View from window at Amanda Guest House, bed and breakfast, Dover, Kent

 

The Western Heights of Dover are one of the most impressive fortifications in Britain. They comprise a series of forts, strong points and ditches, designed to protect the country from invasion. They were created to augment the existing defences and protect the key port of Dover from both seaward and landward attack. They are now a local Nature Reserve.

First given earthworks in 1779 against the planned invasion that year, the high ground west of Dover, England now called Dover Western Heights, was properly fortified in 1804 when Lieutenant-Colonel William was instructed to modernise the existing defences. This was part of a huge programme of fortification in response to Napoleon’s planned invasion of England.

To assist with the movement of troops between Dover Castle and the town defences Twiss made his case for building the Grand Shaft in the cliff:

‘...the new barracks.....are little more than 300 yards horizontally from the beach.....and about 180 feet (55 m) above high-water mark, but in order to communicate with them from the centre of town, on horseback the distance is nearly a mile and a half and to walk it about three-quarters of a mile, and all the roads unavoidably pass over ground more than 100 feet (30 m) above the barracks, besides the footpaths are so steep and chalky that a number of accidents will unavoidably happen during the wet weather and more especially after floods. I am therefore induced to recommend the construction of a shaft, with a triple staircase.... chief objective of which is the convenience and safety of troops....and may eventually be useful in sending reinforcements to troops or in affording them a secure retreat.’

Twiss’ plan was approved and building went ahead. The shaft was to be 26 feet (7.9 m) in diameter, 140 feet (43 m) deep with a 180 feet (55 m) gallery connecting the bottom of the shaft to Snargate Street, and all for under an estimated £4000.

The plan entailed building two brick-lined shafts, one inside the other. In the outer would be built a triple staircase, the inner acting as a light well with ‘windows’ cut in its outer wall to illuminate the staircases. Apparently, by March 1805 only 40 feet (12 m) of the connecting gallery was left to dig and it is probable that the project was completed by 1807.

English Heritage own the Redoubt, along with the Grand Shaft spiral staircase owned by the Council, and is annually opened by the Western Heights Preservation Society.