What is so Royal about the Beacon?
The hotel is situated on the highest point of Exmouth, at the site of the original Elizabeth Beacon. Due to the fear of a Spanish invasion, the whole South coast was connected by a series of beacons on prominent outcrops and cliff tops. They could be lit on sight of an invading force, with news travelling from Lands’ end to London in just a few hours. The beacon keepers in Exmouth were visible to the Beacon Keepers at Berry head in Brixham, as soon as that was lit, Exmouth would spring into action and relay the message eastwards.
19th century Germany consisted of a patchwork of small kingdoms, dukedoms, electorates and states. The Kingdom of Saxony (1806 – 1918), emerged from the post-Napoleonic wars. In June 1836 Frederick Augustus II became King of Saxony. To this end, in 1844 he organised an informal tour of the UK accompanied only by his personal physician, Carl Gustav Carus. After paying his respects to Victoria and Albert at Windsor he set off with Carus along the south coast.
En route, he made regular notes about anything that interested either man, which were later written up into a book entitled The King of Saxony’s Journey Through England and Scotland. After purchasing a large ichthyosaur skeleton from Mary Anning herself in Lyme Regis, the pair proceeded westward. This is the relevant extract from pp 200 & 202 of the journal.
Exmouth: July 1st Evening.
At the top, the road passes through a deep cutting, and, after a short drive, we arrived at this place, which takes its name from its situation at the place where the river Ex empties itself into the channel. Exmouth is also very much visited by those who wish to enjoy the benefits of sea air and bathing. In my “Road Book of England”, Exmouth is said to be “the oldest and best frequented watering place in Devon;” and the height on which our small hotel (The Marine Hotel) is situated, it can clearly be perceived that the wide bay, with its numerous and boldly projecting promontories, must be a place in which ships can lie in perfect safety, sheltered from every storm. We went down to the shore and found it covered with the finest sand, in which here and there were specimens of the violet convolvulus (Convolvulus Soldanella), and the blue flowering Eryngium maritimum, and multitudes of shells of various colours. The evening had become gloomy, but calm and warm; merchant vessels at anchor were scattered about in the bay; small fishing-boats were cleaving the glassy waters, enclosed by the beautiful projecting headlands; whilst two ships, with their full-set sails flapping loose and scarcely able to catch a breath of wind, were being towed out to sea by a fishing-boat. The whole scene was charming; and when we remembered the noon-tide heat, the cool air proved doubly delightful and refreshing.
Exmouth bay penetrates deeply into the land, so that it would have added greatly to the distance to have travelled round; the carriages were, therefore, early in the morning put on board boats and thus conveyed across the water to a sandy promontory on the opposite side (Dawlish Warren) from which they were drawn by horses, sent for the purpose, to the high road on the further side. We, ourselves, passed the bay in a small row-boat, enjoying the delightful morning air and glorious sunlight reflected in all directions from the clear waves”
When news got to the Proprietor that the King of Saxony had been his guest he changed the name from the Marine to the Royal Beacon Hotel.
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