[Source: Nick Catford]

The artist has carefully shown the various processes involved at the building site such as a hoist, ladders and blocks of stone together with several manual workers in red caps at the site. They do not appear to be aware of the ship in trouble at sea. The view is taken from the site of Admiralty Pier, looking west. Shakespeare's Cliff rises to dominate the skyline in the distance with the two tunnels of the London-Dover railway visible at its base, following the arrival of the South Eastern Railway via Folkestone in 1844. On the right is the Pilot's Watchtower, which was constructed in 1847 and demolished in 1913. When built the line to Admiralty Pier would run through the ground floor of the tower. This structure was used to house the pilots who were able to keep a continuous look-out for passing vessels in need of their services to guide them safely into port. In 1846 there had been a recommendation that Dover become a harbour of refuge 'capable of receiving any class of vessels under all circumstances of the wind and tide'. The following year, probably the year of the preliminary sketches for this painting, work began on the western arm of the harbour commissioned by the Admiralty.
Oil painting by Clarkson Stanfield (1862). After Turner, Stanfield was considered the greatest British marine painter of his day.

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