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Dover is in the county of Kent, and lies about seventy-two miles southeast of
London. The town is situated in a valley, having on one side the cliffs on which Dover
Castle is built, and on the other the eminence called the Heights; these are strongly
fortified, and form the principal defense of the town and harbour. The greater part of the
town lies on the western side of a small stream, called the Dour, which there discharges
itself into the sea. The view in the Engraving is taken from the beach, on the eastern
side of the harbour, looking towards the northeast. The row of houses seen extending
in a hue nearly parallel with the beach is called the Marine Parade; and, crowning the
cliff, is perceived what of old was termed “the Key and Bar of England,”-Dover Castle
Its importance as a place of defense against the attacks of an invading enemy has,
however, been seldom proved; and for the last three centuries the best defense of
England against the invasion of her foes has been her wooden- walls.
“Britannia needs no bulwark.
No towers along the steep;
Her march is o’er the mountain wave,
Her home is on the deep.
With thunders from her native oak,
She quells the floods below.
As they roar on the shore,
When the stormy tempests blow;
When the battle rages loud and long
And the stormy tempests blow.”
The height of the cliff, on which Dover Castle stands, is about three hundred
and twenty feet above the level of the sea; and the area of the ground enclosed by
the outward walls is about thirty-four acres. It has been supposed that the Romans, in
one of Julius Cesar’s expeditions, first built a castle and established a military station
at Dover; but this opinion is founded on mere conjecture, and is extremely improbable.
That the Romans, at some subsequent period, had a station not far from the present
keep is certain; for the remains of the walls and ditch are still perceptible. It however
appears to have been but of small size and was probably only a castrum exploratorum,
or look-out station, garrisoned by a small body of soldiers detached from a neighbouring
camp. Within the boundary of the exploratory camp the Romans had built a pharos, or
watch- tower, the greater part of which is yet standing.
Previous to the Norman Conquest, there was undoubtedly a castle or
fortress at Dover, probably near the spot where the keep or principal tower of Dover
Castle now stands. Previous to the death of Edward the Confessor it appears to have
belonged to Harold, afterwards King of England; for “William, Duke of Normandy, who
was then probably devising measures to secure to himself the English crown, refused to
allow Harold to depart from Rouen, till he had taken an oath to deliver up to him “the
Castle of Dover and the well of water in it,” on the decease of Edward. After the battle of
Hastings, the Conqueror marched without delay to Dover, took possession of the castle,
and put the governor to death. It appears that he also burnt the town, which perhaps
might not have received him with sufficient humility, in order to terrify others into
immediate, submission to his authority. The foundation of the present keep of Dover
Castle was laid by Henry II. In 1153, the year before he succeeded to the English crown
on the death of King Stephen. The ground plan is nearly a square, and the building, in
its general appearance, bears a great resemblance to Rochester Castle, which was
erected according to the designs of Bishop Gundulph— the architect of the White Tower
in the Tower of London — in the early part of the reign of William Rufus. The walls of
the keep of Dover Castle are from eighteen to twenty feet thick, and are traversed by
galleries communicating with the principal apartments. The summit is embattled; and
the top of the northern turret is 93 feet high from the ground, and about 465 feet above
the level of the sea, at low water. The view from the top is extremely grand and
interesting, including the North Foreland, Reculver Church, Ramsgate Pier, Sandwich,
and a great part of the intermediate country, with the straits of Dover, the town of
Calais, and the line of the French coast from Gravelines to Boulogne. In 1 800, a
bombproof arched roof was constructed, and several large cannon mounted on it.
During the late war the fortifications were greatly strengthened, the old towers on the
walls repaired, and additional quarters for soldiers constructed, in order that the
garrison, in the event of invasion, might be able to withstand a regular siege.