OUR HISTORY / Restoration

From Napoleonic Era Fort to a Cultural Hub

The Citadel – Dover’s Napoleonic Era Fortress tucked away on the Western Heights, steeped in history and intrigue having never been open to the public.

If we look back in history, the first recorded defences on the Western Heights were 1779, when the site was first established. Constructed with military labour during the American War when the Board of Ordnance purchased a large area of the ridge. Originally it is thought that the defences were only to be temporary fieldworks, which comprised of small unrevetted earthworks for infantry and artillery to provide resistance against a land assault as a temporary measure.

As with the fort’s current owners, from small plans comes big ambition, and the plans were escalated into an ambitious scheme for larger more substantial fortifications with both temporary and permanent parts to it

1779
The first defences recorded on the Western Heights were constructed with militia labour in 1779, during the American War of Independence. This drawing is the earliest of its kind and represents what would then progress to form the Citadel, designed by the engineer officer Lieutenant Thomas Hyde Page.
1782-96
Works on the Drop Redoubt had started in 1782, by order of the Master General of the Ordnance, the Duke of Richmond. It is apparent that the outline of the Western Heights was established by the end of the war in 1783 despite the fact that, in February 1782, the 1st Assistant Engineer in Dover, a Mr Bigges, was paying the labourers himself for want of money from the military authorities.
1804-1805
With the threat of Napoleon, building work was massively ramped up. The plan was to complete the ‘east and west redoubts (the Drop Redoubt and the Citadel respectively) in much the same positions as envisaged by Page, but to link them by earthworks forming a complete entrenched camp on the Heights. Such a camp could house and protect a small field force to meet any enemy troop landings, and also provide offensive fire under siege conditions. Some use was made of the existing earthworks, and progress was rapid, with 480 men employed. By the end of 1805, the earthwork rampart and ditch of the Citadel were established, temporary barracks for a garrison were erected to the east of the three original guardhouses and a well was sunk. The earlier works at the Citadel were bricked in and the casemates were constructed. The same approach was taken at the Drop Redoubt – which due to sheer hard graft, was finished in 3-4 years, along with the Grand Shaft, Grand Shaft Barracks and the Hospital.
1808 - 1809
Progress included the earthwork defences of the western and southern fronts, plus the tenaille and South Lines as far as the South Lines Casemates. It seems that their ramparts, ditches and counterscarps were substantially completed, although their brick revetments (dry moats) had hardly been started. The Short Casemates in the west end were complete and the Long Casemates were in an advanced state, but only two of four sets covering the whole west ditch had been completed. The brick revetments along the west face are almost complete and preparations were being made for completing and revetting the gorge in 1810. Work continued at a rapid pace until 1813, the last year of large expenditure on the Citadel, though smaller works continued until funding ceased in 1816.
1815
The commencement of The Battle of Waterloo meant that the Citadel, as it stood, was then abandoned uncompleted. The Drop Redoubt was the only part regarded as complete. Meanwhile the Grand Shaft Barracks were fully manned. Though the defences were in an advanced state in the Citadel, they were not finished. Completed buildings included some of the casemates, the brick guardhouses of the 1780s, temporary barracks built in 1804, a well house, and three structures of unknown function on the south.
1840
Minor construction works continued at the Citadel, albeit at a slow pace. Still no garrison stationed at the Citadel.
1852-1853
An agricultural tenant was given permission to cut grass from the ditches and depasture sheep in the unfinished and unarmed Citadel. Repairs were proposed for the renovation of the abandoned buildings to the sum of £11,704. These included: the replacement of part of the existing bridge with a drawbridge. the completion of the scarp of the South Lines up to the counterscarp of the Citadel and its defence with new casemates for four guns. the fitting out of some existing casemates to accommodate 500 men and (temporarily) some officers. the renewal of fittings for traverses in the expense magazines. the closing of a breach in the rampart. the construction of a gallery of communication from the main work to casemates flanking the ditch of the lower wing (North-West Bastion). repairs to the scarp and counterscarp revetments. the mounting of artillery in the casemates to defend the ditch. the mounting of curbs and pivots for 22 traversing gun platforms on the terreplein. These works were commissioned in 1853 and completed by 1855.
1853-1859
With the threat of Napoleon 111 (Palmerston era). Work resumes in the Citadel. The Officers' Mess was constructed. The Western Outworks were also constructed to give extra barrack accommodation. The rapid advance of weapons technology was outstripping the ability of existing fortifications to withstand bombardment from a new generation of artillery. A programme of moderinsation commenced at the Citadel was required to assist with improving the nation’s defences. The Citadel proposals included advance work on the west side of the Citadel (the Western Outworks) to secure the ground and purpose-built Officers’ Quarters. These proposals were accepted and were underway by the time the Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom reported in 1860, voting additional resources for the Western Heights. The new works, begun in 1858 or 1859, were largely finished by 1867 and completed the Western Heights as a land front fortress.
1853-1859
At the Citadel, the new features are shown on a plan dated 1871 and included the following: the Western Outworks with new casemated barracks. the Officers’ Quarters. the Main Magazine. the Canteen. the Armourer’s Shop. the Armoury. the Pump House. the Main (east) Gatehouse. completely new terreplein with guns and modified original expense magazines. the completion of scarp and counterscarp casemates for the defence of the ditch.
1861
The first infantry Battalion moves into the Citadel. The South Front Barracks are also constructed. From this point on until 1944, the Citadel had infantry garrison, no one regiment, but it was a posting point for all and sundry in the army. Most battalions stayed a year or two.
1870-1890
The regimental pet of the 102nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Madras Fusiliers) was a Bengal tiger cub called 'Plassey'. 'Plassey' was one of a pair of tigers captured by Captain Frank Thackwell of the 5th Lancers. Legend has it that 'Plassey' was fairly tame and even on friendly terms with the 102nd's other regimental pets in India, an antelope and a dog. On arrival in the UK, he lived unchained with the garrison at the Citadel, but apparently alarmed the local inhabitants on several occasions. He was reluctantly sent to the local zoological gardens, where he eventually died.
1870-1890
Meanwhile across the site, new barrack huts and associated facilities had been built on the surface in the Western Outworks in 1890. The first new Warrant Officers Quarters were built by 1890 and the second in place by 1892. A new Sergeant’s Mess was also built.
1899
Citadel Garrison were sent to the 2nd Boer War.
1900-1902
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Citadel was no longer regarded as a land fortress. Although the Citadel ceased to be an effective land fortress, it received an additional role which was to endure until after the Second World War - the defence of the seaway by coast artillery. By 1900, two batteries had been constructed inside defensible additions to the Citadel; Citadel Battery with its 9.2-inch BL guns and South Front Battery with its 6-inch BLs. In 1910, Citadel Battery had three 9.2-inch guns and two parapet-mounted machine guns with the War Quarters for the gun crews (the Kent RGA) situated in the Double Caponier of the Western Outworks.
1914-1918
WW1 garrison of the 3rd East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) who were training men for the front line. In 1917, the Citadel housed one anti-aircraft gun - for local defence against German zeppelins and bombers - a 3-inch QF 20cwt.
1920
By the 1920s, many of the old casemates were no longer used to accommodate troops, although men were still housed in the North and South Casemates and the Double Caponier of the Western Outworks.
1910
At this point, works continued at the Citadel and lots of extra buildings were being built across the site. As at the Grand Shaft Barracks and South Front Barracks nearby, many of these buildings were in place by c1910 and included a Recreational Establishment Institute (1890s), a new Cook House (1911), a Mobilisation Store (by 1905), Workshops and Stores, a Bread and Meat Store.
1779
Early works started, to fortify the hill due to American War of Independence. This plan dated 1784, by Engineer Officer Lieutenant Page, show a bastion fortification across the Western Heights. This drawing is the earliest of its kind and represents what would then progress to form the Citadel.
1779
Works on the Drop Redoubt had started.
1803
With the threat of Napoleon, building work was massively ramped up. The earlier works at the site were bricked in and the casemates were constructed. The same approach was taken at the Drop Redoubt – which due to sheer hard graft, was finished in 3-4 years, along with the Grand Shaft, Grand Shaft Barracks and the Hospital.
1815
The commencement of The Battle of Waterloo meant that the Citadel, as it stood, was then abandoned uncompleted. Meanwhile the Grand Shaft Barracks were fully manned.
1840
Minor construction works continued at the Citadel, albeit at a slow pace. Still no garrison stationed at the Citadel.
1860
With the threat of Napoleon 111 (Palmerston era). Work resumes in the Citadel. The Officers' Mess was constructed. The Western Outworks were also constructed to give extra barrack accommodation.
1861
The first infantry Battalion moves into the Citadel. The South Front Barracks are also constructed. From this point on until 1944, the Citadel had infantry garrison, no one regiment, but it was a posting point for all and sundry in the army. Most battalions stayed a year or two.
1870
The regimental pet of the 102nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Madras Fusiliers) was a Bengal tiger cub called 'Plassey'. 'Plassey' was one of a pair of tigers captured by Captain Frank Thackwell of the 5th Lancers. Legend has it that 'Plassey' was fairly tame and even on friendly terms with the 102nd's other regimental pets in India, an antelope and a dog. On arrival in the UK, he lived unchained with the garrison at the Citadel, but apparently alarmed the local inhabitants on several occasions. He was reluctantly sent to the local zoological gardens, where he eventually died.
1899
Citadel garrison went to the 2nd Boer War.
1910
Work continued at the Citadel with lots of extra buildings being built.
1914-1918
WW1 garrison of the 3rd East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) who were training men for the front line.
1930
Actor David Niven stationed at the Citadel with the Highland Light Infantry.
1939-1945
During the war, the Citadel continued in use for a variety of purposes, not least providing focal facilities for the troops stationed on the Western Heights and manning coast and AA batteries. Some nine pillboxes and observation positions were established on the Citadel ramparts and light AA emplacements established in the Western Outworks. In 1939, a new camp of hutments was built just outside the east gate of the Citadel, to house the staff of a heavy AA battery (designated D7) situated a little further east. The battery and camp remained in use throughout the war and for a few years afterwards, as D7 was designated a ‘nucleus site’ for continuing AA defence.
1940
Works continued in the Citadel to install AA defences and the ditches were then mined.
1944
In January of this year, a German plane – a Junkers Ju88, was shot down and crashed at the Citadel gate. By this time in 1944 the whole of the Western Heights is now empty of soldiers, including the Citadel and Drop Redoubt.
1944
The Western Heights is now empty of soldiers.
1950-1954
The War Office offers the Citadel to Dover District Council, but they refuse it due to lack of purpose and maintenance costs. The Army relinquished control to the Prison Commissioners in 1954, they took on the fort and began converting it into a prison.
1950
The War Office offers the Citadel to Dover District Council, but they refuse it due to lack of purpose and maintenance costs. Instead the Prison Service took on the fort and began converting it into a prison.
1955
The Citadel officially became a Young Offender’s Borstal Prison and started accepting offenders within it’s walls. The site held male adult detainees aged 18 and over who were appealing for asylum or had failed in seeking it. The centre offered residential space with integral sanitation as well as resources such as televisions and telephones. It provided shared resources including gym, a library, church, mosques, multi-faith rooms, shops, laundry facilities, and a healthcare unit.
1994
The Citadel from the air in 1994, clearly showing how the defences straddle the gently-domed top of the Heights. Many of the internal buildings have been erected by HMPS at this point. With the single exception of the tenaille, the original Citadel formation is well preserved including the rampart, ditch, revetments and casemates, although there is very little visible detail of the defences on the terreplein. Surviving internal buildings include the Main Gatehouse, the magnificent Officers’ Quarters, the Sergeants’ Mess, the Regimental Institute, the Canteen and Dining Room, the Welfare Clinic, the Engine and Boiler House and the Guard Room of the North-West Bastion. Many underground galleries that linked various parts of the complex are also in existence but most are sealed for security reasons. HMPS buildings now occupy the major part of the former Parade Ground and other internal spaces.
1994
The rampart, parapet and terreplein have been altered radically by HMPS. In general, the body of the rampart survives, along with most of the parapet wall, but nearly all details of the terreplein have been removed or buried. Nothing can be seen of the late 19th-century traversing gun emplacements, expense magazines, ready-use lockers etc, nor of the 20th-century pillboxes and other structures that are visible on Second World War photographs. The rampart of the South-West Face north of the present west gate has been levelled to the height of the ditch revetment and details of the West Flank and Salient D are obscured by infilling.
2000
In 2000, Dover Immigration Removals Centre took over the Citadel. The Dover site was a Prison Service run Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). It had 314 bed spaces and a huge range of facilities. Education was provided on site via a dedicated unit running a selection of language and other classes, i.e. English, arts, crafts, computers and IT. It had two gymnasiums, one provided weights, bicycles, treadmills and other exercise equipment the second provided a wide range of ball game equipment such as football, volleyball and basketball. This also included an astro-turf pitch. It had a shop facility allowing detainees to purchase small items such as chocolate, phone-cards and toiletries. There were association rooms where detainees have access to pay-phones, board games and television. Prayer rooms, a Multi-Faith Room and a Mosque were also provided on site. They also had paid work opportunities including cleaning, a cycle repair shop, decorating, food preparation, kitchen assistants, orderlies (gym, education etc).
2015
In October 2015 the Home Office announced that the centre would close by the end of the month, with all remaining detainees being transferred to other removal centres. The Citadel was then passed over to the Ministry of Justice.
2020
Dover Citadel Limited acquired The Citadel, Uk's most advanced Napoleonic era fortification from the Ministry of Justice in September 2020 following a competitive tender process. The company's vision for the site is to transform it into a unique hotel and workspace with a focus on sustainability. The Citadel, which spans over 220,000 square feet and features over 54 buildings, is being used as a film set under the guise ‘Citadel Studios’ and has hosted numerous big-budget productions from Marvel, Netflix, Apple TV, music videos and many TV shows.
2021
Citadel studios is launched
2022
Dover Citadel Ltd/Techfort receive a grant of £1.8 million pounds from the government’s getting building fund with the support of MP Natalie Elphicke. Planning permission approved to sympathetically restore the 12 casemates to the north and south of the site. Renovation works begin on the casemate restoration.
2022
The Citadel/ Techfort received 1.8 million pounds from the governments getting building fund with the support of MP Natalie Elphicke
2023
The Citadel invites members of Western Heights Preservation Society for a site visit of The Citadel, as part of a wider plan to reinvigorate the whole of the Western Heights fortifications and make the area accessible to Dover residents and visitors from across the globe.
2023
Dover Citadel Ltd are granted planning permission for first phase accommodation in the former Sandwich House building. Renovation works will include a restyling of the current layout of this building to transform into modern day accommodation on the site, providing overnight stays to visitors from near and far.
2023
The Citadel announces its first official open day with an artist takeover of the newly refurbished casemates, to complement the Western Heights Preservation Society open weekend at the Drop Redoubt/Grand Shaft. https://doverwesternheights.org
2023
The site will formally open as "The Citadel” bringing the historic monument to life with a modern future. A space for community, innovation, the arts & culture.
2023
Planning permission granted for first phase accommodation
2023
First official open day in collaboration with Western Heights Preservation society open day https://doverwesternheights.org
2023
The site will formally open as "The Citadel"

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