Civil War breastwork and battery on Newford Island, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015667

Date first listed: 21-Jan-1999


Ordnance survey map of Civil War breastwork and battery on Newford Island, 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 90663 11209


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. 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 and ditches. 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 Civil War fieldworks on Newford Island survive well, despite limited incursions of coastal erosion on the breastwork. They show clearly the form, setting and functions of Civil War breastworks and batteries. Their immediate context on one side of the entrance to the islands' main anchorage and their wider setting within 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 defensive breastwork and gun battery dating to the English Civil War and situated on the western half of Newford Island, a small island joined at low tide to the west coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. Newford Island lies at the north east of St Mary's Pool, a sheltered anchorage serving the Garrison and Hughtown, once the main military and administrative focus on the islands. During the English Civil War, from 1642 to 1651 on Scilly, fieldworks were constructed along much of the coastline of St Mary's beside the main maritime routes into the archipeligo. The fieldworks on Newford Island covered the entrance to St Mary's Pool as part of the wider defensive system on the north and west coasts of St Mary's flanking the approach from Crow Sound to the Garrison. The breastwork is visible as an earth and rubble bank running close to the coastal edge around the island's rounded western end and its adjacent northern coast. The bank is generally 1.2m-2m wide, up to 0.75m high to seaward and 0.3m-0.5m high to landward; coastal erosion has produced two breaks, 8m and 10m wide, in its 60m length behind the northern coast. Where the breastwork reaches the island's south coast it joins the gun battery's southern bank at a slight angle marking the start of the outward curve of the battery's southern flank. The gun battery occupies much of the southern side of the island's western half. Subrectangular in plan, it measures approximately 25m east-west by 21m north-south externally and is defined to the north, south and west by an earthen bank. On the north and west the bank averages 1.7m wide, 0.5m high externally and 0.3m high internally, with several prominent slabs and boulders along its course. The southern bank, facing St Mary's Pool, is more substantial, slightly curving to seaward as noted above, and up to 2.9m wide, 1.2m high externally and 0.5m high internally. On the east the battery is delimited by a north-south scatter of prominent natural outcrops, beyond which a wall marks the western limit of modern enclosures. The battery's internal surface occupies two levels. On the south is a lower levelled strip extending 5.5m behind the southern bank; the north edge of that strip is defined by a scarp rising 0.2m to the higher level of the battery's northern sector. In the Civil War defensive system covering the approaches to St Mary's Pool, these fieldworks on Newford Island complemented fields of fire from two batteries behind Carn Morval Point, from 650m to the north, and a circuit of batteries and breastworks around the Garrison, from 750m to the south west. The defence across the entrance to St Mary's Pool provided by the Newford Island defences was supplemented on the south west by a blockhouse, since destroyed, on Rat Island which occupied an analogous position on the opposite site of the anchorage and which was linked to St Mary's by the extension of Hughtown Pier in the 19th century.

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: 15482

Legacy System: RSM


Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7510, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, Scilly SMR entry PRN 7900.03, (1994)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9011 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing