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Prehistoric to post-medieval funerary, field system and settlement remains, with post-medieval kelp pit and deer park on and adjacent to Samson

A Scheduled Monument in Tresco, Isles of Scilly

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Coordinates

Latitude: 49.9332 / 49°55'59"N

Longitude: -6.3516 / 6°21'5"W

OS Eastings: 87841.845583

OS Northings: 12743.307262

OS Grid: SV878127

Mapcode National: GBR BXPV.RH0

Mapcode Global: VGYBX.VYK3

Entry Name: Prehistoric to post-medieval funerary, field system and settlement remains, with post-medieval kelp pit and deer park on and adjacent to Samson

Scheduled Date: 14 February 1978

Last Amended: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016509

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15526

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: Tresco

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes remains from successive prehistoric to post-medieval
settlement, funerary and defensive activities on and around Samson in the west
of the Isles of Scilly. The prehistoric field system extends below Mean Low
Water to the east of Samson.
The earliest settlement traces are pits containing neolithic pottery revealed
by excavation on the north coast of East Porth; an early land surface exposed
in the southern cliff of East Porth has also produced a cache of charred
barley radiocarbon-dated to the Early Bronze Age.
Prehistoric field systems encompass most of Samson's land area and extend east
onto lower ground since submerged as the Samson Flats. Their boundaries appear
as rubble and boulder banks, often with spaced edge-set slabs. Many form
marked steps along the contour, called lynchets, from their influence on
downslope soil movement and some are enhanced giving a terraced effect.
The field system pattern varies considerably. Much of South Hill is divided
into small plots, often organised between major downslope boundaries, and
refurbished in some sectors to serve the post-medieval settlement. On the
summit ridge, early walls slight some prehistoric cairns. At least six hut
circles survive on the hill's north, south east and south flanks, varying
greatly in size and build, and two are slighted by later field walls.
On North Hill, a major NNW-SSE boundary follows the spine of the hill and
links several of the many prehistoric cairns also focussed on the spine. From
the higher ground, banks run downslope from small enclosures beside the main
boundary: despite masking by midslope scrub, some ridges and lynchets visible
at lower levels and walls that emerge under dunes on the east and west coasts
confirm the presence of mid and lower slope field subdivision, clearest on the
north east where north east-south west walls emerge from the dune base to be
divided into plots by cross-walls. Of two hut circles known on North Hill, one
is exposed by cliff erosion on the south west where excavation produced Late
Bronze Age/Early Iron Age pottery and environmental data. The second, on the
spine of the hill's south spur, has a broad low wall and an ESE entrance.
On the Samson Flats the field system has a dominant north east-south west wall
that runs from East Porth to Black Ledge then curves north, dividing areas
with differing intensities of land division. Few walls are visible to its
north: one heads north for about 100m, fading to the west of a hut circle from
which a short wall runs ENE. South of the dominant wall, regular subdivision
appears with traces of north east-south west walls defining rectangular plots
between and south west of two major walls running south and SSE.
Prehistoric cairn cemeteries follow the spines of both South and North Hill.
That on South Hill focusses on the summit outcrops, on and against which are
three chambered cairns, each partly slighted by a later prehistoric wall. A
fourth chambered cairn adjoins the outcrops' base on the north east. At the
foot of the outcrops on the south west are two small tor cairns; to their
south east is a burial chamber formed from a massive boulder against the rock
face. Beyond the summit, two platform cairns occupy the north west spur; an
entrance grave on the hill's east slope lies behind a staggered junction of
two prehistoric fields and is adjoined by a hut circle.
The North Hill cairn cemetery extends NNW-SSE along the hill's spine; most
cairns are closely-spaced on the southern spur, rising to a summit group then
a much sparser distribution along the northern spur. The largest summit cairn
has a central cist revealed by a trench dug in 1862. The other summit cairns
include four entrance graves, two kerbed and chambered cairns of other forms
and two round cairns. On the hill's southern spur are an entrance grave, two
other chambered cairns, two small tor cairns and a free-standing box-like
funerary cist. North of the summit are two small round cairns and, by upper
slope outcrops, an entrance grave and a kerbed platform cairn; by the north
coast is a small round cairn. At two entrance graves south of the summit the
prehistoric spinal wall reuses one chamber side-wall and slights the other.
Romano-British to medieval remains on Samson focus on part excavated features
on East Porth's north shore and cliff, including an Iron Age/Romano-British
cist and a hollowed slab of a type recurrent in Cornish Romano-British sites;
a similar slab occurs on the south west slope of South Hill. Medieval features
include a Christian cemetery with timber and later stone buildings considered
ancillary to an early medieval chapel; pottery from the buildings give a
6th-8th century AD date range but the cemetery extends beyond that and is
associated with an enclosure wall entering the coastal cliff. Pottery from
later medieval layers indicates occupation up to the mid-13th century.
After late medieval abandonment, re-occupation of Samson is recorded by 1669.
By 1770 Samson's population rose to 35-39 at which it remained until the mid-
1830s. Extensive remains of the post-medieval settlement are concentrated on
South Hill, complemented by historical sources which allow most buildings and
fields to be attributed to their 19th century tenants. Eleven houses survive,
up to the 1830s in date, with rubble walls up to 2m high; five had a kitchen
and parlour, six a single room plan; all had an upper floor. Five occupy a
hollow on the lower north slope and four are near the top of the hill; the
others are on the north west slope and on the north of the Neck of Samson.
Four barns and animal sheds cluster on the north west spur and two others are
near the house groups. A boathouse is sited west of the house on the Neck of
Samson, with another building beside the north cliff of East Porth. The post-
medieval field system also focusses on South Hill, together with a line of
fields behind North Hill's east coast. Blocks of small walled plots
extensively refurbish prehistoric banks over South Hill's north, east and
south west flanks, with three discrete enclosures behind the south coast.
On South Hill's south west coast near Shag Point is a small kelp pit, a
slab-edged hollow 1.6m in diameter and 0.2m deep, largely infilled by thrift
turf, where seaweed was burnt to produce soda ash in an industry that thrived
on Scilly from 1684 to 1835.
Severe economic problems along with inducement and eviction by Augustus Smith,
Scilly's lessee from 1834, left Samson's population dwindling rapidly from the
mid 1830s. Soon after Samson's abandonment about 1855, Smith created a deer
park of 4ha across the northern flank of South Hill, enclosed by a wall
surviving to full height in many sectors. Although stocked with fallow deer,
by 1860 the deer had already escaped and the experiment failed.
Besides 19th/early 20th century stone-splitting sites on Samson Flats, later
features include at least two erect slabs 72m apart, north west-south east, on
the boulder shore of Southward Well Point: the south eastern is a squared post
and the north western is a slender slab. These are the south eastern two of an
original six spaced datum posts for calibrating the Depression Range-Finder at
Steval Battery, one of the 1898-1906 fortifications on the Garrison, St
Mary's.
All modern notices are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them 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.

These remains contain a rich survival of archaeological remains from
successive human activities. The entire island of Samson and much of the now-
submerged Samson Flats provide clear evidence for changes in land use
following the submergence of most of the area's wider prehistoric landscape.
This is of considerable importance for studies of human behaviour and the
social, economic and landscape development.
While their significance in this respect transcends each phase in that
transition, the remains from each phase also contain particular features of
importance, beginning with the Neolithic pits that give some of the earliest
evidence for human occupation on Scilly. The prehistoric cemeteries survive
well, with only limited disturbance from early excavation, and contain an
unusual diversity of associated funerary structures. Their siting along the
major ridges and spurs of the two hills and their incorporation of various
natural outcrops shows clearly the influence of underlying landforms on
prehistoric funerary and ritual activity. This influence is also reflected in
the layout of the prehistoric field systems whose successive relationship with
the cemeteries, variously involving slighting, reusing and respecting the
earlier cairns, provides rare insights into developing attitudes to the
ancestors, religion and land use among prehistoric communities. The survival
of the field system across the Samson Flats is of major significance in
extending our view of prehistoric land use from the hilltops right down to the
lowland of its contemporary landscape, the variations in the overall field
system patterns reflecting differing intensities of prehistoric exploitation
and, along with the habitation sites themselves, showing those locations most
favoured for settlement. The excavated features at East Porth indicate a rare
early medieval Christian focus, implying that its further remains will survive
intact beneath the adjacent dune and providing important dating evidence for
the hiatus in the island's population against the background of gradual
submergence. The early post-medieval repopulation of the island is a good, if
small scale, reflection of the changes that brought Scilly as a whole under
the influence of national economic and strategic developments. The remains
from the resulting occupation are nationally unparalleled as an intact example
a post-medieval island settlement abandoned in the mid-19th century with only
minimal disturbance from the deer park wall and no modern development. The
importance of those remains is substantially enhanced by the wealth of
historical information bearing on its population and their economic situation,
and by the early photographs of the buildings. They are of particular
significance for the strong emotional attachment they hold for their modern
successor community, the present day population of Scilly among whom are
several descendants from the Samson population and for whom the remains on
Samson epitomise their own background in very changed circumstances.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Berry, E, The Samson Buildings, (1994)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Cowan, Z T, The Story of Samson, (1991)
Laws, P, The Buildings of Scilly, (1980)
Over, L, The Kelp Industry in Scilly, (1987)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Fieldwork in Scilly 1991 and 1992, (1993)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J, Sharpe, A CAU, Fieldwork in Scilly Autumn 1990, (1991)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Ratcliffe, J , Straker, V, The Early Environment of Scilly, (1996)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
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)
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)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971), 94-5
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971), 94-5
Butcher, S A, Neal, D S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Samson, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 10, (1971)
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquity' in Lyonesse, , Vol. 1, (1927), 5-14
Hencken, H O'Neill, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Notes on the Megalithic Monuments in the Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 13, (1933), 13-29
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Mason, H, 'Cornish Studies' in The excavation of a cottage on Samson, Isles of Scilly, 1977, (1984), 49-68
Pearce, S M, 'Trans Devonshire Assn' in Late Roman Coinage in South West Britain, , Vol. 102, (1970)
Other
Extract pers comm to MPPA by R Linzey, Fort record book details of DRF datum points around Pendennis,
Gerrard, S., English Heritage Book of Dartmoor, 1997, Forthcoming
Linzey, R, Recmndtns for Incr Stat Protectn to Woolpack & Steval Batteries, 1994, Unpubl EH Report for R Iles, Con SW
p 96, pl 128, Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1972)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7642, (1988)
Ratcliffe, J/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7070, (1988)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson by fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson by fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Report to EH IAM R Iles dated 5/9/95, Arbery, G - Scilly FMW, Report on damage to North Hill Samson from fire of Aug/Sept 1995, (1995)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 18 SE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 81 NE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 2, 5, 6
Source Date: 1890
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Both 1890 and 1906 editions relevant
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 6
Source Date: 1888
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXVII: 6
Source Date: 1906
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; Cornwall sheets LXXXVII: 2, 5, 6
Source Date: 1890
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; Cornwall sheets LXXXVII: 5, 6
Source Date: 1890
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; sheet SV 81 SE
Source Date: 1963
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Waters, A & Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107's for Scilly SMR PRNs 7071.11, 7073, 7075.01-2 & .04-5, (1988)
Waters, A, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.16, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.07, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.08, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.09, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.11, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.12, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.13, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.14, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.16, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.17, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.18, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.19, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.20, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.21, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068.23, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7073, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.01 & .02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.01-.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.03 & .04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7074.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7075.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7075.06, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7076.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7076.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7077, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7077.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7081.06, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7083.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7083.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7084, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7089, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7092, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7093, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7643, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069 & 7069.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069 & 7069.02, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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