The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

St. Agnes Beacon



The trig-mounted "Beacon", the highest point of the hill, is considered to be a Bronze Age cairn, later used as a beacon and then a (now vanished) tower. Pastscape description:

A mound or cairn on St Agnes Beacon which has been interpreted as a Bronze Age bowl barrow later used as the site of a fire beacon and, in the late 18th century, providing the platform for a prospect tower. The barrow mound, which is about 3.8 metres in height and 30 metres in diameter, was a significant feature in the landscape and stood at the end of a line of three cairns which were visible in the period 1710-20. The shape, raised position and favourable location of the mound, with its all round visibility, led to it being chosen for the site of a fire beacon. The beacon may have been set up in response to the threat of the Spanish Armada in the 1580s, although the first known record of the beacon dates from the early 1700s. The reason for the location of the beacon on the mound were also the reasons which led it to being selected for the site of a prospect tower in the late 18th century. This is considered to have caused the barrow to have a flat squarish top. The tower stood on the mound until at least 1819 when it was in a partly ruinous state and its presence must have dictated the re-siting of the beacon during the Napoleonic Wars, most probably to one of the two other nearby cairn mounds, both of which were subsequently largely destroyed. By 1846 the tower has ceased to appear on maps. The outer matrix of the mound, which is known to comprise of stones ranging from 10cms-35cms in length, is believed to represent the debris of the collapsed tower which has encased the underlying Bronze Age deposits and which has resulted in the roughly square-shaped appearance of the mound. Scheduled.

The Ordnance Survey shows two cairns to the north of the Beacon cairn. Pastscape description:

There are two barrows or cairns in a north-south alignment, with another further to the south which is more prominent. When the site was visited in 1996 and 1998, both mounds were covered in gorse, grass and bramble which made interpretation difficult.

The central mound of the group has the appearance of a roughly hollowed out pile of stones surrounded by irregular dumps and scarps thought to result from disturbance to the mound or from nearby prospecting pits; the barrow was described in evaluation as 'a severely damaged cairn'. Loose stone from the matrix of the cairn appear to be fire blackened, perhaps as a result of the use of the mound as a fire beacon.

The northernmost mound of the group appears as a very irregular stony spread about 30m by 19m in an area of rough ground characterised by a series of low roughly shaped mounds; it was described in evaluation as 'an elongated amorphous mound'.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
15th July 2012ce
Edited 27th July 2012ce

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