Prehistoric hut circle south of The Brow, Bryher
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SV 88056 14383
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.
Stone hut circles are what remain of the round houses of early inhabitants on
the Isles of Scilly. Excavation has shown that round houses were built on the
islands from the Bronze Age to the early medieval period (c.2000 BC-AD 1066),
though during the Romano-British period (AD 43-400) complex forms were
developed with multiple rooms and annexes, classified separately as `courtyard
houses'. Stone hut circles survive with rubble or earth and rubble walls or
banks defining circular or ovoid internal areas. These are usually levelled
and range from 2.5-13m across, though they are generally 3-5m across. The
walls may incorporate natural ground-fast boulders or outcrops and sometimes
have a facing of edge-set slabs, large blocks or occasionally of coursed
rubble walling along one or both faces. Some hut circle walls show entrance
gaps, 0.5-2m wide, sometimes flanked by end-set slabs or blocks. Remains of
roofing are not preserved but excavations have revealed post- and stake-holes
for roof supports and internal subdivisions. Excavation has also revealed a
range of domestic artefacts and, in a small number of later examples, evidence
for metal working. The deposits within and around hut circles may also include
quantities of midden material. Stone hut circles may occur singly or in small
or large groups, either closely spaced or dispersed. At least 136 hut circles
are recorded on the Isles of Scilly. These are widely distributed but are more
likely to be found towards the lower land, the coastal margins and the inter-
tidal zone, reflecting the subsequent submergence of much low-lying land that
formed the original landscape context in which many such settlements were
built. Hut circles may be associated with broadly contemporary field systems
and funerary monuments, while some examples dating to the Romano-British and
early medieval period are included within sites forming religious foci. They
embody a major part of our evidence on the economy and lifestyle of the
islands' past inhabitants. Their longevity of use and their relationships both
with other monument types and with the islands' rising sea level provides
valuable information on the developing settlement patterns, social
organisation and farming practices throughout a considerable proportion of the
islands' human occupation.
This hut circle south of The Brow survives substantially intact. Despite some superficial disturbance by wave action on the upper levels of its walling it clearly retains both its overall form and such details as its facing slabs, while the rubble trapped within the walling will protect the hut circle's buried internal features. Its survival well within the inter-tidal zone, despite rising sea levels, confirms its long term stability against a considerable period of submergence. The proximity of this hut circle to the prehistoric settlement remains in Green Bay and the east coast of Samson Hill, and to the cairn cemetery on the summit of Samson Hill, demonstrates the relationship between domestic, farming and funerary activities among the prehistoric communities that used this monument. It also complements those nearby prehistoric field system and settlement survivals at various levels around southern Bryher to provide an unusually complete view of prehistoric land use across the altitude range into the now-submerged zone.
The monument includes a prehistoric stone hut circle situated in the
inter-tidal zone 60m south of a bulge in the coastline called The Brow on the
south east coast of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly.
The hut circle is defined with a sub-circular wall of heaped rubble, up to
c.1m wide and 5.5m in external diameter, rising to 0.4m high. The wall and
much of the interior is often festooned by seaweed but through this a series
of edge-set outer facing slabs, up to 0.2m high, is visible intermittently;
where least masked by the vegetation on the south, the facing slabs are
closely spaced. Occasional edge-set inner facing slabs are also visible along
the inner side of the wall. The hut circle interior is partly masked beneath a
spread of rubble, distinguished from the wall rubble by its lower height and
irregularly hollowed surface. The rubble of this spread has been dislodged
from the wall's upper fabric by wave action and become trapped in the
interior, covering and preserving the hut circle's internal deposits from the
This hut circle is located 50m south west of a prehistoric enclosure and
adjacent trackway, forming the southerly known exposure of an extensive area
of prehistoric land division surviving in the inter-tidal zone of Green Bay,
Bryher. Another hut circle is exposed in the cliff face on the eastern coast
of Samson Hill, 75m south of this scheduling. The summit of Samson Hill,
overlooking this scheduling from the south west, contains a cemetery of
prehistoric cairns. The inter-tidal remains which include this scheduling
bordering south eastern Bryher are complemented on the south west coast of
Bryher by another prehistoric field system and settlement surviving in Great
Porth and extending over the Heathy Hill promontory. The hut circle,
prehistoric cairn cemetery, field system and settlement are the subjects of
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:
- Legacy System:
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7306, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7305 & 7386, (1988)
Ratcliffe, J/CAU, Scilly SMR entries PRN 7307.01 & 7682, (1991)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; SV 8714 & 8814 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