White Cliffs Underground

Grand Shaft Spiral Staircase

This interesting piece of Georgian engineering is situated in Snargate Street, Dover. The staircase was cut down through the low chalk cliffs to provide access to the Western Docks and Dover town for soldiers stationed in the Western Heights fortress. It is very unusual in that there are actually three spiral staircases running separately around a central open shaft, which provided light and ventilation. In keeping with the times each staircase was reserved for a different class of soldier. As I recall, one was labelled 'Officers and their Ladies' another 'Sergeants and their Wives' and the third 'Privates and their Women'. These signs were still clearly visible when the photos were taken in March 1977. Otherwise the Grand Shaft was in a pretty poor state, with even the remains of a dumped car and other rubbish in the central shaft. However I'm glad to say that in the last few years the Grand Shaft has been extensively refurbished and now looks in good shape again, with a splendid new lower entrance gate in the original style. It is now open to the public on certain days in the summer.

 

The new lower Entrance Gate and Guardhouse, built on the original foundations

and using the correct type of bricks and lime mortar. Photo taken Feb.2001.

 

Lower Entrance and tunnel leading to spiral staircases as it was in 1977.

 

View of tunnel from just inside entrance gates.

 

At end of tunnel leading into Grand Shaft staircases.

 

Looking up one of the spiral staircases.

 

Looking up central shaft. Note windows for lighting the stairs.

 

View looking down central shaft from top of stairs.

 

View of top of shaft and stairs.

Note the three spiral staircases spaced out at 120 degree intervals.

For more information on the Grand Shaft and Barracks see Jeff Howe's Western Heights Today.

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