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Dover from air.jpg
Dover Harbour
Grid reference: TR315415
Location: 51°7’46"N, 1°18’32"E
Population: 28,156  (2001)
Post town: Dover
Postcode: CT16, CT17
Dialling code: 01304
Local Government
Council: Dover

Dover is the major port town of Kent, standing at the very south-easternmost coast of Great Britain and facing France across the narrowest part of the English Channel. Dover has since ancient days been the major conduit for traffic across the narrow seas betwixt Britain and Europe.

The town lies 14½ miles south-east of Canterbury, 35 miles east of Maidstone and 25 miles west-north-west of Calais. It is caught in a gap in the cliffs and its sea front is entirely taken up with the Port of Dover, with a harbour wall enclosing 610 acres of sea. From here the Dover Calais ferry sails.

The surrounding chalk cliffs have become known as the White cliffs of Dover, and the narrow sea passage nearby – the Straits of Dover. The French in turn seek to name the strait after their own town, calling it the Pas de Calais.

Dover's strategic position has always been evident throughout its history: archaeological finds have revealed that the area has always been a focus for peoples entering and leaving Britain. The town has been inhabited since the Stone Age according to archeological finds. The Romans were here, and knew the port as Dubris.

Services related to the Port of Dover provide a great deal of the town's employment, as does tourism, although many of the former ferry services have declined. There was a military barracks in Dover, which was closed in 2007.

Name of the town

The River Dour first gave a name to the town, deriving from the ancient British language Dubrās ("the waters", similar to the Welsh Dŵr today). Latinized it became Dubris.

The ancestral English knew the town or its people as Dofras

The modern name was in use at least by the time Shakespeare wrote 'King Lear' (between 1603 and 1606), in which the town and its cliffs play a prominent role.

Dover is one of only a few places in Britain to bear a different name in the French language; the Frenh know it as Douvres.

The cliffs here also gave Great Britain an ancient name: Albion, meaning "white".


Dover Castle from Castle Street

Dover's history, because of its proximity to France, has always been of great strategic importance to Britain. Archaeological finds have shown that there were Stone Age people in the area; and that by the Bronze Age the maritime influence was already strong. Some Iron Age finds exist also.

The coming of the Romans changed Dover's fortunes as they made Dover a hub of their road network. Like Lemanis (Lympne) and Rutupiae (Richborough), Portus Dubris was connected by road to Durovernum (Canterbury) and Watling Street. Forts were built above the port; lighthouses were constructed to guide ships; and one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Britain is here.

Dover appears in the Domesday Book as an important borough.

In peace, Dover has served as a port from trade and travel; it war it has served as a strongpoint of defence; its castle has stood against the French during many wars until the fall of Bonaparte, and served as a command centre in the struggles against Germany during twentieth century.


1945 Ordnance Survey map of Dover, showing the harbour

Dover is near the extreme south-east corner of Britain. At South Foreland, the nearest point to Europe, Cap Gris Nez near Calais is 21 miles away, across the Strait of Dover.[1]

The site on which the town was born lies in the valley of the River Dour, an ideal place for a port, sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly winds. However, in time the river mouth began to silt up by the action of longshore drift and the town was forced into making artificial breakwaters to keep the port in being. These breakwaters have been extended and adapted so that the port lies almost entirely on reclaimed land.

The higher land on either side of the valley, the Western Heights, and the eastern high point on which Dover Castle stands, has been adapted to perform the function of protection against invaders. The town has gradually extended up the river valley, encompassing several villages in doing so. Little growth is possible along the coast, since the cliffs are on the sea's edge. The railway, being tunnelled and embanked, skirts the foot of the cliffs.

Dover has two long distance footpaths: the Saxon Shore Way and the North Downs Way. Two National Cycle Network routes begin their journey at the town.



The Port of Dover and the White Cliffs of Dover

The Dover Harbour Board is the responsible authority for the running of the Port of Dover.[2] The English Channel, here at its narrowest point in the Straits of Dover, is the busiest shipping lane in the world. Ferries crossing between here and the Continent have to negotiate their way through the constant stream of shipping crossing their path. The Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme allots ships separate lanes when passing through the Strait. The Scheme is controlled by the Channel Navigation Information Service based at Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Dover. MRCC Dover is also charged with co-ordination of civil maritime search and rescue within these waters.[3]

The Port of Dover is also used by cruise ship passengers, and the old Dover Marine railway station building, together with a newly built facilities.

Ferries sail to Calais (35 sailings a day) and to Dunkirk (11 sailings a day). Until recent years ferries sailed to Boulogne, Dieppe, Ostend and Zeebrugge, but since the opening of the Channel Tunnel all services have been cut down.

The Dover lifeboat is a Severn class lifeboat based in the Western Docks.[4]

Local media


Dover has two paid for newspapers, the Dover Express (published by Kent Regional News and Media) and the Dover Mercury. Free newspapers for the town include the Dover and Deal Extra, and yourdover.


Dover has one local commercial radio station, KMFM Shepway and White Cliffs Country, broadcasting to Dover on 106.8FM. The station was founded in Dover as Neptune Radio in September 1997 but moved to Folkestone in 2003 and was consequently rebranded after a takeover by the KM Group. Dover is also served by the county-wide stations Heart, Gold and BBC Radio Kent.

Dover Community Radio (DCR) currently offer podcasts on local events and organisations on their website. They are also launching an online community radio station via their website for the town and district on March 28, 2011.[5]


There are three museums: the main Dover Museum,[6] the Dover Transport Museum,[7] and the Roman Painted House.[8]

Places of interest

  • Blériot memorial: the outline of Blériot's aircraft marked with granite setts at the exact spot where Blériot landed after the first cross-Channel flight, 1909[9]
  • Connaught Park
  • Cowgate Nature Reserve
  • Dover Castle
  • Dover Museum
  • Kearsney Abbey
  • Russell Gardens
  • Samphire Hoe Country Park
  • Seafront promenade
  • South Foreland Lighthouse
  • St Edmund's Chapel
  • Dover Transport Museum
  • Roman Painted House Museum


Dover Harbour, from the cliffs above

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Dover)




  • Statham, S.P.H. (1899). The history of the castle, town, and port of Dover. London: Longmans Green & Co.. pp. 462 p.. 
  • Foot, William (2006). Beaches, fields, streets, and hills ...: the anti-invasion landscapes of England, 1940. CBA research report 144. York: Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 1-902771-53-2. 
The Cinque Ports
Cinque Ports Antient Towns Limbs

Hastings  • New Romney  • Hythe  • Dover  • Sandwich

Rye  • Winchelsea

Lydd  • Folkestone  • Faversham  • Margate  • Deal  • Ramsgate  • Brightlingsea  • Tenterden