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HER Number:MDV7031
Name:West Soar Admiralty Signal Station, Malborough

Summary

Admiralty flag signalling station, built circa 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars as part of a chain of stations along the south Devon coast to alert ships and bases to the presence of enemy shipping in the channel. It comprises a stone-built tower with a pyramidal roof which formerly had accommodation quarters attached to its west side. The flagpoles on which pennants, flags and balls were hoisted for signaling were probably outside the building. The site appears to have been used during the Second World War when the surrounding area was an airfield.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 706 371
Map Sheet:SX73NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishMalborough
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishMALBOROUGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1504924
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX73NW/3
  • Pastscape: 1504924
  • Tide Project: 15/04/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SIGNAL STATION (XVIII to XIX - 1773 AD to 1815 AD)

Full description

Buck, C., 01/2014, South West Coast Path Project, Archaeological Recording of Building Conservation, South Hams (Report - Survey). SDV356258.

Rare example of an extant Admiralty Signal Station. The conservation works to this building focussed on the remediation of significant structural movement to some of the walls. In addition, repointing was required to all exterior (and some interior) faces and roof. Internally, the timber floor joists were replaced and planking to mimic the original construction. The main north facing doorway was fitted with a grilled doorway, to restrict public access.

Devon County Council, 1838-1848, Tithe Maps and Apportionments (Website). SDV349463.

On the 1841 Malborough tithe map, Plot 2212 is recorded as 'Signal House Field' on the accompanying apportionment. The building is illustrated near the western boundary of this field.

Devon County Council, 1838-1848, Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848 (Cartographic). SDV349431.

On the 1841 Malborough tithe map, Plot 2212 is recorded as 'Signal House Field' on the accompanying apportionment. The building is illustrated near the western boundary of this field.

Royal Air Force, 1944, RAF CT/89/541, RAF CT/89/541 3063 08-MAR-1944 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351409.

The tower is visible as a structure enclosed by white circular marks.

Russell, P., 1955, Fire Beacons in Devon, 296 (Article in Serial). SDV336138.

Admiralty flag signal station above Steeple Cove. In use during the Napoleonic Wars. Set up in 1773.

Snell, R., 1986, Green Lanes in Devon Project (Un-published). SDV8442.

Square building, 2.0 metres long each side and 8.0 metres tall, the top 2.0 metres being the sloping roof. There is a doorway in the north side. The west and east sides appear to have blocked doorways. A reference to an Ordnance Survey trig point here is incorrect. This lies to the north of the signal station.

Thackray, C., 1990, Archaeological Survey of the Salcombe Estuary: West (Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point) Devon, 23 (Report - Survey). SDV345519.

An Admiralty flag signal station which was in use during the Napoleonic Wars is recorded just north of the National Trust boundary in the ploughed field a few metres to the east of the footpath from Warren House to Lower Soar. It is a little building with a pointed roof, preserved in situ and in good condition.

Kitchen, F., 1990, The Napoleonic War Coast Signal Stations, 337 (Article in Serial). SDV145464.

Erected in 1794 at a cost of £114.

Sleightholme, J. D., 1992, West Soar and the Old Admiralty Signal Stations, 10-12 (Article in Serial). SDV352067.

Stone built signal station, part of a coastal chain of stations set up in the Napoleonic Wars to alert ships and bases to the presence of enemy shipping in the channel.
The system involved hoisting flags, pennants and black balls in various coded combinations. Each station had to be telescopically visible to the next which poses a problem at West Soar. The next station east was Prawle but the location of the station to the west is unclear. The intervisibility between West Soar and the next listed at Dunnose is considered doubtful. However, an intermediate station at 'South Ground' near Modbury is recorded in some station lists.
The station at West Soar appears to have had accommodation quarters on its western side. The conjectural reconstruction drawing shows this together with long flagpoles projecting from the roof of the building.

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

Roberts, C. C., 2003, West Soar Signal Station (Un-published). SDV352377.

The West Soar signal station is the only purpose-built structure in the South Devon chain of stations that is still partly standing. It was built in 1794 at a cost of £114.
There was formerly a wooden lean-to against the western elevation, indicated by a line of slates, which was replaced in 1796 by a more robust stone building. A blocked doorway formerly gave access between the two buildings. There are holes in the roof on the west and east sides and a small window high up in the south side for a telescope siting. A doorway in the north side gives access into the tower. A piece of ordnance was also noted lodged in the north wall.
There is evidence internally for a second storey in the tower where the 'glassman' manning the telescope could sit.
It is considered unlikely that there would have been room in the tower to mount the flag poles as shown in Sleightholmes conjectural drawing and it is suggested that they were sited externally to the tower. The holes in the roof were used as telescope sitings.
See report for further information.

National Monument Record, 2007, NMR 24679, NMR SX7037/3, 5 (NMR 24679/39, 41) 08-AUG-2007 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351424.

The tower remains visible as a structure.

Winton, H. + Bowden, M., 2009, East Soar, Devon: Air Photo Assessment and Survey (Report - Survey). SDV351406.

The site appears to have been used during World War II as it is recorded, on wartime aerial photographs, with a circular white mark around it when the surrounding area was an airfield (MDV35349). The setting of the tower is recorded on modern aerial photographs.

Brown, J., 2010, Historical Neighbours (Article in Serial). SDV352068.

Square, stone-built signal station with a pyramidal roof. It was built as part of a coastal chain, begun in 1794, to pass messages to ship owners and Lloyds as vessels sailed up the English Channel towards ports further east. Each vessel was assigned four letters and corresponding flags, pennants and black balls were hoisted on a mast and poles to convey the messages. Poor visibility in the channel, however, will have hampered communications at times.
The next station east was Prawle Point but the location of the station to the west is unknown.
Photo showing evidence of a former adjoining building and a high window for a telescope.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

Map object based on this Source.

Buck, C., 2012, South West Coast Path Project: Archaeological Impact Assessments of Sites at Burgh Island, Torcross and West Soar, South Hams, Devon (Report - Assessment). SDV352383.

This is a rare example of a late 18th century Napoleonic signalling station, one of a long chain which once extended along England’s south and east coasts. There are very few remaining in the country and this is an excellent example. Patch repointing with lime mortar is necessary to all exterior walls, and the roof. There are structural cracks above all stone lintels, which will need masonry ‘stitching’, and repointing. Internally, the blocking to both the west and east elevation openings needs to be repaired, and partially repointed. A small amount of internal repointing is necessary. The two remaining timber joists should be removed (both are rotted, one is about to fall).
There is no clear surface evidence for the walls of the accommodation building located on the west side of the tower (although slight traces of a pitch roof are visible on the west wall). However, there are a few loose stones at ground level, no doubt ploughed remnants of the foundation stones. The ground is slightly raised at the foot of the western side of the tower and some surface indications of foundation walls at the north and south wall junctions with the tower. If finances permit firstly a geophysical survey may detect sub-surface foundation walls, whilst secondly, a small-scale excavation could take place to establish whether the remains of the walls of the accommodation building are extant below surface.

National Monument Record, 2013, 1504924 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV352376.

A stone-built tower, nearly square, measuring 3.0 metres north-south and 3.1 metres east-west with walls 0.6 metres thick. It has a pyramidal stone roof with a small square platform top, the roof pierced by small apertures facing east, west and south. There was an upper floor with a small square window facing south. The ground floor has a window, now blocked, to the east, a door to the north and another door, now blocked, to the west. All ground floor openings have segmental arches. The West door was an internal opening to an outshut with a single pitch (or flat) roof, the line of which is marked by a scarcement of slates on the west elevation; at some time this outshut was replaced by a building with a gabled roof, the outline of the gable and a hole roughly made for the ridge beam being visible above the scarcement. This building is depicted on the 1st edition OS 25" map of 1886, 6.7 metres long with a yard to the south measuring 6.3 metres by 6. 0 metres, but both building and yard had gone by the time of the 2nd edition map of 1906.
This tower is the 'West Soar' coast signal station, built circa 1795, one of a series designed to observe ships' movements, to warn merchant ships of enemy movements and to inform the militia in case of an attempted enemy landing.

English Heritage, 2013, National Heritage List for England, 1306784 (National Heritage List for England). SDV350785.

Lookout Tower on cliffs at SX 707371. Small tower, reputedly built as a lookout for Customs officers. Probably C18. Slatestone rubble walls with pyramidal stone corbelled roof. Plan: square, presumably built with a room on each floor, both very small. Exterior: 2 storeys in height but floor has gone to upstairs room. Doorway on north face has rough stone voussoir arched lintel, window opening on east has similar. Blocked opening on west wall. South wall, which faces sea, has a small window opening just below the roof. Interior: not inspected, now featurless.
Date first listed: 19th February 1990.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2013-2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV351146.

All East Soar Air Photo Assessment and Survey (SDV351406) details were accessioned to the Devon HER as part of the South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project.

Pink, F., 2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment (Interpretation). SDV357736.

On the 1841 Malborough tithe map, Plot 2212 is recorded as 'Signal House Field' on the accompanying apportionment. The building is illustrated near the western boundary of this field. The structure is also illustrated on the 1st edition 25 inch OS map (1880s) and the 2nd edition (1904-6).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV145464Article in Serial: Kitchen, F.. 1990. The Napoleonic War Coast Signal Stations. The Mariner's Mirror. 76. Unknown. 337.
SDV320945Monograph: Devon County Council. 2000. Fire Beacons: Warning Signals across the Countryside. Fire Beacons: Warning Signals across the Countryside. A4 Unbound.
SDV336138Article in Serial: Russell, P.. 1955. Fire Beacons in Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 87. A5 Hardback. 296.
SDV345519Report - Survey: Thackray, C.. 1990. Archaeological Survey of the Salcombe Estuary: West (Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point) Devon. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. 23.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV349431Cartographic: Devon County Council. 1838-1848. Tithe Mosaic, approximately 1838-1848. Digitised Tithe Map. Digital.
SDV349463Website: Devon County Council. 1838-1848. Tithe Maps and Apportionments. http://devon.gov.uk. Website.
SDV350785National Heritage List for England: English Heritage. 2013. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. 1306784.
SDV351146Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2013-2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV351406Report - Survey: Winton, H. + Bowden, M.. 2009. East Soar, Devon: Air Photo Assessment and Survey. English Heritage. 50-2009. Digital + A4.
SDV351409Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1944. RAF CT/89/541. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF CT/89/541 3063 08-MAR-1944.
SDV351424Aerial Photograph: National Monument Record. 2007. NMR 24679. National Monument Record Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). NMR SX7037/3, 5 (NMR 24679/39, 41) 08-AUG-2007.
SDV352067Article in Serial: Sleightholme, J. D.. 1992. West Soar and the Old Admiralty Signal Stations. Kingsbridge History Society Recorder. 7. A4 Stapled + Digital. 10-12.
SDV352068Article in Serial: Brown, J.. 2010. Historical Neighbours. National Coastwatch Institution Newsletter. 35. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV352376National Monuments Record Database: National Monument Record. 2013. 1504924. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV352377Un-published: Roberts, C. C.. 2003. West Soar Signal Station. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV352383Report - Assessment: Buck, C.. 2012. South West Coast Path Project: Archaeological Impact Assessments of Sites at Burgh Island, Torcross and West Soar, South Hams, Devon. Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service Report. 2012R045. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV356258Report - Survey: Buck, C.. 01/2014. South West Coast Path Project, Archaeological Recording of Building Conservation, South Hams. Cornwall Council Report. 2014R001. Digital.
SDV357736Interpretation: Pink, F.. 2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. AC Archaeology Report. ACD618/4/3. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV8442Un-published: Snell, R.. 1986. Green Lanes in Devon Project. Green Lanes in Devon Project. Not applicable. Unknown.

Associated Monuments

MDV4859Related to: Napoleonic signal station south west of Scobbiscombe Farm, Kingston (Monument)
MDV35349Related to: RAF Bolt Head Airfield (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4935 - Archaeological Survey from Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point
  • EDV6398 - Recording of Building Conservation, West Soar Admiralty Signalling Station (Ref: 2014R001)
  • EDV8208 - Building recording of West Soar Signal Station

Date Last Edited:Dec 3 2021 9:42AM