Wednesday, 28 September 2011

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

The Bredenstone, or "Devil's Drop of Mortar", is all that visibly remains of the Roman West Pharos located on the Drop Redoubt:

Once a lighthouse and watchtower, ruins also known as the Devil's Drop of Mortar and Julius Caesar's Tower. Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports used to be sworn in here. East Roman Pharos in Dover Castle
(Click this Bredenstone text link to see the largest size)

The Drop Redoubt is a 5-sided polygonal fortress embedded into the Western Heights above the town of Dover, England.

The basic structure, with sides between 70 and 100 yards long, was completed by the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Four caponiers were subsequently added in Victorian times. The Drop Redoubt caponiers (alt. caponier) are two-storey chambers extending into the moat that surrounds the fortress.

In the background of the photo are the five bomb-proof arches of the Soldiers Quarters. The lefthand arch has a tunnel and steps at the back leading down to Caponnier 2. Access to Caponier 3 is via the 2nd arch from the right; the rightmost arch itself originally housed a cookhouse. Access to Caponier 4 is via an opening set in the wall approaching the right of cookhouse.

Between the Bredenstone (alt. Bredon-stone) and the Soldiers Quarters is a "sunken road" leading to the bridge entrance to the redoubt (out-of-shot to the left). The Bredenstone sits above the Officers Quarters on one side of the road; on the far side are a guardroom and prison cells.

The photo was taken on the Drop Redoubt Open Day of June 10th, 2007.

The Bredenstone (1)

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.

Excerpt from a 1973 Kent Archaeological Review article (2):

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.

A Georgian engraving of the original Bredenstone ruins:

The original Bredon-stone, or Devil's Drop of Mortar, or Julius Caesar's Altar. Ruins of a lighthouse. Published 1786, engraved by Sparrow, sculptor-engraver, from drawing made 1760. Drop Redoubt, Western Heights.

The illustration was published on June 20th, 1786, by S. Hooper of 212 High Holborn (facing Southampton Street), Bloomsbury Square, London. Engraved by Sparrow, a sculptor-engraver, based on an original drawing made in 1760.

In the background are the English Channel and part of the White Cliffs of Dover.

The Drop Redoubt (3):

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 Brick fort was built during the Napoleonic Wars replacing an irregular self-contained fieldwork, begun at the end of the 1780s. 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 work with the addition of caponiers in its ditch, 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 (carronades) 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.

A heavy anti (-aircraft?) artillery battery was established here in World War I, armed with two 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns. An artillery observation post was established here during World War II.

In an 1899 book by Samuel Statham, the then "Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle", it says (4):

In the days of Edward I and as late as Elizabeth I the (East Roman) 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, and the date given by Lyon (1259) for the flint casing is therefore probably right.

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

(1) The text is taken from information boards on display during the Open Day.
(2) "Dover's 19th Century Fortifications -- Part 2", by Doug Crellin (Kent Archaeological Review, Issue 33, Autumn 1973)
(3) English Heritage Pastscape entry for the Drop Redoubt
(4) "The History of the Castle, Town and Port of Dover" by Reverend Samuel Percy Hammond Statham, Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899)

The main photo originally appeared at:

The Bredenstone, West Roman Pharos, Drop Redoubt, Dover UK

See all Pharos and Lighthouse photos.

A Dover Roman, Napoleonic Wars, and Victorian history photo.

Clickable thumbnails of all Western Heights-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog on the Western Heights Page (also linked to below the blog title).

The Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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