Ancient Monuments

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An entrance grave re-used as a kerbed cairn with cist known as 'Chapel Carn Brea'

A Scheduled Monument in St. Buryan, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.095 / 50°5'42"N

Longitude: -5.6564 / 5°39'23"W

OS Eastings: 138588.868335

OS Northings: 28062.777145

OS Grid: SW385280

Mapcode National: GBR DXDF.KTR

Mapcode Global: VH05F.XW01

Entry Name: An entrance grave re-used as a kerbed cairn with cist known as 'Chapel Carn Brea'

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006751

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 11

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Buryan

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Just-in-Penwith

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes an entrance grave with subsequent kerbed cairn and cist, situated at the summit of Carn Brea, the most westerly hill in mainland Britain. The monument survives as a slightly oval stony mound measuring up to 29m long by 23m wide and 2.8m high, with a visible cist and large in-situ capstone to the south. A shelter with drystone walling, thought to utilise some of the kerbing from the cairn, represent the remains of a Second World War radar station.
The name derives from the medieval re-use of the cairn as the base for a hermit's chapel called St Michael of Brea. The chapel was first recorded in 1302 following the murder of the hermit who had been responsible for maintaining a beacon for the fishermen of the parish of St Just. The chapel itself was destroyed in the early-19th century. Hals (died 1737) was the first to mention the cairn and chapel. Borlase drew the chapel in its original state in 1750, and it was also recorded by Swete in 1778 and Tremenheere in 1800.

The entrance grave and cairn were excavated by Borlase in 1879. Three stages of construction and re-use were revealed. The earliest feature was an entrance grave with a 2.13m long and 0.91m wide chamber covered with four capstones. The chamber contained ashes and some pottery. An outer wall and three roughly concentric inner walls surrounded the chamber suggesting subsequent phases of re-use. All the kerbs were covered with loose stone. Near the centre a later cist was constructed on the top of an earlier cairn. In the cairn debris which covered the cist, Romano-British pottery and a piece of Samian ware were recovered along with medieval pottery, glass and fragments of ridge tile. Borlase found the construction of the chapel had not apparently greatly disturbed the cairn itself. A further cist possibly lay on the WSW side of the mound, but this had disappeared before 1879.

During the Second World War the cairn was re-used as the base for a radar station with the addition of a circular concrete platform and a separate circular drystone walled shelter cut 1.4m into the cairn and originally roofed with an iron dome. The concrete platform and iron roof were later removed.

Other archaeological remains survive within the vicinity, some of which are scheduled separately.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-420638

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Entrance graves are funerary and ritual monuments dating to the later Neolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Age (c.2500-1000 BC). They were constructed with a roughly circular mound of heaped rubble and earth, up to 25m in diameter, the perimeter of which was often defined by a kerb. The mound contains a rectangular chamber roofed by slabs. The chamber was accessible via a gap in the mound's outer edge and often extends back beyond the centre of the mound. Excavations have revealed cremated human bone and funerary urns, usually within the chambers but on occasion within the mound. Some chambers have also produced ritual deposits of domestic midden debris, including dark earth typical of the surface soil found in settlements, animal bone and artefact fragments. In England, entrance graves are confined to the extreme south west, with 93 recorded surviving examples located on the Isles of Scilly and in Penwith peninsula at the western tip of Cornwall.
Kerbed cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as rubble mounds, defined by an outer kerb and often containing stone lined rectangular boxes or cists covered with a capstone. Predominant in upland areas and often in prominent locations they are representative of their period.
Despite partial early excavation and modification through later periods of re-use, the entrance grave re-used as a kerbed cairn with cist known as Chapel Carn Brea will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to its construction, re-use, ritual, funerary and religious practices, social, territorial and strategic importance through time and its overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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