Fortifications, Roman lighthouse and medieval chapel on Western Heights


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020298

Date first listed: 08-Aug-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Mar-2001


Ordnance survey map of Fortifications, Roman lighthouse and medieval chapel on Western Heights
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Dover (District Authority)

Parish: Dover

National Grid Reference: TR 31038 40590


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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 visible.

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 Heights.

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.

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


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

Legacy System number: 30282

Legacy System: RSM


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)

End of official listing