The "lock and key" of England

July 14, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 With its spectacular location above the famous white cliffs, Dover Castle’s position, commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the Continent, has given it immense strategic importance. The chalk of Castle Hill has been shaped and reshaped over the centuries into massive earthworks, ditches and mounds. Imposing walls and towers have been raised and networks of tunnels built beneath them. King Henry II began the building of the present castle in the 1180s, and over the next 800 years its buildings and defences were adapted to meet the changing demands of weapons and warfare. Originating as an Iron Age hill fort, it is home to one of the best preserved Roman lighthouses in Europe and the finest example of an Anglo-Saxon church in Kent. Immediately after his victory at Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror strengthened the defences with an earthwork and timber-stockaded castle and Dover Castle was garrisoned without interruption until 1958. Barracks were constructed in a complex of tunnels beneath the castle. The Napoleonic tunnels had a new role as naval and later combined services headquarters during WW1 and WW2. Here is where the Dunkirk evacuation was masterminded. Air attacks earned the area around Dover the nickname 'Hellfire Corner'.

After experiencing all that is on display here - the sights, sounds and smells from medieval times to modern day, both in peace and warfare - there is much food for thought. If only the walls could speak. On a calm and sunny summers day over-looking the blue waters of a busy harbour filled with ferries and cruise ships, it is hard to imagine the horrors that took place here. I wish I could close my eyes for a moment and be transported to experience the medieval history and pageantry in person. How would a female artist ever survive in such times?

 

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