Civil War battery at Tolman Carns, St Mary's
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010150
Date first listed: 14-Feb-1995
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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'
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
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
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:
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