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BEACON TOWERS IN WALES.-In some notes on an oak chest from St. Sannan's Church, Bedwellty, Monmouthshire, read before the Society of Antiquaries by Mr. Edward P. Warren, F.S.A., reference was made to the use of the Tower of the Church in a system of beacon-lights. “The Church occupies a fine high-perched and conspicuous site, about 1000 ft. above the sea, on the range of hills which form the south side of the valley of the Sirhowy river in Monmouthshire. The tower is the finest feature of the church, of the fourteenth century with fifteenth or sixteenth century alterations and additions. The termination of the stair turret, which is oblong in plan and attached to the north-east angle of the tower, is interesting. It consists of a small stone-floored enclosure, roughly 4 ft. by 3 ft., walled in by the battlemented parapets on the three outer north, east, and west sides, and with an opening towards the tower roof on the south side. Its use is obvious as a beacon-turret, the opening serving for the stoking of the fire, which must have been of faggots instead of the commonly-used pitch-pot.
The position of this tower would give it prominence, and its beacon-fire-one of a chain to guard the English border-line beyond Severn-would be conspicuous for miles, and would transmit a signal to the next bill ridge northward, or even to the Brecknock Beacon, which, in clear weather, is well in view.
The immediately neighbouring Church of Mynydd Yslwyn is also high-perched and conspicuous on a hill four or five miles to the southward and nearer the Bristol Channel ; it has a beacon-turret similar to that at Bedwellty, and again attached to the north-east angle of the tower.
Gellygaer has none, and my hurried visits to the neighbourhood have, so far, not enabled me to discover others. Though I have heard of similar turret tops in Herefordshire and elsewhere, the information has not been of so definite and reliable a character as to embolden me to lay it before this Society.
It would be extremely interesting to follow up and substantiate not only the chain of beacons along the Anglo-Welsh border, of which Bedwellty and Mynydd Yslwyn form links, but to investigate the existence and relative disposition of beacons where they occur in this and other countries.
Instances of beacon-turrets are, I believe, not uncommon, but an iron cresset fixed to the tower-parapet seems to have been in more general use in the South and West of England, rings, sockets, and other marks of their attachment being not infrequent. I think the fact that the short conical terminals or spirelets of so many fourteenth-century and fifteenth-century battlemented turrets are of stone, whereas the tower roof itself is usually lead covered, is very possibly largely due to their use as positions for cressets. It is at any rate observable that even in districts where stone was not obtainable locally, and was therefore precious, it was still very generally used for turret-roofs or spirelets. An Act of Edward III ordains that beacons should be high standards with their pitchpots.
I cannot state positively that the towers of either Bedwellty or Mynydd Yslwyn are visible from the Channel, though I believe that the latter must be so, and am fairly certain that flares on either might be easily seen by night out at sea. If that is the case, these beacons may also have served on occasion as sea-lights to a rather difficult Channel. The subject of ancient sea-lights and marks is a very interesting one, and there are many old statutes and local orders and enactments concerning their erection and preservation, and the penalties for their damage or removal.”
Mr. Lawrence Weaver inquired how the wooden door from the stairway to the tower roof was protected from the flames of the beacon, which would pass through the opening above.
Dr. Martin asked if there was any authentic instance of towers being used as beacons in the manner suggested. The stone would get red-hot and be split into fragments if a shower of rain followed.
Mr. Hardy observed that all lighthouses before the eighteenth century were towers of stone.
Mr. Brewis mentioned that the stonework of the tower of Alnwick Church, in Northumberland, was red and burnt, both it and a tower one mile north of the church having been used as beacons to give warning of a border foray.
Mr. Warren replied that there were no signs of any original doorway in the church tower, and he believed that none existed so long as the tower was used as a beacon. The existing door was of modern origin, and the whole structure was formerly of stone to withstand the heat of the beacon. The use of the tower as a beacon ceased three hundred years ago, and there was no reason to light an inland beacon at that spot. The stone was very hard, and elsewhere in the church had turned black, hence the colour was not nece
cessarily due to fire.- Proceedings Soc. Ant., vol. xxiii, II.
Congress OF ARCHEOLOGICAL SOCIETIES.— The Annual Meeting of this Congress, which now includes as affiliated Members fortythree Societies, met at Burlington House on June 27th, the President of the Society of Antiquaries, Sir Hercules Read, in the Chair.
An interesting Report of the Earthworks Committee for 1912 was read by Mr. Albany F. Major. The serious attention of the Congress was called to the continued damage which was being done to earthworks throughout the country, chiefly through the use of
land as golf-links, and the delegates were asked to use their influence in their districts to appeal for the preservation of these ancient earthworks.
At Swanage barrows had been dug into for the sake of the sand. Elsewhere gravel was the object in view, and the local cement company in another district had been excavating for the
of obtaining chalk for their purposes.
In Ireland the devastation was increasing, and earthworks had been levelled in building workmen's cottages. Years ago such ancient remains would have been protected by the superstitious fears of the inhabitants.
The delegates were requested to move their Societies to draw up in the several districts a schedule of the earth works, with the view of putting them under protection. The provisions in the bills before Parliament for “The Protection of Ancient Monuments” were summarised by Major Freer and Mr. Paley Baildon, and amendments were suggested to be pressed upon the Joint Committee sitting on these bills. One of these amendments was to the effect that “the removal of ivy should not be counted as defacement.”
Mr. Philip Norman, Treasurer of the Society of Antiquaries, brought forward the subject of “Field-Names and the Ordnance Survey Maps.” These names were being rapidly lost or hopelessly altered. It was suggested that the delegates might usefully put in motion an arrangement for collecting in the counties lists of these field-names, to be compiled from the Tithe Maps of 1846 and accompanying schedules.
Some discussion took place about the Annual Index of Archæological Papers. The Council of the Congress had reluctantly come to the conclusion that unless the present issue was satisfactorily subscribed for, the Annual Index could not be continued. Copies of the Index for 1908 are offered at the reduced rate of 8d. each to the Societies within the Union which subscribe for not less than twenty-five copies.
Carnarvon CASTLE. —In a paper, recently read before the Society of Antiquaries on “The Protection of Ancient Buildings and Monuments,” Sir Schomberg McDonnell, of the Office of Works, after referring to the irretrievable damage already done to the great camp on Penmaenmawr, made a statement about Carnarvon Castle which deserves careful attention from all antiquaries :
“We had the good fortune to get possession of Carnarvon Castle about seven years ago, I think. We had a hard fight for it, but we
A great part of Carnarvon Castle has been very much spoiled in a way which would not have been possible had such powers as I am going to suggest then existed. The Constable, who was a most kindly man--Sir John Puleston—was no archæologist, but he found a perfectly estimable man, an excellent workman,
and an excellent mason, and for twenty years or thereabouts this man worked upon the Castle at his own sweet will. There was nobody to say nay or to control him, and it was a fact that at this moment every one of the new battlements which deface the structure was constructed, not out of local stone, but out of York stone especially procured for the purpose.
“There is a proposal now coming forward about Carnarvon Castle to the effect that the Castle shall be used for what are called National purposes, by restoring the banqueting hall, and making it into a National Museum and Picture Gallery for Wales. Everybody must desire to see a national museum and picture gallery for Wales, but can you conceive anything more unfortunate than that Carnarvon Castle should be used for that purpose ? If it were not for the fact that we have got hold of the Castle, I have not the least doubt that some prominent man would come forward-because Wales is a rich country—and would provide money which would enable people to build an incongruous edifice absolutely out of harmony with the remainder of the Castle."
THE MEDIÆVAL HISTORY OF THE WELSH BOROUGAS.- Attention is called in an admirable article by Mr. E. A. Lewis, D.Sc., in the most useful Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society, to the neglect of the municipal aspect, especially of the mediaval borough, in most histories of towns and castles. All treat exclusively of these places from their external and political aspect. There is an interesting disquisition on the name of the town, the connection of the place and its surroundings with the Roman civilization and the various vicissitudes experienced during the struggle between the Welsh princes and the Norman lords. The later mediæval story is woven around the petty and national revolts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and references are made to the incidents of the Civil War. But the strictly municipal history of the borough is subordinated to the story of the Castle and its Constables. Valuable materials are waiting to be dealt with. The Chamberlain Accounts, from the time of Edward I to the reign of Henry VIII, throw a flood of light on the administrative and commercial sides of the main boroughs of the Principality. The King's Remembrancer Accounts provide useful information in local shipping. The Lay Subsidies tell much of the economic status of the boroughs. Will any of our members take up the subject and send in to Arch. Camb. the result of their labours ?
CAMBRIAN ARCHÆOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION
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