Beacon Ring hillfort
Beacon Ring hillfort
The circular shape of this prehistoric hillfort is still clearly visible on Long Mountain. The fort was built and first occupied between the later Bronze Age and the early Iron Age – after 1000BC and before the arrival of the Romans c.50AD
In Welsh the fort is called Caer Digoll (Caer = fort), which came from the Welsh name for this ridge, Cefn Digoll (digoll = complete, unbroken).
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The fort’s English name refers to a beacon which was last lit at the site in June 1887, celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (50 years as monarch). A 1663 map of the Leighton Estate shows a pole with a fire-basket and ladder at what is called “The Beacon place”. Tarred rope was usually burnt in iron fire baskets of this kind as a signal at times of emergency. The plan of the Beacon Ring hillfort shown on this map is possibly the earliest depiction of a hillfort in Wales.
The hillfort, close to the ancient Wales-England border, appears in legends. One of the earliest references is in Canu Llywarch Hen saga (“The song of Llywarch the Old”), dating from the 9th or 10th century. In a passage about hostilities in the 7th century between the British prince Cadwallon and Edwin, Anglo-Saxon king of Northumbria, Beacon Ring is described as the "lluest" or camp of Cadwallon where he stayed for seven months, carrying out seven skirmishes daily.
In August 1485 Cefn Digoll was a key rendezvous point in Henry Tudor’s quest to overthrow King Richard III. Henry and his embryonic army of about 2,000 mercenaries had marched here from Pembrokeshire via Cardigan and Machynlleth. Another group, led by Rhys ap Thomas, followed a more southerly route from Pembrokeshire via Brecon to Cefn Digoll. Here soldiers from across North Wales joined the assembly, taking Henry’s army to almost 4,000 men.
Having received such strong support from Wales, Henry continued from Cefn Digoll with confidence across the border to Shrewsbury. He commanded c.5,000 men by the time the battle began in Bosworth, Leicestershire. Richard III was killed, despite commanding at least twice as many soldiers as his rival. Henry was crowned King Henry VII, ending 30 years of war between the houses of Lancaster and York and beginning the Tudor dynasty which profoundly influenced British history.
In 1953 the hillfort was planted with a mixture of pine and beech trees to pick out the letters E II R (for Elizabeth II Regina). This was to celebrate the Queen’s coronation but the effect is invisible, except to the few who fly over.
In 2008 the hillfort was acquired by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. One of its priorities for the site is to remove the trees and to recreate the upland meadow which existed at the site until the early 1950s.