The Roman Painted House at Dover

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The Roman Painted House is now closed to the general public; reopening 2nd April 2019.

Special Display of Finds from Roman Forts at Dover.

Following the publication of the Roman shore-fort at Dover in 2012 (K A R U Volume 11 of Kent Monograph Series) a special display of some of the outstanding Roman artefacts discovered during the rescue excavations are now on display.

Dover Roman Painted House Trust,
New Street, Dover, Kent, CT17 9AJ
Telephone: Dover ( 01304 ) 203279.


Registered Charity Number 2 7 0 4 9 9.


1st April to 22nd April:
5 days/week — Tuesday to Saturday.

23rd April to 31st May:
2 days/week — Tuesdays & Saturdays only.

1st June to 20th September:
5 days/week — Tuesday to Saturday.

10am to 5pm.

Adults £4.00,
Concessions £3.00 (children, students, pensioners).

Trains and Buses Nearby.

thumbnail link to Dover map  WHERE ARE WE?


The Roman Painted House, the finest Roman House on show in Britain, was discovered by Kent Archaelogical Rescue Unit. Forty years of excavation across ancient Dover by the Unit have uncovered 50 major structures. The Painted House was the best preserved and is now a major tourist attraction. Built about AD 200 it formed part of a large mansio or official hotel, for travellers crossing the Channel. It stood outside the great naval fort of the Classis Britannica, but in AD 270 it was demolished by the Roman army during the construction of a larger fort. See map of the harbour area.

IMAGE: Photo of a bronze hand holding eagle, found in the nearby Classis Britannica fort in 1970 The long-lost Roman 'Saxon Shore' fort, predicted by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and found by the Kent Unit in 1970, lies buried under modern Dover. A large section of its west wall, together with a major bastion, survive inside the Roman House cover building. These cut through Rooms 3, 4 and 5.(See plan.)


The burial by the Roman Army resulted in the unique survival of over 400 square feet of Painted plaster, the most extensive ever found north of the Alps. Above a lower dado, of red or green, visitors can still see an architectural scheme of many coloured panels framed by fluted columns. IMAGE: composite of two photographs of wall paintings
The columns sit on projecting bases above a stage, producing a clear 3-D effect. Parts of 28 panels survive, each with a motif relating to Bacchus, the Roman God of wine.


The walls in four rooms survive to a height of 4-6 feet and the hard red concrete floors cover substantially complete central-heating systems. Visitors can see the large arched flues, the various heating channels and the vertical wall-flues that kept the building comfortably warm 1,800 years ago.

IMAGE: photo showing the outside of the Roman House (AD 200) with arched flue, part of the underfloor heating system of Hypocaust
Photo showing the outside of the Roman House (AD 200) with arched flue, part of the underfloor heating system of Hypocaust.
IMAGE: view of the Roman Painted House interior, taken from the first floor balcony
View of the Roman Painted House interior, taken from the first floor balcony.


After discovery in 1970 the Kent Unit promoted a major tourist-preservation scheme and the House was opened in 1977, on behalf of the Dover Roman Painted House Trust. Over 700,000 visitors have seen the Roman House which is open for 150 days each year. Admission charges and voluntary effort almost cover the running-costs. The Scheme won four national awards, including "The Best Preservation of an Archaeological Site in Britain" (Country Life Award). "Outstanding Tourist Enterprise" (B.T.A. Award) and "Museum of the Year Award". The Unit also won the famous Silver Trowel Award, presented to it by H R H Prince Charles.


IMAGE: photo of a Samian ware bowl, found in the nearby Classis Britannica fort in 1975

In the Galleries are 30 display panels which tell the story of the discovery of the Roman House and the development of Roman Dover. Some of the best objects excavated are on display.


Visitors may also try their hands at brass-rubbing on several large and small figures from Roman and medieval times. The materials are supplied at a modest cost and there is plenty of time.

IMAGE: photo of the marble head of a Roman matron, found in the nearby Classis Britannica fort in 1975

There is also a touch table covered with finds from the excavations, such as pottery, bones and tiles. A hands-on experience for all the family.


With its spectacular Roman rooms, fine painted plaster, heating-systems, numerous information panels, commentaries (in four languages), cases of finds and a touch-table, schools from all over South-east England and France now make day-trips to the Roman House. Often combining with visits to Dover Castle, schools find the Roman House—with its gift shop for booklets and souvenirs, toilets and free parking—a major indoor attraction. Guides are available for short talks if required.

More Information for Schools


Besides the Roman House, the Kent Unit has also discovered in Dover the Roman naval fort of the CLASSIS BRITANNICA; the late-Roman shore fort built about AD 270; the western half of St Martin-le-Grand church and large parts of Saxon and medieval Dover. Many of these discoveries have been published in four major research volumes available in the Painted House.

All images copyright Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit ©


This major tourist attraction is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers, who have worked here for the past 39 years. There is no paid staff. Occasionally, through illness or other problems, some volunteers may not be available as planned and (rarely) days may be missed. If your visit involves a long journey, you might consider phoning the Painted House in advance to ensure that it's open when you arrive – ( 01304 ) 203279.