Prehistoric linear boundary and Civil War fieldworks on north western Toll's Hill, St Mary's
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015662
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 92664 12154
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 linear boundary and Civil War fieldworks on north western Toll's Hill survive substantially intact. The relationship of the linear boundary to the nearby hut circle and field system on Toll's Hill contributes to our wider view of land use and settlement organisation among prehistoric communities in the pre-submergence landscape of Scilly. Despite the truncation of the breastwork's eastern end, the Civil War defences in this scheduling display clearly the forms, situations and functions of the two types of fieldwork represented. Their immediate context on this well fortified spur in the heavily defended coastline facing Crow Sound, and their wider context as part of the extensive surviving Civil War defensive system in Scilly, demonstrate 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 linear boundary which descends the north
west flank 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 scheduling also
includes a Civil War breastwork and battery on the spur's north west coast,
crossing the lower end of the prehistoric boundary.
The linear boundary extends for 32m, running north down the spur's steep slope
from a midslope crest and visible to the point where it is crossed by the much
later breastwork close to the present coastal cliff. It is visible as a row of
large slabs, up to 2m long, 1.1m high and 0.8m wide, with smaller blocks
between. A 3m wide break occurs in its line south of the breastwork where the
modern coastal path passes through it. Beyond this scheduling, a broadly
contemporary hut circle is situated near the tip of the spur, 120m to the
east, and low banks along the contour of the spur's upper slope to the south
west of this boundary are considered to derive from a prehistoric field
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 Tregear's Porth and Pelistry
Bay, to the north west and south east of the spur respectively. The fieldworks
in this scheduling provided cover against landings in Tregear's Porth and
complement, beyond this monument, batteries on the crest and northern slope
of the spur bringing Crow Sound within range of their guns, supported by
storage platforms on the spur's south east flank and a further breastwork
along the south east coast facing Pelistry Bay.
The breastwork in this scheduling is visible as an earth and rubble bank
parallel with, and close to, the coastal cliff and backed by a shallow ditch
along its landward side. The breastwork extends over at least 65m ENE-WSW of
the spur's coastline fronting Tregear's Porth, truncated on the east by the
construction of the later quay and boathouses of New Quay. The bank is up to
2m wide, rising 0.7m high along the inner side and 0.8m high along the outer.
Its accompanying ditch is silted to varying degrees and followed for part of
its length by a modern path, but it is visible up to 2m wide and 0.4m deep.
At the western end of the breastwork a small gun battery projects north from
the line of the breastwork bank. It is formed as a trapezoidal earthen
platform, 7.75m wide across its rear. Its rubble-revetted sides converge over
3m to a straight forward flank, 3.25m long and 1.4m high, faced by a wall of
coursed large blocks up to 2m long and 0.6m high. The battery's outer walling
is now exposed in the upper cliff section and supported behind a projecting
shelf of uneroded subsoil. The upper cliff section also reveals occasional
facing slabs, up to 0.8m high, in the outer face of the breastwork bank
adjoining the east of the battery.
The Civil War fieldworks on Toll's Hill are an integral part of a defensive
system extending 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.
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: 15477
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7463, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7464, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7467, (1988)
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