Round cairn on Helvear Down, 300m NNE of Higher Trenoweth Farm, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010170

Date first listed: 14-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Round cairn on Helvear Down, 300m NNE of Higher Trenoweth Farm, St Mary's
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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. Mary's

National Grid Reference: SV 91933 12655


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. Round cairns are funerary monuments of Bronze Age date (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as mounds of earth and stone rubble, up to 40m in external diameter, though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple burials. A kerb of edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the mound. Burials were placed in small pits, or on occasion within a box-like structure of stone slabs called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. Round cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or in larger cemeteries. Round cairns form a high proportion of the 387 surviving cairns recorded on the Isles of Scilly. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provides important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of preservation.

This round cairn on Helvear Hill has survived reasonably well and despite the antiquarian excavation, its large mound remains substantially intact. The proximity of this cairn to the entrance graves, field system and settlement sites on the coastal margin and shoreline below Helvear Down illustrate well the diversity of funerary practices, the organisation of land use and the relationships between settlement and funerary activity during the Bronze Age.


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


The monument includes a large prehistoric round cairn situated in a modern field near the north east side of Helvear Down on northern St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The round cairn survives with a circular, steep-sided mound of heaped rubble, 12.5m in diameter, situated on a north facing slope such that it rises up to 1.8m high on its north side and up to 1m high on the south. The sides rise to a level raised bank, 5.5m in overall diameter, surrounding a hollow at the top of the mound. The hollow derives from an unrecorded antiquarian excavation, whose spoil was aggregated to form the bank. The flattened base of the hollow is 2m in diameter and 0.45m deep below the crest of the bank. The surrounding bank of excavation spoil is 1.75m wide and has a level step, 0.9m wide, around the centre of its inner slope. At the foot of the mound's eastern slope lies a large slab, 1.9m long, east-west, by 0.75m wide and 0.5m high, considered to derive from a funerary structure in the cairn and cast out during the antiquarian excavation. This monument is located near the north eastern side of the Helvear Down plateau, on the edge of the steep slope down to the northern coast of St Mary's. Broadly contemporary monuments nearby include two large chambered cairns, called entrance graves, and a field system, lower down on the coastal slope from 180m to the ENE, and hut circles from 210m to the NNW, exposed in the modern shoreline due to the gradual submergence of the land since their construction.

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: 15379

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7453.03, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7521, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Maps; SV 9112 & SV 9212 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing