Dovor, or Dover

DOVOR, or Dover, one of the cinque-ports, a borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the lathe of St. Augustine, E. division of Kent, 15 miles (S. E. by S.) from Canterbury, and 71 (E. S. E.) from London; containing 13,872 inhabitants. The ancient British name of the town was Dwyr, derived from Dwfyrrha, a steep place; by the Romans it was called Dubris, and by the Saxons Dofra and Dofris, which in Domesday book are softened into Dovere. In the time of the Romans Dovor was a sea-port, and at one period was surrounded by walls having ten gates. It is supposed that Julius Cæsar first endeavoured to effect a landing here, and that, finding the coast dangerous, and the cliffs covered with warriors, he landed about eight miles eastward. The Romans attached much importance to this position, and the celebrated Roman Watling-street, which passed over Barham Downs to Canterbury, in its course towards the western part of the kingdom, commenced here. At a very early period the Saxon invaders made themselves masters of the castle, and constructed works which are yet in existence. Edward the Confessor granted the town a charter of privileges, and in his reign the institution of the cinque-ports is supposed to have taken place, Dovor being one of them. Earl Godwin was governor of the castle, and considerably strengthened its fortifications. After the battle of Hastings, many of the natives fled to Dovor Castle, as an impregnable fortress, which was however taken by the Conqueror, who put the governor to death, and destroyed the town by fire. According to Domesday book, Dovor equipped 20 vessels annually for the king's service, in consideration of being exempt from all tolls and taxes, and of various other privileges. It has been ascertained, beyond doubt, that King John resigned his crown to Pandulph at a small house of the Knights Templars on the western heights of Dovor, and afterwards retired to Swingfield: the foundations of the house are still to be seen, and in a fine drawing by Harry Lee, taken in or about 1530, and preserved among the Cotton manuscripts in the British Museum, the walls of the building are shown. In 1216, Louis the Dauphin, having landed at Stonar, near Sandwich, and captured several strong places, besieged Dovor Castle, but was unable to take it; and in the reign of Edward I. a great part of the town, with some religious houses, was burnt by the French, who were nevertheless soon driven back to their ships. According to the town records, Dovor, in the reign of Edward II., was divided into 21 wards, each of which was compelled to provide, at its own charge, a ship for the king's service, and in return the town had the exclusive privilege of a licence for a packet-boat, to convey passengers to and from France.

In 1382, Anne, daughter of the Emperor Charles IV., and afterwards consort to Richard II., arrived here. When the Emperor Sigismund disembarked at Dovor, in 1416, on a visit to his cousin, Henry V., he was formally met at the water's edge by the Duke of Gloucester and several of the nobility, with drawn swords, in order to oppose his landing, should the object of his visit be of a hostile nature. In 1520, the Emperor Charles V. was met here by Henry VIII., when both monarchs proceeded to Canterbury, and there kept the festival of Whitsuntide. Henry, aware of the importance of Dovor, then called the "key of the kingdom," contributed £80,000 towards the erection of a pier, which was completed in the reign of Elizabeth, when the harbour likewise underwent improvements. Its more effectual preservation is to be ascribed to the charter of James I., under which were appointed eleven commissioners (the lord warden of the cinque-ports, the lieutenant of the castle, and the mayor of Dovor, being the principal), as special conservators of the port, under the title of "Warden and Assistants of the Port and Harbour of the Port of Dovor." The powers of the commissioners have been repeatedly enlarged by acts passed in subsequent reigns: their jurisdiction extends one mile east of the mouth of the harbour. In 1814, on the restoration of Louis XVIII. to the French throne, his Majesty George IV., then Prince Regent, accompanied that sovereign to Dovor; and in the same year, Alexander, Emperor of Russia, and Frederic William, King of Prussia, with the veteran Blucher and other distinguished foreigners, landed here on a visit to the Prince Regent: at this place also they embarked on their return. In 1835, on the King and Queen of the Belgians embarking hence, Her present Majesty, accompanied by the Duchess of Kent, walked down to the quay from the Ship Hotel, and bade them adieu on board the packet.

The town is built in a semicircular form, in a fine valley between stupendous cliffs of chalkstone, from the summits of which the view of the sea in front, with the opposite coast of France, is very beautiful. That part of tion of visiters, is situated just above high-water mark, between the castle and the pier; the old part of the town is irregular, and the streets are narrow, but tolerably well paved, and lighted with gas, under an act passed in the 3rd of George IV. A theatre and assemblyrooms were erected in the year 1790. On the parade are warm, cold, and shower baths of salt water, with every accommodation for sea-bathing; also good libraries and reading-rooms; and a very excellent museum was established about 1837, in the old Guildhall. Many respectable families frequent the town, it being a wateringplace of great celebrity; the environs are delightfully picturesque, and there are several fine views.

The castle is of very ancient foundation, being attributed by vulgar tradition to Julius Cæsar, and by respectable antiquaries to Claudius. It is situated on a lofty eminence, about half a mile northward from the town, approached by a bold ascent, and occupies a site of 30 acres; it consists at the present time of two courts, defended by wide ditches, and communicating with the towers within by means of subterraneous passages. The lower court, excepting on the side next the sea, is surrounded by an irregular wall called the curtain, and flanked at unequal distances by numerous towers of different shapes and dates, which, during the lapse of years, have all undergone very considerable alterations. That which Godwin erected, in the time of Canute, has long been removed, nor was its site known for ages, until recently discovered in making a new road. Chilham, or Caldescot Tower is the third from the edge of the cliff, and at the back of it was a postern upon the vallum which joined the Roman and Saxon works, with a subterraneous passage into the castle, through which Stephen Pincester is said to have led the reinforcement that enabled Hubert de Burgh successfully to withstand the Dauphin, in the reign of John. This tower was built by Fulbert de Lucy, whose family came over with the Conqueror, and was originally named after the manor of Chilham, the possessors of which are still bound to keep it in repair: Caldescot having succeeded to the command, it subsequently went by his name. It is the debtors' prison for the cinque-ports: all writs from the superior courts at Westminster are directed to the lord warden, as constable of Dovor Castle, and persons taken thereon are committed to this prison, in which the Bodar or keeper resides. Fiennes or Newgate Tower, called also the Constable's Tower, has been used ever since the Conquest as the governor's apartments, and was occupied some months by their late Majesties, then the Duke and Duchess of Clarence. It stands upon the site of a more ancient tower, said to have been built after a design by Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, who was employed by the Conqueror in making designs for castles, and superintending their erection. Crevignor, Craville, or The Earl of Norfolk's Tower is opposite the north entrance of the quadrangle of the keep, and near it is a subterraneous passage leading to a vault which is sufficiently capacious to contain a large garrison, and is protected by a draw-bridge, moat, and round tower: the tower in the ditch, and the adjoining subterraneous works, are supposed to have been constructed in the reign of John, by Hubert de Burgh, then constable of the castle, who bravely defended it, in 1216, against the aggressions of the French. Fitzwilliam's, or St. John's Tower is the next in order; it was named after Adam Fitzwilliam, who accompanied the Conqueror to England, and who received from that monarch the scarf from his own arm at the battle of Hastings, as a reward for distinguished bravery. Avianches, or Maunsel's Tower stands in an angle formed by the curtain wall, and is one of the noblest relics of the Norman towers; it was named after two constables, or governors, the latter of whom was lord warden in the reign of Henry III. The first floor was a kind of vault, arched with stone, and open in front; and in the wall, which is very thick, is a gallery or passage ascended by stone steps, where archers could range one above another, and through small apertures command the ditch on either side, as also the approaches to it from the curtain. Through the gallery is an ascent to the platform over the top of the vault, partly surrounded by a wall, and having a spiral stone staircase, which leads to the summit of the tower. Near the entrance denominated the Palace Gate, is a stately fabric, named in the reign of Edward IV., Suffolk Tower, from De la Pole, Duke of Suffolk; adjoining is the old arsenal tower, and further on were the king's kitchen and other offices. All this side of the castle presents a modern appearance, the back part having been cased over, and the front being hid by barracks erected in 1745. The Keep, or Palace Tower, built after a design by Gundulph, stands near the centre of this court. The entrance, originally on the east, is now on the south side; it opened by a grand portal, now walled up, into the state apartments, which were in general lofty and spacious, and, as was usual in castles in earlier days, on the third story. The staircase has two vestibules, and was guarded at different heights by three strong gates. Ascending by the vestibule on the right hand, is a room apparently designed for the warden of the first gate, and opposite is another, probably the chapel, adorned on every side with beautiful arches, richly embellished with zig-zag and other work. Above this is a third, similarly ornamented, and under the chapel and the first vestibule is the dungeon, in which at different times persons of distinction have been confined. In the walls of the keep are galleries with holes, through which an enemy might be fired at, but so constructed as to protect the defenders. The second floor was intended for the use of the garrison, and the ground floor for stores. Part of Dovor Castle is used for a gaol. In the north angle a well, for ages arched over, has been lately found, which is probably that which Harold, before his accession to the throne, promised on oath to deliver up to William, Duke of Normandy; there are four other wells, each 370 feet deep, within the Saxon lines of defence.

The more recent works are, batteries mounted with heavy ordnance, casements in the chalk rock, magazines, covered ways, and subterraneous passages, the last having accommodations for 2000 men, light and air being admitted through holes cut in the chalk, and other apertures extending to the front of the cliff. The old road to Deal having become so hollow as to afford protection to an enemy approaching the castle from the town, a new one was constructed under the direction of the Board of Ordnance, to the top of the hill. Near the edge of the cliff is a curious piece of brass ordnance, twenty-four feet in length, cast at Utrecht in 1544, and called Queen Elizabeth's pocket-pistol, having been presented to her by the states of Holland: it carries a twelve-pound shot, and it has been affirmed that, if loaded well and kept clean, it would carry a shot to the French shore. Dovor Castle was formerly extrajudicial, but as several of the franchises are lost or in disuse, the civil authorities have of late years exercised a jurisdiction within its limits, independently of the lord warden: it is still extra-parochial. During the war with France, the western heights of the town were strongly fortified upon the modern system; the works are so admirably arranged, and the position so advantageous, that, whilst a small garrison would suffice for its defence, a large army can be disposed of within the walls. There are three entrances to the heights, one by Archcliff Fort, another by the New Military road, and the third from the centre of the town, by a staircase of very peculiar construction, called the Grand Military Shaft. The immediate entrance to the harbour is protected by Archcliff Fort, westward of the pier, and Amherst Battery, to the east of the north pier head. The whole line of defence round the town is complete, from the castle to Shakspeare's Cliff, so called from the sublime but somewhat exaggerated description given by the great dramatist, in his tragedy of King Lear. There is a military hospital of recent erection at the west side of the town. An hospital of ancient foundation, called the Maison Dieu, was converted into a victualling-office in 1555: this was purchased by the late corporation, and converted into a spacious common-hall, with a sessions-house, jury-rooms, and other suitable offices; underneath which is the prison, capable of containing from 70 to 80 prisoners. The common-hall is embellished with various portraits of kings and queens of England, and wardens of the cinque ports, and with a splendid portrait of the Duke of Wellington.

As a port, Dovor derives its chief importance from its proximity to the continent, and, at a large annual expenditure on the harbour, receives and protects ships not exceeding 500 tons' burthen. This expenditure is defrayed out of revenue applicable to the reparation and improvement of the harbour, arising from land granted by royal charter, or devised by will, and let on lease; and from the duty paid on tonnage, &c. During the war, the port supplied the service with many cutters and some transports; the docks are well constructed, and there are several good storehouses and a custom-house. Some works for the enlargement of the harbour were completed in 1846. The passage to and from the continent, especially Boulogne, is a lucrative source of employment to the inhabitants; steam-packets sail daily. The foreign trade is very trifling, but the coasting somewhat considerable, and many vessels are employed in the fisheries. A large quantity of grain is shipped for the London market, and there are several corn-mills in the vicinity; at Buckland and River, near the town, are paper-mills, and some business is done in the tanning of leather. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday, and there is a fair on Nov. 23rd. The South-Eastern railway has its terminus here: the line diverges from the London and Brighton railway at Redstone Hill, Reigate, and proceeds south of Tonbridge, by Ashford, Hythe, and Folkestone, to Dovor; the whole line from Redstone Hill being 60¼ miles in length, and from London 87½. In the construction of this work, much difficult labour was encountered. At Shakspeare's Cliff is a double tunnel, 1430 yards long, 12 feet wide, and 30 feet high, with a solid wall of chalk 10 feet in thickness between the apertures: it has 7 shafts, 180 feet in depth from the surface, and 6 feet in diameter; and 7 galleries, each 400 feet in length, leading from the tunnel to the face of the cliff. The line, after leaving this tunnel, is continued in the direction of Folkestone by an embankment three-quarters of a mile in length, and sixty feet above the sea.

The first charter of incorporation was bestowed by Edward I.; another was offered by Charles II., but not accepted. The old charter was probably surrendered to Charles II., and in 1684 a new one was granted, according to the provisions of which, the corporation consisted of a mayor, deputy-mayor, recorder, twelve jurats, thirty-six common-councilmen, a chamberlain, town-clerk, and other officers. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the government is now vested in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The borough was formerly divided into twenty-one wards, afterwards altered to thirteen, and finally, by the above-mentioned act, reduced to three: the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are co-extensive. The recorder, mayor, and late mayor, are justices of the peace, and the total number of magistrates is nineteen. The town returns two members to parliament: the right of election was in the freemen at large, upwards of 2300 in number; but by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the former non-resident electors, except within seven miles, were disfranchised, and the privilege was extended to the £10 househelders of an enlarged district, comprising 1319 acres, and now forming the borough. A court of record of unlimited extent was granted, by charter of confirmation in the 20th of Charles II., to Dovor, as well as to the rest of the cinque-ports: the recorder is sole judge; the town-clerk issues the processes. Sessions for the town and liberties are held four times a year, in the new sessions-house: the criminal jurisdiction of Dovor, as one of the cinque-ports, extends to Margate, St. Peter's, Birchington, and the vill of Wood, in Thanet, and Ringwould, near Deal. Petty-sessions are held weekly. The powers of the county debt-court of Dovor, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Dovor.

The town formerly consisted of the parishes of St. James the Apostle, St. Mary the Virgin, St. John, St. Martin the Greater, St. Martin the Less, St. Nicholas, and St. Peter; of these, the five last no longer exist, and the churches have been demolished. The parish of St. James the Apostle contains 3057 inhabitants, and that of St. Mary the Virgin 10,159. The living of St. Mary's is a perpetual curacy; net income, £287; patrons and impropriators, the Parishioners. The church was built by the convent of St. Martin's, in the town, and has some portions in the Norman style: the old churchyard where Churchill, the poet, was buried, was sold in 1846 for £145. The living of St. James' is a discharged rectory, valued in the king's books at £4. 17. 6.; net income, £145; patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The church belonged to the castle, and to this day the courts of Loadmanage, for the appointment and regulation of the pilots, and the court of admiralty for all the cinque-ports and their members, are held in it. According to tradition, Lucius, the first Christian British king, built a church within the castle, and endowed it with the duties of the port. Of this edifice, the chapel is demolished; but the steeple, in which several Roman bricks are visible, and the principal parts of the external walls, forming the body of the church, are yet standing: it was dedicated to St. Mary, and subsequently called "the Lady of Pity's Chapel." There is still a chapel in the castle, for the garrison. Trinity district church is in the later English style, with two turrets and spires; it is situated in Stroud-street, in the parish of St. Mary, was built at an expense of £6250, and consecrated in Sept. 1836: the living is in the gift of the Archbishop. There are places of worship for General and Particular Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. Among the schools is one for the maintenance and education of forty-five boys and thirty-four girls, founded in 1789, and supported by voluntary contributions, in addition to an endowment of £900 five per cent. stock. An endowment of about £150 per annum is applied to the relief of poor invalid persons. The union of Dovor comprises 23 parishes or places, and contains a population of 24,522. A priory of Secular canons was founded here in the seventh century, which, in 1140, was changed into a Benedictine priory; the revenue, at the Dissolution, was £232. 1. 5¼. The remains of a preceptory of the Knights Templars at Swingfield, near Dovor, afterwards occupied by their successors, the Knights of St. John, are now a farmhouse; the eastern or oldest part was the chapel, the east wall of which has three windows of early English architecture, and three Norman ones above them: various other fragments of the original edifice are still apparent, and the remains of foundations to a considerable extent may yet be traced in different parts of the farmyard. Dr. White Kennet, Bishop of Peterborough, who died in 1728; and Earl Hardwicke, lord high chancellor of England, who died in 1764, were natives of the town. Dovor gave the title of Baron to G. J. W. Agar Ellis, only son of Viscount Clifden, who was raised to the peerage in 1831, and died in July 1833, leaving male issue.

The Cinque-Ports, or five havens, viz., Hastings, Sandwich, Dovor, Romney, and Hythe, so named from their supremacy over the other ports opposite the coast of France, still retain that designation, although two other ports, Rye and Winchelsea, have been added. They are not mentioned collectively in Domesday book, but Dovor, Sandwich, and Romney, only as privileged ports, whence it has been inferred that at that period there was no community in them; yet John, in his charter to the cinque-ports, expressly refers to charters in the possession of the barons, granted by various kings, from the time of the Confessor. Hastings, which, together with Hythe, was added by William the Conqueror, has always been esteemed the first port in precedency; Rye and Winchelsea were added after the Conquest, but more in the character of appendages than principal ports, and are designated "the two Ancient Towns." Most of the coast from the north side of the Isle of Thanet to Hastings is within the jurisdiction of the cinque-ports. They had two great courts: the less one, called the Court of Guestling or Brotherhood, was held annually on the Tuesday after St. Margaret's day, at New Romney, and consisted of seven delegates from each of the cinque-ports, including Winchelsea and Rye, with a speaker and other officers; the summons is still issued annually, but a full court has not been held for many years. The great court for all the ports and members, called that of Shepway, was held by the king's summons before the lord warden at Shepway Cross, near Hythe, but is now only formally convened on the election of a new warden. The offices of lord warden of the cinque-ports and constable of Dovor Castle are now invariably united. The warden has a right of warren over a very considerable tract, called the Warren, and appoints warreners to preserve the game. The freemen of the cinque-ports are styled "Barons," and in former times enjoyed great dignity, being ranked amongst the nobility of the kingdom. Before the formation of the two houses of parliament, the members were called over in the following order, viz., on the first day the lower class, as burgesses and citizens; on the second, the knights; and on the third, the barons of the cinque-ports and the peers; whence it may be concluded that the barons ranked with the peers, and above the knights, and that these two superior orders, previously to the investiture of knights and citizens with legislative authority, composed the national council. The barons of the cinque-ports have the honour of bearing canopies over the king and queen at the coronation, where none but noblemen (except certain of the royal domestics) and privileged persons form part of the procession; and at the feast after the coronation, they dine at a table on the right hand of the sovereign.

Although the services rendered by the cinque-ports have ceased with the alteration in naval affairs, yet for a long period they were eminently useful. During several reigns they fitted out fleets which formed a great portion of the royal navy, and were engaged in many renowned actions. By their aid John, who had been obliged to flee to the Isle of Wight, recovered his kingdom; and soon afterwards Hubert de Burgh, with "forty tall ships" belonging to the ports, defeated a French fleet of eighty ships, carrying reinforcements for Louis the Dauphin. In the reign of Edward III., the shipping of the ports conveyed the armies of that warlike prince to France, and guarded our coasts; and in the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., the "Ports' Navy" was frequently employed on similar services. The records which mention the number of vessels that were, or ought to have been, furnished by the cinque-ports and their appendant members, vary; but the general number (before large ships were introduced into the navy) which these ports furnished was fifty-seven, manned and equipped at their own cost, for the space of fifteen days, and if their services were needed longer, they were victualled and paid by the king. Hastings provided twenty-one ships, armed and manned with twenty-one men each, besides a boy; Dovor the same number; Sandwich, five ships; New Romney, five ships; and Hythe, five ships; all equipped as above; making the whole number of mariners 1254. The last charter granted to the cinque-ports was in the 20th of Charles II., who not only confirmed the preceding charters, but conferred on the freemen additional privileges. This was confirmed by James II., and under it the ports are now governed.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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