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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Seafront

What is know generally as the Seafront by the inhabitants of  Dover does in fact have four separate names for its different  stretches. From the Prince of Wales Pier to the Eastern Docks,  the sections are the Esplanade, Waterloo Crescent, Marine  Parade and East Cliff. Prior to 1817 the site of the Seafront was a ridge of shingle  which had begun to accumulate about 1500. On this ridge was  Dover’s original ropewalk, where ships’ ropes were made. The  area was also used as a gathering ground for cobblestones,  with which the Town Commissioners of 1778 paved the streets  of Dover. The decision to start building on the shingle bank was taken by  the Harbour Commissioners in 1816, and Marine Parade was  completed in 1820. The houses on the Esplanade were  commenced in 1833, and Waterloo Crescent in 1834. The  houses at East Cliff span this whole building period and beyond,  into the 1840s. In 1850, due to erosion of the shoreline caused by the change  in currents after the construction of the Admiralty Pier, the  Harbour Board commenced the building of a strong sea wall  along the Esplanade. This was extended along Waterloo  Crescent and Marine Parade. East Cliff was not under the  jurisdiction of the Harbour Board and was left with little  protection other than shingle, and it soon became necessary to  build sea defences here too. These were built by the Borough  Council in 1878.  The sweeping curve of promenade created by the sea wall has  been popular ever since with local and tourists alike. In  Victorian times there were sea bathing establishments and  bathing machines. Large hotels like the Grand and the  Burlington were opened to cater for the increasing tourist trade. Concerts could be enjoyed in the Granville Gardens and, for a  short while, the Promenade Pier was another attraction on the  Seafront. The Seafront suffered serious damage in the Second World War. In the late 1950s the houses of Marine Parade were cleared to  make way for the new Gateway Flats, an unfortunate  development of council flats out of scale and character with the surviving Victorian buildings. In spite of this the Seafront still  provides and excellent promenade with marvellous views of the  Castle and the busy harbour.
The Seafront. c.1905. Marine Parade c.1905. An Edwardian beach scene.  The building on the left hand edge of the picture is the Grand Hotel.  The landward end of the Promenade Pier can be seen on the right. Marine Parade c.1905. The Granville Gardens in the left foreground, overlooked by the Grand Hotel.