Prehistoric settlement and field system on Little Ganilly


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014788

Date first listed: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric settlement and field system on Little Ganilly
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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 93885 14228


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.

The prehistoric settlement on Little Ganilly survives well, without any known disturbance, preserving its integral relationship with the contemporary field system. Although truncated by rising sea levels, the surviving sector of this field system provides valuable evidence for the nature and extent of prehistoric land use in the now largely submerged terrain that formed the contemporary landscape of the important group of prehistoric settlements, field systems and funerary monuments nearby on the other Eastern Isles.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric settlement containing two small hut circles on the upper boundary of a contemporary field system on the NNE coastal slope of Little Ganilly, one of the uninhabited Eastern Isles, south east of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The prehistoric field system adjoining the settlement is visible as the subrectangular upper end of a single field plot on the island's coastal margin, with one side wall extending a little further uphill, forming the surviving upper edge of a more extensive regular field system that has been largely truncated by the gradual submergence of the Isles of Scilly. The field plot survives up to 23m long, NNE-SSW and truncated at its northern edge at the coastal cliff, by 22.5m wide along its uppermost southern bank. It is defined by turf-covered rubble banks, generally 1m-2m wide and 0.5m high, incorporating spaced blocks and edge-set slabs up to 0.75m high. The side banks converge slightly as they rise the slope, and meet the upper bank at rounded corners. The plot's eastern bank is extended up the slope for a further 14m beyond the plot's upper corner by a more diffuse rubble bank, up to 3m wide and 0.6m high with some blocks along its line, but fading into the slope at its upper end. The two small hut circles adjoin the upper side of the plot's upper bank near its western end. They also adjoin each other; each is ovoid in plan and has been levelled into the northern face of a prominent natural hummock on the hillslope. The interior of the eastern hut circle measures 4.7m north west-south east by 3.75m north east-south west. Its rear scarp rises 1.3m high on the south west, cut into the face of the natural hummock. On the north and north east, the interior is defined by a northward bulge in the plot's upper bank; a break on the south east between that bank and the face of the hummock is considered to mark the entrance, marked on its northern side by a prominent edge-set slab, 1.5m long and 0.4m high, set in the plot's bank. The western hut circle, above the plot's upper western corner, measures 7.5m ENE-WSW by 4m NNW-SSE internally. Its rear scarp rises to 2m high on the south, cut into the hummock. The north and north eastern sides of the interior are defined by the plot wall with no obvious entrance and a scarp 0.4m high dropping down to the plot interior. Although this monument contains the only known prehistoric remains on Little Ganilly, its broader contemporary landscape context is shown by the nearby surviving remains of prehistoric settlements, field systems and funerary cairns on the Arthurs to the south and on Great Ganilly and Nornour to the east; when these monuments functioned, those islands formed the eastern part of the single land mass of Scilly prior to the submergence of the land in between.

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: 15441

Legacy System: RSM


Ratcliffe, J & Sharpe, A/CAU, Scilly SMR entry for PRN 7703.01, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J & Sharpe, A/CAU, Scilly SMR entry for PRN 7703.02, (1991)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing