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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Western Heights - Introduction

In 1779 England was at war with America and her allies (France,  Spain and the Netherlands) in the American war of Independence.  An army of 50,000 waited across the Channel, ready to invade. To defend the vitally important town and port of Dover, simple  earthwork batteries were thrown up around the town and on the  Western Heights to supplement the now much outdated mediaeval  Castle. From this simple and inexpensive beginning grew a  massive fortified complex of brick and stone consisting of two  massive forts, miles of dry ditches, barracks and a hospital, which  were not finally completed until over 90 years later. The complex remained in use until after the Second World War.  The barracks were all demolished in the 1960s but the two forts  and ditches remain and the Grand Shaft staircase has been  restored and is sometimes open to the public.   Click on the links below for more information on the Western  Heights. 

Citadel and Drop Redoubt

Grand Shaft


St Martin’s Battery

Map of the Western Heights. The ditch of the Drop Redoubt.  One of the four large caponiers added in the 1860s can be seen in the distance.  The caponiers allowed a clear line of fire on any enemy soldiers in the ditch. An aerial view of the Western Heights from the 1940s.  The Citadel can be seen in the foreground and the Drop Redoubt at the top edge of the photo. The Grand Shaft Barracks.  An engraving from the 1850s.