Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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The Armada Beacon, Alderley Edge

A Scheduled Monument in Nether Alderley, Cheshire East

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Latitude: 53.2964 / 53°17'46"N

Longitude: -2.2138 / 2°12'49"W

OS Eastings: 385846.359

OS Northings: 377731.681498

OS Grid: SJ858777

Mapcode National: GBR DZZB.J2

Mapcode Global: WHBBF.YDZS

Entry Name: The Armada Beacon, Alderley Edge

Scheduled Date: 9 March 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019850

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33858

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Nether Alderley

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Alderley St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chester


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a stone-built beacon
platform on the summit of Beacon Hill, Alderley Edge. The earthen mound on
which it has been constructed is considered to have been a bowl barrow of
Bronze Age date. This barrow mound is large and may have been augmented when
the beacon was constructed on the summit.
The mound is of earth with some stone incorporated in the structure. It stands
approximately 3m above ground level and is 25m wide at the base. The top of
the mound was levelled for the foundations of a stone building to support the
beacon with its fire basket and to store material such as pitch for the fire
itself. This building was constructed in the 16th century and restored in 1799
on the foundations of the original building. The beacon building was blown
down in 1931 and today only the foundations survive. These foundations are now
visible as ashlar sandstone blocks, some bonded, at the apex of the mound and
scattered around the base of the mound in the undergrowth. On the summit a
memorial of stone has been erected. This is in the form of an altar-shaped
table measuring 1.10m by 0.40m and standing 0.8m high. This has been built of
ashlar blocks almost certainly reused from the original 1779 restored
building on the site. Set into the top is a metal plaque which reads `SITE OF

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.

Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrow. They are funerary
monuments belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. The mounds covered single or
multiple burials often accompanied by grave goods. They provide important
information about the diversity of beliefs and social groupings amongst early
prehistoric peoples.
The Armada beacon on Beacon Hill, Alderley Edge,is a good surviving example of
a stone-built beacon platform which formed one of a system of beacons erected
throughout England as a response to the threat of invasion during the 16th
century. The foundations of the original building survive beneath the ground
on the summit of the mound on which it stands. It has a well-documented
history and is a landmark of great local importance. It stands in land owned
by the National Trust and is accessible to the public. The beacon will
therefore provide a source for education and recreational interest for the
In addition it is considered that the mound on which it stands was originally
built as a bowl barrow in the Bronze Age. Such barrows rarely survive in
Cheshire and this makes this large earthwork important in its own right.

Source: Historic England


Alderley Edge NT SMR, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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