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
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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'
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 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
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
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
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:
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