Lighthouse-builders' operational base on Rosevear
List Entry Summary
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 Culture, Media and Sport.
Name: Lighthouse-builders' operational base on Rosevear
List entry Number: 1016175
The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Isles of Scilly
District Type: Unitary Authority
Parish: St. Agnes
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first scheduled: 25-Sep-1997
Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: RSM
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Monument
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.
The lighthouse-builders' operational base on Rosevear provides a rare example of a mid-19th century workshop and workers' lodging complex which survives substantially intact and unaffected by later modification and adaptations. The construction of the Bishop Rock lighthouse, for which this operational base played an essential role, marks an important stage in the developing capacity of Trinity House to tackle the more difficult and serious navigational hazards which faced the nation's shipping. The surviving remains on Rosevear, complemented by the records associated with them, illustrate well the ingenuity, spirit and the hardships involved in overcoming the enormous practical difficulties presented by the need to build a lighthouse on such an exposed, remote and restricted location using mid-19th century technology.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The scheduling includes a mid-19th century lighthouse-builders' operational
base on the island of Rosevear in the Western Rocks of the Isles of Scilly;
the base served the builders of the Bishop Rock Lighthouse during its initial
and abortive construction attempt from 1847-1850 and during its successful
construction from 1851-1858.
The structures of the base extend across the north east and east of this small
rocky island, occupying the only area sufficiently level and high enough to
escape the reach of the highest tides. At least four main elements survive.
Two buildings, a workers' lodging and mess building and a workshop building,
are grouped in the north west of the overall structural complex; a smithing
hearth is located between them; the fourth element, a slab-built platform, is
situated to their east by the island's east coast. Traces of a third building
are also visible further south on the east coast.
The operational base was established on Rosevear following the decision by
Trinity House in April 1847 to erect a lighthouse on the Bishop Rock, 3.2km
WNW of Rosevear, marking the notoriously dangerous reefs and rocks at the
south west edge of the Scilly archipelago. Rosevear was chosen for the base as
it is the nearest island with any substantial area of flattish dry land; the
Bishop Rock is a short distance by boat and clearly visible from the island,
enabling work to proceed whenever conditions were seen to be suitable.
Under the direction of Nicholas Douglass and his son James, the lighthouse was
built to an initial design of an open framework of cast iron columns and
wrought iron stays, supporting a lantern and living accommodation. The
structure was almost finished by the end of the 1849 season but was completely
destroyed in a storm on 5 February 1850. Following a rapid and radical
reassessment, the proposed design was changed to a granite tower and work
began, again under the direction of the Douglasses, to prepare the rock for
the tower in summer 1851; the stonework was completed in 1857 and its light
was first displayed in 1858. Rosevear was again chosen as the base for the
workforce, though their role was limited to assembling the structure. The
stone used for the tower came from the mainland quarries at Carnsew and
Lamorna; it was shipped to Scilly for final dressing to shape on St Mary's,
and finally transported by tender and barge directly to the Bishop Rock.
Records illustrate the living conditions of the workforce on Rosevear, noting
that to supplement provisions brought from the main islands, some vegetables
were grown in rock crevices, fish were caught and sea-bird eggs varied the
diet. The base was frequently cut off by bad weather and on occasion the
workers were reduced to eating limpets. Despite the hardships, on one evening
the workforce gave a `grand ball', clearing and brightly lighting all of the
buildings, which had been decorated with bunting; invitations went out to the
rest of Scilly and the visitors danced into the early hours of the following
morning, returning by boat in the moonlight.
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.
Books and journals
Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1983)
Grigson, G, The Scilly Isles, (1977)
Larn, R, Shipwrecks of the Isles of Scilly, (1993)
Noall, C, Cornish Lights and Shipwrecks, (1968)
p74, fig 103, Over, L, The Isles of Scilly, (1993)
p75, fig 105; prob 1890's - see ref 6, Over, L, The Isles of Scilly, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7066, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 80 NW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
National Grid Reference: SV 83915 05964
The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1016175 .pdf
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Jan-2018 at 08:45:28.
End of official listing