Civil War battery above Porth Hellick Point, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011943

Date first listed: 09-May-1995


Ordnance survey map of Civil War battery above Porth Hellick Point, 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 92818 10548


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 islands. 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 above Porth Hellick Point has survived well and has not been excavated. Its situation and the survival of extensive historical documentation giving the context in which it was built demonstrate clearly the strategic methods employed by the Civil War military forces and the function of batteries within them. These methods are also well illustrated by the complementary relationship of this monument to the other surviving battery and lengths of breastwork along the north east side of Porth Hellick.


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 among a group of natural outcrops overlooking Porth Hellick Point at the north east entrance to Porth Hellick and the neighbouring coastal waters on the south eastern coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The battery survives with a square internal area measuring 4m across, situated amidst a group of natural granite outcrops on the crest of the coastal slope at the southern end of Porth Hellick Down. The southern sides of the battery's interior, corresponding to the field of fire across the entrance of Porth Hellick, are defined by a right-angled earth and rubble bank, up to 2.5m wide and 0.6m high, linking outcrops at each end. A second, similar, bank extends for 3.5m along the north east side of the interior, separating it from a group of outcrops to the north and north east of the battery and leaving the north west side of the battery open as an entrance. This battery forms part of an integrated system of Civil War coastal defences which survive extensively around St Mary's. In the vicinity of this monument, a defensive line at a much lower level borders the north east side of Porth Hellick, complementing this battery's wide field of fire. This defensive line survives with two lengths of defensive bank and ditch, called breastworks, running along the edge of the coastal cliff from 65m to the WSW, and a second battery at the ESE end of the breastworks, 60m to the WSW.

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: 15360

Legacy System: RSM


consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7529, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7533, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9210 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing