Entrance grave on the summit of the northern hill, White Island


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010162

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Entrance grave on the summit of the northern hill, White Island
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Martin's

National Grid Reference: SV 92236 17632


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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. 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 has survived well, despite some limited disturbance to its upper stonework by stone robbers, and it has not been archaeologically excavated. The relationship between this entrance grave and the dispersed cairn group and field system on the lower flanks of the hill illustrates the diversity of funerary practices, their relationship with settlement and organisation of land use among prehistoric communities. The wider relationships between this monument, the other broadly contemporary cairns and field systems on White Island, and the evidence for the submergence of settlement areas since they were built, demonstrate in a dramatic way the major environmental changes that have affected the setting of some surviving prehistoric monuments since their construction.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a prehistoric entrance grave situated on the narrow summit ridge of the northern hill of White Island, off St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The entrance grave survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 7m in diameter, rising 0.5m to an ovoid kerb of ten large slabs, up to 1.5m long and 0.6m high, mostly edge-set but four slabs now lie flat. The kerb measures 6m NNW-SSE by 5.5m north east-south west, with a 4m wide gap in its south east sector. Within the kerb, the chamber of the entrance grave is visible with a rectangular internal area measuring 4m NNW-SSE by up to 1.5m wide and 0.3m deep, defined by walling along the sides and the NNW end built of boulders, partly coursed, together with some edge-set slabs. The SSE end of the chamber remains ill-defined as a visible feature. The NNW end of the chamber interior is covered by a large slab, called a capstone, laid across the side walls and measuring 1.25m long by 0.75m wide and 0.3m thick. Other capstones would have covered much of the chamber's interior but have been removed in an unrecorded stone robbing episode. Although this entrance grave is located on what is now the highest part of a fairly small uninhabited island, linked to the much larger St Martin's island at low tide, the physical environment in which it was originally built was on top of a broad rocky promontory, facing a broad valley to the south, on the northern edge of the single large island that formerly united much of the area of the present Isles of Scilly archipelago, from St Mary's northwards. The gradual sinking of the land since this entrance grave was constructed has led to the fragmentation of that island into the present scatter of large and small islands and rocks. On the lower southern and eastern flanks of this hill is a dispersed group of at least nine broadly contemporary funerary cairns, from 85m to the ESE and 90m to the south east. Surviving parts of prehistoric field systems that formerly extended into the basin now occupied by Porth Morran are located from 110m to the south and 260m to the south east, on the central and southern parts of the island, extending in places onto the upper shore of Porth Morran as a result of the submergence.

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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 15396

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7096, (1988)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7096-7, (1988)
consulted 1994, Thorpe, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7099, (1988)
Rees, S.E., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 998, 1975, Cairn 'a'. Consulted 1994
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing