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Prehistoric entrance grave, the northern one of three on Cruther's Hill, St Martin's

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

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Latitude: 49.958 / 49°57'28"N

Longitude: -6.2834 / 6°17'0"W

OS Eastings: 92889.830345

OS Northings: 15219.231287

OS Grid: SV928152

Mapcode National: GBR BXWS.LQH

Mapcode Global: VGYBZ.1BK1

Entry Name: Prehistoric entrance grave, the northern one of three on Cruther's Hill, St Martin's

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 25 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013803

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15416

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Martin'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 situated on the northern
end of the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill, on the south coast of St Martin's
in the Isles of Scilly.
The entrance grave survives with a circular mound of heaped earth and rubble,
16.5m in diameter and up to 2m high, its height accentuated by its location on
a natural knoll at the northern end of the hill's narrow summit ridge. A large
slender slab, 2.3m long, 0.5m wide and 0.75m high, lies north east-south west
on the north east slope of the mound and is considered to have been displaced
from the top of the mound. At least two large slabs also protrude through the
vegetation on the mound's periphery on the SSW side.
The mound rises to a flattened platform defined by a polygonal kerb of near
contiguous large slabs, up to 1.9m long and 1.6m high, mostly edge-set. The
kerb measures 9m north-south by 9.5m east-west externally, incorporating an
outcrop of bedrock granite on the WSW side which projects 1.5m beyond the
kerb's line. Slabs from the upper part of a rectangular funerary chamber are
visible in the surface of the platform's southern sector. The full extent of
the chamber is partly masked by disturbance of the surface and evident
displacement of some rubble. The slabs extend over 3.5m north-south, ending at
a bedrock outcrop rising to the platform surface on the north side and blocked
at its southern entrance by slabs along the kerb line. The visible slabs show
some disruption from their original arrangement but they include the upper
surface of an edge-set slab from the chamber's east wall and other slender
slabs laid across the chamber width, the largest of which, 1.6m long, is
considered to be one of the chamber's original covering slabs.
This is one of the earliest prehistoric monuments on the Isles of Scilly to
receive historical mention; the antiquary Borlase noted the funerary cairns on
Cruther's Hill when he visited St Martin's in 1752. He specifically describes
a large slab lying on the north east side of this monument's mound, believing,
without stated cause, that it formerly stood erect as a standing stone.
This entrance grave is one of a linear group of four broadly contemporary
funerary monuments dispersed along 130m of the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill.
This is a highly prominent cairn group which is visible over considerable
distances to the east and west. A further funerary cairn is located 120m NNW
of this monument, in the saddle between Cruther's Hill and Higher Town. Small
prehistoric box-like funerary chambers, called cists, are known from
now submerged locations overlooked by Cruther's Hill to both east and west,
while those cists to the east are also accompanied by broadly contemporary
settlement sites on the sloping beach of Higher Town Bay.

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 Cruther's Hill has survived well. Despite limited
surface disturbance evident around the top of the funerary chamber, it retains
a good range of original features, including an unusually complete slab-built
kerb. The prominent siting of this monument demonstrates the important role
played by landscape features in the beliefs and perception of prehistoric
communities, a point reinforced by the monument's proximity to the other
prehistoric funerary monuments along the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill. The
wider organisation of prehistoric land use and the later profound changes in
landscape context are illustrated by the monument's relationship with the
prehistoric cists and settlement sites in the inter-tidal zone to the east and
west of Cruther's Hill.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 992, 1975, Cairn 'a'
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 992, 1975, consulted 1995
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7170, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7301, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7147, 7302-3, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7148, 7178, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map: SV 9215
Source Date: 1980

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9215
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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