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Prehistoric cairns, field system and settlements, medieval chapel and post-medieval daymark, lookout and signal station on north east St Martin's

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 49.9632 / 49°57'47"N

Longitude: -6.2707 / 6°16'14"W

OS Eastings: 93833.739799

OS Northings: 15743.443977

OS Grid: SV938157

Mapcode National: GBR BXXS.6JT

Mapcode Global: VGYBZ.8692

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairns, field system and settlements, medieval chapel and post-medieval daymark, lookout and signal station on north east St Martin's

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016508

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15525

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Martin's

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes extensive prehistoric funerary, field system and
settlement remains on north eastern St Martin's, together with an early
medieval chapel, a post-medieval daymark and a signal station on the north of
the eastern plateau, Chapel Down, and a post-medieval lookout near Turfy Hill.
The scheduling contains at least 18 prehistoric funerary cairns: four on low
hills along the spine of the island and 14 across Chapel Down. The four
hilltop cairns are large, 12m-15.5m across and 1m-1.4m high. The westernmost,
on the hill south of Turfy Hill, is a platform cairn whose surface supports
the post-medieval lookout described below; the other three have evidence for
internal structures. Excavation at a platform cairn on Bennigates Hill
revealed a stone-built box-like structure called a cist. On the southern crest
of John Batty's Hill are two cairns 100m apart; the north western includes
large surface slabs suggesting an underlying cist or chamber while the south
eastern has a NNW-SSE chamber hollow with a single covering slab and kerbing
on top of the mound and along part of its perimeter.
The Chapel Down cairns are smaller, mostly platform, cairns ranging from 5m-
12m across and 0.2m-1.2m high. Three are on the down's western spur north of
John Batty's Hill. Eight larger cairns are spaced 60m-145m apart as a north
west-south east scatter across the plateau: six have partly kerbed platforms
and one near the plateau centre contains a thin upright slab, 1.6m high. A
large kerbed cairn on the down's south east crest has three possible cist or
chamber slabs; a nearby small slab was roughly sculpted as a human head and
upper body in a later prehistoric style; this has now been secured erect on
bedrock east of the cairn. The Chapel Down's three other cairns are grouped on
high ground in the north, close to the later daymark; a partly kerbed cairn
north west of the daymark has traces of a north east-south west chamber. The
mound beneath the daymark may also have a prehistoric cairn at its core but
its visible extent is post-medieval.
The prehistoric field system contains at least five sites of early settlement
and encompasses much of the island's ridge, hills and the eastern plateau. Its
form varies with modern ground cover and land use across its overall extent.
In most unenclosed land beyond Chapel Down, blown sand and surface scrub
leaves early boundaries visible as scattered ridges and rubble cores exposed
across paths. In heathland on Chapel Down and Burnt Hill, boundaries survive
as low banks, often 2m-3m wide and 0.3m high, sometimes with spaced edge-set
slabs about 0.5m high. Along the contour the banks often form marked steps,
called lynchets, reflecting their influence on soil movement down the slope.
In enclosed land on and south of the island's ridge, early boundaries form
lynchets under modern walls or across present fields and are usually robbed of
visible rubble, though some large slabs survive in places.
The boundaries define a network of rectangular plots across the south slopes
and top of the island's ridge. Generally 20m-50m across and 0.2ha-0.5ha in
area, the plots' long axes tends to lie along the contour bounded by strong
lynchets. This area of the field system contains four settlement foci. On
May's Hill, excavation of a rubble-walled oval house, 5m across internally,
showed occupation debris and modification from the Bronze Age to early
medieval periods. On the north of John Batty's Hill are three ovoid houses,
5m-6.5m across internally. In a modern field south of Turfy Hill, a possible
house, 6m across, is defined by a low bank with a tall upright slab and a
smaller flat slab flanking a possible entrance. The fourth settlement adjoins
a lower slope lynchet at Perpitch where excavation revealed a round house,
4.5m across internally, with successive hearths and ovens.
The field system extends to the ridge's upper northern slope where its banks
cross modern paths. More widely spaced boundaries divide the middle and lower
northern slope, along and across the contour. Finer subdivision reappears on
Burnt Hill with adjoining plots on its neck, a wall along the saddle between
the promontory's two knolls and, at each end of the saddle, two small hut
circles with plots on the upper western slope. An unusually massive early wall
follows the southern crest of the northern knoll.
The field system differs on Chapel Down: on the south, banks define a large
block encompassing its south east slope and plateau edge, with smaller blocks
extending onto the southern plateau. On the plateau, these blocks are divided
into plots by north west-south east banks. From the north west of this field
system two banks extend NNW, 50m-60m apart, along the down's western crest and
down its west flank. On northern Chapel Down, extensively robbed prehistoric
walls also show NNW-SSE subdivision, parallel to the western banks, with
evidence for some north west-south east walling on the north east of the Down.
Some of the medieval chapel and later signal station walls reuse these earlier
alignments.
Most medieval and later features in the scheduling focus on northern Chapel
Down. East of the daymark, wall footings of an early medieval chapel define a
rectangular interior 5.25m long, WSW-ENE, by 2.5m wide with an entrance on the
south. Its plan resembles other 8th-10th century AD chapels on Scilly and it
appears on some 16th-18th century maps as an upstanding chapel. The chapel
adjoins the north wall of a subrectangular enclosure at least 19m long, whose
slight walling fades towards the signal station to the south.
On the highest point of Chapel Down is the Day Mark, a navigational aid whose
circular tower and conical top is painted in horizontal red and white bands.
Above a blocked doorway on the west is a date-stone marked `TE' and `1637' in
relief. The tower stands on a rubble mound 1.2m high. The Day Mark, which is
Listed Grade II*, was built in 1683 or 1687 (its date-stone is incorrectly re-
cut) by Thomas Ekins, the islands' steward, to mark the north east of the
archipelago and complement the lighthouse built in 1680 on St Agnes, the south
western inhabited island. On the hill south of Turfy Hill, the site of an 18th
century watch house was, by 1889, a Coastguard lookout with a central
flagstaff. Four of its enclosure slabs survive on the platform of the hill's
prehistoric cairn; those on the north east and north west bear rings and links
to secure the flagstaff guys. In 1804, an Admiralty signal station was built
on northern Chapel Down to communicate with naval vessels by signal mast and
to report on enemy shipping movements. It was decommissioned in 1815,
superceded by semaphore operated from St Mary's. Its main building stands to
2.3m high in the north of a subrectangular enclosure 38m long, NNW-SSE, by up
to 21m wide. The enclosure has a smaller building in its south wall and a pen
against its east wall. The signal mast was sited on bedrock 30m north of the
signal station, marked by a ring of six studs set into the rock to secure the
mast guys. An enclosure 30m west of the signal station served some of its
provision needs.
Twentieth century features on northern Chapel Down include the concrete base
of a coastguard lookout near the signal station mast and an Ordnance Survey
triangulation pillar south of the daymark.
All modern fences, gates and their fittings and the Day Mark's painted surface
and lightning conductor are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them, including field walls and hedgebanks, is included.

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.

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'
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.
Regular field systems are one of several methods of field layout known to have
been employed in the Isles of Scilly from the Bronze Age to the Roman period
(c.2000 BC - AD 400); closer dating within that period may be provided by the
visible relationships of the field boundaries to other classes of monument
with a shorter known time-span of use, or by their relationship with an
earlier recorded sea level.
They comprise a collection of field plots defined by boundaries laid out in a
consistent manner, along two dominant axes at approximate right angles to each
other. This results in rectilinear fields which may vary in their size and
length:width ratio both within and between individual field systems. The
fields are bounded by rubble walls or banks, often incorporating edge- or end-
set slabs called orthostats. Within its total area, a regular field system may
be subdivided into blocks differing in the orientations of their dominant
axes.
Regular field systems may be associated with broadly contemporary settlement
sites such as stone hut circles. Some regular field systems on the Isles of
Scilly contain a distinctive association, rarely encountered elsewhere,
whereby certain of their field boundaries directly incorporate or link cairns,
entrance graves and cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments.
Although no precise figure is available, regular field systems form one of the
three principal forms of prehistoric field system, along with irregular field
systems and some groups of prehistoric linear boundaries, which survive in
over 70 areas of the Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into
the physical and social organisation of past landscapes and they provide
evidence for the wider contemporary context within which other nationally
important monuments were constructed.

The north eastern area of St Martin's included within this scheduling contains
a good survival of prehistoric funerary and settlement remains, sufficiently
extensive to demonstrate the nature and relationships of these aspects of
prehistoric activity. They show well the influence of the varied underlying
landforms on their physical layout, in the siting of the cairns by the summits
and crests of hills in the west of the area but grouped as small cemeteries
over the Chapel Down plateau, and by the considerable variation in field
system pattern across the spine of the island and from west to east,
reflecting differing intensities of prehistoric land use and showing those
locations most favoured for settlement. The value of this survival for our
understanding of the prehistoric communities is considerably amplified by the
dating evidence, structural and artefactual details revealed during the
settlement excavations at May's Hill and Perpitch. The early medieval chapel
on the north of Chapel Down is a very rare survival; it has not been excavated
and despite removal of most of its wall fabric, it still displays its
unmodified 'double-square' ground plan characteristic of this period. Together
with its enclosure it is of particular value for early Christian studies in
forming one of at least three surviving early medieval religious foci on
Scilly, each with a differing form and subsequent development and a rare
grouping in such a small area. The scheduling also contains remains of an
important group of maritime lookout and communication structures from the 17th
to 20th centuries; the Day Mark, an unusually early daymark tower and
complementing one of the earliest of the Trinity House lighthouses, reflects
increased concern in the later 17th century to safeguard the growing seaborne
trade. The nearby early 19th century signal station is the most complete
surviving example of the 1795-1814 Admiralty signal posts and is unusual in
being stone-built. Its physical survival is complemented by a wealth of
surviving documentation concerning both its wider national historical role and
the specific contexts of its construction, operation and decommissioning. Both
the Day Mark and the signal station highlight the strategically important, and
dangerous, position which the Isles of Scilly occupied on the nation's major
maritime routes.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Green, M, The Gods of the Celts, (1986)
Megaw, JVS, Simpson, DDA, Introduction to British Prehistory, (1981)
Noall, C, Cornish Lights and Shipwrecks, (1968)
O'Kelly, M J, Early Ireland, (1989)
O'Neil, BH St J, Ancient Monuments of the Isles of Scilly, (1949), 10
Ratcliffe, J, Lighing Up The Past In Scilly, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Tarrant, M, Cornwall's Lighthouse Heritage, (1993)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
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
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
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
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
Goodwin, J, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Granite Towers on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 32, (1993), 128-139
Turk, F A, 'Cornish Studies' in A Study of the Vertebrate Remains from May's Hill, St Martin's, (1984), 69-78
Turk, F A, 'Cornish Studies' in A Study of the Vertebrate Remains from May's Hill, St Martin's, (1984), 69-78
Other
Copy appended to SM 15525 data, Hooley, A D, 1:2500 Part-measured survey of Chapel Down field system by MPPA, (1994)
Ratcliffe, J & Parkes, C/CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly: September 1989, (1990)
Rees, S E, AM 7 scheduling documentation for SI 1004, 1975,
Rees, S E, AM 7 scheduling documentation for SI 994, 1975, cairn 'a'
Rees, S E, AM 7 scheduling documentation for SI 994, 1975, cairn 'b'
Rees, S E, AM 7 scheduling documentation for SI 995, 1975,
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for SI 1005, 1975,
Thomas, C, A note on certain remains on St Martin's Head, Scilly, 1977, Unpubl ms note dated June 1977
Thomas, C, A note on certain remains on St Martin's Head, Scilly, 1977, Unpubl ms note dated June 1977
Thorpe, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7126; 7126.01; 7126.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7117.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7117.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7117.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7118, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7119.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7119.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7121, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7122.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7122.08, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7122.09, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7127, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7137, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7138.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7139, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7139.04, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7142.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7142.04, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7142.07, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7144, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7145, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7259.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7259.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7260, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7597, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7122.02-.05 & .07, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7139, 7139.01-.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR PRNs 7123,7126.03,7139.05,7140,7258,7261, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map: SV 91 NW, & 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps: SV 9315 & 9415
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 8715
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 15
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 15
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 15
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Wall confirmed by MPPA field survey
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9315
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9415
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps: Cornwall sheets LXXXII: 12 & 16
Source Date: 1889
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Unpubl plan from MPP fieldwork, Hooley, A D, 1:2500 Part-surveyed plan of Chapel Down early field system, (1994)
Unpubl plans from MPP fieldwork, Hooley, A D, 1:2500 & 1:10000 sketch plans of NE St Martin's early boundaries, (1994)
Young, C J, AM 7 scheduling documentation for SI 1069, 1978,

Source: Historic England

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