Medieval or later shipwreck grave 52m NNE of Crooked Rock, Wingletang Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009282

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Oct-1994


Ordnance survey map of Medieval or later shipwreck grave 52m NNE of Crooked Rock, Wingletang Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Agnes

National Grid Reference: SV 88604 07745


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

The formidable hazard which the Isles of Scilly has presented to shipping in the western approaches to the English Channel has resulted in numerous shipwrecks on its coasts and outlying rocks and ledges. Over 500 ships are recorded as having been wrecked in the immediate vicinity of the islands in the 250 years between the 1670's and the 1920's, a minimum figure which will exclude the many wrecks which went unrecorded. Until the 19th century, the general custom on Scilly and elsewhere was to bury the victims of such wrecks at or near the places where they were washed ashore. During the 19th century, burial of shipwreck victims in the consecrated ground of churchyards became the norm, later confirmed by a Churchyard Regulation, published in 1914, stating that the Chaplain of the Isles `maintains his ancient right to a fee of ten shillings on the interment of a non-parishioner, but in the event of a body being washed ashore this fee will generally be returned'. Although the numerous wrecks around the Isles of Scilly will have involved the deaths of several thousand individuals, nearly all shipwreck victims' graves beyond the churchyards have left no known visible traces. Apart from the grave of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, who was later re-interred at Westminster Abbey and whose original grave has been destroyed, the few sites on the islands which have been identified as such graves are in equivalent positions relative to the coast and include a cemetery known as `Frenchmen's Graves' on the slope above Great Bay on the northern coast of St Martin's, and an individual grave on the north western coastal slope of Wingletang Down, St Agnes. Although these cannot be precisely dated, they provide the only locatable expressions of this former burial custom. They are also important as rare direct evidence for the dangers which the Isles of Scilly held for shipping and which stimulated the development of a nationally important range of early navigational aids on the islands to minimise those dangers. This grave on Wingletang Down is a rare example of a single shipwreck grave and has survived well with no evident disturbance. The asymmetrical profile of the mound and its kerbing are unusual details for a grave mound in any context. Its location typifies that of shipwreck graves, 750m south east of one of the earliest post-medieval lighthouses in the country, highlights the relationship between the dangers of the Isles of Scilly to early shipping and their important role in the development of navigational aids.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a medieval or later grave situated near the head of a broad shallow valley on the north east edge of Wingletang Down on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. The grave survives with a sub-rectangular mound of heaped rubble measuring 2.5m north-south by 1.2m east-west, its long axis being along the contour of the hillslope. The mound has an asymmetrical east-west profile, its eastern slope gently rising to a row of small, contiguous edge-set slabs, up to 0.2m high, which form a kerb along the west side. A shorter row of similar slabs is visible along the northern edge of the mound, while the eastern edge is defined by a row of turf-fast, ground level slabs. The grave is located on a gentle slope near the high water mark at the western side of The Cove between southern St Agnes and Gugh. This coastal situation, far distant from consecrated ground, is typical of the burial of a shipwreck victim close to the site where the body was washed ashore, as was the custom until their burial in churchyards became normal practice during the 19th century.

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: 15343

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1983)
Grigson, G, The Scilly Isles, (1977)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107 for Cornwall SMR entry PRN 7014, (1988)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107s for Cornwall SMR entries PRN 7011; 7015; 7016; 7018, (1988)
Morley, B. & Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation and maplet for CO 1014, 1975, consulted 1993
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8807 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing