Monday, 3 March 2014

I RECAPTURE THE CASTLE

 

While we were in East Kent recently we revisited Dover Castle. I lived with its comforting presence for the whole of my youth - it watched over me as I was pushed in my pram, was just behind me on my first day at school and in the summer holidays it was always there, in the background. 


It is situated high on the cliffs so that almost every part of the town possesses its own personal and spectacular view. We hadn't been inside the castle's square keep since its English Heritage makeover (E.H. has renamed the keep - it is now The Great Tower!) I was eager to see whether the new, brightly coloured furnishings were a distraction or if they helped tell the castle's history in a more realistic way than the empty stone halls and secret passageways that, when I was a child, I could explore at any time with my friends. I'm not sure there was even an entry fee for children, though perhaps it was 6d.

  

                            The views are still amazing and inside...





... there are still mysterious nooks and crannies to explore.

But, hang on, I don't remember this.
 
 

Who's eating here tonight?

 

 
"Where's my banquet?"
 
 
It's Richard II, well known for being a little difficult in his final years.
 
 
What did we think of Richard's colourful new décor?
 

 
The bright furnishings are restricted to the main chambers of the keep and are surprisingly authentic and beautifully handcrafted. Contemporary illuminated manuscripts were the inspiration...

 
..and we thought they worked well!
 
*
Back down to earth in the shockingly sad old town that is present day Dover, we found a very good restaurant called The Allotment.
 
 
Once a traditional wine-merchants shop (I remember visiting with my parents to stock up for Christmas) it still has its original stained glass window.
 
 
It faces Dover Town Hall and, as I looked out, the years rolled back to when, along with grand, banner-bedecked town council chambers, it housed a small dusty Museum and held prestigious events like my school speech day where I once provoked a sharp intake of collective breath by wearing the shortest mini dress in the place onto the stage. But, as you walk through the town, the landscape becomes more depressing...
 

..until just behind the seafront a menacing hulk, Burlington House, comes into view, with its accompanying multi-story car park. Both buildings, constructed in the late 1970s, were condemned 7 years ago and have been empty since then.


 
A few yards further on, in what used to be the prestigious heart of pre-World War II Dover, we came across this shocking scene.
 
 
No longer the "Gateway to Britain" but a bit of a dump. Heartbreaking.
 
***


22 comments:

  1. How very sad. I would never have imagined that Dover would be a town that had areas desolate with abandoned buildings. The fortunes of towns can change so quickly.

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    1. Yes - I feel sad about it. We need a bit more equal distribution.

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  2. I have never visited Dover and it is nothing like I imagined ... what a sad looking place ... at least they have saved the Castle and not let it also become a derelict ruin.

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    1. Luckily most places still have areas of beauty and interest - perhaps the Channel Tunnel has reduced the fortunes of Dover as a passenger port.

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  3. What contrasts you show here, Nilly. The Castle is spectacular and the initial photographs imply a beautifully maintained place....such a shock to see the seedy side of town. Is there any chance that it could ever recover, do you think?
    (Love the photo on the beach - just lovely!)
    Axxx

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    1. Yes, Annie - someone I spoke to blamed the "evil machinations" of the local town council. As you find everywhere in the UK - and the world - locals still have great pride in the place and its history, so maybe there is hope.

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  4. I always struggle to understand why so many of our coastal towns are in ruins. On such a relatively small island one would think they would all be brimming with life and vitality. I thought the Allotment had a beautiful facade and perhaps gives some hope for Dover.

    Jean x

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    1. I agree Jean. It seems, superficially, to happen in a random fashion. when I was growing up Deal was the dump and Dover was attractive and vibrant. Now deal is a VERY desirable place to live and visit.

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  5. We all seem to reach a stage in our lives when we want to look back and return to our origins - hence my yearly forays up to Derbyshire.
    It is very sad that Dover has been allowed to deteriorate, however, better to look on the bright side and celebrate the makeover of the castle.
    The Allotment looks a great restaurant, it is good that they have retained that wonderful window.

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    1. I agree - I love looking back (through rose-coloured spectacles?) I am interested in the good and the bad - it's all part of our lives.

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  6. So sad to see the decay.. I was in Whitley Bay today, years since I was last there. The new network of roads, converted hotels to old folks homes, the defunct Spanish City... I struggled to remember it as the vibrant place it once was.
    Dog enjoyed the beach though ... That hasn't changed.
    Julie x

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    1. Whitley Bay! I've only visited once - in about 1974. I recall it being misty and romantic, and anyway I love anywhere with sea. We were staying with a friend - name-dropping alert - ex-wife of Mark Knopfler! Dire Straits...? Or are you too young to remember...?

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  7. Thank you for your eloquent writing!

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    1. Thank you for your compliment!

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  8. Wow always lovely to take a trip with you Nilly...LOVE the castle, high on the hill side.. with all it's wonderful views....and the nostalgia shown in the old black and white picture.. Beautiful..Sad about Dover, I've never visited....I do have Whitley bay on my list of place to see though...With kindest thoughts...Maria x

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    1. Thank you Maria - everywhere has its sad side, I suppose.

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  9. It is years since I went to Dover, and I , like others here, am sad that so much seems to have changed for the worse. The castle looks great though, and I am interested in those bright colours. many people were unhappy when Huddersfield town hall restored the original Victorian colours to some of the paintwork... saying it looked to Disney like......but it was authentic. perhaps we have all got used to those paint ranges of heritage colours that are clearly based on someone's imagined past. I'm enjoying catching up on blogs I have missed whilst travelling..... its awful not knowing what people have been up to. Jx

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    1. I have heard mutterings about town council corruption, but I'm sure the Channel Tunnel has had an effect on Dover's fortunes. However, Dover seems to have deteriorated more than most. Yorkshire and even poor old Teesside seem to have much more going for them. I look forward to visiting the transformed Piece Hall in Halifax!

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  10. I enjoyed this post revisiting your younger days, the castle has an amazing setting. Dover looks very depressing and dismal.

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    1. Thank you Jane - yes, it is sad but it still has its history and some interesting hidden places. And I still love it!

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  11. That you for showing us around Dover, you must have felt so sad looking at all the decay and neglect. At least the Castle is on the up and maybe someday in the future Dover will be revived and become a proud town again. Jane xx

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    1. I hope so Jane - and I hope I'm around to see it!

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