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Entrance grave 23m west of Old Rock, Porth Hellick Down, St Mary's

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

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Latitude: 49.9167 / 49°55'0"N

Longitude: -6.2796 / 6°16'46"W

OS Eastings: 92898.58

OS Northings: 10613.4326

OS Grid: SV928106

Mapcode National: GBR BXWX.2FJ

Mapcode Global: VGYC5.3CL7

Entry Name: Entrance grave 23m west of Old Rock, Porth Hellick Down, St Mary's

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 17 May 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011944

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15361

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 prehistoric entrance grave incorporating natural
outcrops and situated on the south east crest of Porth Hellick Down, near the
south eastern coast of St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly.

The entrance grave survives with a sub-circular mound of heaped rubble, up to
12m in diameter and 0.9m high. The edges of the mound are irregular and
ill-defined due to the mound being built onto and against large natural
granite outcrops to the east and south east and incorporating several smaller
outcrops within the northern half of its fabric. The mound rises to a kerb of
four spaced edge-set slabs, up to 0.2m high, defining the north and north east
sectors of a central area measuring 5m in diameter. Within this central area,
an unrecorded antiquarian excavation has partially revealed a central funerary
chamber. Much of the chamber is visible as a sub-rectangular hollow, 2.5m
long, SSW-NNE, by 1.5m wide and 0.3m deep; a slab on the ESE face of the
hollow remains from former walling stone along the sides, most of which has
been removed by the early excavation. The surface remains show an extension of
the chamber, unexcavated, for a further 1.5m beyond the SSW end of the
antiquarian excavation hollow, indicated by a row of three elongated slabs, up
to 1.6m long, 0.9m wide and 0.4m thick, laid side-by-side. These slabs are
typical of the covering slabs, called capstones, laid transversely across such
funerary chambers and they give a total length of 4m for the chamber in this
entrance grave.

This monument forms part of a cairn cemetery containing at least eight other
cairns dispersed across the central plateau of Porth Hellick Down. The cairns
in this cemetery vary in form but at least six of these are entrance graves,
forming one of the largest surviving groupings of this type of monument. A
broadly contemporary field system extends along the north west slope of the
Down. Other prehistoric cairn cemeteries, including entrance graves, are
located on the adjacent coastal downs of Salakee Down to the south west and
Normandy Down to the NNE.

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 on Porth Hellick Down has survived substantially intact,
despite some disturbance to the funerary chamber by the antiquarian
excavation. However that excavation has confirmed the presence of that chamber
and has left a good proportion of its deposits intact. The incorporation of
natural outcrops into the cairn is a feature found in certain other cairns on
the Isles of Scilly but unusual and rare nationally. The presence of this
monument within a cemetery containing various cairn types, its proximity to
a prehistoric field system on the western slope of the Down, and the
disposition of this and the other cairn cemeteries on successive downs along
the coast are all factors combining to illustrate well the diversity of
funerary practices and the organisation of land use during the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7527, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528.08, (1988)
Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1026, 1975, consulted 1994
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9210
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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