Lords Warden

Dover Index

Constables of Dover Castle

Godwin, Earl of Kent c. 1050 - 1053 The office of Constable of Dover Castle can be traced back before the Norman invasion of 1066.  The first holder of the office was Earl Godwin of Kent, who died in 1053.  His son, Harold, succeeded him until his death in 1066.

The list on this page shows the Constables up to 1226, when the office was combined with that of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

The information given in the table (left) was obtained from a list compiled by Brigadier Sir Hereward Wake, Bart., one-time Deputy Constable of Dover Castle, and presented to Walmer Castle in 1931.

† Hubert de Burgh was Constable irregularly between these dates





King Harold II (his son) 1053 - 1066
Bertram de Ashburnham 1066
William de Peverell 1066
Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux and Earl of Kent 1066 - 1084
John de Fiennes 1084
James de Fiennes 1084 - 1111
John de Fiennes 1111 - 1138 
Wacheline Baron Maminot 1139
Prince Eustace (son of Stephen) Earl of Boulogne 1140 - 1153
Henry de Essex Baron of Raleigh 1154 - 1165
Robert Fitz Bernard 1165 - 1166
Hugo de Mara 1169
Alan de Valeines 1187 - 1189
Matthew de Clere 1189 - 1194
William de Wrotham 1195 - 1202
Thomas Bassett of Hedendon 1202
Hubert de Burgh  † 1202 - 1232
Sir William de Huntingfield 1203 - 1204
William de Longspee Earl of Salisbury 1204 - 1207
Geoffrey Fitz-Piers Earl of Essex 1207 - 1213
Sir William de Briwer 1213 - 1215
Hubert de Burgh Earl of Kent 1215 - 1225
Sir Geoffrey de Surland 1225 - 1226

The information below is taken from
Annals of Dover, by John Bavington Jones, published by the Dover Express (1916)

"GODWINE the celebrated Earl of Kent, was described in ancient records as the Lord Protector of Dover.  As Earl of Kent, this Castle was the seat of his authority, and he was the originator of the fortifications which made it a great stronghold in the latter part of the Saxon Period."

"HAROLD, son of Godwine, was in charge of the Castle after his father's death.  Harold and his masons finished the Saxon Keep and towers which his father began to build.  Harold, during the time he was Constable, under Edward the Confessor, was cruising in the Channel, when a storm drove him ashore in Normandy.  He was there the guest of Duke William of Normandy, who took advantage of his position as host by compelling Harold to swear that he would fortify the Castle of Dover, dig a good well of water there and give it up to William.  Being in the hands of a high placed blackmailer, Harold had to swear to perform the promise or die, but he had no intention of making good the promise, for he did his utmost to resist William of Normandy and died in defence of his kingdom on the field of Hastings, leaving sufficient faithful followers to compel the Conqueror to take Dover Castle by force of arms."

"BERTRAM ASHBURNHAM, who had been placed in charge of Dover Castle when Harold became King, was in command at Dover when the Conqueror and his hosts marched against it from Hastings.  The resistance of the garrison, under the last Saxon Constable, caused the Normans to burn the town, and when the Castle was taken Bertram Ashburnham was beheaded."

"WILLIAM DE PEVEREL, a Norman who fought at Hastings, was placed in charge of Dover Castle after the execution of Ashburnham, but after the Conqueror had taken full possession of the Kingdom, it was transferred to his half-brother, Odo."

"ODO, Bishop of Baieux, the Conqueror's half brother, immediately after the coronation, was made Constable of Dover Castle and Earl of Kent.  Lambarde described this great Norman as being "busy, greedy, and ambitious," a very correct description for he was immediately very busy in ejecting the owners of Kentish Manors, and handing some of them over to Norman Warriors, keeping 200 of them for himself.  He collected great masses of gold and silver intending to purchase therewith the Papal Chair at Rome.  The ambition of Odo aroused the jealousy of William the Conqueror, who banished him from the Realm, and he died in exile."

"JOHN DE FIENNES, third son of Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, was appointed Constable in 1084.  A document in the British Museum states that "William, Duke of Normandy, after he had by conquest acquired the Kingdom of England bestowed many honours upon his companions and nobles.  Amongst others he endowed the Lord de Fiennes with the Constableship of Dover Castle in perpetual fee.  He also gave the same Lord 56½ Knight's fees."  Because of these words "perpetual fee" it has been asserted that the Constableship was hereditary, but the appointments of much later Constables contained words to the same effect, but the office was always held during the Sovereign's pleasure."

"JAMES DE FIENNES and JOHN DE FIENNES, descendants of John, held the office of Constable, but whether they succeeded on hereditary grounds or were appointed by the Sovereign is not recorded."

"WALKELIN MAGMINOT was appointed Constable by King Stephen.  He was not a descendant of the Fiennes family.  He was a Knight serving at the Castle under John de Fiennes II.  When Queen Maud, King Stephen's wife demanded the surrender of the Castle in 1138 Fiennes was away in the Midlands and Walkelin, who was in charge surrendered to her the fortress."

"PRINCE EUSTACE, son of Stephen, was made Constable towards the end of Stephen's reign, but he dying in 1153, Walkelin seems to have been in charge again until the end of the reign."

"ROBERT FITZ-BERNARD was appointed Constable early in the reign of Henry II., but it appears that although Walkelin Mamignot fled at the death of Stephen, he was continued in his office until his death.  Robert Fitz-Bernard was in office when the Norman buildings in the Castle were commenced.  William Cade, Prepositus of Dover was associated with him in the work."

"HUGO DE MARA succeeded to the Constableship in 1169 and held it eighteen years."

"ALAN DE VALEINES, whom some writers have taken for Alan Fiennes, became Constable in 1187, and held office during the building of the Norman Keep.  The builders in charge of the work were William Fitz-Helte and William d'Enemada, assisted by Philip de Pising, Godwin Fitz-Amfride, Walter d'Estrea, and Joseph de Dover.  The building was completed in 188, and the money expended during the previous seven years on the Keep, with the curtain wall and towers, was £4,500."

"MATTHEW DE CLERA was appointed Constable in 1190.  Soon after he was made Constable by Richard I., Jeffery, a natural son of the late King, landed at Dover to take the post of Archbishop of York, his appointment having, it was alleged, the Pope's authority.  The Pope's Legate in England did not recognise the appointment, and gave orders for his arrest on landing, to avoid which Jeffery fled for sanctuary to the altar of Dover Priory.  By the order of the Legate, the Constable and his men-at-arms marched into the Priory Church and dragged him up to the Castle, where he and his retinue were imprisoned, whereupon several of the Bishops and Barons raised a force and rfeleased the Archbishop, who proceded on his journey to York.  For this violation of the Church, the Constable was deprived of his office."

"WILLIAM DE WROTHAM is the next Constable on the list, having been appointed A.D. 1195.  Several other names are given as having been in the office of Constable about this time, but they appeared to be unauthorised."

"THOMAS BASSET, Lord of Hedenden, filled the office of Constable for a short time, A.D. 1201.-2."

"HUBERT DE BURGH was one of the great Constables.  From his first appointment until he finally vacated the office was a period of thirty years, 1202-1232, but from 1203 to 1215 Baron Huntingfield, William de Longspée, Geoffrey Fitz-Pier, and Lord Torbay, successively filled the office for short periods."

"Henry de Braibroc, Robert de Nereford, and Hugh de Windsor, were Constables of no historic importance."

"STEPHEN LANGTON, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was Constable from the 30th December, 1223, to the 22nd January, 1224, was such a short time in office that he could only have been appointed for some special object, which is not left on record; but the important part he played with regard to the Magna Charta makes him an illustrious link in the long chain of Constables."

"Geoffery de Lucy, Hubert Hoese de Hoese, and Geoffrey de Surland, were Constables between 1224 and 1226."