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
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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'
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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