Beacons (Elizabethan)

Beacons (Elizabethan)

Yeovil's signal fires


Beacons were fires lit at well-known locations on hills or high places for signalling over land that enemy troops were approaching, in order to alert defenses. The most famous examples are the beacons used in Elizabethan England to warn of the approaching Spanish Armada. Many hills in England were named Beacon Hill after such beacons.

The spelling is also found as Bicken and Bicking and in his will dated 13 October 1694, Yeovil mercer John Cary left "... two acres of pasture ground late Jacobbs lying at a certaine place called the Bicken within the said parish of Yeovill".

The 1743 Terrier notes "Mr Forbes' Bicken, six acres." while E Watts' map of 1806 shows Milford Lane (part of today's Goldcroft) leading 'To Bicking'. The 1846 Tithe Award notes Parcel 1037 as "Bicking 2a 1r 14p".

Yeovil had two Elizabethan beacons; the first, off Mudford Road, is the highest point in Yeovil and most suitable for such a signal fire. Directly opposite the Hundred Stone, the location was recalled in the field name of the signal fire as Beacon. The 1589 Terrier noted that the beacon was in the great Middle Field of Kingston Manor. The 1846 Tithe Award listed the following fields - Lower Beacon (Parcel 1036), Higher Beacon (1037), Beacon (1038 and 1041), Beacon Ground (1087 and 1088) and Beaconfield (1092 in the Hutt Field) indicating that the actual beacon may have been sited in several different places in the immediate vicinity.

On the other side of Yeovil a further signal fire was located on another high spot off West Coker Road, commemorated with Beaconfield Road - not to be confused with Beaconsfield (with an 's' in the middle) Terrace in St Michael's Avenue which was named after Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister in 1863 and 1874-80. He was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876. 

It should be noted that in more recent times, such as Queen Victoria's various jubilees and the coronations of Edward VII and George V, the signal beacon bonfires were built on the summit of Summerhouse Hill.