In 2014, Oxford Archaeology’s Buildings team completed a Conservation Management Plan (CMP), commissioned by English Heritage, for Dover Castle. From its Roman lighthouse to Cold War government centre, Dover is gloriously iconic throughout all of British history, and is one of England’s largest castles.

OA has been at Dover before, with the 2009 Conservation Plan on the Secret Wartime Tunnels, and the 2010 Conservation Statement on the castle’s South-West Quarter. Taking on the entire castle has meant addressing the possible Iron-Age hillfort in which it sits, the superb series of state-of-the-art medieval fortifications, including the splendidly re-presented ‘Great Tower’ (or Keep) with its barells, bread and bedsteads, and the amazing medieval tunnels dug before and after the great French siege of 1216.

With Charles I’s Queen Henrietta Maria as almost the last royal visitor (resting after the channel crossing before meeting her future husband), the castle became more of a ceremonial and military centre, increasingly fortified and garrisoned over the next centuries. The series of Napoleonic and later defences were built on a staggering scale, and the top of the White Cliffs bristled with batteries of vast guns pointing at France.

The site is much visited and loved, but at the time of our visit, parts were hard to access and sadly much overgrown, while a few buildings (including the 18th and 19th-century barracks) were in a very poor state of repair. The CMP provided an assessment of significance and future potential, based on the present understanding of the site’s history and archaeology. Not least is the fascinating question of the future use of the Constable’s Tower after its hand-over from the MOD to English Heritage after 150 years as an official residence.


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