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Entrance grave on the summit of the northern hill, White Island

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

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Latitude: 49.9793 / 49°58'45"N

Longitude: -6.2944 / 6°17'39"W

OS Eastings: 92236.495403

OS Northings: 17631.581191

OS Grid: SV922176

Mapcode National: GBR BXVQ.TYB

Mapcode Global: VGYBR.VS88

Entry Name: Entrance grave on the summit of the northern hill, White Island

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 20 February 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010162

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15396

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Martin's

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a prehistoric entrance grave situated on the narrow
summit ridge of the northern hill of White Island, off St Martin's in the
Isles of Scilly.
The entrance grave survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 7m in
diameter, rising 0.5m to an ovoid kerb of ten large slabs, up to 1.5m long and
0.6m high, mostly edge-set but four slabs now lie flat. The kerb measures 6m
NNW-SSE by 5.5m north east-south west, with a 4m wide gap in its south east
sector. Within the kerb, the chamber of the entrance grave is visible with a
rectangular internal area measuring 4m NNW-SSE by up to 1.5m wide and 0.3m
deep, defined by walling along the sides and the NNW end built of boulders,
partly coursed, together with some edge-set slabs. The SSE end of the chamber
remains ill-defined as a visible feature. The NNW end of the chamber interior
is covered by a large slab, called a capstone, laid across the side walls and
measuring 1.25m long by 0.75m wide and 0.3m thick. Other capstones would have
covered much of the chamber's interior but have been removed in an unrecorded
stone robbing episode.
Although this entrance grave is located on what is now the highest part of a
fairly small uninhabited island, linked to the much larger St Martin's island
at low tide, the physical environment in which it was originally built was on
top of a broad rocky promontory, facing a broad valley to the south, on the
northern edge of the single large island that formerly united much of the area
of the present Isles of Scilly archipelago, from St Mary's northwards. The
gradual sinking of the land since this entrance grave was constructed has led
to the fragmentation of that island into the present scatter of large and
small islands and rocks. On the lower southern and eastern flanks of this hill
is a dispersed group of at least nine broadly contemporary funerary cairns,
from 85m to the ESE and 90m to the south east. Surviving parts of prehistoric
field systems that formerly extended into the basin now occupied by Porth
Morran are located from 110m to the south and 260m to the south east, on the
central and southern parts of the island, extending in places onto the upper
shore of Porth Morran as a result of the submergence.

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.
Entrance graves are funerary and ritual monuments whose construction and use
dates 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, whose perimeter may be defined by a kerb of
edge-set slabs or, occasionally, coursed stone. The mound contains a
rectangular chamber built of edge-set slabs or coursed rubble walling, or a
combination of both. The chamber was roofed by further slabs, called
capstones, set across the chamber. The chamber was accessible via a gap in the
mound's kerb or outer edge and often extends back beyond the centre of the
mound. The cairn's mound and chamber may incorporate natural boulders and
outcrops. Excavations in entrance graves have revealed cremated human bone and
funerary urns, usually within the chambers but on occasion within the mound.
Unburnt human bone has also been recovered but is only rarely preserved. Some
chambers have also produced ritual deposits of domestic midden debris,
including dark earth typical of the surface soil found within settlements,
animal bone and artefact fragments. Entrance graves may occur as single
monuments or in small or large groups, often being associated with other cairn
types in cemeteries. They may also occur in close proximity to broadly
contemporary field boundaries. The national distribution of entrance graves is
heavily weighted towards the Isles of Scilly which contain 79 of the 93
surviving examples recorded nationally, the remaining 14 being located in
western Cornwall.

This entrance grave has survived well, despite some limited disturbance to its
upper stonework by stone robbers, and it has not been archaeologically
excavated. The relationship between this entrance grave and the dispersed
cairn group and field system on the lower flanks of the hill illustrates the
diversity of funerary practices, their relationship with settlement and
organisation of land use among prehistoric communities. The wider
relationships between this monument, the other broadly contemporary cairns and
field systems on White Island, and the evidence for the submergence
of settlement areas since they were built, demonstrate in a dramatic way the
major environmental changes that have affected the setting of some surviving
prehistoric monuments since their construction.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7096, (1988)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7096-7, (1988)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7099, (1988)
Rees, S.E., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 998, 1975, Cairn 'a'. Consulted 1994
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW
Source Date: 1980

Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW
Source Date: 1963

Source: Historic England

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