Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Beacon. The derivation of this word is from the Anglo-Saxon beacnian, to beckon or call together. In the ancient times beacons were set up on hills and towers, and pitch, hemp, and other materials were burnt in an iron pot (which formed part of the beacon) whenever it was necessary to alarm the country or call the inhabitants together upon the invasion of an enemy. The practice is of great antiquity, being referred to by the prophet Jeremiah (vi. 1), and in the Agamemnon of AEschylus the news of the fall of Troy is supposed to be transmitted by beacon-fires to Argos in one night. In mediaeval England and Scotland a system of beacon-signalling was carefully kept up, especially on the approach of the Spanish Armada and during the long war with Napoleon. Superseded for warlike purposes by the electric telegraph and the heliograph, the chief recent instance of their use was at the Queen's Jubilee in 1887, when the flames of a beacon on Malvern Hill gave the signal for the lighting of a multitude of others throughout the kingdom. Beacons are frequently to be met with in heraldry, though always in one regular conventionalised form. For the use of the word in nautical language, see Light-house.