Prehistoric regular field system and hut circle on Great Ganilly
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014787
Date first listed: 16-Nov-1998
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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. Martin's
National Grid Reference: SV 94711 14424
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.
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
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 regular field system and the incorporated hut circle on Great Ganilly have survived well, clearly displaying the character of the prehistoric settlement layout and the influence of the topography upon it despite some truncation by rising sea levels. The relationship of the monument's settlement features with the broadly contemporary funerary cairns on the summit of the north west hill demonstrates the wider organisation of prehistoric land use.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a prehistoric regular field system extending across the
central part of Great Ganilly, the largest of the uninhabited Eastern Isles,
south east of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The field system
incorporates a small hut circle near the centre of its surviving extent.
The prehistoric field system is visible up to about the 25m contour level on
the SSW-facing flanks of the island's north west hill, east of Holmbush Carn,
and extends across the island's low central saddle to the base of an
interglacial wave-cut bench along the foot of the northern flank of the
island's south east hill.
The field system is defined by turf-covered rubble banks, generally 2m-3m wide
and 0.3m high and frequently supporting a line of spaced blocks and edge-set
slabs averaging 0.5m high but up to 0.8m high. Where they follow the contour
the banks are substantially enlarged, often over 4m wide and 1.5m high, by a
process called lynchetting, the accumulation of soil which has been disturbed
and brought down the slope by prehistoric cultivation.
The area of the field system is divided by near-parallel rubble banks running
north east-south west, almost directly downslope and 15m-50m apart on the
island's north west hill but with larger intervals, up to 90m wide, evident
among the banks across the saddle and on the south east hill where recent
wind-blown sand deposits may also mask some finer detail. Most of these walls
run directly to the coastal cliff or beach shingle at their seaward ends,
denoting their truncation by the rising sea level since they were built.
Between these parallel walls, the field plots are defined by further banks
along the contour, c.40-50m apart, mostly lynchetted and joining the downslope
walls at or near right angles.
The field system contains at least one small hut circle, near the south east
tip of the north west hill. It is in a sheltered location, protected both by a
natural hollow in the hillside north of West Porth and by its position on an
artificial terrace in the slope, defined by the field system's lynchetted
upper bank 2m north of the hut circle and by a parallel scarp immediately to
its south. The hut circle is ovoid, its levelled interior measuring 3.1m
east-west by 2.2m north-south, defined by a rubble wall up to 0.7m wide and
0.6m high, but merging with the terrace scarp on the south. Traces of inner
facing slabs are visible and an entrance gap 0.5m wide at the east end,
flanked on its south by an edge-set slab across the wall line. Some rubble in
the interior and entrance is considered to derive from later disturbance.
This field system is heavily influenced by the island's topography; the
orientation of its hills' slopes determines the dominant axis of the downslope
boundaries but effects are also evident at a more detailed level. The upper
bank of the field system on the north west hill consistently stops short of
the spine along the hill's south east spur, zig-zagging in its course to do so
and to avoid rock outcrops, but terminates at an outcrop and natural scarp at
its south east end. Other prominent outcrops also form focal points for some
field boundaries, including a north east-south west boundary immediately north
of West Porth. The field system does not encroach onto the summit area of the
island's north west hill, which supports two broadly contemporary funerary
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: 15440
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
consulted 1993, Ratcliffe, J/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7211.02, (1988)
Ratcliffe, J/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7211.01, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW 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