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Early 20th century gun battery at Bant's Carn, St Mary's

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

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Latitude: 49.9341 / 49°56'2"N

Longitude: -6.3073 / 6°18'26"W

OS Eastings: 91022.846821

OS Northings: 12667.282569

OS Grid: SV910126

Mapcode National: GBR BXTV.MRB

Mapcode Global: VGYBY.MXFC

Entry Name: Early 20th century gun battery at Bant's Carn, St Mary's

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014786

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15439

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 large gun battery situated on a natural knoll known as
Bant's Carn on the north west coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The
battery was built between 1902 and 1905 as part of a defensive system designed
to protect a naval signalling and re-fuelling station then being established
on the Isles of Scilly.
The battery is contained within a substantial rampart around the top of the
knoll, its forward flank facing north with a field of fire commanding the high
water approach across Crow Bar to the islands' military and administrative
centre on the Garrison. It has two concrete emplacements for 12-pounder
quick-firing (QF) guns set into the rear of the forward flank. Behind the
emplacements, the rampart encloses a small levelled interior around a deep
lightwell giving access to an underground magazine and stores. An access track
curves south from the western end of the parade, leading to the battery
caretaker's quarters beyond the south side of this monument.
The knoll supporting the battery forms the north west tip of a broad shelf on
the island's north west coast; records indicate that the knoll was formerly
capped by a rock outcrop that was extensively quarried away to build the
battery. As completed the knoll was re-profiled on all sides by the addition
of a subrectangular steep earthen rampart measuring 55m east-west by up to 45m
north-south across its base; its height varies with the underlying slope,
rising up to approximately 6m high on its north west scarp but only 1m high on
the south. The top of the rampart encloses an ovoid internal area measuring
approximately 30m east-west by up to 12m north-south, sheltered behind the
straight crest of the rampart's forward flank and a much higher curving crest
of the southern rear flank.
The concrete gun emplacements are situated 15m apart in the rear of the
forward flank crest. Each emplacement includes a raised pedestal whose surface
contains the metal studded base for the gun mounting. Along its forward edge,
the pedestal is shielded by a low curved parapet from which a chamfered apron
extends to meet the rampart surface. The rear edge of the pedestal is angular,
dropping vertically to the battery interior, with concrete steps descending
from each side of the pedestal. The emplacements retain their original metal
handrails, supported by cast-in metal brackets, along the rear edge of the
pedestals and steps. The rear faces of the pedestals contain recessed lockers
to house shells and cartridges required for immediate use.
Between the emplacements in the battery interior is the rectangular lightwell,
9m long by 2.5m wide and 4m deep, faced with concrete and with steps
descending from the western end to the underground magazine and stores. The
upper edges of the lightwell and the side of the steps also retain their
original handrails; their hooked terminals beside a gap at the western end
secured chains designed to be removed to facilitate the lowering of ammunition
supplies to the magazine below. The northern face of the lightwell has a
date-stone marked `1905', flanked on each side by a large metal ventilator
pipe rising up the upper surface: the ventilators serve each of the magazine's
two principal rooms to maintain an even low humidity level essential for the
preservation of the explosives.
The battery's underground rooms open off the north side and both east and west
ends of the lightwell. The doorway on the north side gives access to the
brick-vaulted magazine, subdivided into two rooms by a partition wall
containing a central door. The magazine's eastern room was the shell store,
with the direct access from the lightwell and lit by a window retaining its
metal grille. The western room was the cartridge store, accessed only by the
doorway from the shell store. To reduce the risk of igniting the powder, the
cartridge store was lit by lamps set in niches in its wall with the lightwell;
the lamps were sealed from the interior of the store itself and were placed
into the niche by a hinged window on the lightwell side; the hinged frames
still survive in the niches at this monument. The small rooms at each end of
the lightwell provided further storage and service facilities for the fuses,
cartridge-store lamps and other materials for the guns' routine maintenance.
The eastern room was lit by a window retaining its metal grille.
Behind the emplacements and lightwell the battery's levelled interior extends
little further than was necessary to provide access around the top of the
lightwell. Its surface is approximately 1.5m below the rampart's forward crest
but to its rear, the rampart rises 2.5m. The eastern end of the interior
corresponds with a dip in the rampart crest. On the west, beyond the steps up
to the western emplacement, the rampart crest is broken by a levelled access
track, about 2m wide, which curves south around the western end of the rampart
and towards the battery caretaker's house. The house built on a concrete-
revetted stance levelled deeply into the rear of the knoll just beyond the
southern edge of the battery's rampart; this house is now a private dwelling
and is not included in the scheduling.
The historical context which gave rise to this monument is well-documented. In
the 1890s, a joint army and navy review of the nation's coastal defences
proposed the Isles of Scilly should become an advanced naval signalling and
re-fuelling station, to be classed as a defended port, in view of their
strategic position against perceived threats from French Atlantic naval bases.
Implementation of these proposals between 1898 and 1901 produced two
complementary 6-inch gun batteries served by a barracks/caretakers' block on
the Garrison, the south western promontory of St Mary's, to cover the deep
water approach to the islands. By 1902, the 6-inch guns of these batteries
were felt to give inadequate defence against potential attack from motor
torpedo boats; a proposed third 6-inch gun battery was abandoned in favour of
two 12-pounder quick-firing gun batteries, one above Steval Point on the west
coast of the Garrison, the other forming this monument at Bant's Carn,
covering the previously undefended shallow-water approach usable at high
tides to the island's strategic focus. Most other structures of the
fortification system in which this monument was designed to operate were
located on the Garrison and still survive, including coastal searchlight
emplacements and their control posts at Woolpack and Steval Points, with their
electricity supply generator housed in an 18th century battery between them.
An artificer's workshop for the maintenance of the all the batteries' guns and
mountings survives near the summit of the Garrison.
During construction of these defences, national defence policy underwent a
radical shift. German power replaced that of France as the dominant threat, a
re-orientation strengthened by the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904. In
the resulting re-alignment of the nation's defences to the east, detailed in
the Owen Report of 1905, the Isles of Scilly were abandoned as a naval station
and, with little commercial importance, they also lost their defended port
status. The batteries on Scilly were ordered to be decommissioned, their guns
being dismantled in 1906 and removed to storage in Falmouth in 1910. By the
time of this policy change, the 12-pounder guns had been mounted at the Steval
Point Battery and were approved but not mounted at Bant's Carn, where
construction of the battery had only recently been completed. Consequently,
this monument was built as a 12-pounder battery but never armed.
The window-blockings are excluded from the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 distinctive form of gun batteries developed at the end of the 19th century
differed fundamentally from earlier batteries and provided the first
application of principles that came to dominate the design of such defences in
the later 20th century.
Their design and location reflects major developments in armament technology,
strategic thought, the nature of the perceived threat and defensive policy. By
the mid 1880s an effective breech-loading system had considerably improved
the speed of re-loading guns. Hydraulic and compressed air systems enabled the
recoil of guns to be absorbed, allowing guns to be located on fixed centrally
pivoted mountings which improved accuracy and speed of firing. Lighter steel
barrels and improved propellants gave greater muzzle velocities and range
without corresponding increases in gun size and weight, thereby increasing the
manoeuvrability of the guns. Brass cartridge cases also increased the speed of
re-loading. The invention of smokeless powder reduced the visibility of guns
on firing. Coupled with these advances, the development of new range-finding
equipment and electrical communications considerably increased the speed and
accuracy of target position finding and the control and coordination of
armament. These technological changes revolutionised the nature of field
fortification considered appropriate to house the guns. Priority was given to
open emplacements with fixed gun mountings and low profile earthwork
fortifications, merging with the surrounding terrain to make them hard to
target while allowing the guns maximum manoeuvrability. Early applications of
these new principles of fortification were made in the later 1880s in the
context of infantry reboubts in south east England, their form characterised
as the `Twydall Profile'. During the 1890s variants and developments of the
Twydall Profile dominated new land fortifications for infantry and artillery,
providing a major influence on the design of the defences constructed on the
Isles of Scilly during its 1898-1906 phase of fortification.

The battery at Bant's Carn has survived well, preserving the original form of
both its earthwork and built structures and having the most intact survival of
original metal fittings of any of the batteries in the Scilly defensive system
of this phase. Such complete survival of a battery from this phase is rare and
of much importance for our knowledge of the development of modern artillery
defences. Most other components in the contemporary defensive system, that
included this battery as a major integral part, survive well.
Spatially, the rare survival of such a complete defensive system allows the
relationships of its components to be studied against their armament
capabilities and the strategic methods by which those defences were intended
to be used, in the controlled background of a single location. The system of
defences to which this monument contributed was directly inspired by
considerations of national defence; as such it also has a wider historical
importance whose immediate context is defined by the national defence reviews
which led both to the implementation and later the abandonment of the naval
base which this battery was designed to protect.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
National Trust, , S Cornwall Heritage Coast, , St Anthony Battery; A short history and description, (1994)
Saunders, A D, Fortress Britain, (1989)
Stevenson, I V, Some West Country Defences, (1989), 11-26
consulted 1993, Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7488, (1988)
Letter dated 3/11/1993, J Guy, Fortress Study Group, Letter to J Ratcliffe, CAU, re Scilly defences, 1902-1910, (1993)
Report for Cons SW, Feb 1994, Linzey, R and EH Architecture Branch, Recs for Incr Statutory Protectn to Woolpack & Steval Batteries, Cons SW, (1994)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; SV 9012 & SV 9112
Source Date: 1980

Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Outdoor Leisure Map, No. 25: Isles of Scilly
Source Date: 1982

Source: Historic England

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