This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Prehistoric to post-medieval funerary, field system and settlement remains, with post-medieval kelp pit and deer park on and adjacent to Samson

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: Prehistoric to post-medieval funerary, field system and settlement remains, with post-medieval kelp pit and deer park on and adjacent to Samson

List entry Number: 1016509

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: Isles of Scilly

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Tresco

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 14-Feb-1978

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jul-1999

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 15526

Asset Groupings

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' 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.

These remains contain a rich survival of archaeological remains from successive human activities. The entire island of Samson and much of the now- submerged Samson Flats provide clear evidence for changes in land use following the submergence of most of the area's wider prehistoric landscape. This is of considerable importance for studies of human behaviour and the social, economic and landscape development. While their significance in this respect transcends each phase in that transition, the remains from each phase also contain particular features of importance, beginning with the Neolithic pits that give some of the earliest evidence for human occupation on Scilly. The prehistoric cemeteries survive well, with only limited disturbance from early excavation, and contain an unusual diversity of associated funerary structures. Their siting along the major ridges and spurs of the two hills and their incorporation of various natural outcrops shows clearly the influence of underlying landforms on prehistoric funerary and ritual activity. This influence is also reflected in the layout of the prehistoric field systems whose successive relationship with the cemeteries, variously involving slighting, reusing and respecting the earlier cairns, provides rare insights into developing attitudes to the ancestors, religion and land use among prehistoric communities. The survival of the field system across the Samson Flats is of major significance in extending our view of prehistoric land use from the hilltops right down to the lowland of its contemporary landscape, the variations in the overall field system patterns reflecting differing intensities of prehistoric exploitation and, along with the habitation sites themselves, showing those locations most favoured for settlement. The excavated features at East Porth indicate a rare early medieval Christian focus, implying that its further remains will survive intact beneath the adjacent dune and providing important dating evidence for the hiatus in the island's population against the background of gradual submergence. The early post-medieval repopulation of the island is a good, if small scale, reflection of the changes that brought Scilly as a whole under the influence of national economic and strategic developments. The remains from the resulting occupation are nationally unparalleled as an intact example a post-medieval island settlement abandoned in the mid-19th century with only minimal disturbance from the deer park wall and no modern development. The importance of those remains is substantially enhanced by the wealth of historical information bearing on its population and their economic situation, and by the early photographs of the buildings. They are of particular significance for the strong emotional attachment they hold for their modern successor community, the present day population of Scilly among whom are several descendants from the Samson population and for whom the remains on Samson epitomise their own background in very changed circumstances.

History

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

Details

The monument includes remains from successive prehistoric to post-medieval settlement, funerary and defensive activities on and around Samson in the west of the Isles of Scilly. The prehistoric field system extends below Mean Low Water to the east of Samson. The earliest settlement traces are pits containing neolithic pottery revealed by excavation on the north coast of East Porth; an early land surface exposed in the southern cliff of East Porth has also produced a cache of charred barley radiocarbon-dated to the Early Bronze Age. Prehistoric field systems encompass most of Samson's land area and extend east onto lower ground since submerged as the Samson Flats. Their boundaries appear as rubble and boulder banks, often with spaced edge-set slabs. Many form marked steps along the contour, called lynchets, from their influence on downslope soil movement and some are enhanced giving a terraced effect. The field system pattern varies considerably. Much of South Hill is divided into small plots, often organised between major downslope boundaries, and refurbished in some sectors to serve the post-medieval settlement. On the summit ridge, early walls slight some prehistoric cairns. At least six hut circles survive on the hill's north, south east and south flanks, varying greatly in size and build, and two are slighted by later field walls. On North Hill, a major NNW-SSE boundary follows the spine of the hill and links several of the many prehistoric cairns also focussed on the spine. From the higher ground, banks run downslope from small enclosures beside the main boundary: despite masking by midslope scrub, some ridges and lynchets visible at lower levels and walls that emerge under dunes on the east and west coasts confirm the presence of mid and lower slope field subdivision, clearest on the north east where north east-south west walls emerge from the dune base to be divided into plots by cross-walls. Of two hut circles known on North Hill, one is exposed by cliff erosion on the south west where excavation produced Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age pottery and environmental data. The second, on the spine of the hill's south spur, has a broad low wall and an ESE entrance. On the Samson Flats the field system has a dominant north east-south west wall that runs from East Porth to Black Ledge then curves north, dividing areas with differing intensities of land division. Few walls are visible to its north: one heads north for about 100m, fading to the west of a hut circle from which a short wall runs ENE. South of the dominant wall, regular subdivision appears with traces of north east-south west walls defining rectangular plots between and south west of two major walls running south and SSE. Prehistoric cairn cemeteries follow the spines of both South and North Hill. That on South Hill focusses on the summit outcrops, on and against which are three chambered cairns, each partly slighted by a later prehistoric wall. A fourth chambered cairn adjoins the outcrops' base on the north east. At the foot of the outcrops on the south west are two small tor cairns; to their south east is a burial chamber formed from a massive boulder against the rock face. Beyond the summit, two platform cairns occupy the north west spur; an entrance grave on the hill's east slope lies behind a staggered junction of two prehistoric fields and is adjoined by a hut circle. The North Hill cairn cemetery extends NNW-SSE along the hill's spine; most cairns are closely-spaced on the southern spur, rising to a summit group then a much sparser distribution along the northern spur. The largest summit cairn has a central cist revealed by a trench dug in 1862. The other summit cairns include four entrance graves, two kerbed and chambered cairns of other forms and two round cairns. On the hill's southern spur are an entrance grave, two other chambered cairns, two small tor cairns and a free-standing box-like funerary cist. North of the summit are two small round cairns and, by upper slope outcrops, an entrance grave and a kerbed platform cairn; by the north coast is a small round cairn. At two entrance graves south of the summit the prehistoric spinal wall reuses one chamber side-wall and slights the other. Romano-British to medieval remains on Samson focus on part excavated features on East Porth's north shore and cliff, including an Iron Age/Romano-British cist and a hollowed slab of a type recurrent in Cornish Romano-British sites; a similar slab occurs on the south west slope of South Hill. Medieval features include a Christian cemetery with timber and later stone buildings considered ancillary to an early medieval chapel; pottery from the buildings give a 6th-8th century AD date range but the cemetery extends beyond that and is associated with an enclosure wall entering the coastal cliff. Pottery from later medieval layers indicates occupation up to the mid-13th century. After late medieval abandonment, re-occupation of Samson is recorded by 1669. By 1770 Samson's population rose to 35-39 at which it remained until the mid- 1830s. Extensive remains of the post-medieval settlement are concentrated on South Hill, complemented by historical sources which allow most buildings and fields to be attributed to their 19th century tenants. Eleven houses survive, up to the 1830s in date, with rubble walls up to 2m high; five had a kitchen and parlour, six a single room plan; all had an upper floor. Five occupy a hollow on the lower north slope and four are near the top of the hill; the others are on the north west slope and on the north of the Neck of Samson. Four barns and animal sheds cluster on the north west spur and two others are near the house groups. A boathouse is sited west of the house on the Neck of Samson, with another building beside the north cliff of East Porth. The post- medieval field system also focusses on South Hill, together with a line of fields behind North Hill's east coast. Blocks of small walled plots extensively refurbish prehistoric banks over South Hill's north, east and south west flanks, with three discrete enclosures behind the south coast. On South Hill's south west coast near Shag Point is a small kelp pit, a slab-edged hollow 1.6m in diameter and 0.2m deep, largely infilled by thrift turf, where seaweed was burnt to produce soda ash in an industry that thrived on Scilly from 1684 to 1835. Severe economic problems along with inducement and eviction by Augustus Smith, Scilly's lessee from 1834, left Samson's population dwindling rapidly from the mid 1830s. Soon after Samson's abandonment about 1855, Smith created a deer park of 4ha across the northern flank of South Hill, enclosed by a wall surviving to full height in many sectors. Although stocked with fallow deer, by 1860 the deer had already escaped and the experiment failed. Besides 19th/early 20th century stone-splitting sites on Samson Flats, later features include at least two erect slabs 72m apart, north west-south east, on the boulder shore of Southward Well Point: the south eastern is a squared post and the north western is a slender slab. These are the south eastern two of an original six spaced datum posts for calibrating the Depression Range-Finder at Steval Battery, one of the 1898-1906 fortifications on the Garrison, St Mary's. All modern notices 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Cowan, Z T, The Story of Samson, (1991)
Laws, P, The Buildings of Scilly, (1980)
Over, L, The Kelp Industry in Scilly, (1987)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971), 94-5
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971), 94-5
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971)
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquity' in Lyonesse, , Vol. 1, (1927), 5-14
Hencken, H O'Neill, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Notes on the Megalithic Monuments in the Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 13, (1933), 13-29
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Pearce, S M, 'Trans Devonshire Assn' in Late Roman Coinage in South West Britain, , Vol. 102, (1970)
Other
Extract pers comm to MPPA by R Linzey, Fort record book details of DRF datum points around Pendennis,
Gerrard, S., English Heritage Book of Dartmoor, 1997, Forthcoming
Linzey, R, Recmndtns for Incr Stat Protectn to Woolpack & Steval Batteries, 1994, Unpubl EH Report for R Iles, Con SW
p 96, pl 128, Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1972)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7642, (1988)
Ratcliffe, J/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7070, (1988)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson by fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson by fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - Scilly FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson from fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 18 SE Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 81 NE Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 2, 5, 6 Source Date: 1890 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Both 1890 and 1906 editions relevant
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 6 Source Date: 1888 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 6 Source Date: 1906 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; Cornwall sheets LXXXVII: 2, 5, 6 Source Date: 1890 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; Cornwall sheets LXXXVII: 5, 6 Source Date: 1890 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; sheet SV 81 SE Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Waters, A & Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107's for Scilly SMR PRNs 7071.11, 7073, 7075.01-2 & .04-5, (1988)
Waters, A, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.16, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.07, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.08, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.09, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.11, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.12, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.13, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.14, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.16, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.17, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.18, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.19, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.20, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.21, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.23, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7073, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.01 & .02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.01-.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.03 & .04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7075.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7075.06, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7076.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7076.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7077, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7077.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.06, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7083.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7083.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7084, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7089, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7092, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7093, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7643, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069 & 7069.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069 & 7069.02, (1988)

National Grid Reference: SV8784212707

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

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 - 1016509 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 15-Dec-2017 at 04:05:59.

End of official listing