East Roman Pharos Ceiling, Dover Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom 1

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Comments (4)

John Latter on November 18, 2007

The hexagonal ceiling of the East Pharos, adjacent to St Mary-in-Castro in the grounds of Dover Castle, with the west internal wall at the bottom. Netting can be seen, highlighted by sunlight, suspended between the ground and first floors.

Although the East or Castle Pharos is an hexagonal tower it has a square interior whose walls are some ten feet thick at ground level.

The photo was taken from the small stage partially protruding into the Pharos from its East Entrance. This entrance is a couple of feet higher than ground level and accounts for the 'offset' whereby more of the west wall can be seen than the east wall.

Standard Info

The English Heritage webpage entry for the Roman Pharos 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.

It is interesting to note the construction date of 46 AD because other sources give the "second half of the first century", or "between 100 - 200 AD", and some even later! The English Heritage date also agrees with that indicated 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):

We have no hesitation in ascribing the erection of these two towers (Pharos and Bredenstone) to the days of Aulus Plautius, and in believing them to be the earliest permanent Roman work executed in this country. [Page 221]

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 Reverend Statham also states:

In the days of Edward I, and as late as Elizabeth [ie Elizabeth I] the Pharos is spoken of as the Tower of Julius Caesar. In the reign of Henry III, if not earlier, it was converted into a bell tower for the church (ie St Mary-in-Castro), and the date given by Lyon* (1259) for the flint casing is probably right. [Page 213]

*The University of Kent at Canterbury has the following entry in its Local History Collection:

Lyon, J

The history of the town and port of Dover and of Dover Castle, with a short account of the Cinque Ports, 2 v , Printed by Ledger & Shaw for the author, 1813-14.

Except for the possible exception for the height given (most other sources say 14 instead of 19m), the English Heritage site seems the most accurate source to quote and will be used in the "Standard Info" for all Pharos photos.

The West Pharos/Bredenstone is located in the Drop Redoubt on the Western Heights.

New photos will be uploaded all of the time - check the "Pharos" tag on the right for recent additions.

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Photo taken in Dover, Kent, UK
Dover Castle

This photo was taken indoors

Photo details

  • Uploaded on November 15, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2007/10/14 11:44:58
    • Exposure: 0.033s (1/30)
    • Focal Length: 18.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.500
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • Flash fired