Prehistoric house platform settlement south west of English Island Carn, St Martin's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018115

Date first listed: 24-Jul-1998


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric house platform settlement south west of English Island Carn, St Martin's
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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. Martin's

National Grid Reference: SV 93788 15246


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.

House platforms are one of several types of settlement site known from the Bronze Age to early medieval period on Scilly (from c.2000 BC to c.AD 1000); individual house platforms may be dated by excavation or by their association with other monuments of known date. They reflect an adaptation by which level floored houses were built on relatively steep slopes and consist of rounded or polygonal areas levelled into the slope. Their interiors are defined by the levelling backscarp, sometimes faced with rubble or larger slabs, and often with a bank along the perimeter of one or more edges. Excavations have shown that some house platforms supported timber and stone built rounded or ovoid houses whose post-holes, lower courses and occupation deposits are masked beneath later deposits. House platforms comprise a significant proportion of over 140 prehistoric to early medieval settlement sites known on Scilly and form a major source of information on the islands' early settlement activity. The house platform settlement south east of English Island Carn survives well; the upper of the two house platforms has not been excavated and remains intact together with deposits of its occupation debris whose spread over the slope below was confirmed by the excavation at the lower house platform. Although excavated and subject to some coastal erosion, the site and overall form of the lower house platform remains clear, preserving the visible relationship of the two house platforms forming this settlement. This is one of the few prehistoric house platform settlements to have been partly excavated; the resulting confirmation of its date, occupation sequence and its rich structural and artefactual content confirms the value of the intact remains at the upper house platform and forms an important contribution to our understanding of early settlement in the pre-submergence landscape of the islands. Its contribution in this respect is given wider relevance in the landscape by the proximity of broadly contemporary settlement and religious remains at levels from the inter-tidal zone to the higher downland.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric house platform settlement on the south west slope of English Island Carn, a small headland at the east end of Higher Town Bay on the south coast of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The prehistoric settlement contains two house platforms one behind the other on the steep slope and spaced 10m apart on a NNE-SSW axis. Each house platform has a subtriangular internal area whose front edge faces south and whose rear apex is levelled deeply into the steep slope. The interior of the higher, north eastern, house platform is 6m wide across its front edge and extends 5.5m back to its rounded rear apex, levelled 1m into slope. Its nearly vertical rear face is stabilised by a rubble facing, coursed in places, while the other sides of the interior are defined by a bank of earth and rubble, reaching a maximum 2.75m wide and 1m high along the front edge. The south western house platform is similar in form but slightly larger, its interior measuring 6.5m across the front edge, extending 7m to its rear apex and levelled up to 2m into the slope. On the north west of its levelling cut are remains of rubble facing and a natural outcrop marks the east corner of the house platform; beyond that outcrop, the present coastal cliff runs across the forward edge of the interior removing any former bank that may have defined that side. Some occupation debris, including shells and a dark soil, is visible in part of the cliff section. Knowledge of the date and nature of occupation at this settlement has been much increased by details from excavation within the south western house platform between 1945 and 1953. This revealed at least three successive occupation layers, at least one of which was associated with remains of a rubble-walled structure incorporating edge-set slabs and holes for wall or roof posts. Part of the house platform interior was cut into the subsoil and an entrance gap was found in the south west corner. The occupation layers contained hearths, paving slabs and artefacts such as flint scrapers and flakes together with many fragments of typically 2nd - 1st millennium BC pottery. Overlying the occupation debris in the house platform was blown sand which itself was sealed by occupation debris considered to have come down the slope from the other unexcavated house platform. The excavation also revealed a short length of contemporary field wall running north-south to the west of the house platform; the wall, traces of which are still visible on the surface, contained a gateway flanked by upright slabs at a point 2.5m west of the house platform's south west corner. Nearby beyond this scheduling, broadly contemporary prehistoric settlement sites, field boundaries and funerary cairns survive both in the inter-tidal zone in the western half of Higher Town Bay and over much of the higher ground of eastern St Martin's.

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: 15523

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Beagrie, N, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Aspects of Brit Field Archaeology' in Excavations by Bryan and Helen O'Neil on the Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 209, (1989), 49-54
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7152, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7636, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16 Source Date: 1889 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9315 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing