Rare view of 1st Century Roman Pharos, Dover Castle, Kent, United Kingdom

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Comments (11)

John Latter on November 13, 2009

The East Roman Pharos* (built 46 AD) in the grounds of Dover Castle stands on a huge horseshoe-shaped rampart known as Harold's Earthwork. On the right-hand side of the photo you can see the ruins of a low perimeter wall which runs all the way around the edge of this rampart.

General views of the Pharos often show it to be dwarfed by the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro which stands only a few feet away (see St Mary-in-Castro and the Roman Pharos), while close-ups (such as The East Roman Pharos from the North) necessarily include some small portion of the church if they're to show the whole of the tower.

The reason the above view of the Pharos lighthouse is rare (if not unique, at least as far as the internet is concerned) is because it was taken from the west - and from outside the perimeter wall.

Blocking out nearly the whole of St Mary-in-Castro in this way required the use of a very modest ability to levitate - necessary, because the slopes of the rampart are so steep there would be no way to halt a fall.

Dover Castle is an English Heritage site and the English Heritage webpage entry for this Roman structure states:

(The Pharos is a) Roman lighthouse, one of a pair constructed during the reign of Emperor Claudius in AD 46 on the headland flanking either side of the major Roman port of Dubris. The lighthouse survives within Dover Castle and comprises an octagonal stepped tower approximately 19 metres and four storeys high. The fourth storey was reconstructed between 1415 and 1437 when the lighthouse had been adapted for use as a belfry to the church of St Mary-Sub-Castro [St Mary-in-Castro]. The original design of the top of the lighthouse has been destroyed by these alterations, making its functionality unclear. It is thought that both lighthouses were used during fine weather as sea-marks in guiding vessels into the harbour. At night this role would have augmented by fire-lit braziers situated at the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse may have also been used as a smoke beacon during certain weather and visibility conditions. Another possible role is as a signal tower. Medieval and later alterations within the immediate locality of the lighthouse have removed any possible evidence of structures associated with the running of the lighthouse. Changes to the lighthouse took place in 1582 when it was converted into a gunpowder magazine.

For more historical background, see the caption to the The 1st Century East Roman Pharos, Dover Castle photo.

*The replica remains of the West Roman Pharos is known as the Bredenstone and is located in the Napoleonic Drop Redoubt on the Western Heights.

John Latter / Jorolat

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行者无路 on December 7, 2009


Best greetings from China ! 行者无路

John Latter on December 7, 2009

行者无路, on December 6th, 2009, said:


Best greetings from China ! 行者无路

Thank you :)

And Greetings from Dover, England!


Ľubomír Šiška on December 10, 2009

Nice photo! Good description. voted

John Latter on November 18, 2010

The Roman Pharos is a Grade I Listed Building (1).

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:

Building Name: THE ROMAN PHAROS Parish: DOVER District: DOVER County: KENT Postcode:


LBS Number: 177825 Grade: I Date Listed: 07/03/1974 Date Delisted: NGR: TR3260441815

Listing Text:

1. 1050 DOVER CASTLE The Roman Pharos TR 3241 1/48


2. AD 46. Built under the Emperor Claudius. This guided the Roman fleet round to the port of Richborough. In mediaeval times it was used as a belfry to the Church of St Mary Sub-Castro. 4 storeys, 3 being Roman and the top storey and remains of battlements mediaeval. An octagonal tower with originally vertical stepped walls rising in tiers set back each within the last, now almost smoothed. Rubble with a facing of green sandstone and tufa and levelled at an interval of 7 courses with a double course of brick set in hard pink mortar. Round-headed windows with a small recessed spy-hole inside them.

Listing NGR: TR3260541815

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings in the town of Dover, England.

(1) Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on November 13, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/11/02 12:41:55
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/160)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash