The port city of Dover on the English Channel has often been called the “Lock and Key of England.” The area is home to numerous military fortresses and garrisons, which were built to protect this “Frontline Town,” from invasion. Likely the first settlers to arrive on the British Isles came through the area that is modern day Dover, possibly as early as 6,000 years ago. This region is also the site of the earliest British shipwreck, which occurred around 1100BC off the coast of Dover.

The Romans came, saw and conquered Britain; and this included the small port down that the Romans called Dubris, after the Briton’s name Dubras for “waters.” During the Roman era the city was built up, and included a harbor, along with forts and lighthouses. Some of these sites remain to this day. Following the fall of the Empire, the Germanic Saxon tribes crossed and conquered much of Britain, incorporating Dover into the Kingdom of Kent.

The most famous invasion, and the last successful one, occurred in 1066 AD when William Duke of Normandy landed and defeated King Harold for control of the English throne. The city of Dover was damaged by fire, but soon repaired afterward by William, who had additional fortifications added to the area. Throughout the Middle Ages the city was repaired, further fortified and grew in prominence as a important port of trade with France, much of it ruled by English kings.

During the later wars with Napoleon, the city and nearby garrisons were heavily fortified to fend off the feared cross channel invasion by the French. This never happened, and in the later half of the 19th century the city became a seaside tourist destination.

However, invasion fears were sounded again in the 20th century during both the First and Second World Wars. In fact, the first bomb dropped on English soil in World War I fell near Dover Castle. The castle and the surrounding area suffered greatly in World War II, but thankfully the German invasion of England never came.

Today, instead of fearing an invasion, the city of Dover is the busiest passenger ferry port in world, and the busiest cruise liner terminal in Britain. From here many tourists arrive at this “Lock and Key of England!”