Dover Castle The Wow Factor

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

DOVER CASTLE - the 'Wow' factor

Date: 13th November 2010

DOVER CASTLE – the ‘Wow’ Factor

I cannot believe that I’ve lived down the road from Dover Castle for 12 years and have never paid it a visit (other than once as a Dinner Guest of the Constable – fabulous evening).

I suppose part of my reluctance to visit is the hoards of visitors and noisy schoolchildren so a friend and I decided that we would wait for the relative quiet of the winter months.

Apart from Hellfire Corner being closed for renovation – and we were still able to visit one of the tunnels housing the kitchen, dormitory, hospital and operating theatre – we had the place almost to ourselves especially as the weather forecast was not good.

Were we in for a treat! English Heritage spent £2,000.000 on refurbishment and have put The Keep back as it would have been in the days of Henry II who had the place built. Four rooms are furnished as near as damn it to how the furnishings and wall hangings would have been in Henry’s day. Being ignorant of the fact as to who built the Castle, I was thrilled to find it was Henry II as his queen Eleanor is one of my heroines (have visited her tomb at Fontvrault in France – well actually it is the top of her sarcophagus as no one really knows which remains were which and she lies alongside the top of the sarcophagus of her husband Henry II)

Not only do you have the rich furnishings but in the rooms they have used Pepper’s Ghosts to tell you the story of the times. Look up Pepper’s Ghosts on the Internet as it would take too long for me to explain it but it is a technique used in theatre and by magicians.

The colours strike one as very garish but they are as authentic as could be achieved using the sparse information available about furnishings in the 12th Century.

There are very knowledgeable Guides in each of the large rooms and, as there were not too many visitors, we were able to elicit a great deal of information over and above that which was on offer. The Wall Hangings were woven in this country by a technique handed down from the 12th Century. One guide in the ‘Bedroom’ showed us some amazing Graffiti done by Prisoners in the 18th Century. In principal I am dead against Graffiti of any description but some of the work in the Castle is very artistic – not like the barbarous stuff you see now either etched or spray painted onto buildings and statues with no regard for reverence or appreciation of beauty. (I mentioned earlier how shocked I was to see enormous amounts of Graffiti in Florence – even all the way up the staircase to the top of the Duomo and it didn’t stop there – the little vandals had spray painted the marble cupola – I know what I’d do to them apart from making them clean it all off, but ………..)

There’s a superb AV Hall – and again with so few other visitors about we could take full advantage of the facility. One fact which has stuck in my mind is that the amazingly intricate embroidered cushions adorning the furniture have all been embroidered by prison inmates – now isn’t that something!! And they got paid for their work which is as it should be for the work is magnificent.

The rain began to fall which prevented us from doing much walking round the walls and the wind was very strong. Yesterday they had to close the Castle to visitors because of the strong winds. But we did go up to the old Roman lighthouse – the Pharos – adjacent to the Garrison Church. The nave was cordoned off in preparation for the Remembrance Day Service tomorrow (Sunday) so we were unable to see the Mediaeval Graffiti supposedly left by the Knights Templar – but there were screens telling the story of the Chapel and a picture of the drawings.

All the staff were a delight to meet and the only small negative on the otherwise spectacular day was the NAAFI where we really did feel the food left much to be desired. Still we didn’t go for a gastronomic experience but having spent nearly 6 hours there, we needed some sustenance.

I joined English Heritage in July so my entrance was free – and if you join now with a Direct Debit you get 15 months for the price of 12 – why do I always miss out! However, even had I had to pay the entrance fee, it would have been worth every penny and more.

The tunnels under renovation will be open again in June but I think I’ll wait till Autumn and choose a slightly dodgy day weatherwise so that again the Castle will be almost mine. Of course, I’m fortunate as Dover Castle is only just down the road and I can make a last minute decision to go. But regardless of the crowds, I really would urge you to go there if at all possible. If you like History, you’ll love this wonderful place. And I mean, not only the History of the distant past but the more recent History of the first and second World Wars and the animation bringing the experience to life in the Tunnels and Hell Fire Corner.

Don’t know why but, what I thought were super photos have come out rather blurred. I’ll put a few into the gallery. Meanwhile I hope English Heritage won’t mind me using this Aerial Shot from the Book I bought. I couldn’t find a photographer’s name so hope no-one will mind.

Now I must make the effort to go to Walmer Castle which is only a stone's throw from where I live.

p.s.  Just read the booklet I bought at Dover Castle - Hellfire Corner - Dover Castle's Secret Tunnels and the Dunkirk Evacuation (only 28 pages but heavily illustrated)  incredibly interesting and I'm afraid the Evacuation brought tears to my eyes.  You read the numbers evacuated but have no idea of the circumstances leading up to the evacuation and the numbers killed on the beaches.   ISBN 978 - 1 - 85074 - 433 - 7

 


 

DOVER CASTLE - the 'Wow' factor

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