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Dover; Bulwark in the Cliff

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Black Bulwark

In the civil parish of Dover.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Kent.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TR320404
Latitude 51.11590° Longitude 1.31348°

Dover; Bulwark in the Cliff has been described as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


This is a pictorial representation of a cannon on a cliff which strongly resembles Dover. It dates from around 1541. The drawing shows a gun platform with three cannons, titled 'The Bulwerck in the Clyff'. The construction of a harbour under the Western Heights in around 1500 meant that Dover Castle was too far away to provide sufficient protection for the expanding town and port and so an additional program of defence became necessary. This was one of several bulwarks constructed between March 1539 and midsummer 1540 that controlled landing in the harbour and the shallow bay opposite the town. They were made of earth revetted with timber, provided by the harbour works. The reason for these additional defences was Henry VIII's fear of an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain. In 1538 Francis I of France, and Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain signed a peace treaty. This union gave rise to the possibility that France and Spain may combine forces to invade England. France was England's historical enemy and Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon, Charles V's aunt, had offended the militantly catholic King of Spain. (British Library)

Edmund Mody was appointed captain of the newly-constructed Black Bulwark at Dover in 1534. (The History of Parliament online)
On a plan of 1585 the South jetty is labelled Black Bulwark. A plan of proposals for Dover Harbour may include existing features including a square block house ladelled 'The Black Bulwark' half way along a pier. A plan of 1595 seems accurate and shows no artillery on the pier but does so many pieces at Archcliffe and a piece on the sea wall at the base of a pier and two more pieces behind the sea front road within the harbour.
The 'embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover 1520' shows a round masonry tower but the identification of this a Black Bulwark may be open to question.
A small Henry VIII artillery bulwark, probably of c. 1534, possibly on the pier of Dover. The 1539-40 references may be rebuild or re-equipment rather than a new build. An earlier, pre Henry VIII, fortification at this location is possible. It is also probably there was and is some confabulation between the several bulwarks defending Dover. The location on the pier would have been difficult, with sea spray effecting both powder and ironwork, so the bulwark may have been moved. The Bulwark in the Cliff may well have been a separate platform, possibly that shown with two pieces on the 1595 plan at approx TR317410. Longer range artillery would have negated any need to have pieces on the pier itself.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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