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Roman Pharos and Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on March 23, 2011

This is the classic view of the Roman Pharos and Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro which stand on a huge horseshoe-shaped rampart called "Harold's Earthwork" within the grounds of Dover Castle.

The earthwork was raised by Henry III (Henry of Winchester, Plantagenet) and lies south of the Keep (or "Great Tower").

The Keep was built by Henry II (Curtmantle, Angevin) and is visible behind and to the left of the Pharos (1).

The above view was taken on Tuesday, 8th of February, 2011. It is similar to the 2007 St Mary-in-Castro and Roman Pharos, Dover Castle photo, the original of which has been lost and whose caption quotes from different sources from those given below.

Dover's 12th Century Norman Castle is a Grade I Dover Listed Building and Dover English Heritage site; the Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro are separately listed (see below).

Click to see all photos of the Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro; also see all Dover Lighthouse and Church photos.

East Roman Pharos (2)

The stand-alone tower on the left 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.

Aulus Plautius led the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, and became the first governor of the new province, serving from 43 to 47 AD.

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.

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

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

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.

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

St Mary-in-Castro (3)

To the right of the Pharos: Late Saxon Church situated within the defences of Dover Castle. A minster was founded at St Mary-in-Castro by 640 AD but in 696 was transferred to St Martin's Church (St Martin-le-Grand) in the town.

The church is thought to be was built before 1020 and reuses Roman building material within its fabric and at some point used the Roman lighthouse as its belfry. The church was extensively repaired in 1582 but was in little use from the end of the 16th century. By 1724 its bells had been removed and the building was in ruins.

It was used as a Fives Court in the early 1790s and a garrison coal store during the Napoleonic Wars with France (1793-1815). During the modernising of the castle in mid 19th century the church was restored. This was carried out by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1862. An additional restoration was undertaken by William Butterfield in 1888.

Alternative names: Church of St Mary, St Mary-sub-Castro, King Lucius Church.

Abridged extract from a magazine published in September, 1773 (4):

In the year 180 AD, King Lucius, being converted by Pope Eleutherius (Eleutheros, or Eleuterus), built here a church, wherein were afterwards placed by Eadbald, son of Ethelbert (Aethelbert), twenty-four secular Canons, who remained here 105 years; but at length, in the year 696, Withred King of Kent, thinking Dover Castle in danger from these Canons, who went in and out at all hours, and had frequent disputes with the Officers of the garrison, removed them to the church of St Martin, in the town of Dover.

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

Building Details:

Building Name: CHURCH OF ST MARY SUB-CASTRO Parish: DOVER District: DOVER County: KENT Postcode:


LBS Number: 177826 Grade: I Date Listed: 07/03/1974 Date Delisted: NGR: TR3262941823

Listing Text:




The latest possible date for the foundation of the church is c. 1020 AD. The exterior is of 2 storeys flint with some reused Roman brick window dressings and some modern ashlar dressings. Modern tiled roof and restored tower. The Church was roofless and used as a coalstore in the C18 (18th Century) but was restored for use as a garrison church to the Castle by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1862. The interior contains a Chancel arch of Roman brick, a blocked Saxon doorway and the site of a Military or soldiers altar of A.D. 1225. There is a Victorian wooden roof and stained glass windows. Mosaics by Butterfield 1888.

Listing NGR: TR3263241823

Source: English Heritage.

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

(1) Photos of the representation of a 12th Century medieval Royal Palace the Keep now contains begin with Throne of Henry II in King`s Hall, Great Tower of Dover Castle.

(2) English Heritage Pastscape entry (Abridged)

(3) English Heritage Pastscape entry (Abridged)

(4) The Universal magazine, Volumes 52-53: Antiquities of Dover Castle (September, 1773). Published for J. Hinton.

A Dover history photo.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on November 16, 2012

Also see an 1834 "in days gone by" woodcut of the Saxon church and Roman lighthouse at:

Georgian Engraving of St Mary-in-Castro Church and the Pharos, Dover Castle

A photo on the Pinterest Old Dover board.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 21, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/02/08 10:56:31
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/400)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/11.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash