Prehistoric hut circle and Civil War fieldworks on eastern Toll's Hill, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015661

Date first listed: 21-Jan-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric hut circle and Civil War fieldworks on eastern Toll's Hill, 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 92788 12052, SV 92805 12129


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.

The prehistoric hut circle and Civil War fieldworks on eastern Toll's Hill survive well, despite the loss of part of the breastwork to coastal erosion. The scheduling includes a close grouping of each of the main fieldwork elements of Civil War defences on Scilly, displaying clearly their typical forms, situations and functions. The immediate context of this well fortified spur in the heavily defended coastline facing Crow Sound, and its wider context as part of the extensive surviving Civil War defensive system in Scilly, demonstrates well the strategic methods employed by the 17th century forces and the function of these fieldwork types within them.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric hut circle and a closely spaced group of Civil War fieldworks, contained within two areas of protection. The monument is located on the crest and slopes on the east of Toll's Hill, a broad spur extending into Crow Sound from the north east coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The hut circle survives with an ovoid interior, 5m long, north west-south east, by 4m wide, levelled into, and partly built out from, the upper slope at the tip of the spur. Its interior is defined by an earth and rubble wall, generally 1m wide, incorporating a natural bedrock boulder on the east and faced on both sides by edge-set slabs, mostly to 0.7m high. Slight traces of the wall are visible lining the 1.1m high levelling backscarp on the south west of the interior. Beyond this scheduling, remains of a prehistoric field system survive on the north west flank of Toll's Hill from 120m west of this hut circle. During the English Civil War, from 1642 to 1651 on Scilly, Toll's Hill was heavily fortified by virtue of its strategic position at the entrance to Crow Sound, a main maritime route into the archipeligo, and because of the vulnerable sheltered landing places offered by Pelistry Bay and Tregear's Porth, to the south east and north west of the spur respectively. The surviving fieldworks reflect both aspects: batteries on the crest and northern slope of the spur bringing Crow Sound within range of their guns and supported by storage platforms on the spur's south east flank, coupled with a breastwork along the south east coast facing Pelistry Bay. Beyond this scheduling, a second breastwork along the west of the spur's northern coast covers Tregear's Porth. The gun battery on the spur's slope-crest, from 5m south west of the hut circle, occupies an excellent look-out position and would give a long-range field of fire across Crow Sound. The battery is defined by an almost semi-circular earthen bank facing north east and left open across the south west ends apart from the interior's levelling backscarp. The bank is approximately 0.8m wide and up to 1.4m high externally, but rises only 0.5m above the levelled interior which measures 9m wide across the south west by 7m long, north east-south west. The second battery is 25m to the NNE on the lower slope by the tip of the spur. This battery faces north and is of similar shape and size to that on the slope crest but its levelling into the steep slope produces a very marked backscarp, up to 1.8m high. Its bank has an outer facing of coursed rubble and on the east, where it merges with the hillslope, a gap marks the probable entrance. On the spur's south east flank are two subrectangular platforms levelled into the midslope, a frequent association with Civil War batteries and considered to have functioned as stores and temporary shelters. The platforms are situated 7m apart along the slope and linked by a 2m wide hollow; their levelling backscarps rise to 1.8m high on the north west and their south east edges and ends are defined by rubble-revetted banks approximately 1m wide and 1m high. Each platform has a north east-south west long axis, that on the north east measuring approximately 11m by 6.5m internally, while that on the south west is approximately 12m by 8m and truncated at the south west by a modern field wall. The batteries are complemented by a breastwork along the south east coastline of the spur, as a defence against enemy landings directed towards Pelistry Bay. It is visible as an earth and rubble bank parallel with, and close to, the coastal cliff and backed by a shallow ditch. Overall the breastwork extends across 95m of the coastline but subsequent cliff erosion truncates its south west end and has destroyed a 35m length from 15m before the south west end. The bank survives to 2.5m wide and 0.75m high, with a slab-facing detectable through the turf cover on the inner side. The ditch along its landward side is silted to varying degrees, visible up to 2m wide and 0.5m deep, followed for much of its length by a modern path. The Civil War fieldworks on Toll's Hill are an integral part of a defensive system that extended around the coast of St Mary's; the coast facing Crow Sound was especially heavily defended, the fortifications in this scheduling complementing a succession of batteries and breastworks from Mount Todden in the south east, along most of the coastline to Bar Point in the north west. At least one battery in this scheduling remained functional long after the Civil War and still contained a six-pounder gun, though dismounted, in 1796, when it was recorded by the Rev John Troutbeck.

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: 15476

Legacy System: RSM


Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7464, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7465 & 7465.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7465.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7466, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7467, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7475, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9212 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing