The Village of Beer: East Devon

The Village of Beer

The picture-postcard village of Beer nestles in Lyme Bay, on the 95-mile long Jurassic Coast, England’s first natural World Heritage Site and forms part of the South West Coastal Path. The shingle beach still boasts a small fleet of working fishing boats and the surrounding picturesque white chalk cliffs provide a natural suntrap sheltering the cove from prevailing westerly winds.

The name is not derived from the drink, although there is a plentiful supply in the village, but from the old Anglo Saxon word “bearu” meaning grove which referred to the forest that surrounded the settlement. The brook that winds its way in an open conduit alongside the main road down to the sea adds to the charm of the village and you are not a true Beer person until you have fallen in it at least once!

Historically, the village’s main industry has always been fishing, but today the major source of income is from tourism. In fact Beer has been a favourite spot for tourists for centuries – first the Romans, who planted vines here and quarried the limestone and later, according to legend, a Spanish ship was wrecked off shore in the late 17th century. The population of the village had been decimated by plague and the survivors were warmly welcomed! After that, neighbouring villages often referred to the residents of Beer as ‘Spaniards’ because of their dark hair and eyes and Mediterranean complexions. Flemish refugees escaping persecution settled here between 1568-77 and brought with them the craft of lace making. The women, and even fishermen who could not go to sea in bad weather, made the delicate pillow lace which was taken to Honiton to be put on the stage coach to London. The reputation of Beer-made lace became so great that some was specially commissioned for the trimming to Queen Victoria’s wedding dress.

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