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Fortifications, Roman lighthouse and medieval chapel on Western Heights

A Scheduled Monument in Dover, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1159 / 51°6'57"N

Longitude: 1.2997 / 1°17'58"E

OS Eastings: 631038.085

OS Northings: 140357.2764

OS Grid: TR310403

Mapcode National: GBR W1M.ZB4

Mapcode Global: VHLHJ.G6ZW

Entry Name: Fortifications, Roman lighthouse and medieval chapel on Western Heights

Scheduled Date: 8 August 1962

Last Amended: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020298

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30282

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Dover

Built-Up Area: Dover

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes the remains of a Roman lighthouse, field terraces and a
medieval chapel subsequently surrounded by 18th, 19th and 20th century
defensive works, all situated on a prominent chalk ridge known as the Western
Heights which overlooks the town of Dover. The Roman lighthouse, the medieval
chapel and a portion of the northern defences are in the care of the Secretary
of State. The Grand Shaft and the Officers' Mess (now used by HM Prison
Service) are Grade II Listed Buildings.

The lighthouse on Western Heights is one of a pair constructed in around the
1st century AD on the headlands flanking either side of the major Roman port
of Dubris to help guide in cross-channel traffic. Its foundations survive as
two 1m square blocks of flint, tile and mortar which were apparently moved to
their present location on the eastern side of the Drop Redoubt during
construction of the officers' quarters in 1850. However, the remains are close
to their original position. In the 12th century a chapel was built on the
southern edge of the Heights, 500m south west of the lighthouse. The chapel,
of which the flint and mortar core of the foundations and a small area of
stone facing survive, had a circular nave 10.6m in diameter and a rectangular
chancel 7.6m in length and 4.3m wide. Its unusual form, which mirrors that of
the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has led to suggestions that it
was constructed by the Knights Templars, a group of whom are believed to have
left Dover before 1185. Western Heights has been extensively modified by
landscaping associated with its later military usage but the lighthouse,
chapel and a fragmentary series of field terraces visible immediately beyond
the scarp at the foot of the northern defences demonstrate that it was
occupied from much earlier times.

The defences on Western Heights were initially begun in 1779 during the war
with America, Spain, Holland and France, and although in 1781 the Board of
Ordnance purchased 33 acres of land, by the end of the war in 1783 the works
were still not completed. A map of 1784 shows a bastioned fort on the site of
the present Drop Redoubt, a series of earthwork batteries and a second
bastioned work extending for the full width of the western side of the
plateau. A 350m length of bank and double ditch situated on the scarp between
the present Citadel and North Centre Bastions probably belongs to this early
building phase. Little further work was done at the site until the outbreak of
war with France in 1793. Between 1793 and 1796, 4,885 pounds was spent on
building, but this ceased entirely from 1797 to 1804. Following a renewed
invasion scare, during 1803-1804 plans were drawn up by Captain William Ford
to enhance the existing fortifications with the intention of housing a
garrison of sufficient size to secure the Heights against attack, whilst
enabling it to direct flanking fire onto any invasion force attempting to
assault the town and port from the west. The defences were to consist of a
main defensive point or citadel on the western side of the Heights and a
redoubt on the eastern side linked by strong defensive lines; their
construction began in April 1804 under the direction of Lt Col William Twiss.
The Drop Redoubt was built between 1804 and 1815 and commands extensive views
of the town, harbour and castle. It has bomb proof barracks for 200 men and
was intended to mount 12 of the heavy 24 pounder guns, with two carronades for
close protection. When initially begun, the Citadel consisted of a large
parade ground surrounded by store houses, barracks, magazines and an
unrevetted defensive ditch. It was originally planned to arm the Citadel with
forty-three 18 pounder guns, and 31 carronades. Water for the barracks was
supplied via a well 130m in depth.

Troops needed to be able to move rapidly between the Heights and the town
below and this was facilitated by the construction of the Grand Shaft
staircase. The Grand Shaft was built between 1805 and 1807 to a design by Capt
Hyde Page and consists of three spiral staircases around a vertical circular
brick shaft which descends for 140 steps to a tunnel linking up with Snargate
Street. Slightly north of the Grand Shaft was the Grand Shaft Barracks with
accommodation for 1,300 men, 59 officers and eight horses. Both this and a 180
bed military hospital near the Archcliffe Gate were completed in 1804 but have
subsequently been demolished to foundation level. When the armistice with
France was signed in 1814 both the Citadel and the North Centre Bastion on the
North Lines remained unfinished. Between 1793 and 1815 a total of 238,889
pounds had been spent on the fortifications. In 1815 just 1000 pounds were
spent and in 1816 nothing at all. Only the Drop Redoubt remained garrisoned
after 1816 and the Heights were let for grazing. Work in completing and
revetting the ditches around the Citadel did not begin again until 1853 and
also included the addition of flanking casemates and a two storey casemated
barracks in the South Lines designed to accommodate an extra 500 men. At the
end of the Crimean War in 1856 five returning regiments were temporarily
encamped upon the Heights in tents.

The unification of Germany and the perceived threat of Naploeon III led, in
1859, to the appointment of a Royal Commission to review the state of
England's fortifications. Both the Commission's secretary, Major W F D
Jervois and his superior, General Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Inspector General of
Fortifications had already reviewed Dover and as a result it was recommended
that work continue to complete, deepen and revet the North and South Lines, to
add flank defences to the Drop Redoubt, construct officers' accommodation
within the Citadel and add an advanced work on the high ground at its western
side. The Citadel and the Drop Redoubt were also to be made intervisible and
the resultant landscaping necessitated the removal of the top of the ridge,
with the excavated chalk used to increase the angle of the scarps beyond the
lines. The completed lines stretch for almost 12km and consist of 9m wide
ditches cut to a depth of between 9m and 15m into the natural chalk. The sides
of the ditches are faced either with brick, or in later constructional phases
flint with coursed brickwork and pits were dug at each angle in order to
prevent direct passage along their base. The angles are also overlooked by
loopholed galleries or casemates running behind the revetment walls, or have
loopholed covered walkways or caponiers, all of which would have allowed the
ditches to be swept with artillery and small arms fire whilst providing access
to outworks such as the Citadel Outer Bastion and the North Centre Detached
Bastion, finally completed between 1860 and 1874.

It had been recognized as early as the Napoleonic war that any attack on the
Heights would come from the high ground immediately west of the Citadel and
the new Western Outwork, completed before 1867, was designed to combat this
threat. The outwork is triangular in plan and consists of a converging pair of
ditches which extend for 200m from the western side of the Citadel and
originally met in a polygonal work with two casemated and loopholed
caponiers. The caponiers and the tip of the Western Outwork have been buried
by landfill but survive intact. The defences of the Citadel were further
enhanced by the new Officers' Mess of 1860, designed by Jervois and
incorporating a bomb proof roof, loopholes and embrasures. Additional
accommodation for 400 soldiers was provided by South Front Barracks, built in
1860 within a deep trench excavated on the southern face of the Heights. The
barracks also had a bomb proof roof of vaulted brick and earth, but were
demolished in the 1960s. In around 1867 the North Lines Right Battery was
constructed immediately west of the Drop Redoubt. It was intended to be
mounted with four 64 pounder rifled muzzle loaders (RMLs). This battery, which
may also have been known as St Stephen's Battery, survives as a series of
emplacements. A second battery, Drop Battery was already in existence
immediately to the south of the redoubt and was mounted with three 24
pounders. By 1876 it had three 42 pounders and three 7 inch rifled breech
loaders (RBLs), but was disarmed in 1886 and only the two magazines remain

There were originally two access points to the Western Heights, the North
Entrance and the Archcliffe Gate. The North Entrance has been superseded by a
modern road cut through the North Lines in 1967 but survives intact. It
consists of bridge supports originally carrying the North Military Road
across the outer ditch onto a tenaille or island within the North Lines, from
which the road continued southwards across a second bridge and through a
tunnel in the rampart to the inner gateway. The inner gateway includes a
guardroom and a stairway giving access to an artillery store, a magazine and
gunrooms looking out across the North Lines. Southern access was via the
South Military Road and the Archcliffe Gate, a substantial brick gate with an
external drawbridge which was demolished to foundation level in the 1960s. The
ditches adjacent to it were filled with rubble, but a partially buried
caponier is visible to the west in addition to a series of bricked-up caves
cut into the natural chalk face. These are of unknown function but are clearly
shown on a plan of 1814 and may relate to the pre-military use of Western

After the major work on Western Heights during the 1860s and 1870s, efforts in
the latter part of the 19th century concentrated on improving coastal defence.
St Martin's Battery was constructed on a terrace cut into the southern slope
of the Heights in the 1870s and mounted three 10 inch rifled muzzle loaders
(RMLs). However, the battery was superseded by the construction between 1898
and 1900 of Citadel Battery, and had been disarmed by 1908. Citadel Battery
lay immediately west of the Western Outworks, and contained three 9.2 inch
guns. The battery survives as three semi-circular concrete gun pits, with
underlying magazines, holdfasts and the remains of the metal gun floors, in
addition to some associated structures.

Following the completion of the new Admiralty harbour at Dover in 1907, an
Admiralty Port War Signal Station controlling all shipping within the harbour
was located on Western Heights, but moved to Dover castle in 1914. During
World War I the Heights were primarily used for their barrack accommodation,
although Citadel Battery remained armed and in 1916 Drop Redoubt was
provided with searchlights and two 6 pounder Hotchkiss guns to counter air
raids, whilst the Citadel received a single 3 inch gun. Following the outbreak
of World War II and the renewed threat of invasion, three 6 inch breech
loaders were fitted to the disused St Martin's Battery, where the old gun pits
were filled with concrete, and concrete and brick gun houses built over the
top. Two Type 23 pillboxes were also constructed nearby. The Citadel Battery
now mounted two 9.2 inch guns and was provided with two Type 24 pillboxes and
a spigot mortar. A further series of Type 23 and 24 pillboxes as built
around the perimeter of the Heights for close defence and as complemented by
weapons pits, slit trenches and blast shelters. The Western Heights were
gradually abandoned by the Army in stages between 1954 and 1961.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all fences,
display, security and custodial fittings and facilities, modern services,
buildings, goalposts, playground equipment, the surfaces of all paths, roads
and hard standings, all standing buildings within the Citadel and the Western
Outworks, the building 100m north east of the North Entrance, the two
buildings south of Citadel Road adjacent to Heights Terrace and the Gun Shed;
the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

The construction of a series of houses immediately east of the Citadel and in
the area adjacent to the North Entrance is considered to have caused
significant disturbance to archaeological deposits relating to the militia
huts, the Royal Engineers buildings, the School Master's Quarters and the coal
yard. These houses and their gardens, including the ground beneath them, are
therefore totally excluded from the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The fortifications at Western Heights survive well as a series of earthworks
and brick and masonry structures which will retain archaeological evidence
relating to the adaptation and development of their defences over more than
150 years. The remains represent the largest, most elaborate and impressive
surviving example of early 19th century fortification in England. Together
with other contemporary defensive works at Archcliffe Fort, Fort Burgoyne and
Dover Castle, Western Heights provides an insight into the continuing military
importance of Dover during the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, the
Roman lighthouse, the medieval chapel and the field terracing will retain
archaeological remains relating to the earlier occupation of the headland. The
use of parts of the monument for recreational activities and the provision of
history and nature trails give it importance as a public amenity and a
valuable educational resource.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burridge, D, A Guide to the Western Heights Defences, Dover, (1992)
Construction Services HM Prison Service , , HMYOI Dover, (1995)
Peverely, J, Dover's Hidden Fortress, (1996)
Peverely, J, Dover's Hidden Fortress, (1996)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , Dover Western Heights, (1999)
Royal Engineers , , Dover, Western Heights - Citadel Barracks - Western Outworks, (1929)
Saunders, A D, Citadel Battery, Western Heights, Dover, (1998)
Saunders, A D, St Martin's Battery, Western Heights, Dover, (1998)
Coad, J G, Lewis, P N, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in The Later Fortifications of Dover, (1982)
Coad, J G, Lewis, P N, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in The Later Fortifications of Dover, (1982)
Wheeler, R E M, 'Archaeological Journal' in Roman Lighthouses at Dover, , Vol. 86, (1929)
Kent County Council, TR 34 SW 16,
Kent County Council, TR 34 SW 210,
Kent County Council, TR 34 SW 222,
Kent County Council, TR 34 SW 31,
Kent County Council, TR 34 SW 82,
Ruins of a Round Church at Dover, Archaeologia Cantiana, (1877)

Source: Historic England

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