Welcome to Dover's
Western Heights Preservation Society
High on the hill at Dover above the town's ancient harbour and to the west of its famous mediaeval castle lies a system of fortifications dating back to the 1780's. These were started to combat an expected invasion by the French, and were planned as mere field works. However over the ensuing decades fear took over and the field works eventually became the vast brick-lined fortress surrounded by miles of defensive ditches that we have today.
There are 3 main building periods which can be summed up as approximately thus:
1780 to 1815
1859 to 1895
1940 to 1945
Why do we need a preservation society ?
Following the cessation of hostilities in 1945 and the official end of UK coast defence in 1957 much of the area became a liability to the then War Department. Following the transfer of large portions of the Heights to the Dover Corporation during the 1960's, (now Dover District Council), many of the once magnificent buildings were demolished and about 1.5 miles of the system of dry ditches reduced in an effort to encourage light industry to the area, in a town suffering from relatively high unemployment. The Citadel, possibly the heart of the whole complex has since 1957 been a young offenders' institute. Since then vast areas of the Heights have been left untouched and unmaintained. The area also suffers at the hands of vandals, fly-tippers and other unsocial activites.
A lot of the fortifications are also used as an adventure playground by the local children which results in inevitable damage.
So are the Heights really derelict ?
Every bit of Western Heights is owned by somebody but unfortunately some areas have been left so long without any form of maintenance that they are now in a very poor condition. The actual core structure of many of the buildings is in surprisingly good condition but the damage done by the effects of damp, frost, vandalism and neglect are all too obvious.
Frost and plant damaged scarp wall on the North Lines. The ditch here is thick with trees. The tops of these trees reach the top of the ditch.
The above map shows the state of ownership of Western Heights
There are 4 types of landowner:
Orange = English Heritage (Department of the Environment)
Blue = Prison Service (Home Office)
Pink = Dover District Council
Yellow = Privately Owned
What is our vision for the future of Western Heights ?
Lines around Drop Redoubt are well tended, although there is a lot of vegetation
on the outer walls. West from the new road the Lines become increasingly
overgrown with brambles, shrubs and trees. The walls are infested
with ivy and other climbing plants and the brickwork is visibly breaking up.
Society intends to clear the Lines of all unnecessary undergrowth as far as
North Centre Detached Bastion to the west, and improve pedestrian access. At the
moment, access to these lines is only to be recommended to the agile! The Nature
Reserve from the New Road to Drop Redoubt will remain.
complex entrance comprises two bridges (both of which could be closed off), a 50
yards long road tunnel extensive rifle galleries and loopholes, three massive
water reservoirs, and a guardroom. The inner gateway is a particularly fine
example of Victorian brickwork (now beginning to be broken up by vegetation).
The roadway through the tunnel is in poor condition, with many of the original
wooden surface blocks having been removed. The rest of the internal structure is
in very good condition.
Society intends to restore the two bridges, re-lay the tunnel roadway, install
lighting, clean up the entire site, and open it to the public.
is a wonderful fort! The interior remains in very good condition with
a plethora of interesting features. On the summit of the Redoubt may be found
the officers' quarters and lavatory, the soldiers' quarters, the guardroom and
lock-up, the side-arms store and the powder magazine.
Alongside the side-arms store are the remains of the Roman pharos or lighthouse,
which complemented the one at Dover Castle. The foundations of the pharos extend
down to the officers' quarters.
out from the main fort are four caponniers or strong points, which could deliver
flanking fire along the walls. In addition to loopholes for rifles, each
caponnier had gun ports for cannon. These cannon (or carronades) would not have
fired cannon balls but canister or grapeshot - lots of small lead or iron balls
rather like an enormous shotgun - which would have proved most detrimental to
any attacker! Indeed, along the whole length of the Lines, there is no place to
hide from defensive fire. Four impressive staircases lead down to the caponniers
from the summit of the Redoubt.
sufficient time and funding, Drop Redoubt will be restored to its former glory.
It is a site begging to be used for a range of associated activities. Rebuilding
the bridge to the main entrance will be essential.
is a smaller structure than Drop Redoubt, and is in far worse condition, both
internally and externally, although the essential structure is sound. In many
places, it could be considered dangerous.
has two caponniers. One is obvious on the north-west corner, while the other
links it with North Centre Bastion via the high transverse Line. Inside,
interesting features include a system of drawbridges which could prohibit access
to the two passages leading down to the north-west caponnier.
On top are four very overgrown gun emplacements and a massive magazine.
Please come back soon. Western Heights needs your support.
This site last updated April 21, 2002