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

Beacon Hill

Round Barrow(s)


At first glance this site looks like a strip of round barrows running along the crest of the hill, but on closer inspection a distinct grouping can be made out. On the pasture east of the wood, three round barrows curve round in a arc with two more lining up in the wood. One of the barrows from this grouping was excavated by Skinner in 1820 and contained a coarse urn, 16" high, 12" wide at mouth with chevron decoration, half filled with a cremation of a young woman.

There are nine other barrows, six of which seem to be paired up one the western end of the wood. Between these stand three barrows in a E-W line. This is where the Beacon was said to have stood. A large circular earthwork, presumably of later date, encircles these three barrows and centres on a single standing stone.

The standing stone is a mystery and looks like it has been moved onto the barrow at a later date, but may have been originally placed elsewhere within the barrow grouping. The O.S. map of the wood gives three parish boundaries meeting on the Fosse way just west of where the barrow stands.

The Romans made several roads around here but to drive the Fosse way directly up the hill and between the two barrow groups was clearly designed as a statement on a conquered territory. The iron-age hillfort of Maesbury Castle lies 3km to the east.

Although the road layout of the old Frome road is roman, there would have been a prehistoric trackway running along top of the Mendip Hills directly in front of the cliff face. The quality of the stone from these hills ensured the extensive re-engineering of the road network, together with extensive building work.

The woodland trust own and manage Beacon Wood with support from the Beacon Hill Society. The wood was brought by the trust in 1993 with funding from Mendip District Council. The woodland has developed over the last 200 years on land that was formally un-enclosed.

The core of this hill is the oldest in Somerset and was laid down by volcanic activity 420 million years ago. Stones formed from lava (called andradite) were overlaid with fragments of explosive debris and ash (called tuff). A layer of Red Sandstone was deposited some 380 million years ago when the climate was sub-tropical desert. Rheon layers of limestone were deposited when the area was under a tropical sea. It is very unusual to see a mix of these types of stone in one small area.

The present crest of the scarp contains rounded pebbles of polished white quartz, known as conglomerates; the rust red colour results from the oxidation of iron minerals under arid conditions. Continued earth movements caused folds and faults to occur and the Mendip Hills were uplifted about 280 million years ago.

No problem parking as there is a pull in just off the old Frome road at ST 63701 46110. An alternative is over the road from this where a small section of the Fosse Way remains as a minor trackway.
Chance Posted by Chance
31st January 2014ce

Comments (3)

Top post Chance... as I recall I was impressed with the barrows, a bonus site coming from Maesbury Castle... but the standing stone did seem out of place. Then drove down Cheddar Gorge and freaked out. Think I can be forgiven for that. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
1st February 2014ce
Thanks. I had a walk round Maesbury Castle too.
The heat had dried out the bank and made the site really defined.
Chance Posted by Chance
2nd February 2014ce
Maesbury Castle looks very decent too. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
2nd February 2014ce
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