Hut circle settlement in Pendrathen, St Mary's


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Hut circle settlement in Pendrathen, St Mary's
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
St. Mary's
National Grid Reference:
SV 91498 12802

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. 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.

The hut circle settlement in Pendrathen survives reasonably well, clearly displaying the form and construction of its component hut circles and retaining evidence for contemporary boundaries in their immediate vicinity. The settlement's good survival well into the inter-tidal zone confirms its long term stability against a considerable period of submergence. This settlement complements those nearby prehistoric settlement and field system remains at higher levels behind the coast of Pendrathen and Bar Point, providing an unusually extensive view of prehistoric land use across the altitude range into now-submerged levels. The archaeological and environmental potential of these inter-related remains has been shown by the excavations at Bar Point, giving them a particular importance for Scilly's contribution to the study of human responses to island environments and submergence during the prehistoric and later periods.


The monument includes a prehistoric hut circle settlement with associated walling located in the inter-tidal zone on Pendrathen, a broad bay on the north west coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The settlement contains at least two stone hut circles situated 1.7m apart on a north east-south west axis, forming stone-built structures which rise above the background level of seaweed-festooned slabs and cobbles on the middle shore. Each has a sub-circular wall of heaped rubble and small boulders, 1m- 1.5m wide and to 0.5m high, defining a rounded internal area strewn with cobbles washed in or dislodged by tidal action. The south west hut circle measures 2.5m north east-south west by 1.9m north west-south east internally with occasional edge-set slabs to 0.6m high forming an inner wall face and an entrance gap 2m wide facing south east. The north east hut circle measures 3.9m in internal diameter, with edge-set facing slabs to 0.8m high along both inner and outer sides of its walling, especially well-defined around the north east sector. A row of edge-set slabs, to 0.5m high, forms a wall 2.75m long linking the east edge of the south west hut circle to the south of the north east hut circle. Further exposures of similar walling, deploying edge-set slabs up to 0.7m high, are visible on the middle shore 12m and 25m north east of the settlement's north eastern hut circle. Beyond this scheduling, further broadly contemporary settlement remains occur from 30m to the south east, exposed along the nearby coastal cliff on the east of Pendrathen and also at Bar Point to the north east; these settlements are associated with a prehistoric field system extending across the coastal slope, now partly blanketted beneath later deposits of blown sand. Excavation of part of the field system behind Bar Point in 1979-80 confirmed multiple phases of development including Iron Age activity and produced pollen evidence for cereal cultivation in an open landscape before inundation by the blown sand.

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.

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Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Evans, J G, 'Cornish Studies' in Excavations at Bar Point, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, 1979-80, , Vol. 11, (1983), 7-32
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7476, 7477, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7477; 7483, 7484, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7480; 7480.01-.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7485, 7640, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9112 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

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