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HER Number:MDV1880
Name:Culmstock Beacon


Culmstock Beacon is believed to date from the time of the Armada. It appears to have originally stood a little to the north but was rebuilt in its present location after a collapse in 1870. It comprises a small circular beehive shaped building with an opening in roof. Beam slots inside are thought to have lodged the fire bars.


Grid Reference:ST 110 150
Map Sheet:ST11NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishCulmstock
DistrictMid Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishCULMSTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: ST11NW/1
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)
  • Tide Project: 23/07/20

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BEACON (Built, XVI to XIX - 1585 AD to 1870 AD (Between))

Full description

Polwhele, R., 1793-1806, The History of Devonshire (Monograph). SDV21030.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Culmstock Beacon marked on 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey Map.

Elworthy, F. T., 1892, Unknown (Article in Serial). SDV336610.

Ancient Monuments, 1920, Culmstock Beacon (Schedule Document). SDV336599.

Believed to be medieval, but circa 1870 it was "fallen abroad". Rebuilt using same materials and in good condition in 1920. Russell suggests an Elizabethan origin. Donn's map of 1765 shows it as 'Black Down Beacon'. Shaped like a beehive in stone; facing south is a low doorway and there is a circular opening in the roof about one metre across. Two loops in the wall and some narrow ledges which Dr Gibbens suggests lodged the ends of firebars. Sketched in P. O. Hutchinson's manuscript 'History of Sidmouth'. Other details: Site visit 1920.

Russell, P., 1955, Fire Beacons in Devon, 290 (Article in Serial). SDV336138.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1962, ST11NW5 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV336600.

A structure which accords to measurements and description given by Russell. This may be of more recent origin than that shown on Donn's map, for the site of another circular structure is visible a little to the north.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1975, ST11NW5 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV336601.

Structure in good condition. Site of second structure remains clearly visible.

Holmes, M. E., 1980, Culmstock Beacon (Worksheet). SDV336602.

A circular beehive hut, approx 8 feet internal diameter and 11 feet high, built of random chert. Walls 2 feet thick, hole in roof 3 feet across. Doorway in south side. Slit windows in east and west sides. Holes inside, about 1 foot above ground. Other details: Sketch.

Unknown, 1986, Culmstock Beacon (Worksheet). SDV336604.

Unknown, 1992, Culmstock Beacon (Photograph). SDV336611.

Slide and b/w print film 3036, 18-21.

Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit, 1992 - 1993, Blackdown Hills Survey Archive (Archive - Survey). SDV324187.

Beam slots present in the inside face of the wall some 0.2 metres above the present floor level.

May, J., 1993, Culmstock Beacon (Worksheet). SDV336605.

Beacon hut in good condition. No sign of burning inside. Surrounded by a low bank of stones, with break near south entrance. Between bank and the hut is an area of dark green grass.

Devon County Council, 2000, Fire Beacons: Warning Signals across the Countryside (Monograph). SDV320945.

Butler, J., 2000, Peter Orlando Hutchinson's Travels in Victorian Devon. Illustrated Journals, 61 (Monograph). SDV360682.

Hutchinson visited the beacon on 7th August 1851. He describes it as a stone building, about 12 feet diameter with walls nearly 2 feet thick. It has a south facing doorway and slit windows facing east and west. It stands about 8 feet high with a projecting string course, the roof arches over with a hole at the top, about 2 feet diameter.
Butler adds that the hut is said to be the only one surviving from the Armada in its original form and is still much as Hutchinson describes it. [Note that the beacon may have originally stood a little to the north and was rebuilt in its present location in 1870]
Other details: sketch

Bodman, M., 2006, Culmstock Beacon (Personal Comment). SDV336607.

GeoGraph description of Culmstock Beacon. This stone hut stands 250 metres above sea level, close to a triangulation pillar, on the edge of the Blackdown Hills. It partially enclosed a pole-beacon which was a communications signal ready for use when the Spanish Armada was sighted in the English Channel in 1588. This is possibly the only beacon hut in the country to survive in its original form. It linked with others at Holcombe Rogus, Upottery and Blackborough.

Ordnance Survey, 2020, MasterMap 2020 (Cartographic). SDV363413.

Culmstock Beacon marked.

Historic England, 2020, National Heritage List for England, 1308436 (National Heritage List for England). SDV363414.

Culmstock Beacon.
Warning beacon. Medieval or C16 origins but rebuilt after a collapse in 1870.
See listing description for full details.
Date first listed: 17th March 1988

Unknown, c1913, Unknown (Article in Serial). SDV336608.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV21030Monograph: Polwhele, R.. 1793-1806. The History of Devonshire. The History of Devonshire. Unknown.
SDV320945Monograph: Devon County Council. 2000. Fire Beacons: Warning Signals across the Countryside. Fire Beacons: Warning Signals across the Countryside. A4 Unbound.
SDV324187Archive - Survey: Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit. 1992 - 1993. Blackdown Hills Survey Archive. Blackdown Hills Survey Archive. A4 Unbound.
SDV336138Article in Serial: Russell, P.. 1955. Fire Beacons in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 87. A5 Hardback. 290.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336599Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1920. Culmstock Beacon. The Schedule of Monuments. Unknown.
SDV336600Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1962. ST11NW5. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV336601Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1975. ST11NW5. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV336602Worksheet: Holmes, M. E.. 1980. Culmstock Beacon. Worksheet.
SDV336604Worksheet: Unknown. 1986. Culmstock Beacon. Worksheet.
SDV336605Worksheet: May, J.. 1993. Culmstock Beacon. Worksheet.
SDV336607Personal Comment: Bodman, M.. 2006. Culmstock Beacon. Printout.
SDV336608Article in Serial: Unknown. c1913. Unknown. Tiverton Gazette. Unknown.
SDV336610Article in Serial: Elworthy, F. T.. 1892. Unknown. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. Unknown. Unknown.
SDV336611Photograph: Unknown. 1992. Culmstock Beacon. Photograph (Paper).
SDV360682Monograph: Butler, J.. 2000. Peter Orlando Hutchinson's Travels in Victorian Devon. Illustrated Journals. Peter Orlando Hutchinson's Travels in Victorian Devon. Illustrated Journals. Hardback Volume. 61.
SDV363413Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2020. MasterMap 2020. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #126601 ]
SDV363414National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2020. National Heritage List for England. Digital. 1308436.

Associated Monuments

MDV1471Related to: BEACON in the Parish of Holcombe Rogus (Monument)
MDV1425Related to: BEACON in the Parish of Kentisbeare (Monument)
MDV1907Related to: BEACON in the Parish of Upottery (Monument)
MDV11532Related to: Former beacon site, north of Culmstock Beacon, Culmstock (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jul 24 2020 8:53AM