Roman Pharos and Saxon Church from the Norman Keep of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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John Latter on June 17, 2011

A late afternoon panorama of the Saxon church of St Mary in Castro, and to its right, the Roman watchtower, or lighthouse known as the Pharos. Both buildings are situated on a huge mound known as Harold's Earthwork whose rim is topped by the ruins of a parapet wall.

Below the Pharos is a Victorian building that once housed the Dover Castle Garrison School.

More on the church, lighthouse, and school below.

Not covered in the later notes on the Pharos, however, is the small light-coloured stone to the left of the top centre window (1):

This ancient structure was repaired, and the greatest part of it cased with flint, in the year 1259, when Richard de Grey, of Codnore, was Constable of Dover Castle; and his coat of arms, cut in a small square stone, were placed on the north side of the tower, and are still remaining there. A barry of six, argent, and azure (2).

Elsewhere in the photo

On the other side of the right-hand slope of Harold's Earthwork is the West Wing of the Officers New Barracks (Officers Quarters or Victorian Officers Mess). The living quarters were built between 1856-1858 to designs by Anthony Salvin (architect) and George Arnold (Royal Engineers clerk).

In 1862, Salvin appeared in front of a Military Committee (who later reported to the Houses of Parliament) about the West Wing Controversy (photo and transcript).

Projecting above the earthwork perimeter wall to the left of the Officers New Barracks is the white mast of the Admiralty Lookout and Port War Signal Station. To the right of the barracks is a fire beacon below which the West Roman Ditch road swings around the far side of Harold's Earthwork to become the East Roman Ditch.

Beyond the barracks and beacon are Dover Harbour, the Southern Breakwater, and English Channel. The cliffs of France are visible in the murky haze on the horizon on large versions of this photo, particularly to the left of the church tower.

Between the front of St Mary-in-Castro's north transept and the Garrison School are three privet hedges (at least, I think they're privet) that now occupy the gun-pits of Four Gun Battery (1756).

On the left, the shadow cast by the tower of St Mary-in-Castro is abruptly cut off by the parapet wall of Harold's Earthwork as the ground falls sharply away to the East Roman Ditch. The low wall on the far embankment beyond the East Roman Ditch (actually above Godwin Road) follows the line of the now-vanished "East Outer Curtain Wall (South)" which ran from Pencester Tower to the cliff-edge.

The outer curtain wall was built above the ditch of an Iron Age Hill Fort whose entrance is believed to be at the Avranches Gap (nb the East Outer Curtain Wall (North), running from the Norfolk Towers above St John`s Tower to Avranches Tower for Crossbows, still survives).

General Information

This Dover Panorama photo was taken at 5.12 pm from the battlements between the East Tower (left) and South Tower (Flag Tower, right) of the Keep (the "Great Tower").

Click to see the Roman Pharos, Saxon Church, and Victorian Garrison School of Dover Castle photo, taken at ground level from near the Palace Gateway (Palace Gate; Duke of Suffolk's Tower) of the Inner Curtain Wall.

Click to see all photos of Dover Castle, a Dover English Heritage site and a Grade I Dover Listed Building (the general listing text for the whole of the castle is appended to a number of photos, a personal favourite is Rare View of Peverell Gateway, Western Outer Curtain Wall, Dover Castle).

Dover Castle Garrison School

I have not (yet) been able to find out much information about Dover Castle's Garrison School. As an ex-pupil (3) of Dover Grammar School for Boys, however, I was interested to discover these entries in DGSB's The Pharos magazine from a time when the school was known as "Dover County School for Boys" (DCSB):

Free Place Scholarship Awards, September, 1921 (4):

Smith, R. - Garrison School, The Castle, Dover.

Smith, W. F. - Garrison School, The Castle, Dover.

Its a common surname, but I wonder if they were brothers? twins, even!

Free Place Scholarship Awards, (September) 1922 (5):

Castle Garrison School, Dover. - J. M. Saunders.

By 1936, DCSB was welcoming boys who had gained, "Special Places":

Special Places (September, 1936) (6)

R. C. Neill - Garrison School, Dover.

D. W. Waters - Garrison School, Dover.

East Roman Pharos (7)

This stand-alone tower is a Roman lighthouse or watchtower, 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.

St Mary-in-Castro (8)

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 excerpt from a magazine published in September, 1773 (9):

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) Excerpt from "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)", Volume 1. Dedicated by the Reverend John Lyon, Minister of St Mary the Virgin of Cannon Street, to John Gunman, Esquire, on May 14th, 1813, and published the same year.

(2) Heraldry: When the field of a coat of arms is patterned with an even number of horizontal (fesswise) stripes, this is described as barry. The colours: Argent is silver/white/blank and azure is blue. Also see Coat of Arms

(3) John Latter in the 1963-1964 DGSB School Photo

(4) The Pharos, No. 37. JULY, 1921. VOL. XI.

(5) The Pharos, No. 40. JULY, 1922. VOL. XII.

(6) The Pharos, No. 82. JULY, 1936. VOL. XXVI.

(7) English Heritage Pastscape entry (Abridged)

(8) English Heritage Pastscape entry (Abridged)

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

A Dover Roman, Saxon, and Victorian photo.

Dover's 12th Century Norman castle appears in the video, "Dover in World War Two: 1942", a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow].

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.

Markus Rogawski on July 17, 2011

Great picture! Like and Voted!

John Latter on July 17, 2011

Markus Rogawski, on July 17th, 2011, said:

Great picture! Like and Voted!

Thank you, Markus - Greetings from Dover, England!

Grey-Eagle Ray on November 1, 2011

Hi John, What a wealth of information you have here! Superb reading for all historians. I like the picture too......WELL DONE.

Greetings from California(On vacation) Ray

John Latter on November 2, 2011

Grey Eagle, on November 1st, 2011, said:

Hi John, What a wealth of information you have here! Superb reading for all historians. I like the picture too......WELL DONE.

Greetings from California(On vacation) Ray

Thank you very much for your comments, Ray.

I often think I spend too much time on the captions so I'm very pleased when I get comments such as yours :)


John Latter on October 6, 2012

Half-way down the right-hand edge of the photo is the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Fire Beacon.

lizab on November 10, 2012

Attractive buildings and great view, i like!!

John Latter on November 16, 2012

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

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

A photo on the Pinterest Old Dover board.

k. -pictures on June 7, 2014

L I K E ! ! !
Good photo!!!

Greetings from Germany | Grüße aus Hessen

k. -pictures

John Latter on June 7, 2014

Thank you, k.-pictures - Greetings from Dover, England!

John Latter on August 12, 2014

I'm pleased you like it, Maquinaria-taller - thank you!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on June 8, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/05/20 17:12:02
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/320)
    • Focal Length: 45.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: -0.30 EV
    • No flash