decided that something larger than the existing
guns was needed to protect Dover, and the idea of a turret
containing two of these weapons at the end of the Admiralty
was born. The pierhead was modified, at a cost of
£60,000, to house the magazine with an engine room below
it and the turret above.
The turret, 37 feet in diameter and weighing, with the guns
in their mountings, 895 tons, cost £90,000. The engine
room in the heart of the pierhead and below the high water
mark, housed two steam engines to rotate the turret, one to
work the ammunition hoists, loading gear and to run the guns
in and out, one to operate a dynamo giving 33 volts for lighting
and a steam pump to provide water under pressure for hosing
out the guns between rounds.
The guns were brought from Woolwich to Dover by ship and were
installed in the turret using block and tackle. The muscle
power was provided by no less than 1,000 men of the Dover
garrison stretching the length of the pier.
In 1883 the guns were tested amid local fears of damage to
the cliffs and windows and roof tiles in the town. Crowds
gathered on the Sea Front to watch the effects of the firing
but the only damage was to the lighthouse at the end of the
Admiralty Pier where three small panes of glass were broken.
More tests were carried out early in 1886 and the turret handed
over on 21st April.
There is no record of the guns having ever been fired again
and in 1902 the Dover Turret was declared obsolete. In 1898
it had been suggested that the turret guns should be replaced
with 9.2 inch breech loaders but this was never done. The
guns were run in for the last time greased and depressed to
the loading position and left. The steam engines and ammunition
hoists have been removed as has the gear for running the guns
in and out but the guns themselves still remain inside the
The temporary crane is seen lifting the first
of the two guns in December 1881.