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Civil War breastwork and battery on the north coast of Normandy Down, St Mary's

A Scheduled Monument in St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

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Latitude: 49.9228 / 49°55'21"N

Longitude: -6.2779 / 6°16'40"W

OS Eastings: 93060.878046

OS Northings: 11283.462305

OS Grid: SV930112

Mapcode National: GBR BXWW.H7K

Mapcode Global: VGYC5.46HJ

Entry Name: Civil War breastwork and battery on the north coast of Normandy Down, St Mary's

Scheduled Date: 17 May 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011941

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15372

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Mary's

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a length of defensive bank and ditch, called a
breastwork and dating to the English Civil War, which extends along the
northern coastal cliff of Normandy Down on the eastern side of St Mary's in
the Isles of Scilly. Near the centre of the breastwork is a small Civil War
gun battery.

The breastwork survives as an earth and rubble bank, up to 2.5m wide, rising
to 1m high on its outer face and to 0.4m high on the inner face. The sides of
the breastwork bank form steep scarps reflecting their stone facing, called a
revetment, of which occasional slabs, some tumbled from their original
positions, are visible through the turf cover along each side. The breastwork
ditch, 1m-2m wide and up to 0.5m deep, is along the landward side of the bank.
The breastwork extends on an almost straight ENE-WSW course, running
immediately behind the coastal cliff for 120m along the northern coast of
Normandy Down from the edge of the coastal outcrops behind Gap Point at the
east to the north westward curve in the cliff above the erosion hollow called
Darrity's Hole at the west.

The battery is located almost at the centre of the breastwork, and is defined
to each side by a sharp angle northwards in the breastwork bank, accompanied
by a break in the breastwork ditch across the rear of the resulting
trapezoidal battery platform. The battery measures 6m wide, east-west, across
its base between the angles of the breastwork bank, and survives to a depth of
3m north-south to the line along which its northern edge has been truncated by
the eroding cliff edge.

The breastwork and battery in this monument form part of an integrated system
of Civil War coastal defences which survive extensively around St Mary's.
These defences include breastworks bordering potential landing places and near
important settlements and installations, coupled with a system of batteries
commanding complementary fields of fire over the waters around much of the
island's coast. The breastwork in this monument provides cover over this
relatively low-lying portion of coastal cliff behind Gap Point while the
battery's field of fire complements that of other examples in analogous
locations on successive headlands along the north east coast of St Mary's from
Mount Todden Down to Bar Point, together with a large battery on Toll's

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.
Civil War fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during military
operations between 1642 and 1651 to provide temporary protection for infantry
or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which may have been reinforced
with revetting or palisades, consist of earth and rubble platforms or banks
and ditches.
The Civil War fieldworks of the Isles of Scilly form a major part of the 150
surviving examples of fieldworks recorded nationally. They present an
unusually complete system of fortifications from this period, both in the
surviving range of fieldwork types represented and in the surviving pattern of
their strategic disposition.
Three main types of Civil War fieldwork have been recognised on the Isles of
Scilly: breastworks, batteries and platforms; these could be deployed
separately or in combination to form a defensive complex.
Breastworks, which on the Isles of Scilly run beside the coastal cliff edge,
consist of an earth and rubble bank, up to 4m wide and nearly 2m high but
generally much smaller, usually accompanied by a ditch on the landward side.
Sixteen surviving examples are recorded on the islands.
Batteries are levelled areas or platforms, generally up to 20m across,
situated on a hilltop or terraced into a slope to serve as gun emplacements.
They vary considerably in size and shape and are usually partially or wholly
enclosed by a bank, occasionally incorporating one or two outer ditches.
Twenty batteries survive on the Isles of Scilly, several connected by
breastworks. Adjacent to some batteries are examples of the third fieldwork
type, platforms. These are partly terraced into, and partly out from, sloping
ground and represent sites of lookouts and temporary buildings. Eight such
platforms, measuring up to 12m by 8m in size, are known to survive on the
islands. These fieldworks and fieldwork complexes were occasionally associated
with other classes of defensive monument on the islands, including earthen
artillery forts and blockhouses.
The fieldworks were designed to defend the deep water approaches to the
islands, especially St Mary's where most examples are found. Fieldworks are
also known from Tresco, Bryher, Samson, St Agnes and Gugh. The circumstances
of their construction are recorded in contemporary historical documents which
indicate most were built by the Royalist forces which controlled the islands
for the entire Civil War period except during 1646-8.

The Civil War breastwork and battery in this monument have survived
substantially intact, despite the truncation by coastal erosion of the outer
edge of the battery. Their situation, and the survival of extensive historical
documentation giving the context in which they were built, demonstrate clearly
the strategic methods employed by the Civil War military forces and the
functions of both breastworks and batteries within them. These methods are
also well illustrated by the complementary relationship of this monument to
the other surviving breastworks and batteries along the north east coast of St

Source: Historic England


consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7235, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7423 & 7423.02, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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