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The village of Beer is in south-east Devon, England, on Lyme Bay. It is situated on the 95-mile long Jurassic Coast, England's first natural World Heritage Site and its picturesque cliffs, including Beer Head, form part of the South West Coast Path. The name is not derived from the drink but from the old Anglo-Saxon word "bearu" ("grove"), referring to the original forestation that surrounded the town. It is a pretty coastal village, 25 miles from Exeter, that grew up around a smugglers' cove and caves which were once used to store contraband goods. These are now part of the attraction of the village. Many of the buildings are faced with flint, a hard glassy stone found in the local chalk rock.
Historically, the main sources of income for the village include fishing and lace production. Boats are winched up the beach as there is no harbour, and fresh fish is sold nearby. Nowadays small electrically driven winches using steel cables or tractors are located on the beach to haul boats in. Higher up is an old manual capstan operated by up to 20 men, now disused.
A brook winds its way in an open conduit alongside the main road down to the sea. A WW2 pill box is located close to the Western side of the beach exit, somewhat disguised by the stonework.
The shape of the coastline allowed local seafarers to operate in weather conditions when other towns could not, as it is protected from the prevailing westerly winds by Beer Head and the chalk cliffs which are the furthest outcrop of limestone on the SW coast.
Today, the sources of income are mainly tourism and fishing. Beer is also the home of the Pecorama model railway exhibition centre. Beer has a steep pebble beach. This makes walking on the beach difficult. Long rubber mats actually recycled conveyor belts are laid down to assist walkers.
Beer is home to an enormous man-made cave complex, the Beer Quarry Caves, resulting from the quarrying of Beer stone. This stone has been prized since Roman times, because of its workability for carving and for its gentle yellow colour on exposure to air. Beer stone was used in the construction of 24 cathedrals around the UK, including Exeter Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral, and was also used in the building of Christchurch Cathedral, St.Louis. Missourri. USA Bovey House, an Elizabethan manor house, is a mile inland. Starre House, the oldest house in Beer is built using the local Beer stone that has been quarried since Roman times
Beer's geology has determined much of its history and contributed to its early success. The white cliffs, that so dominate Beer's geography, show lines of dark flint that early man was after. These white cliffs are part of the formation that starts at Flamborough Head and includes the famous white cliffs of Dover. Beer is the only outcrop on the South Coast of Devon where this chalk formation is exposed, and apart from beach flints, which are little good for tool making, Beer is the last point going west where Stone Age man could mine good quality black unpatinated flint. There is tentative evidence to suggest man was here in Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) times, but it is in the Neolithic that Beer really makes its mark. There is an abundance of evidence in the form of tools, flakes and cores within the Parish boundary to confirm this presence. By 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. The exact method used to mine flint in Beer is not known. There are places where t he surface is pock marked similar to the mines at Grimes Graves, Norfolk. There are many cliff faces in Beer, besides the sea cliffs, where it would have been possible to obtain flint without the need for subterranean workings. Small caves do occur, but are probably natural and not man made. Underground workings would have been restricted by the need to support the roofs and light the tunnels. However, the Roman mines mentioned below are man made, extend over seventy acres below ground and were worked right up until this century by candle-light.
With the coming of the Bronze Age (a barb and tanged flint arrow head has been found) and later the Iron Age, the importance of flint declined, but the earth had more to offer.