Tintagel Castle
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Tintagel Castle © Historic England
Tintagel Castle © Historic England

Our Research in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

We’ve led or commissioned hundreds of research projects over recent years from dendrochronological analysis to geophysical surveys, aerial photography to popular publications. Our work has shed new light on what makes Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly distinctive and, importantly, how to manage that distinctiveness for the social and economic benefits it brings. 


With many partners, we’ve helped discover, map and interpret Cornwall’s historic landscape. This is the vital first step in protecting and managing what makes it so distinctive. 

Rapid Identification Surveys of the Stratton Hundred and the Tamar Valley revealed almost 2,000 previously unrecorded archaeological sites. Between 1994 and 2006, the Cornwall National Mapping Programme identified thousands of sites from aerial photos, and made this new information publicly available on the Cornwall Historic Environment Record.

We also supported the pioneering work done in Cornwall in 1994 on developing the method and principles of historic landscape characterisation (HLC), which presents current understanding of the whole landscape. HLC has since been applied to 99% of the remainder of England.

An air photograph of field systems at Metherell, Cornwall
View of landscape at Metherell, Calstock, Cornwall. The patchwork of fields in the centre and rear shows the medieval field pattern, but this land was probably first farmed in prehistory. © Cornwall Council 2012


Our research has helped develop new and deeper understanding of Cornwall’s historic environment, producing up to date interpretation for a variety of purposes, from enhancing visitor experiences to informing development proposals.

Recently, detailed analytical survey has substantially revised interpretations of some of Cornwall’s iconic sites and landscapes, including Chysauster Romano-British settlement, Iron Age hillforts at Warbstow Bury and Castle-an Dinas. Recent surveys at Tintagel have greatly improved our understanding of complex remains on the Island, the beach and on the valley slopes south of the castle. 

We’re also making the first ever systematic assessment of the heritage significance of Cornwall’s ports and harbours to help inform appropriate change in the future. 


Read our blog about Warbstow Bury Iron Age Hillfort
Although the fishing industry has been contracting, there are still busy fishing ports such as Newlyn (Cornwall). It was home to the famous Newlyn School of artists in the late 19th century, who were inspired by its light.
Although the fishing industry has been contracting, there are still busy fishing ports such as Newlyn (Cornwall), once home to the late 19th Century Newlyn School of artists. © Historic England DP031963

The Isles of Scilly

We’re helping better understand the Isles of Scilly’s internationally important historic environment. It has one of the highest concentrations of archaeological assets in western Europe. Over 4,000 years of human occupation has produced a uniquely rich heritage, with outstanding archaeology from early Neolithic chamber barrows to the fragile remains of Second World War defences. The Lyonesse Project has looked at sunken peats and their pollens to recreate in fine detail the evolution of the coastal and marine environment of Scilly.

Investigator taking notes on the Isles of Scilly
Investigator taking notes on the Isles of Scilly © Mike Roberts/Historic England
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