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HER Number:MDV18327
Name:Woodbury Beacon


A beacon is mentioned in the early 13th century and is thought to have been sited on the barrow.


Grid Reference:SY 032 878
Map Sheet:SY08NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishWoodbury
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishWOODBURY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY08NW/20/1

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BEACON (VIII to Post Medieval - 701 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Brighouse, U. W., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV136802.

The beacon for woodbury parish, according to brighouse, was on this barrow. It may have been used in the 9th - 10th centuries, but from a deed of the early 13th century is the first definite evidence with the name "virbecna". This is the earliest known use of a fire beacon in devon. It is also said to have been used during the armada raid of 1588 (brighouse).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV136806.

Brighouse, u. W. /woodbury. A view from the beacon/(1981)7,24,40-41,76-77.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV136807.

Watkin, h. R. /dcnq/15(1928-1929)156-157/woodbury castle, virbegna.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV136808.

R. B. M. /dcnq/15(1928-1929)22/woodbury castle and ancient road.

R. B. M., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV2262.

If the interpretation of "virbegna"" is correct, then the reference in the torre abbey cartulary is the earliest mention of the word, by over a century, in devon (r. B. M. ).

WATKIN, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV54436.

Watkin questions the meaning of "virbegna", though the mound would have been a suitable place for firing a beacon (watkin).

Salvatore, J. P., 1997, Beacon on Woodbury Common (Un-published). SDV348341.

Site visit 2nd December 1997. There are no specific visible remains of a beacon on the barrow which is not recommended for scheduling in its own right. The barrow still exists as a prominent mound and is a scheduled monument in its own right.

Exeter Archaeology, 2003-2004, East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey, 2, Site No. 2691 (Archive - Survey). SDV351568.

Largest barrow at circa 30 metres diameter. A number of the larger mounds are believed to represent prehistoric barrows that were remodelled in the 18th century to form landscape features.

Exeter Archaeology, 2007, East Devon Access Land Archaeological Survey 2007, 21-22, Site No. 2691 (Archive - Survey). SDV351571.

Bowl barrow. Flat topped mound 31 meters diameter by 4 metres high with surrounding ditch 3.7 metres high. Encircled by outer bank and ditch. The mound and outer bank are probably the result of Lord Rolle of Bicton’s landscaping during the late 18th century and 19th century, planted with firs possibly at this time. It is likely that the feature originated as a prehistoric barrow. The mound was also the site of a fire beacon in the 13th century and possibly earlier, and again during the Armada raid in 1588.

Very top the of the mound is open and grass covered, otherwise is under bracken with trees on the lower slopes. Barrow not visible from the surrounding area except the fir trees on the high point in the landscape. Small path runs south-southeast from the road up the hill to the barrow. Small path runs west-northwest – east-southeast across the mound. Encircling bank has a small channel worn through the north side, 1.5 metres by 0.3 metres deep, possible the result of military training activities. The barrow is a focus point in the landscape although it is probably not subject to a great deal of public traffic.

Advise military of significance of the feature. Protection during vegetation clearance. Possible interpretation as one of a group of large barrows/landscaping mounds in the area.

Exeter Archaeology, 2008, East Devon Access Land Archaeological Survey 2007, Site No. 2691 (Report - Survey). SDV351570.


Sources / Further Reading

SDV136802Migrated Record: Brighouse, U. W..
SDV136806Migrated Record:
SDV136807Migrated Record:
SDV136808Migrated Record:
SDV2262Migrated Record: R. B. M..
SDV348341Un-published: Salvatore, J. P.. 1997. Beacon on Woodbury Common. Monuments Protection Programme. Report on Site for which Scheduling is Not . A4 Single Sheet.
SDV351568Archive - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2003-2004. East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey. East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Archaeological Survey. Digital + Mixed Archive Material. 2, Site No. 2691.
SDV351570Report - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2008. East Devon Access Land Archaeological Survey 2007. Exeter Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital. Site No. 2691.
SDV351571Archive - Survey: Exeter Archaeology. 2007. East Devon Access Land Archaeological Survey 2007. East Devon Access Land Archaeological Survey 2007. Mixed Archive Material + Digital. 21-22, Site No. 2691.
SDV54436Migrated Record: WATKIN.

Associated Monuments

MDV10506Related to: Earthwork Mound, North of Woodbury Castle, Woodbury (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jun 25 2015 11:36AM