Prehistoric field system, settlement and cairn east of Barnaby Lane, St Agnes


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015002

Date first listed: 04-Oct-1996


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric field system, settlement and cairn east of Barnaby Lane, St Agnes
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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. Agnes

National Grid Reference: SV 88313 07854

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. Irregular 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, generally lacking in conformity of orientation and arrangement, containing fields of varying shapes and sizes, bounded by rubble walls or banks, often incorporating edge- or end-set slabs called orthostats. Some irregular 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, irregular field systems form one of the three principal forms of prehistoric field system, along with regular 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 field system in this monument demonstrates well the nature and extent of prehistoric enclosure in the land adjacent to the large and important cairn cemetery on Wingletang Down. In this role it complements the surviving prehistoric field systems to each side of the Down, forming a key element to assist our understanding of prehistoric land use over a far wider area than the confines of the monument. Although the field system in the monument is truncated by recent enclosure on most sides, it contains the unusual remains of a prehistoric trackway complete with its relationship to a contemporary settlement site. The hut circle itself survives well and the superficial deposits that overlie much of its structure will also serve to preserve details sometimes lost on more exposed and eroded sites. The funerary cairn also survives well, its presence within the field system being important for clarifying the nature and development of prehistoric settlement and funerary land use over the wider area. Its location on the ridge top and its incorporation of a prominent outcrop dominating the cairn's features shows clearly the major influences of natural topography on prehistoric ritual activity.


The monument includes a prehistoric field system incorporating at least one hut circle and a funerary cairn in an area of modern rough pasture extending north from Wingletang Down on southern St Agnes, the south western inhabited island in the Isles of Scilly. The field system survives along the western slope of a low ridge rising to the east side of the monument, with further boundaries evident to both north and south. The field system is defined by low turf-covered banks, generally 1.5m-2m wide and 0.3m high on the more level ground in the south and western edge of the monument, and with a rubble core exposed where several boundaries are crossed by a modern farm track in the north of the monument. Where they run along the ridge slope, the movement of soil on the gradient against their uphill sides and from their downhill sides gives them the appearance of slight terraces called lynchets, varying from 0.25m to 1.3m high. Two near-parallel lynchets run 5m-10m apart on a NNE-SSW axis along the west slope of the ridge, creating a narrow linear terrace considered to have formed a trackway through the prehistoric field system; at the north west end of the ridge, these lynchets diverge to give a small yard area around the monument's hut circle, described below. A modern farm track extending around the north of the ridge exposes the rubble of at least three more boundaries which are otherwise masked by surface deposits and vegetation. Returning to the ridge slope, the near-parallel lynchets are linked by a slight north east - south west lynchet near their southern end, and to the south of the ridge the eastern lynchet continues as a slight bank into the more level terrain, accompanied to its east by traces of further such banks, on a roughly north- south axis and c.10m-15m apart, and to its west by at least two banks on a north east - south west axis, truncated to their west by the modern Barnaby Lane. At the widening northern end of the trackway defined by the lynchets, the hut circle survives with an ovoid bank 2.5m wide, rising up to 1.2m high and measuring 17m north-south by 14m east-west externally, with an entrance 1m wide on the south east. The bank's rubble is extensively masked by later soil deposits developed since its abandonment; similar deposits also raise the hut circle interior to appear as a dished depression, to 0.2m deep, within the rim of the bank and at a level up to 0.75m above the surrounding ground surface. The west outer face of the hut circle bank is joined by the western of the trackway lynchets, which curves around the south west side of the hut circle defining a small annexe before resuming its southward course. On top of the low ridge, in the east of the monument, a large natural bedrock outcrop forms the focus for a prehistoric funerary cairn. The cairn survives with a mound of heaped rubble, 13m in diameter, rising 1m high to a flattened platform, 5.5m in diameter, from whose southern half the natural outcrop rises a further 1m high. Projecting slabs of a kerb are visible on the south east, east and north west edges of the platform, up to 2m long and 0.8m high on the south east. Against the west side of the outcrop, a setting of edge-set slabs, up to 1.7m long by 0.6m high, defines a sub-rectangular area 3m long, north-south, by 0.8m wide, and 0.75m deep internally, open at the southern end and considered to be the remains of a funerary chamber. From 22m west of the cairn at the western foot of the ridge, the monument also contains a later feature, considered to be the remnant of a medieval or later enclosure truncated on the west by the course of Barnaby Lane. The enclosure is defined by an earthen bank generally 1m wide and 0.4m high, with an outer ditch 1.5m wide and 0.2m deep. The bank and ditch define the north east corner of the enclosure, following an `L-shaped' course running 8m east from the Barnaby Lane hedge at the north, then turning almost at right-angles to the SSW and continuing for a further 20m to be truncated by the lane's hedge again at the south. The northern boundary of the enclosure is also evident as a marked undulation across the surface of Barnaby Lane itself, on line with the ditch and bank in the rough pasture to the east and confirming the former continuation westward of the enclosure. The interior of the enclosure is slightly sunken below the ground surface to the north and east. Beyond this monument, further areas of prehistoric field system survive from 125m to the east and from 175m to the WSW. Together with this monument, these form the southern visible limits of prehistoric enclosure on the island, adjacent to and partly overlapping with a large and broadly contemporary cairn cemetery that extends south over most of Wingletang Down. These are the subjects of separate schedulings.

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: 15455

Legacy System: RSM


Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8807 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7010.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7045, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7011, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7011.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7010 & 7010.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7010, 7010.01, 7010.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7013 & 7019, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7013 & 7019, (1988)

End of official listing