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  • (♪ A Ship to Old England Came, Mara Carlyle ♪)

  • Kent: one of the few English counties to still  use a name with roots in the ancient pre-Roman  

  • languages that once rang out across this  island. The word Kent is derived from Kantos,  

  • which means 'border', a fitting name forplace that's home to Dover Castle, a medieval  

  • fortress rising imperiously from the crest of  a grand hill, staring watchfully out to sea.

  • Dover Castle sits looking out to sea, effectively  guarding the narrowest part of the channel.  

  • Much of the castle that we can see today dates  from the 1180s to the early 1200s but the site  

  • has been occupied for much, much longer than  that as we've seen at so many of our sites. In  

  • some places, one has to look hard or to dig down  to find that deeper historical story but at Dover  

  • it's right here. In some cases that deeper story  is standing literally right in front of you,  

  • four stories high. This is a remarkable  lighthouse, a Pharos, and it dates to the  

  • first half of the second century AD. It appears  to have still been use as a lighthouse in the  

  • 12th century, around 1000 years after it was  first built by the Romans. And the church of St  

  • Mary in Castro which lies directly alongsidethat might have been founded as early as the  

  • mid 7th century but the existing building, while  heavily restored, dates from around about 1000 AD.

  • But it's not all about looking into the deep  past. Dover Castle has always played a part  

  • in the defence of the realm and it played a part  in both world wars. The headland here is riddled  

  • with tunnels, many of them first dug during the  Napoleonic wars and these were used as a base  

  • from which to plan and execute various  operations including Operation Dynamo,  

  • the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.

  • This unique site positively oozes historyIt's a location that has always been of central  

  • importance to anyone looking to reign over  England and defend their land from the south.  

  • The continent, filled with rulers who've often  viewed England as a prize worth fighting for,  

  • lies less than 21 miles away over the water.

  • More than 700 years ago, Dover Castle was  described as the Key of England and of course  

  • this place has been a key fortification throughout  its history. Taken together, the white cliffs and  

  • the castle have for a long time been a symbol, a  powerful symbol, of England, indeed of Britain.  

  • Certainly this is absolutely true during the  second world war. But in the 19th century Dover  

  • was once described as "historic, cliff-guardedcastle-crowned Dover" which I think is a beautiful  

  • way to look at this place. The channel that  the castle looks out on is undoubtedly a  

  • barrier but it also has to be seen very much as  a highway. It's always been used this way and  

  • it still is today. As much as it separates, it's  allowed people to communicate and for as long as  

  • Britain has been separate from the continent  there's always been people plying the waters here  

  • especially as its narrowest point, and of course  that's still very much the case today when goods  

  • and people cross the water. If Pendennis feels  like it has a story of leave taking then Dover  

  • for me at least always has a very strong  sense of homecoming. For many the castle  

  • and the cliffs would be the first thing they  saw as they came back to England from various  

  • conflicts and travels. But of course for others  the castle is all about defence and defiance.

  • The seafaring people of England have  blessed us with a rich singing tradition  

  • packed with raucous shanties and sentimental  songs overflowing with longing and loss.  

  • A recurring theme we find is that of bloody  encounters with the supposedly treacherous French.  

  • These songs document clashes with England's  old enemy who'd venture out into the wild  

  • winds of the channel to do battle amongst  the waves. One of the finest of these songs,  

  • sung here for us by Mara Carlyle, is A Ship to  Old England Came. The lyrics tell the tale of  

  • an English vessel that encounters a fleet  of French ships in the inky black night.  

  • They wait until sunrise to launch into the frayuncertain if they'll see the sun rise again.

(♪ A Ship to Old England Came, Mara Carlyle ♪)

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B1 dover castle england kent century defence

A Ship to Old England Came | Songs of England #9 | Dover Castle, Kent

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    Summer posted on 2021/02/19
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