Ancient Monuments

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Round cairn on Helvear Down, 300m NNE of Higher Trenoweth Farm, St Mary's

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

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Latitude: 49.9345 / 49°56'4"N

Longitude: -6.2946 / 6°17'40"W

OS Eastings: 91933.035752

OS Northings: 12654.553752

OS Grid: SV919126

Mapcode National: GBR BXVV.MJL

Mapcode Global: VGYBY.VX43

Entry Name: Round cairn on Helvear Down, 300m NNE of Higher Trenoweth Farm, St Mary's

Scheduled Date: 14 February 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010170

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15379

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Mary's

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a large prehistoric round cairn situated in a modern
field near the north east side of Helvear Down on northern St Mary's in the
Isles of Scilly.
The round cairn survives with a circular, steep-sided mound of heaped rubble,
12.5m in diameter, situated on a north facing slope such that it rises up to
1.8m high on its north side and up to 1m high on the south. The sides rise to
a level raised bank, 5.5m in overall diameter, surrounding a hollow at the top
of the mound. The hollow derives from an unrecorded antiquarian excavation,
whose spoil was aggregated to form the bank. The flattened base of the hollow
is 2m in diameter and 0.45m deep below the crest of the bank. The surrounding
bank of excavation spoil is 1.75m wide and has a level step, 0.9m wide, around
the centre of its inner slope. At the foot of the mound's eastern slope lies a
large slab, 1.9m long, east-west, by 0.75m wide and 0.5m high, considered to
derive from a funerary structure in the cairn and cast out during the
antiquarian excavation.
This monument is located near the north eastern side of the Helvear Down
plateau, on the edge of the steep slope down to the northern coast of St
Mary's. Broadly contemporary monuments nearby include two large chambered
cairns, called entrance graves, and a field system, lower down on the coastal
slope from 180m to the ENE, and hut circles from 210m to the NNW, exposed in
the modern shoreline due to the gradual submergence of the land since their

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.
Round cairns are funerary monuments of Bronze Age date (c.2000-700 BC). They
were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble, up to 40m in external
diameter, though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple
burials. A kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the mound.
Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a box-like structure
of stone slabs called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the
body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small
groups or in larger cemeteries.
Round cairns form a high proportion of the 387 surviving cairns recorded on
the Isles of Scilly. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a
monument type provides important information on the diversity of beliefs,
burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age and a substantial
proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

This round cairn on Helvear Hill has survived reasonably well and despite the
antiquarian excavation, its large mound remains substantially intact. The
proximity of this cairn to the entrance graves, field system and settlement
sites on the coastal margin and shoreline below Helvear Down illustrate well
the diversity of funerary practices, the organisation of land use and the
relationships between settlement and funerary activity during the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7453.03, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7521, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; SV 9112 & SV 9212
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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