Round cairn 155m NNE of Water Rocks, Normandy Down, St Mary's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011939

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Mar-1995


Ordnance survey map of Round cairn 155m NNE of Water Rocks, Normandy Down, 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 93013 11173


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 large round cairn on Normandy Down has survived reasonably well as an example at the upper end of the size range of this class of monument, despite the attentions of antiquaries and stone robbers. The antiquarian excavations have confirmed the presence of otherwise hidden internal funerary structures. The presence of this monument within a cemetery containing various cairn types, its proximity to a prehistoric field system on Water Rocks Down, and the disposition of this and other cairn cemeteries on successive downs along the coast are all factors combining to illustrate well the diversity of funerary practices and the organisation of land use during the Bronze Age.


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


The monument includes a large prehistoric round cairn with a central funerary chamber situated near the centre of Normandy Down, on eastern St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The round cairn is the second largest prehistoric funerary cairn on the Isles of Scilly. It survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 22m in diameter and rising up to 2.2m high. The internal structures of this cairn have been partly revealed by two episodes of unrecorded antiquarian excavation. The earlier episode produced a central hollow, 4m in diameter and 0.9m deep, in the top of the mound. The edges of this hollow include a raised lip containing debris from the excavation. This lip is 3m wide and rises up to 1m above the profile of the mound's slope beyond. A broad gap in the north eastern sector of the lip is considered to mark the line of entry of this early excavation. Exposed in the base of the early excavation hollow are two edge-set slabs, 1.7m apart on a north-south axis, marking opposite sides of a central funerary chamber. Each slab has an east-west long axis, the northern slab standing 0.9m high, 0.9m long and 0.2m wide. The upper edge of the southern slab is flush with the base of the hollow and is 1.5m long and 0.2m wide. A further smaller slab, 0.1m high, from the western side of the chamber is exposed immediately south west of the northern slab. The second antiquarian excavation episode is evident as an east-west trench, 0.75m wide, cutting through the western slope of the mound and its lip of excavation debris. The trench then crosses the base of the earlier hollow, its southern side exposing the northern face of the southern edge-set slab. The trench finally ends at the eastern side of the earlier hollow. In the base of that hollow, the trench extends a further 0.5m deep. Apart from revealing the height of the southern slab, the faces of at least three more slabs are exposed in the northern side of the trench. Another hollow in the south west periphery of the mound, 3m wide and extending 2m up the mound's slope, is the result of small-scale robbing of the cairn's rubble content. This monument is located east of centre in a linear cairn cemetery containing three other cairns dispersed across the plateau of Normandy Down. The other cairns in this cemetery vary in form and include one entrance grave while the two others also contain large funerary chambers. A broadly contemporary field system extends south from Water Rocks Down, from 150m south west of this monument. Other prehistoric cairn cemeteries are located to the south on the successive coastal downs of Porth Hellick Down and Salakee Down. The surface of the modern metalled track passing immediately SSE of the cairn is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath is included.

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: 15370

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
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)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7236.02, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7527, (1988)
Morley, B. & Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1018, 1975, consulted 1994
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 9211 & 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 91 SW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing