The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles

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Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles (photo: F. Gibson).

NGR: SV 90983 12379. The ancient village/settlement of Halangy Down is situated about 1 mile north of Hugh Town on St Mary’s Island, in the Scilly Isles, and is close to the sea-shore between Toll’s Porth and Halangy Point; it is just a little down the slope from Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber, while a bit further to the south is the golf course at Carn Morval from which there are quite exceptional panoramic views of all the Scilly Islands. This ancient site was probably occupied originally in the Bronze Age, but the village itself was established in the late Iron Age and, continued to be occupied through the Roman period, and on into the Romano-British period. There are some well-preserved remains of a complex of buildings including circular huts, inter-connected structures, courtyards and stone drains, all of which seem to be well looked after. To get to St Mary’s take the ferry-boat from Penzance, Cornwall. It’s then a case of walking the footpaths and road (northwards) at the western side of the island from Hugh Town, keeping to the coastline, and passing Porthmellon, Porthloo, Seaways, the golf course, and Toll’s Porth, to reach Halangy Ancient Village.

Circular hut at Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s. (F. Gibson).

F. Gibson tells us quite a bit about this site, saying: “There is an extensive complex of stone built huts here, developed and modified during the course of some half-millennium. A courtyard house is the uppermost, with buildings lower down which were all inter-connected. A system of stone drains led under the main entrance of the house and beneath the courtyard. It is probable that both the house and the courtyard were roofed; roofing spars supported in the middle by posts would have supported a thatch of reeds or straw, held in position by straw ropes weighted down by boulders. During excavation a number of quartz implements were found; they were crude choppers, rounded blocks, rough scrapers and axe-like points. There were also a wide range of heavy tools and equipment made from the local granite, as well as numerous querns of the saddle, bowl and rotary types.

“The earliest inhabitants are considered to have arrived about 2000 B.C. and they sought sustenance from the sea. Shellfish were collected, and fish, birds and mammals were caught; whilst at the same time the land was not neglected, cereals being brought to the islands, where clearances were made to grow them. It would seem from the middens however that limpets were the main source of protein in their diet.” 

Gibson also adds that: “Evidence of the Roman period can be found in the islands. Ancient villages of this period are at Halangy Down on St Mary’s and on Nornour. The site at Halangy is on the higher slopes of a much larger settlement which reaches down to the Porth. The lower slopes were probably abandoned on encroachment of the sea. The people who lived there were growing grain, keeping cattle, pigs and sheep; and eating fishand limpets in vast quantities. From evidence of finds the economy appeared well adjusted to island life.”

Timothy Darvill (1988) with regard to Bant’s Cairn on St Mary’s, tells us that: “Nearby are the foundations of round and oval houses of a small Iron Age and Romano-British village.” Lord Harlech (1970) tells us much the same as Timothy Darvill (1988) apart from saying it……“was occupied in the middle of the Roman period.”

Nearby, just up the slope, at NGR: SV 90994 12302 is ‘Bant’s Carn Burial Chamber’, a Bronze Age tomb dating from around 2000 BC. There are four large capstones resting above a rectangular chamber with an entrance leading into it, and there is an inner and an outer wall of large slab-stones; the whole structure with its grassy mound being quite well-preserved. Close-by is a small section of ancient field terraces which were begun in the Bronze Age but, later, in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods – these field systems were obviously re-used by the occupiers of the Halangy Down Ancient Village.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Darvill, Timothy, AA Glove Box Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of the Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Gibson, F., Visitors companion to the Isles Of Scilly, (publisher unknown, and date unknown).

Harlech, Lord (the late), Southern England — Illustrated Regional Guide to Ancient Monuments No. 2, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1970.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halangy_Down

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bants-carn-burial-chamber-and-halangy-down-ancient-village/history/

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6333313

https://www.citizan.org.uk/interactive-coastal-map/#zoom=10&lat=6435646.73888&lon=-700072.42535&layers=B00000TF

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/excavation-of-a-homestead-of-the-roman-era-at-halangy-down-st-marys-isles-of-scilly-1950/4676994F35C2F26A377B817179CFED2F

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

Author: sunbright57

I am interested in holy wells, standing stones and ancient crosses; also anything old, prehistoric, or unusual.

One thought on “Halangy Down Ancient Village, St Mary’s, Scilly Isles

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