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Historic England Research Records

Cromwells Castle

Hob Uid: 303385
Location :
Isles of Scilly
Tresco
Grid Ref : SV8817201596
Summary : Cromwell's Castle is an artillery tower, supposedly built between 1651 and 1652, comprising a circular gun tower 13.5 metres diameter and c15m high, built of coursed rubble. It is situated on a small low rocky shelf projecting from the western coast of Castle Down on Tresco. The tower replaced an earlier Tudor blockhouse built between 1548 and 1554. The artillery tower is said to have been built after Parliamentarian forces recaptured Tresco during the Civil War. It was strategically positioned to command the channel between Bryher and Tresco. It originally comprised a basement and two floors, above which lay the gun platform with 6 gun ports. The first and second floor rooms included timber floors and stone fire places and were linked by a wooden ladder or steps. Access to the first floor was via stone steps within the wall of the tower. The gun platform was reached from the second floor by a spiral stone staircase within the walls of the tower. There was originally a walkway along the gun platform protected by a parapet. In around 1740, partly in response to threats from Spain, the defences were altered and refurbished by Abraham Tovey, Master Gunner. A pentagonal gun platform was added against the seaward side of the blockhouse and a guardhouse built between the two structures. In 1752, the monument was recorded by the antiquarian William Borlase who noted that the 'principal battery' was armed with nine-pounder guns and the tower platform had small four-pounder cannon. He also recorded that the structure had no garrison and that the timber was 'already much decayed'. It is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SV 88181596) Cromwell's Castle (NR) (1)

A Civil War fortification on site of blockhouse existing in 1554. It was built in 1651-2 after the capture of Scilly (see plans) and has come to be called 'Cromwell's Castle'. It is built of massive rubble in typical 16th/17th century style.

The original entrance was through a doorway high up on the south side, the projecting corbels for a possibly movable platform being visible. There are no indications lower down for a staircase, but an old drawing shows one curving up the west side of the tower. The principal room is now covered by a fine ribbed stone vault. The mid 18th century platform to seaward of the tower replaced an earlier battery for six guns. HHR Grade II*.
"Cromwell's Castle" (name confirmed) is under DOE guardianship and in an excellent state of preservation. (2-3)

Correctly portrayed at 1:10 000 on PFD. (4)

Gun tower. 1651-2 with gun platform added c. 1740 by Abraham Tovey, Master Gunner. Randomly coursed granite rubble; granite platform roofs; stone stacks. (Listed Grade II*) [Full architectural description] (5)

Cromwell's Castle. Built in 1651 to replace King Charles Castle. It consists of a 60 ft circular tower and granite platform, placed to command the channel between Bryher and Tresco. (6)

Cromwell's Castle is a blockhouse that was built between 1651 and 1652, comprising a circular gun tower 13.5 metres diameter and built of coursed rubble. It is situated on a small low rocky shelf projecting from the western coast of Castle Down on Tresco. The tower replaced an earlier blockhouse built between 1548 and 1554. The new blockhouse was built after Parliamentarian forces recaptured Tresco during the Civil War and sought to defend it from the potential threat of the Dutch fleet, which had arrived off the Scillies in March 1651. It is about 15 metres high and originally comprised of a basement and two floors above which lay the gun platform with 6 gun ports. The first and second floor rooms included timber floors and stone fire places and were linked by a wooden ladder or steps. Access to the first floor was via stone steps within the wall of the tower. The gun platform was reached from the second floor by a spiral stone staircase within the walls of the tower. There was originally a walkway along the gun platform protected by a parapet. In around 1740, partly in response to threats from Spain, the defences were altered and refurbished by Abraham Tovey. A pentagonal gun platform was added against the seaward side of the blockhouse and a guardhouse built between the two structures. In 1752, the monument was recorded by the antiquarian Borlase who noted that the 'principal battery' was armed with nine-pounder guns and the tower platform had small four-pounder cannon. He also recorded that the structure had no garrison and that the timber was 'already much decayed'. (7)

An English Heritage property. (8)

A brief history and description. (9)

An in depth discussion on the defensive role of the castle. (10)

Cromwell's Castle is enigmatic because though the documentary evidence suggests a date of 1651-2 the architectural style of the tower suggests a date one century earlier (see Authority 10, 29); this issue remains to be rsolved. (11)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1963
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Isles of Scilly, MOW Official Guide 1961 Plans (B H St J O'Neil)
Page(s) : 20, 25
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Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : MCBB and AMB 2008-10
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Source Number : 3
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Isles of Scilly, Nov-1954
Page(s) : 17
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NJG 02-JUL-78
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Source Number : 5
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Isles of Scilly, 14-Dec-1992
Page(s) : 70
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Source Number : 6
Source : Cornwall
Source details :
Page(s) : 211
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Source Number : 7
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 24-Jul-98
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Source Number : 8
Source : The English Heritage visitors' handbook 1998-99
Source details :
Page(s) : 72
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Source Number : 9
Source : Heritage unlocked: guide to free sites in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Source details :
Page(s) : 64-65
Figs. :
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Source Number : 10
Source : Defending Scilly
Source details :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : allegedly built 1651-1652
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Artillery Tower
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : built 1548-1554
Monument End Date : 1554
Monument Start Date : 1548
Monument Type : Blockhouse
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : added in around 1740
Monument End Date : 1740
Monument Start Date : 1740
Monument Type : Coastal Battery
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 15404
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 62549
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : CO 354
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : SI 354
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 253
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 23894/11
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Scilly Isles)
External Cross Reference Number : 7354
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SV 81 NE 23
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 303391
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 303400
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SV 81 NE 23
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1978-07-02
End Date : 1978-07-02
Associated Activities : Primary, DEFENDING SCILLY PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2008-09-01
End Date : 2010-04-01