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Prehistoric cairn cemetery and field system on Tinkler's Hill, St Martin's

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

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Latitude: 49.9676 / 49°58'3"N

Longitude: -6.2997 / 6°17'59"W

OS Eastings: 91779.929304

OS Northings: 16356.074143

OS Grid: SV917163

Mapcode National: GBR BXTR.Z38

Mapcode Global: VGYBY.R2FN

Entry Name: Prehistoric cairn cemetery and field system on Tinkler's Hill, St Martin's

Scheduled Date: 7 October 1976

Last Amended: 24 July 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018109

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15517

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 cairn cemetery and field system on the
plateau and upper southern slope of Tinkler's Hill in the west of St Martin's
in the Isles of Scilly. On one of the cemetery's cairns are remains of a much
later, post-medieval, maritime lookout. This scheduling is divided into two
separate areas.
The prehistoric cemetery contains at least five funerary cairns; the largest
is located on the north western crest of the Hill's plateau, 35m south east of
Tinkler's Rock, with the other four spaced 20m-85m apart across the south of
the plateau. All are platform cairns whose rubble mounds rise to a flattened
upper platform. The largest cairn, on the north west, has an ovoid mound, 22m
north east-south west by 18.5m north west-south east, and up to 1.3m high; its
platform is 11m in diameter with a slightly raised rim in which a spread of
rubble and large slabs is occasionally visible. Limited excavation in 1950
revealed that the rim overlies remains of a stone-built kerb; a central
hollow, 5.5m across and 0.3m deep, also derives from this episode of
excavation. The cemetery's four southern cairns range from 10m to 15m in
diameter and 0.5m to 1m high, with platforms 4m to 9m in diameter. The western
of these cairns supports the prominent slab-built ring of a post medieval
lookout, described below, but within that is a relatively recent central pit,
1.5m north east-south west by 1m north west-south east and 0.6m deep, with a
large slab lying flat alongside, considered to derive from an antiquarian
excavation which may have slighted a funerary structure.
The prehistoric field system extends across the south and south east of the
Tinkler's Hill plateau and adjacent upper southern slope. It is defined by
slight turf-covered banks, 1m-2m wide and about 0.1m high, often only
intermittently visible on the surface and clearest where crossed by modern
paths and tracks which expose their rubble content as a distinct band about 1m
wide. These exposures indicate a rectilinear layout whose boundaries are at
approximate right angles to each other, roughly NNW-SSE and ENE-WSW on the
south east of the plateau, and roughly NNE-SSW and ESE-WNW further west on the
south of the plateau. The boundaries are considered to be the surviving upper
sector of a formerly wider area of prehistoric land division serving
settlement foci on the lower land south of Tinkler's Hill, where its survival
is now truncated by successive later and modern enclosure around the present
village of Lower Town. The field system extends onto the plateau beyond the
cemetery's four southern cairns, three of which have banks running to them.
Considerably later, the western of the four southern cairns was re-used to
site a post-medieval maritime lookout, one of several such observation points
on Scilly from which shipping movements were observed to allow pilots to be
sent off promptly and also used in some cases by the Coastguard to monitor
local activity. This lookout was provided with a shelter walled by large
edge-set slabs, to 2m long and 1m high, forming an almost continuous oval ring
with a second course of smaller slabs laid in some places. The wall measures
6m north west-south east by 5m north east-south west internally with a large
gap to the south west. The shelter is built north west of centre on the
cairn's platform, its outer face roughly 1.5m-2m behind the platform's
southern edge.
Beyond this scheduling, a further cairn cemetery associated with prehistoric
field systems and settlement sites extends across Top Rock Hill and its
flanks, the neighbouring upland area to the north east on St Martin's. The
modern water-pipe trench, its fill, pipe and cables, and the modern borehole
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is

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.
Platform cairns are funerary monuments of Early Bronze Age date (c.2000-1600
BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble, up to
40m in external diameter though usually considerably smaller, covering single
or multiple burials. Some examples have other features, including peripheral
banks and internal mounds constructed on the platform. A kerb of slabs or
edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the platform, and a peripheral
bank or mound if present. Platform cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in
small groups or in cairn cemeteries. In cemeteries they are normally found
alongside cairns of other types.
Platform cairns form a significant proportion of the 387 surviving cairns on
the Isles of Scilly; this is unusual in comparison with the mainland. All
surviving examples on the Isles of Scilly are considered worthy of protection.

The small cemetery of platform cairns on Tinkler's Hill survives well, the
attentions of antiquarian diggers and the 1950 excavation affecting two cairns
but causing only limited disturbance to their form and fabric. The cemetery
shows clearly the bias towards elevated land in the siting of such prehistoric
funerary monuments and it also demonstrates a typically non-random
distribution of cairns across upland terrain: much the largest cairn is
prominently sited close to a striking natural feature but relatively remote
from known prehistoric settlement activity; by contrast the four smaller
southern cairns, all but one in less prominent settings, are near the upper
limits of prehistoric field systems occupying the favoured southerly aspects
of the hill. This relationship between prehistoric funerary and settlement
activity, and the form of field system deployed along the upper margins of the
prehistoric settlement, is evident from the prehistoric field system surviving
across the south of the plateau, its intermittent exposures confirming its
extent across areas now largely masked by subsequent soil build up.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Vyvyan, C C, The Scilly Isles, (1953)
Beagrie, N, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Aspects of Brit Field Archaeology' in Excavations by Bryan and Helen O'Neil on the Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 209, (1989), 49-54
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7090.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7153, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.04, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.05, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.06, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7141, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR PRNs 7190.03 & 7190.05, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 11
Source Date: 1889
Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 11
Source Date: 1908

Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9116
Source Date: 1980

Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall (Isles of Scilly) SV 91 NW
Source Date: 1963

Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW
Source Date: 1963

Young, A/CAU, Water Pipe Trench at St Martin's Hotel; Archaeological Watching Brief, 1993,
Young, A/CAU, Water Pipe Trench at St Martin's Hotel; Archaeological Watching Brief, 1993,

Source: Historic England

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