The Dover Grand Shaft is a unique and impressive attraction that is steeped in history and the building showcases the importance of the Western Heights as a whole. It is the largest Napoleonic fortress in Britain and was an essential base for the British Army throughout the 19th Century, built between 1806 and 1809 as a quick means of communication and movement between the barracks on the Western Heights and the town below.
It comprises two concentric hollow brick cylinders 140 feet high, with three intertwined staircases between them built in Purbeck limestone. These impressive structures each having two landings. At the bottom, where the staircases meet, a sloping corridor leads to Snargate Street in the town, and then the staircases meet at the top in a bowl, from which stairs lead up to the parade ground in front of the Grand Shaft Barracks.
The Barracks were demolished in the 1960s as they fell into disrepair after the site became redundant. The shaft became a dumping ground for rubbish, even a car, but in the 1970s and 1980s clearances and restorations were carried out by Dover District Council. In 1986 it was opened to the public and in 1996 a replica of the original guardhouse was built on the old foundations and now constitutes the reception area to the shaft. Owned by the council it is run by the Western Heights Preservation Society who operate the tours.
March to November
Third Sunday of every month
Free - donations welcome
Dover Priory - 3/4 mile to the base of the grand shaft entrance.
There is limited parking on Drop Redoubt Road next to the entrance to the Drop Redoubt.
Very limited due to the number of steps and uneven ground. Buggies can be left at the level access to the base of the staircase (at owners risk).
Access is available at either end of the staircase. For the top of the staircase head for CT17 9DZ and follow Drop Redoubt road to the bottom after going through the gate by the cattle grid. Access to the bottom of the tunnel is via Snargate Street in Dover using postcode CT17 9DY.
There are limited toilet facilities on site at the Grand Shaft gate.
Picture Credit: © Western Heights Preservation Society.