Fire Beacons were an ancient form of early warning signalsl. They were set up on hill tops so that they connected to form a continuous link across the countryside - the lighting of one was the signal to light the next and so on and this proved to be a very rapid means of passing on news about the approach of enemy invaders - in times of national danger, look-outs were posted to watch for adjacent fires and it is said that news of the arrival of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel in 1588 was signalled from Plymouth to York within 12 hours. By this means, the entire County of Devon could be alerted in less than an hour.
The system required that every beacon should be constantly attended. Sometimes the beacons consisted of iron baskets on timber supports - others were lower stone hearths with a platform below to create a draught. In either case, dry kindling had to be provided by the parish together with a plentiful supply of dry fuel plus the manpower to keep the fire alight for a prolonged period. The system had its drawbacks but proved how effective it could be in 2002 when a chain of beacons were lit to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
Chawleigh Fire Beacon connected
To the east with Stretch Down and Stoodleigh
To the south with Beacon Cross and Crediton
To the south west with Cawsand Beacon
To the north west with Beaford Moor
To the north to Beacon Moor, Chulmleigh, to Codden and Barrow Hill.
Chawleigh Beacon is 593 feet above sea level and the OS map reference for finding it is
Various sources suggest that a look-out clearing was made at Tottley/Toteleigh/Toatley approximately a mile away.