- HER Number: 2661
- Site Name: Barr Beacon
Grade Ref No. Title Type DBL936 Great Barr Conservation Area
- Associated Periods:
- Summary: Barr Beacon is an isolated north-south ridge of Bunter Pebble beds rising to a height of 227m AOD and commanding fine views in all directions. The name Barr is a British one, denoting a top or summit, while a beacon here is recorded in a 10th century Anglo-Saxon charter.
- Format: Monument
- Description: Barr Beacon is an isolated north-south ridge of Bunter Pebble beds rising to a height of 227m AOD and commanding fine views in all directions. (1) The name Barr is a British one, denoting a top or summit, while a beacon here is recorded in a 10th century Anglo-Saxon charter. (2)
The northern and southern portions of the hill are public open space with a covering of grass and gorse, the central portion is occupied by a reservoirs. The southern reservoir is shown on the OS 2nd edn mapping but not the 1st edn, which would suggest a date around the 1890s.(3) (4) Cockin says that the reservoir was built in 1897. (5) The southern reservoir was replaced by one immediately to the north sometime after the 4th edn survey of the 1930s.
The hill would have acted as a landmark for the surrounding area and is likely to have attracted prehistoric activity. There are reports of the discovery of a macehead (SMR6260), stone hammers (SMR2214) and a Romano-British coin (SMR2231) in the area, although none is well located.
There are a number of reports of earthworks on the top of the hill. Willmore quotes Salmon as saying that 'there are lines drawn round the hill on one side, enclosing a large camp in the form of a half moon.' (6) (7)
Stebbing Shaw also quotes Salmon and speaks of 'Barr Beacon..where are lines drawn round the hill on one side, enclosing a large camp, up to the military way in the form of a half moon, and several sub-divisions have been made.. Claims that the Beacon shows signs of ancient fortification. (8)
No obvious earthworks survive and reports need to be treated with caution until more positive evidence is forthcoming as these early writers were anxious to prove an early importance for the hill as a Roman, Saxon or Danish camp (Salmon considered Barr Beacon to be the site of the Roman camp of Letocetum - now known to be Wall). (9)
W side of hill cut away steeply down to road (with part of it additionally quarried) need to check date of road & possibility of this removing earthworks, but seems unlikely. On E side of hill rough grass area. Sparse hedge between this & fields to E where land drops away, again not distinct enough to indicate defences, Where tracks beconing worn can see poor pebbly soil (v sandy). Recommend fieldwalking in fields to E to check for soil change/finds. (10)
Watching brief ahead of heathland restoration in small areas on slopes of Barr Beacon failed to reveal any archaeological features. (11)
General survey. (12)
Barr Beacon has attracted a great deal of foklore. Particularly prevalent are claims of a connection with the Druids, either as the site of the seat of the archdruids or as a site where the Druids made sacrifices. (5)
Desk-Based Assessment. (13) Geophysical Survey. (14) Evaluation. (15)
SUMMARY OF (13) (14) (15) IN WMA: Barr Beacon has been a focal point of human activity from the prehistoric period onwards, and there are a number of prehistoric and Roman spot finds that have been found in the area as well as several undated cropmarks identified from aerial photography. The summit lies at 277m AOD, on a ridge of high ground that forms a crescent running northwest to southwest. Settlement in the medieval period is well represented mostly to the west of the ridge, including a moated site, roads, and ridge and furrow. Ridge and furrow, and ditch and bank field boundaries were also identified during the walkover survey on the top of the Beacon. (16)
The landscape during the post-medieval period was predominantly agrarian. The small, irregular, shape of the fields on the western side of the ridge suggests that they were enclosed much earlier than the large, regular fields to the east, although it is likely that earlier field boundaries in this area were reused in places. (16)
Evidence of activity during WWII, probably associated with ammunition storage, was also identified during the walkover survey in the form of structures, which can be identified on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey plan being altered using cheap economy concrete. (16)
An archaeological evaluation was undertaken in November 2007 to investigate anomalies highlighted by the results of a geophysical survey. The evaluation found no evidence of prehistoric or Roman activity on the site. Evidence, however, of medieval agricultural activity, in the form of ridge and furrow ploughing was identified. A ditch and bank forming a land division and a narrow gully were also identified. It is likely that many of the anomalies highlighted in the geophysical survey results were created by natural underlying geology. It is clear however, that the potential for locating evidence of early archaeological activity remains high. (16)
Ref. Details 1 Bibliographic reference: 1958. OS Card. RCHM. 2 Bibliographic reference: Hooke Della. 2006. England's Landscape: The West Midlands. 41, 56. 3 Map: 1902. Ordnance Survey 2nd edition 63.12. 1:2500. 4 Map: 1903. Ordnance Survey 2nd edition 64.9. 1:2500. 5 Bibliographic reference: Cockin, Tim. 2000. The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia. 6 Bibliographic reference: Willmore FW. 1887. Hist of Walsall. 13. 7 Bibliographic reference: Salmon N. 1726. A Survey of Roman Antiquities in some of the Midland Counties of England. 2; 136. 8 Bibliographic reference: Shaw Stebbing. 1798. The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire. Vol 1. 18. 9 Comment: Mike Shaw. 2006. Comment 2006. 10 Comment: Hilary White. Comment. 11 Bibliographic reference: Roper-Presdee, Simon. 2000. Barr Beacon, Walsall: Archaeological Watching Brief. 12 Bibliographic reference: Hodder M. 1979. Arch Survey of Great Barr. 5; 2.12. 13 Bibliographic reference: Ramsey Eleanor. 2007. Barr Beacon, Walsall: An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment 2007. 14 Bibliographic reference: Paul Breeze. 2007. Barr Beacon, Walsall: Geophysical Survey June 2007. 15 Bibliographic reference: Charles, Mark. 2007. Barr Beacon, Walsall: An Archaeological Evaluation 2007. 16 Bibliographic reference: CBA West Midlands. 2007. West Midlands Archaeology. 50.
- For more information contact: Black Country, Walsall HER ([email protected])
- Grid Reference: 406120 297250