Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dover Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVIII 24

Catalogue entry

Made across this and the facing page on folio 24 recto (D17247), this drawing describes Dover Castle and its surrounding buildings. The present page demonstrates the structure of the castle itself, and carefully observes the cluster of stone buildings which stand in front of and encircle it. Finberg was reluctant to choose between Rochester and Dover, although he too recognised the form of a castle in this sketch.1
The site is thought to have been occupied by a fort since the Iron Age.2 William the Conqueror strengthened defences on the Dover cliffs after his victory at Hastings in 1066, introducing earthwork and a timber-stockaded castle which was then garrisoned continuously until 1958. The great tower dates from the 1180s, and was a strategic addition by Henry II in both a symbolic and defensive sense. Turner records this structure towards the top right of the page. It is 25.3 metres high, about 30 metres square, and has walls up to 6.5 metres thick. Building work on the castle did not reach completion until the reign of Henry III, who oversaw the installation of rings of defensive walls around the site which are evident in Turner’s sketch. He also added three further gatehouses and a fortified spur extension, and is generally responsible for the appearance of the fortress today.3
At the bottom of this page is what appears to be a secondary sketch, somewhat disconnected from the main image. Groups of vertical lines, possibly small towers or gatehouses, appear at regular intervals linked vaguely by connecting marks. This might be a study of a section of one of the successive rings of walls which surround the castle, although it is difficult to identify definitively the subject or location.
For further drawings which explore the castle in this sketchbook, see folios 23 verso–24 recto, 29 verso–30 recto, 47 verso, and 48 verso–49 recto (D17246–D17247, D17256–D17257, D17286, and D17288–D17289). For drawings from the 1810s, see two pages from the Hastings Sketchbook of about 1816–18 (Tate D10363–D10364; Turner Bequest CXXXIX 18a–19), and four from the Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate sketchbook from around 1816–19 (Tate D10456, D10468, D10470 and D10579; Turner Bequest CXL 25, 31, 32, and 86a). Later sketches continuing the theme can also be found in the Holland sketchbook of 1825 (Tate D18841, D19349–D19357, D19359, D19374, D19378, D19380, D19381; Turner Bequest CCXIV 1, 256a–260a, 261a, 269, 271, 272, 272a), the similarly dated Holland, Meuse and Cologne sketchbook of about 1825 (Tate D19406, D19407, and D19413; Turner Bequest CCXV 3a, 4, and 7), and the Dover, Rhine and Innsbruck sketchbook of 1843 (Tate D31223–D31225; Turner Bequest CCCIX 1–2a).

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.604.
‘History of Dover Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 5 November 2015,
Wilton 1979, p.355 no.483, reproduced.

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