Bredenstone, West Roman Pharos, Drop Redoubt, Western Heights, Dover, Kent, UK

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Comments (4)

John Latter on October 11, 2007

The Bredenstone, or "Devil's Drop of Mortar", is all that visibly remains of the Roman West Pharos located on the Drop Redoubt [1], Western Heights, Dover (or, as the Romans called it, Dubris).

Click to see a single image of the Castle Pharos or use the Pharos tag to view thumbnails of them all.

In the background are the 5 bomb-proof arches of the Soldiers Quarters. The lefthand arch has a tunnel at the back giving access to Caponier/Caponnier 2. Access to Caponier 3 is via the 2nd arch from the right. The rightmost arch originally housed a cookhouse. Also see the annotated satellite view of the Drop Redoubt.

The photo was taken on the Drop Redoubt Open Day, June 10th, 2007. A nearby plaque stated:

The Bredenstone stands on the site of one of two lighthouses built to guide the Roman fleet of the Classis Britannica into the harbour. The other still stands in the grounds of Dover Castle next to the Saxon church of St. Mary in Castro.

The foundations of the lighthouse can be seen in the officer's quarters below. The Bredenstone was the traditional site of the installation of Lords Warden and was also known as the Devil's Drop of Mortar - a reference to its weathered teardrop shape. It is perhaps from this name that the Drop Redoubt gets its name. The original structure was lost during the fortification work on the heights, probably during the 1780's.

During the building of the Officer's Quarters in 1861 the foundations were rediscovered and this Roman masonry placed here.

The eastern lighthouse or Pharos within the castle grounds survives to a height of about thirteen metres which makes it the tallest surviving Roman building in Britain. Both towers were octagonal in plan but square inside.

They were about twelve metres wide. and may once have stood to a height of twenty-four metres.

They were built from flint rubble bonded with tiles at regular intervals and faced with tufa. The windows and doors were arched and decorated by the alternate use of tufa and tile to achieve a polychrome effect. The tiles are of the same pinkish material found in the fort of the Classis Britannica in Dover town centre and they were probably built at around the same date. The dating of the early phase of the fort is around AD130 to AD150.

Its perhaps not very clear from reading the above but "Dover's 19th Century Fortifications -- Part 2, by Doug Crellin" (Kent Archaeological Review, Issue 33, Autumn 1973) shows the Bredenstone in the photo to be a substitute for the original:

The Redoubt got its name from a mass of masonry and hard mortar which once stood on the summit and was known locally as the Devil's Drop or the Bredenstone. As the Bredenstone it was used for many years as the meeting place at which each new Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports swore his oath of office. The Devil's Drop was all that remained of a western Roman pharos, the twin of the eastern pharos which still stands in the precincts of Dover Castle. When the Drop Redoubt was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century the Devil's Drop disappeared but during the construction of the barracks in 1861 the foundations of the pharos were discovered. The construction necessitated cutting off part of the the foundations and from these portions a substitute Bredenstone was constructed on the surface. The remainder of the original foundations can still be seen as a horizontal band of Roman rubble and mortar in the inner wall of the barracks immediately below.

[1] English Heritage Pastscape has the following entry for the Drop Redoubt:

Coastal artillery battery. Remains of a Roman Pharos, originally one of a pair constructed around the 1st century AD on the headlands flanking the Roman port of Dubris. It was known as Bredenstone or Caesar's Altar* during the 16th and 17th centuries and called the Devil's Drop during the 18th century. The remains were moved to their present site during the 19th century and an artillery fort built incorporating the remains. Modified in the 1860s as a pentagonal ditched [moated] work with the addition of caponiers in its ditch [moat], provision of more modern artillery and refurbished accommodation for the officers and men. Originally armed with 3 x 24-pounders, 6 x 12-pounders, and an 8-inch mortar, it was rearmed with 7-inch breech loaders in the 1860s, with smooth bore guns in the caponiers for ditch defence. By the end of the century its role in artillery defence had declined and it was used mainly for troop accommodation. An artillery observation post was established here during World War II.

*In "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" by Reverend S. P. H. Statham, Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899) it says:

..the [Castle] Pharos is spoken of as the "Tower of Julius Caesar"

So the East (Castle) Pharos was known as "Caesar's Tower" and the West (Bredenstone) Pharos as "[Julius] Caesar's Altar".

John Latter on March 28, 2011

Click to see the Roman Ruins of the Classis Britannica Fort and Saxon Shore Fort at Dover 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.

Sign up to comment. Sign in if you already did it.

Photo details

  • Uploaded on October 10, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX Optio 33LF
    • Taken on 2007/06/10 09:24:47
    • Exposure: 0.002s (1/500)
    • Focal Length: 5.80mm
    • F/Stop: f/4.800
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

Groups