Two kerbed platform cairns north of Bonfire Carn on eastern Samson Hill, Bryher


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013796

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Two kerbed platform cairns north of Bonfire Carn on eastern Samson Hill, Bryher
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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: Bryher

National Grid Reference: SV 87935 14242


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. 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.

These platform cairns on Samson Hill have survived well. The SSW cairn provides a good example of the incorporation of natural outcrops as elements in prehistoric funerary monuments of this period. This, coupled with the prominent siting of both cairns, shows well the influence of the natural topography in the physical organisation of prehistoric funerary and ritual activity. The wider organisation of prehistoric land use and the subsequent profound changes in landscape context are illustrated by the monument's relationship with the other funerary monuments on Samson Hill and the largely lower-level prehistoric field systems and settlement sites nearby, often in the present inter-tidal zone.


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


The monument includes two prehistoric kerbed platform cairns situated near the northern side of Bonfire Carn, the summit outcrop at the eastern side of Samson Hill on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly.

The platform cairns are located 10m apart on a NNE-SSW axis. The SSW cairn survives with a sub-circular mound of heaped rubble up to 8.5m in diameter and 1m high, incorporating the uppermost northern natural outcrop of Bonfire Carn. The upper slope of the mound includes a kerb of at least 21 slabs, up to 0.6m high, mostly edge-set and located 1m-2m within the mound's perimeter, enclosing an irregular platform comprising the exposed surface of the outcrop. The kerb incorporates large natural slabs weathered from the outcrop on the east and west.

The NNE cairn is located on the eastern crest of the spur extending north from Bonfire Carn. It survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble 11m in diameter and up to 1.1m high. A sub-circular upper platform, 7m-8m across, is defined by a kerb of at least eight large kerb slabs, mostly edge-set and up to 1.1m high and 1.8m long. The kerb incorporates a natural outcrop on the north. Within the kerb, the platform contains a distinct hollow, its detail obscured by impenetrably dense scrub but considered to be a slab-built box-like funerary structure. A large slab lying to the north of the hollow and measuring 2.2m long, 0.8m wide and 0.5m thick is also considered to be a likely covering slab from such a funerary structure.

Beyond this monument, another closely-spaced pair of funerary cairns is situated on the western spine of Samson Hill, 120m to the west, and a large entrance grave is situated on the southern midslope of the hill, 135m to the south west, all in close proximity to prominent natural outcrops. Prehistoric field systems and settlement sites are known beyond nearly all sides of Samson Hill, mostly from the present coastal cliff and inter-tidal zone, but also extending up the south west slope of the hill and over the nearby low promontory of Heathy Hill to the west.

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: 15425

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Morley, B & Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1006, 1975, cairn 'b'
Morley, B & Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1006, 1975, cairn 'c'
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7396, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7394.04, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7394.03, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7396, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8714 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing