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Prehistoric funerary, ritual and settlement remains; post-medieval defences, tin mine, lookouts and enclosures on Castle Down, Tresco

A Scheduled Monument in Tresco, Isles of Scilly

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Coordinates

Latitude: 49.9636 / 49°57'49"N

Longitude: -6.3447 / 6°20'40"W

OS Eastings: 88532.278662

OS Northings: 16100.022488

OS Grid: SV885161

Mapcode National: GBR BXQS.8MX

Mapcode Global: VGYBX.Z55Q

Entry Name: Prehistoric funerary, ritual and settlement remains; post-medieval defences, tin mine, lookouts and enclosures on Castle Down, Tresco

Scheduled Date: 27 June 1977

Last Amended: 18 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017783

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15515

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 prehistoric and post-medieval remains surviving
extensively on Castle Down, the northern upland of Tresco in the Isles of
Scilly. A prehistoric cairn cemetery encompasses much of the Down's plateau;
on its northern margins are two prehistoric stone rows and an embanked
boulder. Prehistoric field systems occur on the south west and north east of
the Down, that on the north east containing five hut circles. Post-medieval
remains on Castle Down include 16th-17th century defences, a 17th century tin
mine, an 18th-19th century lookout and seven platforms and enclosures.
The prehistoric cemetery contains at least 95 funerary cairns, most densely
scattered in a broad band over the north and east of the Down, veering to the
western crest at the south. Almost all of the largest cairns are prominently
sited along the Down's eastern crest and its northward rise at Tregarthen
Hill. Eighty-one are small platform cairns whose turf-covered mounds, mostly
5m-8m in diameter and 0.3m-0.7m high, have flattened upper surfaces whose
perimeter is often defined by a kerb of small slabs. There are seven round
cairns, similar to the platform cairns but with a domed upper surface; only
the largest, 11m in diameter and 1.3m high, is kerbed. Seven cairns have
internal funerary structures and form a prominent linear group: five over
Tregarthen Hill and two to the south east, widely spaced along the Down's
eastern crest. The northern two incorporate natural outcrops and have small
slab-built structures called cists behind their northern kerbs. The others
show remains of large funerary chambers, clearest in the central of the
southern three on Tregarthen Hill where edge-set and coursed slabs define a
chamber interior covered by two slabs laid across the top.
On the west of the Down's northern basin is a prehistoric ritual embanked
boulder: a massive natural boulder enclosed by a rubble bank. Two prehistoric
stone rows extend from the north of the cairn cemetery and are visible over
roughly 100m as straight north west-south east alignments of upright slabs
about 10m apart. One runs north west onto Gun Hill; the other, 200m to the
east, runs north west from the NNW scarp of Tregarthen Hill.
The prehistoric field systems are later than cairns wherever a successive
relationship is evident. Their turf-covered banks often have regularly spaced
projecting slabs. Along the contour, the banks' effect on soil movement
transforms them into substantial steps across the slope called lynchets. On
the south west, a linear boundary along the west of the plateau defines the
field system's limit onto the Down. To its south west, between Frenchman's
Point and Braiden Rock, lower slope lynchets cross several prehistoric walls
running upslope, some partly reused in a block of post-medieval fields. On the
south of the plateau, the linear boundary is crossed and interrupted by a
block of small rectilinear plots partly enclosed by a curving bank. On the
north east of the Down, boundaries extend north west from the south west flank
of Tregarthen Hill and SSE around its southern slopes. Others cross the upper
and lower southern slope of Castle Down Brow: the lower boundary joins short
downslope banks from fields now truncated by Gimble Porth and links four hut
circles, 40m-60m apart and levelled on rubble platforms that also support
small plots and annexes beside the hut circles. Three field plots occupy this
irregular terrain: one across the saddle of Castle Down Brow with a fifth hut
circle to its north; a small plot on the tip of the Brow; and a large square
plot in the trough north of Tregarthen Hill, its banks crossing nine cairns
and re-siting their slighted kerb slabs into its wall line.
In AD 1550-1554 an artillery castle, `King Charles' Castle', was built beyond
this scheduling on the Down's north west crest. Soon after, an earthen
artillery defence was laid out within this scheduling across the landward
approach to the north of the Down. The defence survives as a low bank, with a
ditch along parts of its southern flank, from near the artillery fort on the
west to near Tregarthen Hill on the east. At the centre of the plateau it
defines a large angled projection, called a bastion, pointing south, from
which banks extend north east and north west, outlining half-bastions on the
plateau crest at each side. During the English Civil War, defences were added
to cover channels west and east of the Down. On the west these include two
platforms 20m apart behind Castle Porth, with curved banks on their forward
edges. On the east at Castle Down Brow, a low breastwork bank follows the
cliff top, faced to seaward by edge-set slabs. On the Brow's north east coast,
this bank is backed by a rectangular gun battery; further north west, behind
the bank's return from the cliff edge to meet the Brow's northern cliff, a
small gun platform faces NNE. A small shelter in a nearby cliff face cleft may
derive from this Civil War activity.
The 1640s brought the only major mining of Scilly's sparse tin resource,
working poor tin lodes aligned WSW-ENE across northern Castle Down. Mining had
ceased by 1652 when it was described as of no value. Two prospecting methods
are evident. In one, short rows of small pits were dug across the projected
line of the lode to establish its course. In the other, water from a reservoir
on the north of the plateau was released to flush away surface deposits and
expose bedrock in a coastal valley behind Cork Porth. The reservoir's earth
dam has a central sluice gate gap facing a gully running north into the
valley, enlarging as it descends as a 65m long stepped channel called a hush.
On locating the lode, miners dug directly into it from the surface. Where the
coastal slope intersects the lode at each end, this gave long trenches called
openworks stepped down the slope. Extraction on the plateau was by rectangular
pits called lode-back pits, closely spaced along the main lode over the east
of the Down, becoming infrequent further west. Exploitation of a second lode
to the north west produced a broad openwork and short row of lode-back pits
above Gun Well.
At Beacon Hill, on the south of Castle Down, is an 18th-19th century lookout:
a raised platform, 1.2m high, with rough masonry walls 5.9m long. Its walling
includes remains of an earlier lookout which was recorded in ruins in 1796, to
be modified as the present platform in the Napoleonic Wars (1794-1815).
Three rectangular levelled platforms, up to 6m long, are spaced over 130m of
the north crest of the Down east from Gun Hill; their form and siting on good
viewpoints suggest origin as post-medieval lookout, signal or gun positions;
the low walling of one platform contains some slabs split by wedges, denoting
a date prior to AD 1800. A larger walled enclosure, 8.4m long, occupies
another good viewpoint on south eastern Tregarthen Hill. Other post-medieval
enclosures include a square field plot behind Castle Porth, probably serving
Cromwell's Castle. In the Down's northern basin is a large rectangular
enclosure with an inner bank and outer ditch, while a smaller enclosure at the
foot of the south west slope of Tregarthen Hill has an inner ditch and an
outer bank, resembling platforms used to store turf for fuel in Cornwall.

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.

This monument contains good surviving remains from nearly all phases of
prehistoric and post-medieval activity on Castle Down, showing clearly the
distinctive and varied succession of land uses applied to this elevated
heathland terrain. The scale of survival of the prehistoric remains on Castle
Down is also sufficiently extensive to allow significant insights into wider
organisation of the landscape during that early period.
The earliest features provide valuable evidence for the nature of religious
and settlement activity among prehistoric communities. The cemetery contains
one of the largest and most concentrated known groupings of funerary cairns
whose proximity and similarity to another such cemetery on the northern
heathland of Bryher emphasises the importance of landforms in the physical
organisation of prehistoric funerary activity. This is demonstrated in even
more detail by the non-random distribution of the cemetery's cairns across
Castle Down and by the prominent siting of large cairns with funerary
structures along the Down's eastern skyline. The stone rows and embanked
boulder on the margins of the cemetery are unusual prehistoric ritual
monuments, especially rare on Scilly.
The prehistoric field systems show an unusually clear successive relationship
with the cairn cemetery and again demonstrate the influence of the underlying
topography and aspect in the courses of linear boundaries on the higher
plateau and in the locations of finer subdivision, with field systems
encroaching onto the south of the plateau and up the coastal slopes on the
south west and on the east where the hut circle settlement emphasises the
former importance of fertile land in the now submerged basin of Gimble Porth
which was overlooked by the Down's prominently-sited large cairns.
The post-medieval defences also survive well as integral parts of the wider
defensive systems deployed around the Isles of Scilly in their respective
phases, illustrating by their form and position the developing strategic
methods. The detailed form of angle-bastions in the earthen artillery defence
across Castle Down show it to be nationally one of the earliest expressions of
this defensive design. The lack of economic success of the 17th century tin
mine on Castle Down has left it intact, unmodified by later works; as a result
it provides an especially clear example of the various extractive methods
employed at that time.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Saunders, A D, Fortress Britain, (1989)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Quinnell, N V, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A 16th century outwork to King Charles' Castle, Tresco, , Vol. 17, (1978), 142-3
Quinnell, N V, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The Borlase Stone Altar, Tresco, Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 17, (1978), 140-141
Saunders, A D, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Harry's Walls, St Mary's Scilly; a new interpretation, , Vol. 1, (1962), 85-91
Other
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.14, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7280, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7280.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7280.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7280.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.06, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.07, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.08, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.09, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.10, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.11, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.12, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.13, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.14, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.15, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.16, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.17, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.18, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.19, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.20, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.21, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.22, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.23, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.25, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.26, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.27, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.28, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.29, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.30, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.31, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7281.32, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.06, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.07, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.08, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.09, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.11, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.12, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7282.13, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7283.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7283.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7283.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7283.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7284, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7285, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7285.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7285.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7286, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7287, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7288, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7290, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7291, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7292.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7292.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7297, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7298, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.06, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.07, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.08, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.09, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.10, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.11, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.12, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.13, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.15, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.16, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.17, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.18, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.19, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.20, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.21, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.22, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.23, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.24, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.25, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.26, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.27, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.28, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.29, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.30, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7300.31, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7355, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7356.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7356.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7356.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7356.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7357.08, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7358, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7360.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7361.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7361.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7361.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7361.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7637, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7281.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7282; 7282.01; 7285.05, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7285.01-.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7355, 7357.08 & 7358, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 81 NE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, Cornwall sheet LXXXII:14
Source Date: 1888
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: 10
Source Date: 1888
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 10
Source Date: 1888
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 14
Source Date: 1888
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8815
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Source: Historic England

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