Civil War battery 80m SSE of Dutchman's Carn, Peninnis Head, St Mary's


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
St. Mary's
National Grid Reference:
SV 90960 09405

Reasons for Designation

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social development of early communities. Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands' settlement. The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post- medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post- medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard for the nation's shipping in the western approaches. The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of documentation, including several recent surveys. Civil War fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during military operations between 1642 and 1651 to provide temporary protection for infantry or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which may have been reinforced with revetting or palisades, consist of earth and rubble platforms or banks and ditches. The Civil War fieldworks of the Isles of Scilly form a major part of the 150 surviving examples of fieldworks recorded nationally. They present an unusually complete system of fortifications from this period, both in the surviving range of fieldwork types represented and in the surviving pattern of their strategic disposition. Three main types of Civil War fieldwork have been recognised on the Isles of Scilly: breastworks, batteries and platforms; these could be deployed separately or in combination to form a defensive complex. Breastworks, which on the Isles of Scilly run beside the coastal cliff edge, consist of an earth and rubble bank, up to 4m wide and nearly 2m high but generally much smaller, usually accompanied by a ditch on the landward side. Sixteen surviving examples are recorded on the island. Batteries are levelled areas or platforms, generally up to 20m across, situated on a hilltop or terraced into a slope to serve as gun emplacements. They vary considerably in size and shape and are usually partially or wholly enclosed by a bank, occasionally incorporating one or two outer ditches. Twenty batteries survive on the Isles of Scilly, several connected by breastworks. Adjacent to some batteries are examples of the third fieldwork type, platforms. These are partly terraced into, and partly out from, sloping ground and represent sites of lookouts and temporary buildings. Eight such platforms, measuring up to 12m by 8m in size, are known to survive on the islands. These fieldworks and fieldwork complexes were occasionally associated with other classes of defensive monument on the islands, including earthen artillery forts and blockhouses. The fieldworks were designed to defend the deep water approaches to the islands, especially St Mary's where most examples are found. Fieldworks are also known from Tresco, Bryher, Samson, St Agnes and Gugh. The circumstances of their construction are recorded in contemporary historical documents which indicate most were built by the Royalist forces which controlled the islands for the entire Civil War period except during 1646-8.

This Civil War battery on Peninnis Head has survived well. Its situation and the survival of documentation giving the historical context in which this battery was built demonstrates clearly the strategic methods employed by the Civil War military forces and the function of batteries within them. This is also illustrated by the survival of the two complementary Civil War batteries, one on the opposite side of St Mary's Sound on Gugh and the other on the southern end of Peninnis Head which extended the field of fire from this monument.


The monument includes a gun battery dating to the English Civil War situated beside the south west cliff of Peninnis Head, the southern extremity of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly.

The battery is located on a natural hollow among the cliff-edge granite outcrops and is dominated to its east, the landward side, by a large upstanding outcrop. It is visible as a sub-rectangular platform of earth and rubble heaped into the hollow, filling the gaps and irregularities between the outcrops to produce the levelled upper surface for the battery. The platform surface measures 15m north-south by 14m east-west; along its NNW and SSE margins is a slight flat-topped rubble bank, up to 2m wide and 0.3m high, defining a shallow central hollow that formed the gun pit. To the west and north west, between the hollow's peripheral outcrops, the platform's rubble slopes steeply down, up to 1.4m, over a width of 2m. To the north east the platform level merges with a large, near-level, surface exposure of bedrock marking the original entrance for artillery to the battery. The southern edge of the platform fronts directly onto the sea cliff.

This battery commanded the north east flank of St Mary's Sound between the islands of St Mary's and Gugh, together with the strategically important garrison at the south western tip of St Mary's. The sound forms the approach from the south to the principal populated island of St Mary's, the military and administrative focus of the Isles of Scilly during the Civil War. The south west flank of the sound was covered by a complementary battery on the Carn of Works, Gugh. The outcrops near this battery on Peninnis Head prevent it from covering far into the southern approaches to St Mary's Sound. That field of fire was served by a second Civil War battery located 110m to the east of this monument, at the Kettle and Pans rocks near the southern end of Peninnis Head.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Ratcliffe, J./CAU, The Archaeology of the Isles of Scilly, (1989)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 90 NW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 90 NW Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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