Dover uk – 2,000 years of brave history

Dover UK – 2,000 Years of Brave History

The English Channel is controlled by Dover in England and thus called ‘The Lock & Key of England.’

First Julius Caesar landed at Dover, in 55 BC to conquer England and later many others like the Vikings and William the Conqueror also invaded England through Dover.

Its history as a military and garrison town can be seen by its massive extensive remains of its Roman forts, 19th century forts and defences from both the world wars when it was Britain’s front line defence town.

Today Dover depends a lot on its port for survival, and it is the busiest passenger ferry terminal in world, the busiest cruise liner terminal in Britain and its freight, particularly fruit and perishable goods come & go via massive reefer cargo ships.

Only some few Stone Age axes have been found in Dover because of its changing and restless sea coast.

The first known inhabitants of Dover’s River Dour Valley were the late Stone Age Farmers who came here by boats with corn seeds and animals about 6000 years ago.

Britain’s first ever found shipwreck (1100 BC) occurred in Dover in the Bronze age as 350 bronze tools weapons and scrap metal were found on its shore.

Over 45 Bronze Age Burial grounds were also found locally and in 1992, when they were repairing a road in the town centre, a large wooden boat from the Bronze Age was discovered in a deep waterlogged hole.

During the Roman period, this British port which was the closest to the rest of the Roman Empire, making Dover a thriving trade town and it occupied about 5 hectares along the Dour valley and they called this town DUBRIS after DUBRAS, the British name meaning ‘waters.’

The Roman Settlement had a massive harbour, flanked by two lighthouses and three forts.

There are 60 locations from the Roman period still found in Dover; some of these are like the Roman Painted House at Dover, the Roman lighthouse or Pharos in Dover Castle grounds and further a-field the Roman fort of Richborough near Sandwich. Its museum has a large collection of Roman Samian.

After the 5th century when the Romans abandoned Britain, the Germanic tribes crossed the North Sea to settle in Kent, which at that time was called DOFRAS. It became an important settlement for the Vikings in Kent.

Many Saxon discoveries have been made in the Dover area like the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Buckland, which was found in 1951, while building a new house estate there. 170 graves were also found on this site, many containing weapons, jewellery and household objects such as combs and pottery.

244 more graves were again found next to this point in Buckland in 1994, making it the largest Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Britain. Many timber buildings of the Saxon era were found in the centre of Dover and a church (St Mary in Castro) within the castle walls. The town was prosperous and well organized by the middle of 10th century with its own mint and its cross channel trading links.

In around 1050 the five ports of Dover, Sandwich, Hastings, Rommey and Hythe joined together to provide ships and men to King Edward the Confessor and they were called the Cinque (meaning five in French) Ports. So by providing all these things to the King, they received many rights and privileges.

The battle of Hastings marked the end of the Saxon era on 14th October 1066. William Duke of Normandy defeated and killed King Harold and it was a resounding victory for the horsed Norman knights over English foot soldiers.

After his victory at Hastings in 1066, William Duke (now better known as William the conqueror) and his army moved to Dover, pausing only to burn Rommey as he came, which then and now was the shortest passage to France. After securing Dover he went and took complete control of Canterbury and then the whole of Surrey and Berkshire before entering London. He was crowned King on Christmas Day in 1066 at Westminster Abbey.

The parish church of St. James the Apostle built during the Saxon period was partly destroyed in 1066. In the 12th century it is thought that the church had an aisleless nave with a short tower, its ruins are still visible today.

After its defeat at the hands of William Duke, Saxon Dover was rebuilt. There was a lot of improvement with trade in Dover and carrying of passengers between France and England expanded heavily. Great improvements were made to Dover Castle and by 1190AD the massive stone keep and inner walls or bailey surrounding it were completed.

Then in 13th century many attacks were made by the French, one of them almost successful 1216 in seizure of the castle by Prince Louis and then a great raid of 1295 when most of Dover was burnt to the ground by army of 10,000 strong soldiers from France.

Most of the stone churches and religious houses in Dover were built in the medieval history period.

Then Tudor and Stuart kings and queens took a keen interest in Dover. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I knew the value of its port, which was threatened by shingle, so they did expensive repairs and enlargements of the port. King Henry also made improvements in Dover’s defences and built castles at Deal, Sandown and Walmer to protect the Downs anchorage.

During the rule of Charles I, Dover declared against the King in Civil War, but ultimately they welcomed his son Charles II to Britain via Dover in 1660. From this period to when its building of a large harbour in the 19th century, Dover’s finance were mostly dependant on its small port.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Dover became a town that had to be defended from the Napoleonic French. First of all earthen batteries were built along the sea front and across the Western heights of Dover to increase its protection against cannon and shells. There was again a need to strengthen Dover harbour after the breakout of war with France in 1793. In 1804 when an invasion was expected at any time, a great programme of buildings in stone and brick were carried out on the Western Heights and they created two forts and deep brick-lined ditches. A 140ft staircase, the Grand Shaft, linked the forts with the town.

The problem of shingle was removed in 1838. As a lot of money was spent on this work and the local people getting tired of the delays and they pressed the Govt. to take action fast. In 1840 the Govt. laid the ground for a tidal harbour that could be used in any circumstances.

There were lots of changes taking place in the 19th century, when railways and trams were built in Britain in 1844. It was the South Eastern Company that built a line from London through Folkestone, where all the steamers berthed, to Dover. In 1861 a direct line from London to Dover was built by Chatham and Dover Railway Company because they had their own steamers. Both these companies were in a stiff competition until 1899 when they formed a South Eastern and Chatham Company.

Dover’s electric trams came in 1897 on two main routes – from the Pier to Buckland Bridge and from Biggin Street to Maxton. In 1905 they were further extended with half penny fares for early morning workers. The complete form of the current harbour was completed on 14 October 1909 by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, the future King George V.

The trams were removed in 1936 when the motor bus took over.

Most of Dover’s history in the 20th century consists mostly about the two world wars. During the first world war most of the military men crossed over for France through Dover. Most of the shipping vessels collected in Dover’s port and the first bomb to hit England was near Dover’s Castle in 1914. Most of the aeroplanes and warships of the zeppelin forces attacked the city and it was put under martial law.

During the second world war from 1939 to 1945, in May 1940 there was of course the evacuation from Dunkirk in France that passed through Dover making it overflow with soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Vice Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay controlled this process from his headquarters under the tunnels below the castle and Dover became a symbol for Britain’s fortitude on all fronts.

Many of the “Must See” things connected to Dover’s History can be seen in Dover Museum.

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