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Medieval or later shipwreck grave 52m NNE of Crooked Rock, Wingletang Down

A Scheduled Monument in St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly

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Latitude: 49.8887 / 49°53'19"N

Longitude: -6.3369 / 6°20'12"W

OS Eastings: 88604.3395

OS Northings: 7745.1915

OS Grid: SV886077

Mapcode National: GBR BXRZ.66B

Mapcode Global: VGYCB.32R4

Entry Name: Medieval or later shipwreck grave 52m NNE of Crooked Rock, Wingletang Down

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 4 October 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009282

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15343

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Agnes

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval or later grave situated near the head of a
broad shallow valley on the north east edge of Wingletang Down on St Agnes in
the Isles of Scilly.
The grave survives with a sub-rectangular mound of heaped rubble measuring
2.5m north-south by 1.2m east-west, its long axis being along the contour of
the hillslope. The mound has an asymmetrical east-west profile, its eastern
slope gently rising to a row of small, contiguous edge-set slabs, up to 0.2m
high, which form a kerb along the west side. A shorter row of similar slabs is
visible along the northern edge of the mound, while the eastern edge is
defined by a row of turf-fast, ground level slabs.
The grave is located on a gentle slope near the high water mark at the western
side of The Cove between southern St Agnes and Gugh. This coastal situation,
far distant from consecrated ground, is typical of the burial of a shipwreck
victim close to the site where the body was washed ashore, as was the custom
until their burial in churchyards became normal practice during the 19th

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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 formidable hazard which the Isles of Scilly has presented to shipping in
the western approaches to the English Channel has resulted in numerous
shipwrecks on its coasts and outlying rocks and ledges. Over 500 ships are
recorded as having been wrecked in the immediate vicinity of the islands in
the 250 years between the 1670's and the 1920's, a minimum figure which will
exclude the many wrecks which went unrecorded. Until the 19th century, the
general custom on Scilly and elsewhere was to bury the victims of such wrecks
at or near the places where they were washed ashore. During the 19th century,
burial of shipwreck victims in the consecrated ground of churchyards became
the norm, later confirmed by a Churchyard Regulation, published in 1914,
stating that the Chaplain of the Isles `maintains his ancient right to a
fee of ten shillings on the interment of a non-parishioner, but in the event
of a body being washed ashore this fee will generally be returned'.
Although the numerous wrecks around the Isles of Scilly will have involved the
deaths of several thousand individuals, nearly all shipwreck victims' graves
beyond the churchyards have left no known visible traces. Apart from the grave
of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, who was later re-interred at Westminster Abbey and
whose original grave has been destroyed, the few sites on the islands which
have been identified as such graves are in equivalent positions relative to
the coast and include a cemetery known as `Frenchmen's Graves' on the slope
above Great Bay on the northern coast of St Martin's, and an individual grave
on the north western coastal slope of Wingletang Down, St Agnes. Although
these cannot be precisely dated, they provide the only locatable expressions
of this former burial custom. They are also important as rare direct evidence
for the dangers which the Isles of Scilly held for shipping and which
stimulated the development of a nationally important range of early
navigational aids on the islands to minimise those dangers.
This grave on Wingletang Down is a rare example of a single shipwreck grave
and has survived well with no evident disturbance. The asymmetrical profile of
the mound and its kerbing are unusual details for a grave mound in any
context. Its location typifies that of shipwreck graves, 750m south east of
one of the earliest post-medieval lighthouses in the country, highlights the
relationship between the dangers of the Isles of Scilly to early shipping and
their important role in the development of navigational aids.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1983)
Grigson, G, The Scilly Isles, (1977)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107 for Cornwall SMR entry PRN 7014, (1988)
consulted 1993, Waters, A., AM 107s for Cornwall SMR entries PRN 7011; 7015; 7016; 7018, (1988)
Morley, B. & Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation and maplet for CO 1014, 1975, consulted 1993
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8807
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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