Prehistoric regular field system north east of St Warna's Carn


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009283

Date first listed: 04-Oct-1994


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric regular field system north east of St Warna's Carn
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Dec-2018 at 15:32:00.


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 88060 07710


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. Regular field systems are one of several methods of field layout known to have been employed in the Isles of Scilly from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC - AD 400); closer dating within that period may be provided by the visible relationships of the field boundaries to other classes of monument with a shorter known time-span of use, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea level. They comprise a collection of field plots defined by boundaries laid out in a consistent manner, along two dominant axes at approximate right angles to each other. This results in rectilinear fields which may vary in their size and length:width ratio both within and between individual field systems. The fields are bounded by rubble walls or banks, often incorporating edge- or end- set slabs called orthostats. Within its total area, a regular field system may be subdivided into blocks differing in the orientations of their dominant axes. Regular field systems may be associated with broadly contemporary settlement sites such as stone hut circles. Some regular field systems on the Isles of Scilly contain a distinctive association, rarely encountered elsewhere, whereby certain of their field boundaries directly incorporate or link cairns, entrance graves and cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments. Although no precise figure is available, regular field systems form one of the three principal forms of prehistoric field system, along with irregular field systems and some groups of prehistoric linear boundaries, which survive in over 70 areas of the Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into the physical and social organisation of past landscapes and they provide evidence for the wider contemporary context within which other nationally important monuments were constructed.

This prehistoric regular field system near St Warna's Carn has survived reasonably well above the level truncated by the rising sea level, with only limited damage evident from modern stone-robbing and path formation. Together with the broadly contemporary field systems nearby to the ENE, this monument indicates the southerly extent of prehistoric field systems on this peninsula. The relationship between these field systems, the dispersed cairn group and the topography on St Agnes demonstrates well the nature of land use among prehistoric communities and their organisation of funerary and farming activities.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric regular field system which occupies the coastal slope adjoining the northern side of Great Porth Warna, at the north west extremity of Wingletang Down on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. The regular field system is visible over 0.42ha of the south west facing slope and is defined at both ends of its extent along the slope by steep natural scarps descending from rock outcrops. It contains three sub-rectangular plots adjoining along the slope and defined by banks of heaped rubble, up to 1.5m wide and 0.75m high, generally turf-covered but with occasional edge-set slabs protruding from the upper surface, sometimes forming a contiguous row. The banks of its northern field plot are overlain by a modern drystone wall to form the boundary of a recent but disused field detached from the rest of the modern field system to the east.

The southern two plots are defined by three banks running directly downslope, north east to south west, to the upper shore from a fourth bank extending along the crest of the coastal slope. The latter bank extends across the upper ends of these two plots for 55m north west from a large natural outcrop, then it curves NNW for a further 30m, following the change in angle of the slope, and defines the ENE side of the northern plot. Finally the bank curves west along a natural scarp to form the northern side of the northern plot. Of the resulting three field plots, the northern measures 43m wide, the central plot 22m wide, north west to south east, and the south eastern plot 32m wide. The former south west extent of the central and south eastern plots has been truncated by the rise in sea level to the present upper shore-line of Great Porth Warna, but a natural scarp linking outcrops above the shore defines the WSW side of the northern plot, now followed by the modern field wall, giving it a WSW-ENE dimension of 23m.

The bank along the crest of the slope above the central plot is disrupted over 20m by modern paths crossing it and by stone-robbing for a modern field wall running almost parallel with it and 5m to its north east.

Beyond the monument, other broadly contemporary field systems border the northern edges of Wingletang Down, 250m and 400m to the ENE, their combined southerly extent approximating to the southerly limits of modern enclosure on this broad southern peninsula of St Agnes. The main area of Wingletang Down to the south contains a large dispersed group of at least 44 prehistoric funerary cairns of various types. Some of the northern cairns in this group occur among parts of the prehistoric field systems fringing the Down.

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: 15344

Legacy System: RSM


consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107 for Cornwall SMR entry PRN 7013, (1988)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107s for Cornwall SMR entries PRN 7010, 7019, (1988)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107s for Cornwall SMR entries PRN 7011; 7015; 7016; 7018, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8807 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing