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Prehistoric cairns, entrance graves, field system and settlements and post-medieval kelp pits on Kittern Hill, Gugh

A Scheduled Monument in St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly

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Coordinates

Latitude: 49.8966 / 49°53'47"N

Longitude: -6.3344 / 6°20'3"W

OS Eastings: 88836.178653

OS Northings: 8612.303408

OS Grid: SV888086

Mapcode National: GBR BXRY.MBJ

Mapcode Global: VGYC4.5V3M

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairns, entrance graves, field system and settlements and post-medieval kelp pits on Kittern Hill, Gugh

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 1 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014792

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15445

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: St. Agnes

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes the overlapping extents of prehistoric funerary and
settlement remains on and adjacent to Kittern Hill, the northern hill of Gugh,
an island linked at low tide to St Agnes in the south west of the Isles of
Scilly. The prehistoric funerary remains include a group of at least 17 cairns
of various types dispersed about the summit ridge of Kittern Hill. Two further
prehistoric cairns, of a form called entrance graves, are located on the
hill's south west spur. Later in the prehistoric period, the hill was
subdivided by a field system which encompasses the cairns and which includes
two hut circle settlements, at the foot of the hill's north west and NNE
slopes. The monument also includes two small stone-lined hollows called kelp
pits, where seaweed was burnt to produce soda ash between the 17th and 19th
centuries AD. The latest feature in the monument is the grave of Mr Cooper,
one of the island's recent inhabitants, buried in 1932 by an entrance grave on
the ESE end of the hill's summit ridge.
The prehistoric cairn group is dispersed over a broad band extending WNW-ESE
along the hill's summit ridge and the adjacent upper slope to the south west.
The group's four very large chambered cairns are located on the higher ground
at each end of the summit ridge, two such cairns at each end, while the
remaining smaller cairns are scattered over the ridge crest in between and
over the adjacent upper slope.
The pair of large cairns at each end of the ridge includes one entrance grave
and one other chambered cairn. On the north west these include a large cairn
crowning the summit outcrop, with a rubble mound 11m in diameter and 1.4m
high, rising to a flattened top, 5m in diameter and defined by a kerb of
boulders and edge-set slabs. Within the south east of the kerbed area is a
setting of three edge-set slabs defining the sides and one end of a small
box-like funerary chamber called a cist, measuring 1.2m north east-south west
by 0.6m north west-south east internally. Within the cist interior is a modern
Ordnance Survey Trig Point marker.
An entrance grave is situated 10m from that cairn on the outcrop's SSE slope,
its rubble mound surviving 13m in diameter with a perimeter kerb of spaced
slabs. The mound rises 1.5m to a flattened top with traces of a kerb on the
south and east. The upper surface contains a subrectangular chamber with a
north east-south west long axis; the entrance is on the north east and both
side walls are bowed outwards slightly towards the inner, south west, end. The
chamber is 5m long by up to 1.4m wide, built with coursed rubble walls rising
0.8m above the floor silts. The chamber has five large transversely-set
covering slabs, the south western slab now displaced and fallen into the
chamber.
Bronze Age pot fragments have been recovered from the chamber entrance.
At the south east end of the ridge, another entrance grave forms the cairn
crowning the summit rise and is visible as a rubble mound measuring 15m
north-south by 12m east-west with traces of a perimeter kerb. The mound rises
1.7m to a flattened top defined by a slab-built kerb, 9m in diameter. This
kerbed area contains a chamber 4m long, east-west, by 1m wide and infilled
with earth, obscuring the entrance. The chamber lacks its covering slabs but
two large slabs, each 1.3m long and 1m wide, on the mound's southern slope are
considered likely to be displaced covering slabs. The second chambered cairn
at this end of the ridge is 48m ESE of the entrance grave and has a boulder
and rubble mound 13m in diameter with spaced slabs forming a perimeter kerb.
The mound rises 1.3m to a flattened top, 5m in diameter, defined by a kerb of
edge-set boulders. The upper surface bears several hollows from unrecorded
antiquarian excavation; the hollows focus on a rectangular area considered to
indicate a former chamber 3m long, north west-south east, by 1.2m wide and
0.5m deep, with slabs visible in its sides but no covering slabs.
Beyond those four large chambered cairns, the remaining 13 cairns in the group
are much slighter, with small rubble mounds in the range 3.75m to 7.5m in
diameter and 0.2m to 0.7m high. All but one have flattened upper surfaces
distinguishing them as platform cairns, with variously distinct remains of
stone kerbing around the perimeter or platform edge. The exception is a small
round cairn, 5.5m in diameter and 0.6m high, incorporating a large natural
boulder in its north east edge. At least three platform cairns along the
summit ridge crest have had their kerbing partly disrupted and re-aligned
to provide edge-set slabs within a later prehistoric field wall which crosses
them, as noted below.
Beyond the cairn group, two more entrance graves are situated on the south
west spur of the hill. The larger entrance grave, known as Obadiah's Barrow,
is located on the steep midslope and survives with a sub-circular mound at
least 10m in diameter and 1.5m high, built out from the slope which faces west
at this point. Within the mound periphery a kerb of at least 12 boulders and
edge-set slabs defines an area 7.75m north east-south west by 6.3m north west-
south east. This inner area is almost bisected by the subrectangular funerary
chamber, measuring 5.2m long, north west-south east, by up to 1.4m wide, with
rounded corners at each end of the north east side. The chamber walls rise to
1.1m high, with edge-set slabs along the base and coursed slabs above. Four
large transversely-set covering slabs are visible, two of which have been
displaced and now lie partly in the chamber. The chamber entrance is at the
south east end, constricted by edge-set blocking stones on the line of the
kerb; outside the entrance, a narrow slab-lined outer passage, 0.5m wide at
one point, is cut through the adjacent mound and hillslope deposits. The
chamber was excavated by the antiquary George Bonsor in 1901, its intact
internal deposits containing both unburnt human bones and, possibly a later
deposition, carefully arranged cremations accompanied by inverted urns,
together with many urn fragments and quantities of ashes, two bone points, a
battered pebble and a bronze awl fragment.
The other entrance grave is situated 65m south east of Obadiah's Barrow, on a
natural terrace behind a midslope outcrop called Carn Valla. This entrance
grave has a mound 7.5m in diameter and up to 0.8m high, its perimeter defined
on all sides except the south east by a kerb of contiguous edge-set slabs. At
least two large covering slabs are visible in the mound's upper surface, laid
side by side, each with a north east-south west long axis and with the south
eastern slab behind the break in the kerb line. The cavity of the implied
north west-south east chamber can be glimpsed beneath the south eastern
covering slab which overlies the entrance.
Later in the prehistoric period much of Kittern Hill and the adjacent lower
slopes were subdivided by a field system with walls of rubble and boulders,
generally 1m-1.5m wide and 0.2m-0.5m high. The walls incorporate occasional
edge-set slabs on their midline, up to 0.75m high though usually much shorter.
These slabs are tallest and most frequent in three instances where the
walling crosses earlier cairns on the summit ridge, the cairns' robbed
kerbstones being set on edge to produce discrete short lengths of contiguous
edge-set slabs along the otherwise slighter rubble wall.
The field system has three principal walls radiating north west, ESE and SSW
from the highest point, the south east summit of the hill's ridge. These walls
divide the upper dome of the hill into three major blocks, comprising the NNE,
south east and western flanks, an arrangement dictated largely by the
disposition of the hill's underlying topography. Each flank has a differing
character of finer prehistoric subdivision.
One principal wall runs 120m north west-south east linking the cairns on the
summit ridge; from the south east summit, the second principal wall extends
ESE and, partly obscured by dense vegetation, descends the east flank to the
present coastal edge. The third principal wall runs SSW from just east of the
entrance grave on the south east summit and extends for 92m, aligned on the
entrance grave by Carn Valla, but its course is masked before reaching it by
dense surface vegetation.
In the NNE sector defined by these walls, the lower flanks are subdivided by
at least two walls, 90m apart, rising NNE-SSW up the hill's lower slope to
approximately the 15m contour level, with traces of a contour wall at the 10m
level. The upper edge of this subdivided zone contains a settlement of at
least four hut circles spaced along the 10m-15m contour level, together with a
mound of field-clearance rubble near the coastal edge. The hut circles range
from 3.5m to 4.5m in internal diameter, levelled into the steep slope and
defined along their downhill side by a rubble wall up to 1m wide and 0.5m
high.
In the south eastern sector, the hill's upper slopes contain traces of a
rectangular enclosure measuring c.40m by 45m, whose lower wall extends north
along the contour towards the ESE principal wall and from whose south east
corner a short wall extends towards the upper spine of the hill's long
south east spur.
The hill's western sector has steep flanks whose lower slope is subdivided by
two north west-south east walls roughly along the contour, 60m apart, ending
at the north west on the crest of the rocky scarp across the north west end of
the hill. Immediately beyond that scarp, the field system extends as fine
subdivisions of the small saddle linking Kittern Hill and a coastal outcrop
called Tol Tuppens. Partly inundated by blown sand, the visible walls on the
saddle indicate a network of small subrectangular fields with boundaries
c.20m-40m apart. The south west end of the hill's scarp forms the second
settlement focus in the monument, with four hut circles, similar to those on
the NNE flank but with internal diameters of 3m-3.5m; two are located by the
north west end of the western slope's lower wall, the other two are behind a
wall bordering the saddle at the foot of the Kittern Hill scarp.
Much later, during the later 17th to early 19th centuries AD, the collection
and burning of seaweed to produce soda-ash for the glass industry produced the
monument's two small kelp pits in which the seaweed was burnt. One is located
near the centre of the saddle behind Tol Tuppens, the other is behind the
coastal cliff edge near the northern foot of Kittern Hill. Both are visible as
shallow hollows, 1.1m diameter and 0.4m deep and 1m diameter and 0.5m deep
respectively, lined by small flat slabs partly obscured by blown sand.
In 1932 the island's lessee, Mr Charles Cooper, was buried immediately south
of the entrance grave crowning the south east end of the summit ridge on
Kittern Hill, his grave site being visible as a slight mound.
Beyond this monument, the south east spur of Kittern Hill also contains a
prehistoric ritual monument, a standing stone known as `The Old Man of Gugh',
and near the tip of the spur, a kerbed platform cairn with a cist forms a
distant outlier from this monument's cairn group. Another large and extensive
cairn group, with field system remains at its north east edge, is located on
the elevated southern half of Gugh, from 400m SSE of this monument.

MAP EXTRACT
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'
settlement.
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.

Platform cairns, round cairns and entrance graves form the main varieties of
funerary monuments on Scilly, whose combined date range extends from the later
Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2500-1000 BC). They were constructed as
earth-and-rubble mounds, with flattened tops in the case of platform cairns
and entrance graves, often with a kerb of stones or edge-set slabs bounding
the edge of the mound, platform surface or both. In round and platform cairns,
burials were sometimes accompanied by pottery urns and placed on the old land
surface, in small pits or, on occasion, within a box-like structure of slabs
called a cist which may also be set into the old ground surface or dug into
the body of the cairn. Entrance graves are distinguished by their funerary
chamber, built of edge-set slabs, coursed rubble walling or both, and roofed
by large covering slabs. 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.
Excavations in entrance graves have produced urns and cremated bone; unburnt
human bone has also been recovered but is rarely preserved due to the acid
soil conditions. Entrance grave chambers have also produced ritual deposits of
domestic midden debris.
Each of these funerary monument types can occur singly, in small groups or in
larger cemeteries containing several types. They may also occur in close
proximity to prehistoric field systems and linear boundaries, displaying
relationships of considerable significance for our understanding of the
development of land use, funerary practice and settlement during the Neolithic
and Bronze Ages. The field systems so associated may be of various forms,
irregular or regular, enclosing large blocks or small plots, and may include
contemporary settlements of hut circles. Such settlements also display a
diversity of overall pattern and of detailed features among their component
hut circles, providing useful insights into the physical and social
organisation of the prehistoric landscape.

The prehistoric funerary and settlement elements of this monument on northern
Gugh have survived well and include an unusually clear successive relationship
between the cairn group and the field system. The layout and diversity of the
cairn group and the nearby entrance graves shows well the relationships
between the various forms and sizes of funerary cairn; their non-random siting
also demonstrates the influence of the topography on prehistoric funerary
rituals. Most cairns survive substantially intact, with limited traces of
antiquarian disturbance in some cases. The one more-extensively excavated
example, Obadiah's Barrow entrance grave, was unusually well-recorded for that
date by Bonsor: his surviving plans and sections provide one of the most
detailed records of an entrance grave's chamber deposits and their funerary
and artefactual contents, including the rare survival of an unburnt human
burial. Bonsor's intervention was limited to the chamber and entrance, leaving
the mound beyond intact.
The influence of the underlying topography is also apparent in the layout of
the prehistoric field system, whose survival is sufficiently extensive to show
the pattern of settlement foci and the changing nature of land division with
increased altitude and exposure. The slighting of underlying cairns to provide
prominent slabs for the field system walling is important not only in
clarifying the sequence of land use but also the shift in respect for such
funerary monuments during the Bronze Age. The subsequent submergence led, much
later, to the construction of the monument's kelp pits, forming part of the
few tangible remains of a short-lived but important industry in the islands'
economy.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
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)
Gill, C, The Isles of Scilly, (1975)
Grigson, G, The Scilly Isles, (1977)
Laws, P, The Buildings of Scilly, (1980)
Over, L, The Kelp Industry in Scilly, (1987)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Ashbee, P, 'Cornish Studies' in George Bonsor: An Archaeological Pioneer From Spain On Scilly, (1980), 53-62
Ashbee, P, 'Cornish Studies' in George Bonsor: An Archaeological Pioneer From Spain On Scilly, (1980), 53-62
Other
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation and maplet for SI 1015, 1975,
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for SI 1015, 1975,
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for SI 1015, 1975, 'Obadiah's Grave'
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 80 NE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 80 NE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 8715
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8808
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8808, & 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 80 NE
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 6": mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 80 NE
Source Date: 1963
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Waters, A, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7024, (1988)
Waters, A, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7025, (1988)
Waters, A, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7027.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7024, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7025, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7026, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7026.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7027.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7027.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7027.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.01, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.02, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.03, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.05, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.06, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.07, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.08, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.09, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.10, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.11, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.12, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.13, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.14, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.15, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.16, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7030.17, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7031, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7032, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7024-5, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7026; 7026.06; 7027; 7027.04, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7026-7, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7031-2, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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