Beacon Hill is located to the North of Sedgley Town Centre, 230 metres above sea-level, and within the Sedgley Ward of Dudley Borough. At the top of Beacon Hill, lies Beacon Hill Tower, a Grade II listed building. However, due to the internal steps being in poor condition, the tower is currently inaccessible.
Formerly a site of intensive quarrying from 17th century to around the time of the First World War, Beacon Hill has an industrial legacy which has created a series of parallel steep-sided ridges and gullies that have now become colonised by a rich and somewhat unusual wildlife. The site is popular with local residents on account of the panoramic views it offers from the summit, with the industrial Black Country on one side contrasting with Staffordshire on the other.
The site has several public rights of way and forms part of the Limestone Way which runs throughout Sedgley, Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve, Dudley Priory through to Dudley Zoo and Castle. The limestone here is a different formation to that of the other three hills, being some 10 million years younger, although still from the Silurian period. The rock is a different colour to the pale grey limestone of Wren’s Nest and Castle Hill, and the impurities that it contains made it less valuable. There are still fossil brachiopod shells to be found in the rocks and scree.
Beacon Hill Quarry is now a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation because of rare plants like greater knapweed, carline thistle and bristly ox-tongue found growing there, and also because the sheltered and sunny aspect of the quarry attracts some of the more unusual butterflies like wall brown and green hairstreak.
The hill has been the site of a beacon for over 400 years and a tower in place before 1700. The present tower was erected in 1846 and is 50 feet high and seven feet in diameter. Constructed from Gornal sandstone it stands on the crest of Beacon Hill, arguably the best view point in the borough at 777 feet or 237 metres above sea-level.
The tower was probably built to mark the highest cultivated ground in England. A local claim made well into the 20th century. The Beacon Tower is also regularly reported as a Victorian site for astronomical observations. The story may have been taken from an 1898 book written by Black Country historian Frederick Hackwood. He said it was built in 1846 and used by Lord Wrottesley for that purpose.
A more credible story, backed by Sedgley Local History Society research, asserts the building was undertaken by Mr Petit, a Beacon Hill quarry owner, on behalf of Lord John and rates as one of England’s least known follies.
Beacon Hill has been the site for warning and celebration fires from before the Armada up to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. In 1887, for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, a fire was lit in a brazier fixed to the top of the tower.
The Grade II listed round tower has become an icon in the area and featured on the badges of both Sedgley and Coseley Urban District Councils. Today it tops the arms of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. At various times it has been called the 'Monument' and the 'Big Whistle'.
Thanks to George Blackham, Sedgley Local History Society.
Beacon Hill Tenants and Residents Group, supported by Sedgley Local History Society have worked to promote and celebrate the open space for several years, supported by Dudley Area Committee. Following several public meetings, a ‘Friends of Sedgley Beacon’ was formed in 2010. The organisation has become a constituted group, working to develop and promote the site, and have formed partnerships with local organisations such as Queen Victoria Children’s Centre and Living Landscapes (Wildlife Trust), with whom activities have taken place on Beacon Hill.
Friends of Sedgley Beacon Group, Councillor David Stanley, Chair