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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Admiralty Pier Turret

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 Pier was born.  The pier head was modified, at a cost of £60,000, to house the  magazine with an engine room below 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 pier head 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 turret.  
The Admiralty Pier Turret firing its guns.  An engraving possibly showing the test firing of 1883. Inside the pier underneath the turret. The rails in the floor were for the trolleys which carried the shells from the magazines to the hoist which took them up to the turret for firing. The guns still inside the turret.