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 field system in southern Pentle Bay, Tresco

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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Prehistoric field system in southern Pentle Bay, Tresco

List entry Number: 1017782


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


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: 18-Mar-1998

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

UID: 15514

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. Regular field systems are one of several methods of field layout known to have been employed in the Isles of Scilly from the Bronze Age to the Roman period (c.2000 BC - AD 400); closer dating within that period may be provided by the visible relationships of the field boundaries to other classes of monument with a shorter known time-span of use, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea level. They comprise a collection of field plots defined by boundaries laid out in a consistent manner, along two dominant axes at approximate right angles to each other. This results in rectilinear fields which may vary in their size and length:width ratio both within and between individual field systems. The fields are bounded by rubble walls or banks, often incorporating edge- or end- set slabs called orthostats. Within its total area, a regular field system may be subdivided into blocks differing in the orientations of their dominant axes. Regular field systems may be associated with broadly contemporary settlement sites such as stone hut circles. Some regular field systems on the Isles of Scilly contain a distinctive association, rarely encountered elsewhere, whereby certain of their field boundaries directly incorporate or link cairns, entrance graves and cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments. Although no precise figure is available, regular field systems form one of the three principal forms of prehistoric field system, along with irregular field systems and some groups of prehistoric linear boundaries, which survive in over 70 areas of the Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into the physical and social organisation of past landscapes and they provide evidence for the wider contemporary context within which other nationally important monuments were constructed.

The prehistoric field system in southern Pentle Bay survives reasonably well, displaying its manner of layout and construction; its three lengths of paired walling form an unusual feature. Despite intermittent exposure due to periodic and shifting sandbanks, successive records of this field system have demonstrated its extensive survival well into and beyond the inter-tidal zone, confirming its overall stability against a considerable period of submergence and providing information on the nature of early landuse in the lower lying terrain of the prehistoric landscape which now lies below the high water mark. Its value for the study of early landscapes is increased by the survival nearby of the other prehistoric field system and settlement sites along the southern and south western coasts of Tresco, giving the wider landuse context broadly contemporary with the remains in this scheduling.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric field system on the southern shores of Pentle Bay on the south east coast of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. The field system contains a prehistoric corn-milling stone called a saddle quern. Where exposed on the middle and lower shore, the field system walls are visible as rows of closely spaced or continuous small slabs, frequently set on edge and generally 0.2m-0.5m long by 0.2m-0.4m high, but reaching 1m long and 0.5m high in places. In some sectors the walling acts as a slight breakwater, trapping aggregations of water-borne rubble alongside. The field system's full extent, known from successive surface surveys, is not normally visible at any one time due to intermittent masking by shifting sandbanks. The accumulated records show the overall field system revealed as exposures of prehistoric walling on the very gently shelving middle and lower shore around the west, north and east of Skirt Island, a rocky outcrop linked to Tresco by dunes and defining the southern end of Pentle Bay. Wall exposures are recorded up to 160m from Skirt Island on the north west and north, to 140m on the north east and to 80m from it on the east and ESE. A short length of wall visible in the northern face of the sand dune extending WSW from Skirt Island is also considered to derive from this field system. In that overall area the walling displays a rectilinear pattern with boundaries approximately 20m-45m apart on north east-south west and north west-south east axes. At three locations within its extent there are pairs of closely-spaced walls, 4m-8m apart, near- parallel and with almost straight courses exposed variously over 10m-20m lengths, deriving from former trackways and narrow enclosures incorporated in the field system. Two such paired walls occur approximately 75m west and north west of Skirt Island respectively and follow NNW-SSE courses; the third, with a south west-north east axis, is approximately 50m ESE of Skirt Island. Between the paired walling to the west of the Island, and towards their southern end, a prehistoric saddle quern is visible as a granite slab 0.6m long, 0.45m wide and 0.2m high, with a hollowed and smoothed upper surface on which grain was ground. Located 5m north east of that same pair of walls is a small rubble mound, 2.5m in diameter and 0.2m high, called a clearance cairn and resulting from prehistoric field clearance. Beyond this scheduling, prehistoric field systems and habitation sites survive at several locations on the southern and south west shores of Tresco.

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
Ratcliffe, J, Lighting up the Past in Scilly, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Lighting up the Past in Scilly, (1991)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
CAU, Scilly SMR entry PRN 7681, (1995)
Gibson, F E, Beric Tempest postcard; AP to WNW, Skirt Island in foreground, 1990, postcard available during mid 1990's
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7231, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7231.02, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

National Grid Reference: SV 90174 14027


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. 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 - 1017782 .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 25-Sep-2018 at 03:51:29.

End of official listing