Dover Cliff Casemates aka The Secret Wartime Tunnels
Proposed Research Strategy for the Decorative Finishes of Casement Level
Dover Castle, sited dramatically above the cliffs overlooking the English Channel, is one of the most famous fortresses in north-west Europe. It has seen unbroken active service for over nine centuries.
In the Second World War, a crucial command centre lay beneath the fortress in a network of underground tunnels cut into the chalk of the White Cliffs. It was from here, in May and June 1940, that the operation to evacuate British and allied troops from the beaches at Dunkirk was coordinated.
The Secret Wartime Tunnels (SWT) have been the principal draw for visitors to Dover Castle since the ﬁrst level was opened to the public in the early 1990s. The downside to this popularity is that these tours often sell out by midday in peak season, leaving many visitors disappointed.
This, and the opening of the Great Tower project in the medieval keep in 2009, has provided English Heritage with the impetus to renew the visitor experience in the tunnels. The overall strategy is to create several distinct but complementary experiences at Dover Castle, which will ultimately result in its perception as a must-see attraction like Warwick or Windsor Castle.
This interpretation plan sets out a vision for the new tunnels experience. It seeks remedies for some of the operational issues that currently exist, and identiﬁes elements of the current scheme that we should retain, as well as those that are ripe for revision. But above all, it articulates the desire to create an experience in the tunnels which is both fun and intellectually rewarding for all our visitors.
Background & Brief of present research
The Secret Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle are very popular with visitors. English Heritage is seeking to review the presentation to the improve the visitor experience. It has been decided to focus the interpretation of the site on the 1939 Dunkirk Rescue Operations which were directed from Casement Level. The presentation will also reference the earlier and post-war history of the tunnels. As part of the wider research to inform this initiative, a detailed examination of surviving fittings and decorative finishes of selected areas of Casement Level has been commissioned. This area has witnessed over 200 years of use and as a multi-layered complex assemblage is of great evidential value, and demands great sensitivity of approach.