Board Game Tour of Britain (6)

Dover Castle

Dover Castle

#2 Dover. We have a mission: to follow the route of an old 1940s board game around Great Britain, sticking to the instructions as closely as we possibly can. Along the way we will look at the history of the places we visit, with a particular focus on how things have changed since the tour was created around 70 years ago.

Square #2 on the board was Dover, and this was the first time we had specific instructions to follow:

You have just travelled via part of the great Roman highway, Watling Street. Remain here looking at the coast of France through a telescope until you throw a six.

The game board at Dover.

The game board at Dover.

So the first part of the challenge was obviously to get to Dover via Watling Street. Although it is described in the game instructions as “the great Roman highway”, Watling Street was used long before the Romans arrived, but it was they who paved and extended the route. In Roman times Watling Street ran from Dover to Wroxeter. It was then possible to continue all the way to Scotland, but the remainder of the route is not generally referred to as Watling Street. The part of Watling Street that we needed to follow in order to obey the instructions is now the A2, so we followed that diligently into Dover. It was not a very Roman experience.

The next part of the instruction presented a bit more of a challenge, but after some research we worked out that the most pleasant way to achieve it was to go to Dover Castle, where we would have a choice of telescopes and at least a chance of seeing France, depending on the weather.

The castle had been closed to the public over the winter and we visited during the first week of reopening. At the time of writing an adult entry ticket is £18.30 (or £20.20 with gift aid), a child ticket £11 (or £12.10), concessions £16.50 (or £18.20) and a family ticket is £47.60 (or £52.50).

Dover Castle probably has its origins in an Iron Age hill fort, until William the Conqueror built an earthwork and timber castle. Building work on the stone castle that stands today was commenced by Henry II in the 1180, and then continued under John and Henry III during the 13th Century. The castle was of great strategic importance during the two world wars. A network of tunnels that had been built to house troops during the Napoleonic Wars served as the command centre for naval operations in the Channel during the Second World War, and those tunnels can be visited by tourists today.

The game board with the telescope.

The game board with the telescope.

But the most important destination for us at the castle was the Admiralty Lookout tower, built in 1905 as a fire control post, and then used from 1914 to control all shipping coming in and out of the harbour, using flags and wireless. The reason this was important for us was that there is a telescope on the top of the tower, so we could follow the game instructions there.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather on the day, which was bright and sunny, but with a predictably cold breeze (at the end of March). Although the view across the sea was a little hazy, we were just about able to make out the coast of France through the telescope, which was one instruction that we didn’t think we would be lucky enough to be able to follow exactly! There was also an old telescope inside the tower where we could take a second look. On top of the tower we photographed the game board with the telescope, much to the puzzlement of the other tourists on the tower, who started to disperse, presumably to get away from the crazy family. When we gave our son a dice (yes, OK, a “die”) and got him to start rolling it to try to get a six, as per the instructions, each and every tourist quietly and rapidly left the top of the tower. Presumably they were worried we were involved in some kind of a cult ritual.

The six (at last!)

The six (at last!)

The instructions said to roll a six and we had the original dice with us from the game board. However, it appeared to be weighted because it took about 30 rolls to get a six. We thought at one stage we might have to live there because we were clearly never going to get a six. Our son did not mind at all. He thought rolling a dice on top of a tower was hilarious fun. After much dice rolling he finally got his six, and we continued looking round the castle, stopping occasionally to photograph the game board with the castle in the background.

There is not much to say from the point of view of the usual comparison of the location in 1948 and the location today, as castles tend not to change all that rapidly! Apart from the modern tourism facilities, one notable addition since then is a statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey, erected in 2000 to honour his work there during World War II.

Our next location will be Beachy Head.

To read the previous posts, please click on the Board Game Tour link on the menu bar above, just under the banner. There is also a Contents link, which will also contain links to each post in order, although that page relies on manual updating so might not always show the latest. If you want to be kept informed about new posts on Windows into History please hit the follow button on the right of the screen.

The photos that accompany this post were taken during our visit. Please do not reuse them without permission.


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This entry was posted in 11th Century, 12th Century, Board Game Tour, Britain, England, History, Travel, World War II and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Board Game Tour of Britain (6)

  1. Athena says:

    This is such a exciting adventure I can’t wait to read your other posts

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Terry says:

    This sounds fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. starrywazzoh says:

    Great report from the second location. Looking forward to following the board around Britain. As a child I lived in an end terrace on Watling Street at the Wroxeter end in what is now Telford and was then modest old Oakengates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. Was there anything to see of the street there or just modern roads? Not far from us there is some of the old Stane Street Roman road and although it is difficult to find there is a decent length section of the road that is a raised mound running through countryside (sadly now getting rather destroyed by badgers).

      Liked by 1 person

      • starrywazzoh says:

        No, nothing Roman to see. The routes were followed well enough for centuries although in my lifetime the A5 had diverted around my home leaving my bit of Watling Street, renamed as Beverley, in an older suburban form. I remember as a small boy being taken to see a hole in the road dug by workers for some reason because it provided a vertical cross section going back nearly 2,000 years and although I understood and even today 60 years on recall the event, at the time for the life of me I couldn’t make out what was supposed to be looking at.
        My bit of Watling Street could be followed from our front door in a straight line to Viriconium to the west. To the east it ran straight for 20 miles before hitting the sprawling Midlands conurbations. There is a Roman fort on the top of nearby Redhill adjacent to an ancestral farm of ours where my mother was born.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your great content

    Liked by 1 person

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