Ancient Monuments

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Trinity Beacon

A Scheduled Monument in Uplyme, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7558 / 50°45'21"N

Longitude: -2.9886 / 2°59'18"W

OS Eastings: 330363.469359

OS Northings: 95604.079259

OS Grid: SY303956

Mapcode National: GBR PH.4W3Z

Mapcode Global: FRA 47M2.X32

Entry Name: Trinity Beacon

Scheduled Date: 27 March 1958

Last Amended: 10 June 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017950

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29644

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Uplyme

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Uplyme St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a 17th century beacon sited near the highest point of
Trinity Hill which lies some 5km from the coast midway between the River Axe
and Lyme Regis and 3km south east of Axminster.
Although previously recorded with a beacon and beacon house, the remains of
the house are no longer visible above ground and the beacon site is identified
by a low, near rectangular enclosure comprising a flat-topped earth bank about
3m wide and 0.3m high fronted on all sides by a ditch 2m wide and 0.6m deep;
this enclosure was surveyed and mapped by the Ordnance Survey in 1906. The
internal dimensions of the enclosure are 24.5m east-west by 21.4m north-south.
Parish documents of 1679 record the building of the beacon and beacon house in
1678, perhaps on a pre-existing beacon site. The remains of this stone-built
house, which once stood within the enclosure, were still visible in the 1870s
when it was described as being beehive-shaped with slits in the walls which
commanded views of the coast and surrounding countryside.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Beacons were fires deliberately lit to give a warning, by means of smoke by
day and flame by night, of the approach of hostile forces. They were always
sited in prominent positions, usually as part of a group, chain or line which
together made up a comprehensive early warning system covering most of the
Beacons were extensively used during the medieval period. Their use was
formalised by 1325 and although some were used later, for example at the time
of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685 or during the Napoleonic wars, the system was
in decay by the mid-17th century.
Beacons were initially bonfires of wood or furze, but later barrels of pitch
or iron fire baskets mounted on poles were used. The poles were occasionally
set on earthen mounds. Access to the fire basket was by way of rungs set in
the pole, or by a stone ladder set against the beacon. More unusual beacon
types include stone enclosures and towers, mainly found in the north and south
west of England. Some beacon sites utilised existing buildings such as church
Beacons were built throughout England, with the greatest density along the
south coast and the border with Scotland. Although approximately 500 are
recorded nationally, few survive in the form of visible remains. Many sites
are only known from place-name evidence. Given the rarity of recorded
examples, all positively identified beacons with significant surviving
archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

Trinity Beacon survives well and has supporting documentary evidence for
construction in the late 17th century, when the beacon system was considered
no longer to be at its height. The recorded presence of a beacon house is a
rare feature and the below ground remains of this will survive within the
enclosure. The monument will retain archaeological evidence for a
relatively late and unusual type of beacon which was clearly perceived to be
an important feature in the coastal defences of the period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pulman, G P, The Book of the Axe, (1875), 603/771
Russell, P, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Fire beacons in Devon, , Vol. 87, (1955), 291
Wilkin, W H, 'Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries' in Trinity Beacon near Axminster, (1937), 260

Source: Historic England

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