Trinity Beacon


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017950

Date first listed: 27-Mar-1958

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jun-1998


Ordnance survey map of Trinity Beacon
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: East Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Axminster

National Grid Reference: SY 30363 95604


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

Reasons for Designation

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 country. 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 towers. 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.


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


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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number: 29644

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing