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Prehistoric entrance grave, the southern one of three, and kerbed round cairn with cist on Cruther's Hill, St Martin's

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

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Latitude: 49.9572 / 49°57'25"N

Longitude: -6.2824 / 6°16'56"W

OS Eastings: 92955.849789

OS Northings: 15125.707875

OS Grid: SV929151

Mapcode National: GBR BXWS.M5B

Mapcode Global: VGYBZ.2B3P

Entry Name: Prehistoric entrance grave, the southern one of three, and kerbed round cairn with cist on Cruther's Hill, St Martin's

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 25 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013805

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15418

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 and an adjacent round cairn
with a kerb and funerary cist situated at the south east end of the summit
ridge of Cruther's Hill, on the south coast of St Martin's in the Isles of
The entrance grave and the round cairn adjoin on a north west-south east
axis, straddling a natural knoll at the end of the ridge. The entrance grave
is the north western of the pair and survives with a sub-circular mound of
heaped earth and rubble, up to 11m in diameter but with irregular edges
merging with bedrock outcrops on the north, east and south west. The mound is
on a westerly slope on the knoll, rising to 2m above the adjoining ground
surface on the south west but only to 0.5m above the ground level on the south
east. The mound contains an intermittent kerb, 7m in diameter, formed from a
combination of laid slabs and projecting bedrock outcrops and defining an
uneven and overgrown shallow-domed platform. Within the platform is a sub-
rectangular funerary chamber, aligned WNW-ESE, with its entrance at the ESE
marking a break in the kerb. Edge-set slabs detectable along the side walls
and across the WNW end give the chamber internal dimensions of 3.5m long and
1.3m wide. The chamber is unroofed but immediately beyond its north west
corner is a large slab, 1.5m long and 0.8m wide, considered to be a displaced
covering slab. The surface of the chamber is 0.25m deeper than the surrounding
platform, while the tallest of its side slabs rises 0.75m high on the southern
side of the entrance.
On the south east side, at the summit of the knoll, the entrance grave adjoins
the round cairn, whose sub-circular earth and rubble mound, up to 8m in
diameter, extends over the upper south easterly slope of the knoll. The mound
is 0.75m high from the ground level to the south east but merges with the top
of the knoll on the north west side. The mound rises to a slightly ovoid kerb
of edge-set slabs measuring 4.6m north east-south west by 4.5m north west-
south east. The largest kerb slab, 1.6m long and 0.7m high, faces the
adjoining entrance grave and is only 1.6m from the edge-set slab beside the
entrance grave's chamber entrance.
The kerb encircles a small bedrock outcrop against whose south east side is a
slab-built box-like structure called a cist. The cist measures 1.75m long,
north east-south west, by 1.2m wide internally, defined to the south east and
north east by edge-set slabs up to 0.75m long and 0.65m; another slab defines
the south west side.
The adjoining entrance grave and round cairn in this monument form part 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 visible over considerable distances to the east and west. Beyond this
group, a further funerary cairn is located 230m NNW of this monument, in the
saddle between Cruther's Hill and Higher Town. Further small prehistoric 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 and round cairns are two examples within the diversity of
funerary monument types known from the later Neolithic and Bronze Ages
(c.2500-700 BC). They were constructed with roughly circular mounds of heaped
rubble and earth, up to 40m in diameter though usually considerably smaller,
often with a kerb of edge-set or coursed slabs. On the Isles of Scilly, the
mounds often incorporate natural outcrops in their fabric. Both entrance
graves and round cairns covered single or multiple burials but their manner of
burial differs.
In entrance graves, the mound contains a rectangular chamber built of edge-set
slabs, coursed rubble or both, and roofed by further slabs set across the
chamber, called capstones. The chamber was accessible by a gap in the mound's
kerb or 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. 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
In round cairns, by contrast, burials may be placed in small pits or, on
occasion, within a small box-like structure called a cist, set into the old
ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. The burials may lack
associated grave goods or may be accompanied by funerary urns, beads, knives
or other artefacts.
Round cairns make up a high proportion of the 387 surviving cairns recorded on
the Isles of Scilly and are one of the chief forms of prehistoric funerary
monument nationally. Entrance graves are much rarer; their national
distribution 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. Both entrance graves and round cairns provide
important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social
organisation among prehistoric communities.

The entrance grave and round cairn in this monument on Cruther's Hill have
survived substantially intact, with only limited disturbance evident around
the chamber of the entrance grave. Such a close physical association between
differing forms of funerary monument is unusual and indicates a mutual
respect among their builders for those various forms. 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 with 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
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 'c'
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 992, 1975, cairn 'd'
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 7172.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172.04, (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

Source: Historic England

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