Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Fire Beacon of Dover Castle, Kent, UK

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By January 26th, 2012, Kent had registered more beacons (78) to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee than any other county. The beacon shown above, located on a mound in Dover Castle, was lit at about 10 pm on June 4th to honour this event. The ceremony was relayed via satellite to the 2012 Olympic Games Big Screen in the Market Square on a split-screen display shared with the Queen’s Concert (video link).

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John Latter on October 6, 2012

Over 4200 Beacons were lit across the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Commonwealth and Overseas UK Territories in celebration of the jubilee.

The first beacon was lit in Tonga with the last beacon being lit by Her Majesty The Queen after a spectacular BBC concert at Buckingham Palace.

Classically, beacons were fires lit at well-known locations on hills or high places, used either as lighthouses for navigation at sea, or for signalling over land that enemy troops were approaching, in order to alert defenses.

As signals, beacons are an ancient form of optical telegraphy, and were part of a relay league.

Systems of this kind have existed for centuries over much of the world. In Scandinavia many hill forts were part of beacon networks to warn against invading pillagers. In Wales, the Brecon Beacons were named for beacons used to warn of approaching English raiders.

In England, the most famous examples are the beacons used in Elizabethan England to warn of the approaching Spanish Armada. In Dover, in addition to whatever beacons may have lit at this time, it is reported that Queen Elizabeth’s Pocket Pistol (a long gun now housed in the Regimental Institute and named after Queen Elizabeth I) was fired to signal the approach of the enemy fleet (or remnants thereof).

Many hills in England were named Beacon Hill after such beacons. In the Scottish borders country, a system of beacon fires were at one time established to warn of incursions by the English. Hume Castle and Eggerstone Castle, along with Soltra Edge, were part of this network. The Great Wall of China is also a beacon network.

Beacons and bonfires are also used to mark occasions and celebrate events. In Israel beacons identify the beginning of the month.

Beacons have also allegedly been abused by shipwreckers. An illicit fire at a wrong position would be used to direct a ship against shoals or beaches, so that its cargo could be looted after the ship sank or ran aground. There are, however, no historically substantiated occurrences of such intentional shipwrecking.

In the fiction book The Lord of the Rings, a series of beacons connects Gondor to Rhohan. When they are lit, it is a way for one to call for military aid from the other, as per its historical use in medieval Europe.

On the right of the photo is part of the AD 43 Roman Pharos, itself a lighthouse, located on Harold’s Earthwork (nb out-of-shot to the right of the Roman watchtower is the Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro). The Beacon Mound is separated from Harold's Earthwork by the West Roman Ditch and Mortimer Road leading to the medieval Colton Gateway (alt. Colton Tower).

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Fire Beacon is also shown half-way down the right-hand edge of the popular Roman Pharos and Saxon Church from the Norman Keep of Dover Castle photo.

See all photos of Dover Castle, a Dover Listed Building and a Dover English Heritage site (also a Scheduled Ancient Monument).

Dover 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.


Kent has more Diamond Jubilee Beacons than anywhere else

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons

Lighting the Dover Jubilee Beacon


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 blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

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Photo taken in Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent CT16 1HU, UK

Photo details

  • Uploaded on October 6, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: Canon EOS 600D
    • Taken on 2012/10/04 11:05:56
    • Exposure: 0.005s (1/200)
    • Focal Length: 32.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash