Civil War battery at Tolman Carns, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010150

Date first listed: 14-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Civil War battery at Tolman Carns, St Mary's
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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. Mary's

National Grid Reference: SV 91517 10043


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. 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 near Tolman Point has survived well, showing an unusual range of constructional features to establish it on this site, including quarrying away the rock face, revetting the neighbouring deposits and completing the defensive circuit with an earthen bank. Its situation and the survival of extensive documentation giving the historical context in which this battery was built demonstrate clearly the strategic methods employed by the Civil War military forces and the function of batteries within them, applied in this case to the defence of an important settlement and harbour. These defensive methods are also well illustrated by the surviving series of complementary batteries around this important bay, of which this monument formed an integral part.


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


The monument includes a gun battery dating to the English Civil War situated on the southern side of a natural outcrop, one of the Tolman Carns, near Tolman Point between Old Town Bay and Porth Minick on the southern coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The battery survives with a sub-triangular levelled interior measuring 8m ENE-WSW by 7m NNW-SSE, tapering to a 2.5m wide entrance way at the WSW end. The interior is defined to the north west by the near-vertical curving rock face of the south eastern of the Tolman Carns, rising up to 2m above the battery interior and showing evidence for some deliberate quarrying of the north west face to accommodate the battery. At its northern corner and north east sides, the battery interior is levelled into the natural rubble and earth deposits surrounding the outcrop. The almost vertical face of the backscarp cut into these deposits shows traces of a revetment wall of roughly squared blocks visible in the turf at its base. This backscarp drops in height from 2.5m at the north to 0.5m at the east above the battery's interior level. From its eastern corner, the southern side of the battery's interior is defined by a slightly curving earth and rubble bank, 1.5m-2m wide and 0.15m-0.5m high. The bank extends west to 2.5m before reaching the face of the Carn, then it curves south west as a slight bank parallel with the outcrop face and forming the entrance way, 4m long and 2.5m wide, at the WSW end of the battery interior. This battery near Tolman Point commanded a field of fire across the entrance to Old Town Bay from the north east, and complements another contemporary battery at Carn Leh on the opposite entrance to the bay. This bay was of great importance on Scilly during the Civil War because Old Town, at the centre of its shoreline, was one of the principal settlements and harbours on the main populated island of St Mary's, the military and administrative focus of the Isles of Scilly during the Civil War. This importance is reflected in the bay's wider defence, beyond these batteries at its entrance, by other surviving batteries with complementary fields of fire over the bay's approach waters, located on Penninis Head to the south west and near Church Point to the east. This defence was supplemented by lengths of bank, called breastwork, along those parts of neighbouring Porth Minick felt to be at risk from a landing party. This battery is depicted as an `old fort' on a map of 1792; a reference to it in 1796 refers to three guns being sited on this battery in the 1740's, but only a single dismounted gun there in 1796. The modern wooden seat and its supporting blocks are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

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: 15385

Legacy System: RSM


consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7415, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7555, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7556, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7421 & 7657, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9110 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing