|MINING IN BEER
Beer's economy has for thousands of years centred around the four main primary industries, forestry, farming, fishing and mining, all of which still play a part, though these are now supplemented by light industry and tourism.
It is Beer's geology that has determined much of its history and contributed to its early success. If you look at the white cliffs, that so dominate Beer's geography, you will see lines of dark flint that early man was after. Beer is the only outcrop on the South Coast of Devon where this chalk formation is exposed, and apart from beach flints which are inferior for tool making, Beer is the last point going west where stone-age man could mine good quality black unpatinated flint.
By Neolithic (new stone-age) times, 4,000 - 2,000 BC, Beer was trading this vital raw material all over the West Country. Beer flint has been found at many sites including Hembury, Haldon and as far west as Carn Brea in Cornwall. There is an abundance of evidence in the Parish of Beer to confirm this Neolithic presence. There is some tentative evidence to suggest that Man had also been here in Mesolithic (middle stone-age) times. The author has found one flint which is probably Mesolithic.
Later, with the coming of the Bronze and Iron Ages, the importance of flint declined, but the earth had more to offer. It was the Romans this time that exploited the next product to be mined here, Beer Free Stone. Known for its quality and ease of carving, it has been used not only in local buildings, but in many famous ones further afield, such as Exeter and Winchester Cathedrals. With only a few interruptions Beer Stone has been mined right up to the present day, the mine was reopened March 1992. Exeter Cathedral has records of cave workings that are continuous since the 14th century.
After flint and stone came sand and lime for building, lime was also produced for spreading on arable farm land, a cheaper and, in many cases, a more environmentally friendly product than modern fertilisers. However, flint was not totally forgotten, it made its re-emergence with the advent of fire arms and it is said that Beer supplied over half of the army's needs for their flintlocks during the English civil war. Flint has also been used, over the past several hundred years, as a building material, of which there are many fine examples in Beer. One of the most notable being the Dolphin Hotel, where all the flint was hand picked, not only for its shape and face, but its prominent black colour. In recent times it was also collected from local beaches (pebble picking) for use in the abrasives and cosmetic industry. This is now not allowed.
For those of you who wish to know more about the history of mining and Beer, I suggest a visit to the Roman Mines in Quarry lane and books by authors John Scott and Arthur Chapple, both natives of this village.
Beer Quarry - Where they quarry Beer Free Stone and excavate Lime for Agriculture
Notice the brown stains down the white cliffs - this is clay
|Neolithic scraper found in Beer.|