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Prehistoric house platform settlement south west of English Island Carn, St Martin's

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

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Latitude: 49.9587 / 49°57'31"N

Longitude: -6.2709 / 6°16'15"W

OS Eastings: 93789.620586

OS Northings: 15246.753918

OS Grid: SV937152

Mapcode National: GBR BXXS.LFD

Mapcode Global: VGYBZ.895J

Entry Name: Prehistoric house platform settlement south west of English Island Carn, St Martin's

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018115

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15523

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


The monument includes a prehistoric house platform settlement on the south
west slope of English Island Carn, a small headland at the east end of Higher
Town Bay on the south coast of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly.
The prehistoric settlement contains two house platforms one behind the other
on the steep slope and spaced 10m apart on a NNE-SSW axis. Each house platform
has a subtriangular internal area whose front edge faces south and whose rear
apex is levelled deeply into the steep slope. The interior of the higher,
north eastern, house platform is 6m wide across its front edge and extends
5.5m back to its rounded rear apex, levelled 1m into slope. Its nearly
vertical rear face is stabilised by a rubble facing, coursed in places, while
the other sides of the interior are defined by a bank of earth and rubble,
reaching a maximum 2.75m wide and 1m high along the front edge. The south
western house platform is similar in form but slightly larger, its interior
measuring 6.5m across the front edge, extending 7m to its rear apex and
levelled up to 2m into the slope. On the north west of its levelling cut are
remains of rubble facing and a natural outcrop marks the east corner of the
house platform; beyond that outcrop, the present coastal cliff runs across the
forward edge of the interior removing any former bank that may have defined
that side. Some occupation debris, including shells and a dark soil, is
visible in part of the cliff section.
Knowledge of the date and nature of occupation at this settlement has been
much increased by details from excavation within the south western house
platform between 1945 and 1953. This revealed at least three successive
occupation layers, at least one of which was associated with remains of a
rubble-walled structure incorporating edge-set slabs and holes for wall or
roof posts. Part of the house platform interior was cut into the subsoil and
an entrance gap was found in the south west corner. The occupation layers
contained hearths, paving slabs and artefacts such as flint scrapers and
flakes together with many fragments of typically 2nd - 1st millennium BC
pottery. Overlying the occupation debris in the house platform was blown sand
which itself was sealed by occupation debris considered to have come down the
slope from the other unexcavated house platform. The excavation also revealed
a short length of contemporary field wall running north-south to the west of
the house platform; the wall, traces of which are still visible on the
surface, contained a gateway flanked by upright slabs at a point 2.5m west of
the house platform's south west corner.
Nearby beyond this scheduling, broadly contemporary prehistoric settlement
sites, field boundaries and funerary cairns survive both in the inter-tidal
zone in the western half of Higher Town Bay and over much of the higher ground
of eastern St Martin'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.

House platforms are one of several types of settlement site known from the
Bronze Age to early medieval period on Scilly (from c.2000 BC to c.AD 1000);
individual house platforms may be dated by excavation or by their association
with other monuments of known date. They reflect an adaptation by which level
floored houses were built on relatively steep slopes and consist of rounded
or polygonal areas levelled into the slope. Their interiors are defined by
the levelling backscarp, sometimes faced with rubble or larger slabs, and
often with a bank along the perimeter of one or more edges. Excavations have
shown that some house platforms supported timber and stone built rounded or
ovoid houses whose post-holes, lower courses and occupation deposits are
masked beneath later deposits. House platforms comprise a significant
proportion of over 140 prehistoric to early medieval settlement sites known on
Scilly and form a major source of information on the islands' early settlement
The house platform settlement south east of English Island Carn survives well;
the upper of the two house platforms has not been excavated and remains intact
together with deposits of its occupation debris whose spread over the slope
below was confirmed by the excavation at the lower house platform. Although
excavated and subject to some coastal erosion, the site and overall form of
the lower house platform remains clear, preserving the visible relationship of
the two house platforms forming this settlement. This is one of the few
prehistoric house platform settlements to have been partly excavated; the
resulting confirmation of its date, occupation sequence and its rich
structural and artefactual content confirms the value of the intact remains at
the upper house platform and forms an important contribution to our
understanding of early settlement in the pre-submergence landscape of the
islands. Its contribution in this respect is given wider relevance in the
landscape by the proximity of broadly contemporary settlement and religious
remains at levels from the inter-tidal zone to the higher downland.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
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
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7152, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7636, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 16
Source Date: 1889

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9315
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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