History

What is chalk?

The geology of the cliffs is a suprising story that unfolds over millions of years. From the smallest of creatures to the drama of cliff falls, see how time has shaped the landscape.

Take a walk through history

Finding out something new

Finding out something new

We have a series of panels around the visitor centre that show some of the hidden history of the cliffs, from the prison buildings to the intriguing story of the aerial ropeway. Just ask in the visitor centre and we'll happily show you where to start.

Unlikely industrial history

The aerial ropeway

Unusual and innovative, the ropeway crossing the cliffs © British Pathe

The ropeway was designed to deliver coal to the port for export. Railway transport was expensive, so the aerial ropeway was built to take the coal from the colliery to Dover Harbour’s eastern arm, an innovative solution to a logistical problem.

The tramway

Rising gently from the harbour, the cut in 1912 © National Trust/Dover Musuem

The tramway cut was built in 1912 to connect the Dover tram system to the neighbouring village of St Margaret's. However, once the work was complete, the system was never built and thus the cut remains unused to this day.

Interesting things you can see on your walk

  • There was once a railway running along the cliff-top, which brought mineral trucks to the harbour
  • In Langdon Bay is the wreck of a ship, the SS Falcon, which caught fire while crossing the channel in 1926; you can still see the wreck at low tide
  • There are slit trenches, dug across the cliffs in WWII to provide protection for soldiers during bombing or attack by enemy aircraft

White Cliffs at war

The cliffs were on the frontline in both world wars and, with France just 21 miles away, the White Cliffs of Dover became a crucial part of the British defences.

Langdon Convict Prison

A glimpse into a different world

A glimpse into a different world

Langdon Convict Prison has left almost no traces, but in its heyday in the late 19th century it housed 102 prisoners. Today there are a few signs of the original buildings: flagstones, marks in a field, iron railings, but very little else above ground. Once however there were prison cells, a laundry, bath house and bakehouse, the infirmary, staff quarters and an exercise area.

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