Heritage and Culture
People have been living and working in Devon for thousands of years, influencing both our natural heritage and how we see the landscape today.
Human activity in Devon became well established from 250,000 BC onwards, at a time when a land bridge existed with the continent and bands of hunters migrated with the seasons and the retreat and advance of glaciers. Many stone hand axes originating from dates between 250,000 and 30,000 BC were found on the Devon/Dorset border, some of which can be viewed at the Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
Around 3500 BC (the Neolithic Period) hunter gatherer lifestyles gave way to settled farming communities and permanent settlements, in addition to ceremonial monuments being built. Thereafter, human activity continued to advance with evidence of Bronze Age ‘tumuli’, Iron Age hillforts, Roman military bases, architectural features from the Saxon and Norman times through until the time at which East Devon was at war. For detailed information on the archaeology of East Devon, including places of interest, download the East Devon Time Trails or Beer Head Time Trails leaflets.
An interactive 'archaeology trail' which aims to bring you closer to the archaeology and history of the AONB landscape has been created by the HLF funded 'In the footpsteps of Peter Orlando Hutchinson' project and can be seen here. This virtual trail allows you to visit the heritage sites in the AONB through the medium of web and learn more about their history.
Places to visit include:
Farway Bronze Age Barrows
Also known as tumuli, some evidence of these ancient burial grounds remains in areas of uncultivated commons within East Devon. The barrows at Farway provide some good examples and can be viewed from surrounding footpaths.
Park at OS SY166 947 before proceeding over a stile and across land open for public access (parallel to the main road) towards Farway Castle. (Relevant OS map - Explorer 115).
Also known as Blackbury Castle, this small Iron Age hillfort has an interesting and complicated entrance with an impressive rampart built from clay and flint. Straddled on a narrow ridge running eastwards from the plateau, the fort is located in a position that would have provided good access to valley pastures and nearby streams. Click herefor more information or visit Blackbury Camp at OS SY 187 924. (Relevant OS map - Explorer 115).
Another Iron Age hillfort, Berry Camp is situated on the South West Coast Path close to Branscombe along the partially eroded cliffs (OS SY187 882). Here, evidence of burial mounds and prehistoric field system remain today. (Relevant OS map - Explorer 115)
Beer Quarry Caves
Extractions of the famous ‘Beer Stone’ first took place in Roman times and continued for centuries. The stone has been used to construct some spectacular structures, including Exeter Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and The Tower of London. For more information, including how to explore the complex underground caverns visit the Beer Quarry Caves site or contact 01297 680282.
The Taunton Stop Line
Pill boxes are situated along ‘The Taunton Stop Line’ – a World War II defensive line running from the south coast through Devon, Dorset and Somerset to the Bristol Channel. The line was built and designed to stop potential German advance, should the first line of defence fail. The Axe Valley pillbox can be found at OS SY 261926 whilst others can also be viewed from footpaths running along the Axe Valley.
There is a range of musuems within East Devon and beyond that provide an insight into the history our towns and villages, their people, traditions and trades, as well as the rich natural and archeological history within the local area.
Visit here for museums further afield. The following link also provides information about Lyme Regis Museum which has an abundance of history.
Norman Lockyer Observatory
Norman Lockyer was a Victorian scientist and keen amateur astronomer who eventually became Director of the Solar Physics Observatory in Kensington, London. He was also knighted in 1897. The observatory was built in 1912 after Lockyer's second wife inherited some land in Salcombe Regis, near Sidmouth. The observatory was built on the hill behind their home and became the The Hill Observatory Cooperation in 1916, following the donations of equpiment from fellow astonomers.
Today the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society still operate from the observatory, maintaining and developing the facilities to keep them open for the public.
For more information about the observatory, available courses and opening times, click here.
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