Beer is a small fishing village with a population of about 1,500 persons. The population has remain fairly static for several decades now, despite much building in resent years, because there are now less people per household than there would have been some years ago. Beer's
population was about the same even in Norman times, according to the
Beer is situated on the South Coast of Devon in the West Country of England. It is about two miles off the A3052 and lies between Seaton and
Branscombe at the head of Lyme Bay. It is
situated in a valley with a small brook that runs down to the sea between
prominent white cliffs. There is a fault line between Beer and Seaton that
stretches inland to Ottery St. Mary. On the Seaton side there are Mercia
Mudstones from the Triassic period whilst on the Beer side belong to
Cretaceous period. It is the only outcrop of chalk on the south coast of
Devon. . Further along toward Lyme Regis there are Jurassic
The chalk has an effect on the architecture as
well as the flora and fauna.
Beer has been inhabited since Mesolithic times, down through the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman times though to Norman times and the present.
Beer was important in Neolithic times because of the flint, but the sheltered cove with its headland (Beer Head) pushing approximately three quarters of a mile out to sea on the western side, protecting it from the prevailing westerly winds, is probably the reason for its centuries of habitation following that.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME BEER
According to "A dictionary of English place names" by A.D.Mills, Beer in Devon, was called Bera in 1086 (Doomsday Book) meaning place by the grove. From the Old English Bearu. There
is also a theory that it means Barley.
SHORT PREHISTORY OF BEER
Mesolithic 10,000 - 4,000 BC. Only one flint has been found, to my knowledge, in Beer that dates from the Mesolithic and it could be said that one swallow does not make a summer, but as Mesolithic people were nomadic Beer would not have been a permanent settlement, but a place to visit, perhaps for shellfish along the foreshore. The Mesolithic flint (if that is what it is) is of chert, probably from the Blackdown Hills.
Neolithic 4,000 - 2,000 BC. There are flints galore. Nearly everybody could find one in their garden in Beer.
Bronze Age 2,000 - 600 BC. There have been Bronze Age artefacts found (some of which are in Seaton Museum) and there is a Bronze Age burial mound at Bovey Fir Cross.
Iron Age 600 BC - Roman times. No direct evidence yet, but around this area are numerous Iron Age Hill Forts, showing that Iron Age Man was well established. Hill forts near Beer include; Blackbury Castle near Southleigh, Hawkesdown Camp at Axmouth, Musbury Castle, at Musbury and Hembury Fort near Honiton. There are many others at Dumpton, Stockland, Membury and over the border into Dorset.
SHORT HISTORY OF BEER
There was a strong Roman presence at Seaton (Moridunum) so I am sure some of them made it over to Beer. There is folk lore to say there used to be a Roman temple up at the top end of Beer. The Fosse Way or at least a branch of it came down to Axmouth, part of it was recently unearthed while they were digging the Axminster by-pass.
Beer is mentioned in the Doomsday book 1086. There are Norman workings at the cave and a Norman tower on St. Winifred's Church at
THE SPANISH CONNECTION
Soon after the plague of 1647 that killed John Starre, the owner of Beer at the time, there was a shipwreck in Beer Roads. The survivors, Spanish sailors, were welcomed as much needed labour to bolster a very depleted male population. It is reputed that between a half and two thirds of the male population of the village was struck down by the epidemic. There was a row of houses which swept from the entrance of Cadiz Court in New Cut, behind and roughly parallel to Fore Street in a crescent shape, down to where Creole Cottage opposite the Dolphin Hotel now stands. This was called Cadiz Row, pronounced Caddies Row and was the Spanish Quarter of Beer.
There were a few Spanish names that survived into this century, but there are no obvious ones left now to back up the story, just a few swarthy skins, an intriguing story about sheaving in Beer, the fact that the people of Beer still carry the nickname Spaniards, and of course the name Cadiz Court.