Hut circle settlement in Pendrathen, St Mary's
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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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'
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
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
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