Prehistoric field system and Civil War fieldworks on south western Carn Morval Down, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015665

Date first listed: 21-Jan-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric field system and Civil War fieldworks on south western Carn Morval Down, 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 90637 11857


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.

Several methods of field layout were employed in the Isles of Scilly from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC to AD 400), subdividing areas of land by variously regular or irregular networks of boundaries; closer dating within that period may be provided by examining visible relationships of their boundaries to other surviving field systems or other classes of monument of shorter known time-span, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea levels. The field systems are bounded by rubble walls or banks, often incorporating edge- or end set slabs called orthostats. Where they follow the contour of a slope their upslope sides are often blanketted by soil brought downhill by early cultivation; the resulting assymetrical bank, called a lynchet, may preserve early land surfaces, occupation remains and environmental data. Although no precise figure is available, the various forms of prehistoric to Roman period field systems survive in over 70 areas of the Isles of Scilly, providing significant insights into the physical and social organisation of past landscapes. Their coastal bias in the present landscape of the Isles of Scilly leaves a number of early field systems in close physical association with fieldworks erected for coastal defence during the English Civil War (1642-1651). Three main types of fieldwork are known: batteries, platforms and breastworks. Batteries are levelled areas or platforms situated on a hilltop or terraced into the slope to serve as gun emplacements. They vary considerably in size and shape and are usually partly or wholly enclosed by a bank. At least twenty batteries are known to survive on the Isles of Scilly, covering the chief maritime approaches. Adjacent to some batteries are sub-rectangular platforms; levelled into the slope and measuring up to 12m by 8m in size; these represent the sites of temporary buildings serving as shelters, stores and lookouts. At least eight such platforms are known to survive. Batteries and platforms were complemented by breastworks, earth-and-rubble banks running beside the coastal cliff edge, usually accompanied by a ditch along their landward side, providing infantry cover along potential landing places and masking gun emplacements. The historical context of the fieldworks' construction is recorded in contemporary documents, indicating most were produced by Royalist forces who controlled the islands for the entire Civil War period except during 1646-8. The Civil War fieldworks of the Isles of Scilly form a major part of the 150 surviving examples of fieldworks recorded nationally and they present an unusually complete system of fortifications from this period, both in the range of fieldwork types represented and in the surviving pattern of their strategic disposition. The prehistoric and Civil War elements in this scheduling survive well. The prehistoric field system displays clearly its form and relationship to the topography, with substantial lynchetting of its banks. Although truncated on the south by relatively recent pasture improvement, it forms the southern surviving sector of a sequence of broadly contemporary field systems that extend along much of the north western coastal slope of St Mary's and incorporate prehistoric to Roman period settlement and funerary monuments, allowing an unusually broad view of the organisation and development of land use in the pre-submergence landscape of the islands. The features and situation of the Civil War battery and its platform show well the nature and function of these types of fieldwork, little affected by the battery's later wall and use as a golf tee. Their wider context within the extensive surviving Civil War defensive system on Scilly demonstrates clearly the strategic methods employed by the mid-17th century military forces and the role of these fieldwork types within them.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric field system on the coastal slope of Carn Morval Down, south of Carn Morval Point on the west coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The monument also includes two fieldworks dating to the English Civil War, a gun battery and a nearby sunken platform, both situated among the upper outcrops behind Carn Morval Point, near the crest of the Down. The prehistoric field system is visible across the steep coastal slope on the south west of the Down, terminating on the north at a ridge of granite outcrops on the south of Carn Morval and truncated on the south beyond a modern field wall marking the northern extent of relatively recent improved and cleared pasture. The field system subdivides that area by at least four banks extending NNW-SSE along the contour, spaced 15m-25m apart. The banks are 1.5m-2.5m wide and markedly assymetrical in section, with a downslope face 0.5m-0.75m high but almost level along their upslope side; this form of boundary, called a lynchet, results from the build-up of soil against the upslope side of the boundaries due to the effects of former cultivation on the steep slope. This field system forms the southern surviving extent of a broadly contemporary and similar field system that reappears on the other side of the Carn Morval outcrops to encompass much of the north west slope of Carn Morval Down and the adjacent Halangy Down, incorporating a large prehistoric to Roman period settlement site and several prehistoric funerary monuments. During the English Civil War, from 1642 to 1651 on Scilly, gun batteries were set up along the coasts of St Mary's flanking the main maritime routes into the archipeligo. Those along the north and west coast of the island covered the approach from Crow Sound to the islands' main military and administrative focus on the Garrison, 1.25km south west of this scheduling. Two batteries were built to control the major change in angle of the coastline at Carn Morval Point: a lower battery, beyond this scheduling, behind the Point's coastal outcrop to give close-range fire, and, within this scheduling, a higher-level battery 55m to the south east behind the upper outcrops of the slope, giving a longer range of fire and a wider viewpoint across the approaches to the anchorage of St Mary's Pool. This higher battery is visible as a sub-circular flattened platform, 17m east-west by 15m north-south, its surface extending east from the top of a natural outcrop on its western edge. The platform merges with the natural slope surface on the east but to both the NNE and SSW its levelled surface is built out from the slope to give near-vertical curving sides, generally 1m high with traces of a coursed-rubble revetment wall. A straight drystone wall crossing the northern periphery of the battery platform and extending beyond to the ESE is an earlier 20th century boundary. Situated 20m ENE of the battery is a small rectangular platform whose flattened floor is sunk into the ground beside the uppermost outcrops on the slope. The platform measures 6m north west-south east by 5.5m north east-south west, its sides ranging from 0.6m to 1.7m deep, rock cut on the north east and south west, with the outcrop face on the north east rising 3.5m above the platform base. This is one of several platforms which accompany Civil War batteries on Scilly, another being sited 100m to the north west near the lower battery behind Carn Morval Point, their purpose considered to have been provision of temporary shelter and storage facilities. In the integrated system of Civil War defences that survive around the coastline of St Mary's, the battery in this scheduling worked in conjunction with the lower battery behind Carn Morval Point to complement the fields of fire of batteries at the northern end of Toll's Porth, 500m to the north east, and on Newford Island, 660m to the south. All modern markers relating to the battery's use as a golf tee are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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: 15480

Legacy System: RSM


Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7430, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9011 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; SV 9011 & SV 9012 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII NE Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 6": 1 mile Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII NE Source Date: 1907 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing