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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Pharos and St Mary-in-Castro

The Roman pharos or lighthouse was probably built in the first century A.D.  A similar lighthouse was built on the Western Heights and at night guided  Roman ships into the port of Dubris. The tower was octagonal outside and  rectangular inside rising to a height of perhaps 80 feet (24m). It had eight  storeys each set back 1 foot (0.3m) from the one below, which gave the  whole structure the appearance of an extended telescope. Only the first four Roman storeys remain, the present topmost storey being  a fifteenth century reconstruction. The present splayed shape of the pharos is a result of the severe weathering it suffers in exposed position and  mediaeval refacing.   In the late Saxon period when the church of St Mary-in-Castro was built the already ancient pharos became a free standing bell tower. The church was  built in the late tenth or early eleventh century and reused much Roman  brick in its construction. Cruciform in plan with a central tower and aisle  less nave, it was considerably altered in the thirteenth century by Henry  III. After the mediaeval period the church fell into ruin and was restored  first in 1862 and then again in 1883 when the mosaics on the wall of the  nave were added.
The Pharos and St Mary's Church, c.1910. An engraving of the pharos and the ruins of St Mary in Castro. c.1845 The pharos today. A reconstruction of the Roman lighthouse. The chancel of St Mary in Castro. Back to Castle Index Back to Roman Index