Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Saxon Church and Roman Pharos on Harold's Earthwork, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

The East Roman Pharos (on the right: a lighthouse and watchtower) and Saxon church of St Mary-in-Castro sit in a shallow depression on top of a huge horseshoe-shaped mound called "Harold's Earthwork":

Roman Pharos (lighthouse) was built AD46 in port of Dubris when Aulus Plautius was governor of Britain under Emperor Claudius. St Mary-in-Castro church also known as King Lucius Church. Both Listed Buildings.
(Click this St Mary-in-Castro and Pharos text link to see the largest size)

The rampart is rimmed by a the ruins of a low parapet wall, visible either side of the buildings, that was once connected to the composite Norman and Saxon Colton Gate (behind the viewer; alt. Colton Gateway, Colton Tower).

Harold's Earthwork was raised by Henry III (Henry of Winchester, Plantagenet) and lies south of Henry II's Keep, or "Great Tower", out-of-shot to the left (1).

The photo was taken at 5.31 pm on Sunday, 26th of June, 2011.

Click to see all photos of the Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro; also see all Dover Lighthouse and Church photos.

Dover Castle is a Grade I Dover Listed Building and Dover English Heritage site; the Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro have separate Grade I listings.

The following notes are divided into three sections - Pharos and Church, Pharos, Church:

The Roman Watchtower and Saxon Church on Harold's Earthwork

Left-of-centre in the photo is St Mary-in-Castro's north door (2):

Before and during the Middle Ages (5th century to the 15th century), the north face of a church was considered to belong to the Devil and to people considered heathen.

Churches were invariably built to the north of roads and tracks, to ensure their main entrance was on the south side. It was also common for them to be built on the site of former pagan or other pre-Christian places of worship. Such places were still considered sacred by their former worshippers, who would often continue to visit them.

A doorway would often be inserted in the "heathen" north side of the church to allow them to enter and worship on the site. Because of the association of that side with the Devil, the name "Devil's door" became established.

See The Devil Door of Old St James the Apostle Church, Hubert Passage, Dover (NYA).

Excerpt from the 1863 Victorian book, "Chambers's handy guide to the Kent and Sussex coast" (3):

Quite early in the Christian era, some kind of castle or defence-work was built here by the Romans; together with a Pharos or watch-tower. About the year 200, a Christian church and other works were built by the Romano-Britons. The Saxon kings, after the departure of the Romans, greatly extended the castle, excavated fosses or ditches, and constructed parapets, walls, towers, and gates. Next came the Normans, who added further to the castle.

Whoever, therefore, stands on this bold hill (averaging about 350 feet high), and looks around him, will see the vestiges of four Dover castles, one within another: namely, Roman, the smallest of all (about 400 feet by 140); Romano-British, a little larger; Saxon, larger still; and Norman, largest of all.

The Pharos has an interior 14 feet square, and an octagonal exterior; the walls, 10 feet thick, consist of layers of Roman tiles and conglomerate cement; about 40 feet of the height still remains.

The Church, called St Mary in Castro, close to the Pharos, had a nave 72 feet by 27; a choir, 22 feet by 18; a transept, 72 feet by 20; and a central tower 28 feet square. Since the year 1860, the portions still remaining of this very ancient building have been adapted for a garrison church to accommodate 600 men.

A Georgian engraving of the St Mary-in-Castro and Pharos ruins:

Ruins of Saxon King Lucius church (later re-consecrated and dedicated by St Augustine to St Mary the Virgin) and AD 46 Roman lighthouse or watchtower in the 1830s. English Heritage Listed Buildings.

The accompanying 1830s text (author unknown) says many antiquaries were of the opinion that St Mary-in-Castro was founded by Lucius, a British prince who possessed the eastern parts of Kent under the Romans in the second century AD.

The text also states the church was subsequently re-consecrated and dedicated by St Augustine of Canterbury to the Virgin Mary, that religous services ceased in 1690 (owing to the state of dilapidation), and that the illustration is accurate in the degree of ruin portrayed.

East Roman Pharos

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.

Abridged Pastscape entry (4):

This stand-alone tower 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. It is one of only three in the world to survive.

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.

To the left of the left-hand window near the top of the Pharos is a small square light-coloured stone. In 1814, John Lyon said (5):

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 (6).

A replica remnant of the West Roman Pharos, known as the Bredenstone, is located in the Napoleonic and Victorian Drop Redoubt on the Western Heights:

Once a lighthouse and watchtower, ruins also known as the Devil's Drop of Mortar and Julius Caesar's Altar. Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports used to be invested here. East Roman Pharos in Dover CastleThe Bredenstone, or Bredon-stone

Also known as the Devil's Drop of Mortar and Julius Caesar's Altar.

Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports used to be invested here.

In an 1899 book by Samuel Statham, the then "Rector of St Mary-in-the-Castle", it says (7):

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".

For more historical background, see the caption to The 1st Century East Roman Pharos, Dover Castle photo (NYA).

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:

Parish: DOVER
District: DOVER
County: KENT


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 (medieval) 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.

Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

St Mary-in-Castro

Abridged Pastscape entry (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 have been 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 for this ex-British Army Garrison Church: Church of St Mary, St Mary-sub-Castro, St Mary de Castro, King Lucius Church.

Abridged extract 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:

Parish: DOVER
District: DOVER
County: KENT


LBS Number: 177826
Grade: I
Date Listed: 07/03/1974
Date Delisted: NGR:

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 (William Butterfield).

Listing NGR: TR3263241823

Source: English Heritage.

Grade I: buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important".

Notes and Sources

English Heritage replica Royal Palace. Great Hall with thrones for Henry II, Prince John (later King John of Magna Carta fame), and Princess Alice of France (Alys, Countess of the Vexin). Architect Maurice built the Keep
Royal Palace King's Hall

(1) Photos of a recreated 12th Century medieval Royal Court in the Keep (once Palace Tower) begin with The Throne of Henry II in the Great Hall.

(2) Wikipedia entry for Devil's Door
(3) "Chambers's handy guide to the Kent and Sussex coast", by George Dodd (1863)
(4) English Heritage Pastscape entry for Roman Pharos

(5) Excerpt from "The History of the Town and Port of Dover and of Dover Castle (With a Short Account of the Cinque Ports)".

Volume I 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.

Volume II dedicated to Jonathan Osborn, Edward Thompson, and John Shipdem on April 21st, 1814, and published the same year.

(6) 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
(7) "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)
(8) English Heritage Pastscape entry for St Mary-in-Castro
(9) The Universal magazine, Volumes 52-53: "Antiquities of Dover Castle" (September, 1773). Published for J. Hinton.

The main photo originally appeared at:

Saxon Church and Roman Pharos on Harold's Earthwork, Dover Castle, Kent, UK

To be uploaded:

The Field of Fire of Bell Battery at Sunrise, Dover Castle
Roman Pharos and Saxon Church from the Norman Keep of Dover Castle
Roman Pharos, Saxon Church, and Victorian Garrison School, Dover Castle

Other Dover Church images include:

More Dover Architecture and History photos.

A Dover and Henry III history photo.

Clickable thumbnails of all castle- and church-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog at Dover Castle Page and Church and Cemetery 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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