History and Heritage
White Cliffs Country has history and heritage in abundance!
Our impressive historic sites like Richborough Roman Fort launched the Roman Invasion of Britain in AD 54 - the Western Heights is one of the strongest Napoleonic fortresses in the country and the South Foreland Lighthouse was the world's first to display an electrically powered signal.
Our surviving great castles include: Dover Castle, Deal Castle, and Walmer Castle & Gardens.
Our museums & historic places include:
Discover Deal on a History Walking Tour with The History Project.
Find out about
- Over 200,000 of the 338,000 men evacuated from Dunkirk passed through Dover, filling the town and railway station with soldiers, sailors and airmen.
- Find out about Cross Channel swimmers and pioneer pilots.
- White Cliffs Country has history and heritage in abundance. Discover historic sites, museums, and other attractions to visit in Dover, Deal and Sandwich.
- For more than 500 years the five towns protected king and country from frequent and vicious attacks in return for special privileges.
Take a whistle stop tour of our timeline...
55 BC It was about 9am on 26th August when Julius Caesar arrived off Dover where the cliffs were lined with a vast number of fully armed natives. He decided to find a more suitable landing place and at about 3.30pm with a favourable tide and wind, proceeded along the coast for 7 miles and came to a stop off an open and level shore.
AD 43 In July AD 43, four legions (20,000 men) supported by 30,000 auxiliaries, landed at Richborough near Sandwich - only 15 miles from Dover. After the invasion, the Emperor Claudius landed at Richborough and travelled through Kent with elephants and reinforcements.
1050: The five ports of Dover, Sandwich, Hastings, Romney and Hythe joined together to provide ships and men for the King, Edward the Confessor. They became known as the Cinque Ports.
1190: The massive stone keep of Dover Castle and inner walls or bailey surrounding it were complete.
1216: Prince Louis of France landed at Sandwich in support of the baron's war against King John.
1255: The Port of Sandwich is no stranger to odd events in English history, the first captive elephant was landed in England, delivered as a gift to the English monarch Henry lll, from the French king, and was then taken on foot to the king's zoo at the Tower of London.
1278: Deal was named as a 'limb port' of the Cinque Ports.
1457: The French sent a raiding party to Kent, burning much of Sandwich to the ground. A force of 4,000 men from Honfleur, under the command of Marshal de Breze came ashore to pillage the town, in the process murdering the mayor, John Drury. It became an established tradition, surviving to this day, that the Mayor of Sandwich wears a black robe in mourning for this ignoble deed.
1500s: King Henry Vlll had a long connection with Dover, holding the offices of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle before he became king. When Henry visited Dover he stayed in the Royal Apartments in the keep and inner bailey of the Castle.
1539-1542: Deal and Walmer castles built along coast in White Cliffs Country by Henry Vlll because of the threat of invasion by France and Spain.
Deal Castle, was designed and built in the shape of the Tudor rose.
Anne of Cleves is reported to have stayed at Deal following her long voyage from Europe. From Deal, Anne left for London and her fateful meeting with King Henry where she would be forever labelled the Flanders Mare.
1560: Sandwich was later to gain significantly from the skills brought to the town by many Dutch settlers, who were granted the right to settle by Queen Elizabeth l. The settlers, included market gardening in their skills, and were responsible for growing the first English celery.
1573: Queen Elizabeth l visited Dover on 14 July 1573 on her progress through Kent. On the procession to Dover The Queen was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, each with their own entourage. The procession was so long that as the tail of it was going up Folkestone Hill, leaving Folkestone, the head was descending the Western Heights down through Cowgate into Queen Street.
1660: During the reign of Charles l, Dover declared against the King in the Civil War but enthusiastically welcomed the return of his son Charles ll to England via Dover beach.
1784: Dickens came to Deal. Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (who was staying at nearby Walmer Castle, and was later to be appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1792), ordered Deal boats to be set alight as he suspected some of the Deal luggers of being engaged in smuggling.
1804, With invasion expected at any time, a massive programme of defensive building in stone and brick began on the Western Heights creating two forts and deep brick-lined ditches.
1842: On 14 November 1842, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria visited Dover while staying as guests of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, The Duke of Wellington, at Walmer Castle.
1875: Captain Matthew Webb's first successful Channel swim. Covered in porpoise oil, he dived into the Channel from the Admiralty Pier at Dover. Although he was stung by jellyfish, and strong currents kept him off the French coast for five hours, he finally landed at Calais, recording a time of 21 hours 45 minutes.
1909: The first person to fly the English Channel in an aeroplane was a Frenchman called Louis Bleriot. The flight took place on 25 July winning Bleriot a prize of £1,000 from the Daily Mail. An earlier attempt five days earlier, by Englishman Herbert Latham, had ended when he had ditched in the sea.
1914-1918: World War l –The first bomb to be dropped on England fell near Dover Castle on Christmas Eve 1914.
1939 - 1945: World War ll – In May 1940, over 200,000 of the 338,000 men evacuated from Dunkirk passed through Dover filling the town and railway station with soldiers, sailors and airmen. Vice Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay controlled the evacuation from his headquarters in tunnels beneath the castle. Dover became a symbol for Britain's wartime bravery, the centre of East Kent's 'Hellfire Corner'.
1940: At St Margaret's Bay, close to Deal, the Royal Marines Siege Regiment came into being and manned cross-Channel guns for most of the remainder of the war.
1991: The remains of a Bronze Age Boat were discovered during excavations for the building of a new road. The 3,500 year old Bronze Age Boat is now on show in a special gallery in Dover Museum.
Visit Dover Museum's website and find out more...