History Of Dover, Kent
Bronze Age Dover
In 1992, a waterlogged boat was discovered in a depth of 6 m that dates to the Bronze Age and is one of the oldest seagoing vessels ever recovered. It has been dated by the radiocarbon method to ca. 1550 BC.
The Langdon Bay hoard, discovered in 1974 off the Dover coast contains bronze axes of a French type and may represent the cargo of a sunken vessel, thus demonstrating cross-channel trade already for the Bronze Age, if not earlier. Both this hoard and the boat are on display in a new purpose-built gallery of the Dover Museum in Market Square.
In Roman times it became an important fortified port named Portus Dubris. Dover was the starting point of the Watling Street Roman road, and was an important harbour of the Classis Britannica.
In around AD 50 the Romans built two lighthouses, one on either side of the then-river-estuary (now silted-up, one on the Western Heights whose few remains are now within the Drop Redoubt, and the other which still stands to its full height in the grounds of Dover Castle, making it one of the oldest buildings in Britain. The "Painted House" is a Roman mansio from about AD 200 and one of the best preserved Roman houses in Britain. On the same site and nearby there is also a Classis Britannica fort and the Saxon Shore Fort which was built over them both.
Anglo-Saxon and Norman, Dover to 1200
After the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror and his forces marched to Westminster Abbey for his coronation. They took a roundabout route, via Romney, Dover, Canterbury, Surrey and Berkshire. From the Cinque Ports's foundation in 1050, Dover has always been a chief member - it may also have been this that first attracted William's attention, and got Kent the motto of Invicta. In the words of William of Poitiers:
Archaeological evidence suggests that a new castle was constructed near the Saxon church of St. Mary de Castro in what is now Dover Castle, rather than or as well as repairing the old burgh.
The Domesday Book of only 20 years later states that before the conquest Dover's value had been £18 but was now £40. Clearly Dover had quickly been rebuilt.
The Normans also built the churches of St Mary the Virgin, Dover (on the foundations of a Roman structure - it still stands) and of St. James the Apostle (as an aisleless nave with a short tower - perhaps on the site of a Saxon church partly destroyed in 1066 - destroyed in World War Two, ruins visible) and reconstituted the Saxon monastic church of St Martin le Grand, as well as founding a new Dover Priory on another site, also dedicated to St. Martin. Several surviving buildings and various ruins of Dover Priory have been incorporated in to Dover College
St Martin le Grand dominated Market Square, being over 150 feet long. It housed the altars of three parish churches; St. Mary, St. Nicholas and St. John the Baptist and had the churches of St. Peter and St. James subordinate to it. The church was finally dismantled around 1540 although the remains of some of the walls survived into the 19th century.
In 1216, Dover was attacked by the French and successfully defended from Dover Castle by Hubert de Burgh - it was less lucky in 1295 when 10,000 French burnt most of Dover to the ground. It nevertheless flourished as the closest port to the continent.
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, both threatened by continental invasion,also made improvements to Dover's defences, both the castle and Moat Bulwark (making a personal visit to the castle to do so).
During the Civil War Dover declared for the king but was captured by the Parliamentarians without a siege. Charles II landed here at the restoration and on May 26, 1670 signed a secret treaty here ending hostilities with Louis XIV of France.
Dover became a garrison town heavily defended against the threat of French invasion. Napoleon's troops, gathered at Boulogne, could be seen from Dover on a clear day.
At first earthen batteries were built along the seafront and across the Western Heights (to supplement the medieval castle, which had been superseded by developments in military technology and artillery). These were later improved in 1804 with a massive building programme in stone and brick on the Western Heights, creating two cutting-edge forts, deep brick-lined ditches, and the Grand Shaft, a unique 140ft triple staircase, linking the town to the forts and enabling troops from the hilltop barracks to be rapidly deployed at the seafront.
Between 1801 and 1901 the population increased by 600 percent. The habour was finally rebuilt as a set of artificial moles, and the town tried to become a seaside resort by building a pleasure pier, ice rink, bathing machines and impressive seafront crescents of hotels and apartments. The railways arrived and cross-channel traffic boomed - the town were even combined with boat trains and the Golden Arrow service.
20th century Dover
In the 20th century Dover became the centre of English Channel defense during World War I, as the base for the Dover Patrol.
The white cliffs of Dover
In World War I it was, with Folkestone, one of the main troop embarkation ports for France. It was also bombed by airplanes and zeppelins (the first bomb to be dropped on England fell near Dover Castle on Christmas Eve 1914) and shelled by passing warships. This forced residents to shelter in caves and dug-outs. The town became known as 'Fortress Dover' and was put under martial law.
In World War II this developed into sustained bombing and shelling by cross-channel guns, causing 3,059 alerts, killing 216 civilians, and damaging 10,056 premises. A series of underground caves and tunnels in the cliffs were used as air-raid shelters (and as a military base, coordinating Operation Dynamo, whose ships landed at Dover) during the war and Dover became a wartime symbol as part of East Kent's 'Hellfire Corner'.
On 28 April 2007, a small earthquake occurred in Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and surrounding areas, towns and villages. The earthquake was 4.3 on the Richter scale. Eye witnesses said they felt their houses shake, or had a feeling of something crashing into their houses. At first, it was thought to be an explosion.