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Medieval Dover

Dover Castle

After the Norman Conquest much of Saxon Dover was rebuilt. The town benefited from the increase in cross channel trade. The carrying of passengers between France and England also became common and was stimulated by William the Conqueror.

In this period vast improvements were made to Dover Castle. By 1190, the large stone keep and the bailey surrounding it were complete.


The thirteenth century saw many attacks on the town by French forces, The 1216 siege of the castle by Prince Louis was very close to being successful, whilst the great raid of 1295 saw 10,000 Frenchmen burn most of Dover to the ground.

The Cinque Ports

In roughly 1050 the five ports of Dover, Sandwich, Hastings, Romney and Hythe joined together to provide ships and men for the then King, Edward the Confessor. The five towns became known as the Cinque Ports. The name originated from the French word for five, but is always pronounced as 'sink' not 'sank.'

In return for providing naval and ferry services these towns received many rights and privileges.

Today the Cinque ports have only a ceremonial role, but locally a base for the Lord Warden of the Ports is still provided at Walmer Castle. Similarly, new Lords Warden are always installed at Dover.

Dover's Churches

After the Norman Conquest many new stone churches and religious houses were built. These churches make up much of Dover's rich medieval history:

  • St. Mary's Church : St. Mary's Church was built on the foundations of a Roman structure in early Norman times.
  • The Maison Dieu : Founded in 1203 by Hubert de Burgh, the Maison Dieu was built as a hospice for pilgrims. Today it is part of Dover's Town Hall and is open to visitors.
  • Dover Priory : Founded in 1130, Dover Priory was dedicated to St. Martin and intended to house Augustinian monks. Henry VIII confiscated the land and buildings which became a farm. Today it houses Dover College, a private school.




Contact Us

Dover Museum
Market Square
Kent CT16 1PH

Tel: 01304 201066

Enquiries: museumenquiries@dover.gov.uk

Opening Hours

April - September: 9.30-5.00 Monday to Saturday,
10.00 - 3.00 Sunday 
October - March: Monday -Saturday 9.30 - 17.00
Closed Sunday.
Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Free Admission