The Grand Shaft, A Stairway From The Cliffs To Street Level

Part Of Dover's Napoleonic History Can Be Experienced By Climbing The Grand Shaft

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The Shaft, located in Snargate Street in Dover, is a unique triple staircase built during the Napoleonic Wars as part of the major fortifications built on the Western Heights at Dover while there was a threat of a French Invasion.

The staircase is approached via a tunnel from Snargate Street and at the bottom of the shaft there was at one time, a guard house with cells for soldiers too drunk to climb the stairs after a night in the local pubs. The three staircases wind clockwise one above the other down a central brick shaft, the light coming down the shaft from the open top and through windows in the inside wall of the shaft.

The stairway was built between 1806 and 1809 to allow for the rapid and safe movement of troop that were garrisoned in the barracks obove on the Western Heights, down to the town and harbour to defend it in case of invasion. The staircase could also be used for the withdrawal of troops from the town back to the heavily defended and fortified Western Heights.

After the threat of invasion passed the three staircases became segregated, and the use of a particular staircase was restricted and segregated between:

"Officers and their Ladies"

"Sergeants and their Wives"

"Soldiers and their Women"

There is some on-road parking in Snargate Street if approaching from the bottom although this is restricted to one hour and will not allow sufficient time for a wider exploration of the Western Heights. There is parking on the western Heights for a visit to the staircase from the top.


  • Snargate Street

Contact details:

  • 01304 205108

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