The Painted House, N of Market Street


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dover (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 31841 41464


Roman mansio (including part of a Saxon Shore Fort), known as the Roman Painted House, 95m south-west of St Mary’s Church.

Reasons for Designation

The early third century mansio at the Roman town of Portus Dubris was built upon by a late third century Saxon Shore Fort, the defences of which cut across the earlier mansio.

Mansiones were substantial, mostly masonry, buildings of varying size and plan providing facilities, including accommodation and stabling, for travellers associated with the Cursus Publicus (the provincial postal service of Roman Britain). Constructed on or adjacent to major contemporary roads, they are usually found in urban contexts or within forts, although some examples lie between towns on roads which cross the more sparsely settled rural areas. They are found throughout England. Dating from the second to mid-fourth centuries AD, mansiones were often amongst the largest buildings of the town. The largest recorded urban example is at Silchester, where the mansio covers an area of c.0.4ha. Most examples survive in the form of buried foundations. Few examples have been positively identified and, in view of this rarity, all mansiones with surviving remains are considered to be of national importance.

Saxon Shore forts were heavily defended later Roman military installations located exclusively in south east England. They were all constructed during the third century AD, probably between c.AD 225 and AD 285. They were built to provide protection against the sea-borne Saxon raiders who began to threaten the coast towards the end of the second century AD, and all Saxon Shore forts are situated on or very close to river estuaries or on the coast, between the Wash and the Isle of Wight. The most distinctive feature of Saxon Shore forts are their defences which comprised massive stone walls, normally backed by an inner earth mound, and wholly or partially surrounded by one or two ditches. Wall walks and parapets originally crowned all walls, and the straight walls of all sites were punctuated by corner and interval towers and/or projecting bastions. Saxon Shore forts are rare nationally with a limited distribution. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments which are important in representing army strategy and government policy, Saxon Shore forts are of particular significance to our understanding of the period and all examples are considered to be of national importance.

Despite later damage, the Roman mansio and part of a Saxon Shore Fort in Dover survive well. The mansio wall paintings remain in-situ and are among the best preserved examples of their type north of the Alps. The later construction of the defences of the Saxon Shore Fort across the site have in-fact aided the preservation of the archaeological remains of the mansio since the east side of the building was at that time covered by an earthen rampart. Together they enhance our understanding of the urban settlement at Portus Dubris and provide valuable information regarding the history and development of the Roman town.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 3 September 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a Roman mansio and part of a Saxon Shore Fort surviving as upstanding and buried remains. It is situated at the corner of New Street and York Street beneath a modern cover building, north-east of Durham Hill in Dover.

The mansio includes at least six rooms and a corridor or passage to the north. It overlies an earlier Roman building, probably of the mid second century, of at least three rooms. The mansio has rectangular rooms with stone walls generally surviving between 1.2m and 1.8m high. These are decorated internally with painted wall plaster. They include an architectural scheme set above a lower dado, of red or green, with coloured panels framed by fluted columns. The panels each have a motif relating to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. In the corridor is a geometric pattern. The floors are of opus signinum and several of the rooms have a hypocaust.

The mansio is situated a short distance north of the Roman fort of the Classis Britannica and is thought to have been built in about AD 200 as accommodation for travellers crossing the English Channel. The surviving rooms may have been part of a much larger building.

Overlying the west side of the mansio is the west wall of a large Saxon Shore Fort built in about AD 270. The fort is rectangular in plan and is thought to have originally covered more than five acres in extent. Although only part of the western defences of the fort are included in the scheduling. The fort wall has an external face of squared blocks of calcareous tufa and an inner face of chalk blocks. The foundations and core include much reused stone, brick and mortar. A semi-circular bastion was later added to the wall and projects to the west. It is up to about 1.8m high and has an external face of flint and sandstone with two courses of tiles. Although an external defensive ditch destroyed part of the mansio building to the west, an earthen rampart was set against the fort wall to the east and has aided the preservation of the archaeological remains in this area.

The site was partially excavated between 1971 and 1977. Overlying the north-east room was an Anglo-Saxon grubenhaus, dating to about AD 800. It was about 7.5m long and is thought to have been one of the largest found in Britain. The interior contained nearly 200 clay loomweights, pottery and a bronze box. The excavations also revealed several medieval cess-pits with soil beneath containing large quantities of prehistoric worked flints. These are thought to relate to a late Neolithic settlement on the Western Heights of Dover.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
KE 301
Legacy System:


The Roman Painted House at Dover, accessed from
Kent HER TR34SW85. NMR TR34SW85. PastScape 467992,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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