Nigel Thornton CollectionLighthouse and Café, Prince of Wales Pier

Lighthouse and Café, Prince of Wales Pier

Please note that the Prince of Wales pier was finally closed to the general public as of the 1st January 2016. This is to make way for the ‘Dover Western Docks Revival’ (DWDR) Project which will provide a new cargo terminal, a new pier, a new marina and waterside retail spaces. The project is due for completion by 2019. 

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection


The Prince of Wales Pier was completed in May 1902, having been started ten years earlier. The then Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone in 1893. Preliminary designs were done by Sir John Goode (President of the Institution of Civil Engineers), although he died in March 1892


 Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection


A berth for large Atlantic liners was constructed on the east side of the pier and the transatlantic liner trade flourished or just two years. After the trade ceased, the original café was built around the stem of the lighthouse at the seaward end of the stone section.


Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection


The Lighthouse Café was once described as being “the nearest Café to France”. It stands about three quarters of a mile out into Dover harbour and on a clear day you can see the coast of France less than 21 miles away.


Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

“The figurehead is believed to have been that of the wooden barque “Rouseau” of 371 gross tonnage, built at jersey in 1857 by F.C.Clarke for Scrutton and Co. London, a frequent caller at Dover, The “Rouseau” was principally engaged in trade between England and the West Indies, and was finally broken up I England in 1897. The figurehead derives her name from Rousseau, the capital and main port of the West Indian island of Dominica, formerly a French possession. In French ‘rousseau’ is reed and ‘Roseau de sucre’ is the sugar cane, which was once the main crop of the island. The flower in the figureheads hand is thought to represent the rose awarded under old French custom to the best-behaved young girl of a village.”

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection


The lighthouse was restored to its former glory following damage caused as a consequence of the hurricane in 1987. SEAFREIGHT HIGHWAY rammed into the floor beams of the adjoining café. The beams were attached to the lighthouse and the impact wrenched it sideways, leaving its upper section about a foot out of line from its base.


Internet Source  Internet Source

Photos showing the damage to the Café (Internet Source)


The lantern’s copper dome and cast iron base were refurbished and painted at the pier head, and then craned back into position. A new glass lens was needed for the lantern but the Harbour Board had an original spare in its stores. New handrails were fitted around the lantern, the stonework was given two coats of white paint, and soon the lighthouse was back in service, looking as good as new.


Port of Dover  Port of Dover

Port of Dover


The café and other buildings around the base were demolished, and the lighthouse dismantled. All the 400 granite blocks in the 22 uppermost courses were salvaged, cleaned, and numbered so they could be used in the rebuilding scheme. The lighthouse is tapered, so each block had to be put back into the course from which it was taken. The new lighthouse café was designed and built by Harbour Board staff and was a single storey detached from the lighthouse to allow pedestrians walk around access. Work started on the £65,00 project in January 1989 and was scheduled for completion in July of the same year.

Constructed in Winchester textured multi coloured bricks and grey tile, the café incorporated a built-in shelter facility. The new “Fo’c’sle” café was officially opened, by the town Mayor Councillor Bill Newman, on August 7th 1989. The cost had only risen to £70,000 and was completed in seven months.


© Nigel Thornton  © John Marsh

© Nigel Thornton (left) and © John Marsh (right)


© Ray Goodfellow  © Ray Goodfellow

© Ray Goodfellow  © Ray Goodfellow

© Ray Goodfellow


25th June 2015

The Port of Dover announced that the Prince of Wales pier would close to the general public at the end of the 2015 Summer season as a part of the regeneration of the Western docks which will see the provision of a new cargo terminal.

“Work will commence on key enabling works on the Prince of Wales Pier, involving a reduction in its height. This means it will no longer be open to the public after the summer due to the construction works.”

“Mr Waggott (chief executive of the Port of Dover) added: “Whilst we acknowledge the closure of the pier will temporarily reduce the public provisions on the seafront, the commencement of construction works by GRAHAM represent a shared vision becoming reality and a big step towards a much more vibrant and interesting waterfront for us all to enjoy. We are creating a destination.” – Port of Dover Press Release

Further information about the future of the Western docks is available on the Port of Dover website by clicking here (click on Western Docks at the top of the page)

Some artists impressions of what the area will look like following the development are below:

© Port of Dover  © Port of Dover

© Port of Dover


All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to thank John Marsh and the Port of Dover for their assistance in producing this feature. References/Sources: The History of Dover Harbour, Alec Hasenson. The Gateway of England, Rivers Scott. Dover Port News.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)


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