Historical Survey Gives Unique Insight To Islands’ Past

Cromwell's Castle on Tresco

A comprehensive survey of Scilly’s historical environment is providing some unique insights to our islands’ past.

And the people behind the project are looking for locals to help fill in some of the gaps.

The Scilly Historic Environment Research Framework or SHERF has been edited by project manager Charles Johns, an archaeologist from Cornwall Council, who oversaw digs at the Annet Farm building site on St Agnes recently.

The highly detailed report which has been produced from many different individual contributors, includes numerous photographs of sites and buildings across all the islands and even underwater

It describes traditional methods such as the scantle tiling on roofs, where slates of diminishing sizes are used from the eaves to the ridge.

References are made to periods as far back as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, when the islands were a single land mass and Charles said recent evidence puts the separation much earlier than thought, nearer the end of the Bronze age.

Charles told us there are still gaps in knowledge, particularly around the time when ancient man was moving from being a hunter-gatherer to farming.

He said the earliest domesticated cow in the British Isles, whose remains were found in Ireland, was thought to date from about 4000BC.

However, he says a cow’s tooth found 20 years ago on Parr Beach, St Martin’s came from the same period and could, in fact, be earlier than the one in Ireland.

They’re currently performing radio carbon dating to get an accurate date and where it came from.

Charles says the website contains his email address and he’s keen to hear from anyone who wants to discuss the report or make additions or amendments.

He said he hopes the report will be published next summer.

The draft report can be found here.