Post-medieval pilot lookout on Timmy's Hill, Bryher
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016172
Date first listed: 25-Sep-1997
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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)
National Grid Reference: SV 87743 14867
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.
Pilot lookouts are sites which allowed good observation of approaching ships which may require the services of local pilots to navigate the dangerous waters they were entering. Pilotage rose in importance during the 18th and 19th centuries due to the combination of increasing maritime trade and poor marine charts. From the position of the Isles of Scilly in the western approaches, pilotage formed a major part of the islands' economy between approximately 1720 and approximately 1870, eventually declining with the rise of steamships and their improved navigational abilities. Strong competition existed between pilots from the various islands because the first pilot to reach the waiting ship received the pilotage contract. This encouraged speed both in detecting ships needing a pilot and in reaching those ships once detected, the latter giving rise to the fast yet stable rowing boat called the gig. Detecting approaching vessels was accomplished from sea and land. From the sea, cutters carrying pilots patrolled well offshore, sometimes served by gigs as boarding boats. From the land, good vantage points were used to aid rapid launching of pilot gigs from gig sheds along the coast. Some existing buildings on Scilly were appropriately sited to function as lookouts, as in the case of the 17th century lighthouse on St Agnes and some of the 18th-early 19th century houses on Samson; the small number of military watch houses may also have been used though they tended to be oriented towards the mainland and the deeper channels into the archipeligo rather than to the west or south west. This example is the only known purpose-built pilot lookout built on Scilly, with another possible example on Tinkler's Hill, St Martin's; other undocumented examples may have occupied sites used, from the 1830s, for the network of Coastguard lookouts. Apart from documentary records of pilotage, pilot lookouts and gig sheds form the only surviving material remains in Scilly for an activity that reflected the islands' strategic position on the nation's main shipping routes and which formed a relatively short-lived but essential navigational aid during the post-medieval rise of the nation's trade. The pilot lookout on Timmy's Hill survives well, showing clearly its form, manner of construction, and those aspects of its siting and orientation essential for its function. Its survival as the only known purpose-built pilot lookout on Scilly is complemented by its relationship to the broadly contemporary and surviving gig sheds at Pool, producing a rare grouping of the surviving elements from this former key activity both in the islands' economy and the nation's maritime trade.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The scheduling includes a small pilot lookout formerly used to sight shipping
in need of pilotage and situated on the western crest of Timmy's Hill, a
prominent hill on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly.
The lookout is visible as an unroofed shelter, surviving with a curving wall
of boulders and large slabs enclosing the north side of an area 4.7m across,
WSW-ENE, by 2.7m from front to rear; the lookout is open to the south. A short
adjoining wall extends 3m north west from the west side of the lookout. The
lookout's curving wall is generally 1m-1.5m high by 1m wide and includes two
edge-set boulders at each end, between which five boulders are laid as a basal
course supporting up to three more courses of roughly-laid slabs above. Some
small rubble infills spaces between the larger slabs. The tallest of the
edge-set boulders, 1.5m high at the east of the wall, has a broken iron peg
lead-plugged into its eastern edge, 0.6m above ground level. The lookout's
short north western wall includes three large slabs, one edge-set, the others
laid flat alongside each other but appearing as toppled coursed slabs.
This lookout, still known on Bryher as the `old pilot lookout', occupies an
excellent viewpoint with uninterrupted fields of view across the waters to the
west of the Isles of Scilly, allowing the early recognition of any ships
entering the Western Approaches and likely to require the services of the
island's pilots. Closer inshore, the lookout also overlooks the notoriously
treacherous Norrard Rocks, the scene of numerous shipwrecks and many
life-saving and salvage actions by pilot gig crews. Late 19th century Ordnance
Survey maps show the lookout then linked by a footpath leading directly down
the western slope of Timmy's Hill to the hamlet of Pool and its gig sheds on
the north side of Great Porth.
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: 15493
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Jenkins, A J, Gigs and Cutters of the Isles of Scilly, (1975)
CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry for PRN 7398, (1991)
CAU, Scilly SMR entry for PRN 7399, (1991)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 13 Source Date: 1888 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Both 1888 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8714 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