Round cairn with funerary chamber on Buzza Hill, 45m west of the Buzza Tower, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010174

Date first listed: 20-Dec-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jan-1995


Ordnance survey map of Round cairn with funerary chamber on Buzza Hill, 45m west of the Buzza Tower, 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 90594 10377

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 Buzza Hill has survived well. Its large mound remains intact and its large walled and slab-built closed funerary chamber is unusual. The recorded presence of this cairn as part of a cairn group on this hill and its relationships with the settlement sites on the coast of Porth Cressa Bay and the cairns and field systems on the ridge of Peninnis Head combine to illustrate well the diversity of funerary practices, the organisation of land use and the relationships between settlement and funerary activity among prehistoric communities.


The monument includes a large prehistoric round cairn with a central funerary chamber situated on the western crest of Buzza Hill, overlooking Porth Cressa Bay and the isthmus to the Garrison, on south western St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly.

The round cairn survives with circular, steep-sided mound of heaped rubble, 13.2m in diameter, situated across the western crest of the hill such that it rises up to 2.5m high on its west side and up to 0.5m high on the east. The funerary structure is visible near the centre of the mound's upper surface and survives as a rectangular chamber whose interior measures 2.4m long, north east-south west, by 1.5m wide and 0.9m deep. The chamber's sides are defined by a combination of edge-set slabs and coursed slab-built walling, whose upper edges are level with the upper surface of the mound. Each end of the chamber is closed by a single large edge-set slab, that at the north east end rising above the level of the other chamber sides to a height of 1.1m from the floor of the chamber.

The south west end of the chamber interior is covered by a large slab, called a capstone, rising proud of the mound's surface and resting on the side walling and end-stone. The capstone measures 2m long, across the chamber, by 1.3m wide and 0.5m thick.

This monument is one of a group of three recorded chambered cairns located on top of the prominent ridge forming Buzza Hill. The other two, of a type called entrance graves and located on the crown of the ridge, 45m to the east and 50m to the ENE, were the subject of the earliest recorded excavations at such cairns in 1752 by the antiquary Borlase, but both cairns have subsequently been destroyed as visible monuments by stone robbing and by the early 19th century construction of the Buzza Tower, formerly a windmill, believed to occupy the site of one of the cairns. A fourth funerary cairn, formerly visible from this monument until modern buildings intervened, survives on the northern end of the Peninnis Head ridge, 240m to the ESE. Prehistoric settlement sites are exposed in the cliff face on the eastern side of Porth Cressa Bay, from 180m to the SSE. Another, dispersed, cairn group is located on the southern end of Peninnis Head, with further prehistoric field systems around the flanks of the Head, from 950m to the south east.

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: 15384

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Arlott, J, Island Camera, (1983)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7578, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7578.01, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7578.02, (1988)
Saunders, AD, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 598, (1960)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 8715 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing