Prehistoric entrance grave at Works Carn, Bryher
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1013797
Date first listed: 10-Oct-1972
Date of most recent amendment: 22-Nov-1995
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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)
National Grid Reference: SV 87827 14136
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'
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
This entrance grave at Works Carn has survived well, with only minimal disturbance evident from the partial disruption of its capstones. The size of the kerb and its partial coursing are unusual. The monument's proximity to the prominent natural outcrop of Works Carn provides a good example of 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 a large prehistoric entrance grave situated on the
southern slope of Samson Hill on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly.
The entrance grave is located on a small natural shelf overlooked from the north by a prominent midslope outcrop called the Works Carn. It survives with an oval mound of heaped rubble and earth measuring 11m NNE-SSW by 9m WNW-ESE and incorporates some large natural blocks and surface outcrops; its upper surface rises 1m high from the SSW side and 0.2m high at the NNE, compensating for the southerly slope of the underlying shelf. The periphery of the mound has a prominent kerb of near vertical edge-set slabs and boulders, up to 1m high, 1.4m long and 0.8m thick, running 0.5m-0.7m within the mound's overall perimeter. The kerb has a second course of slabs over its south to south east sector and is continuous except for a short break at the north east. The kerb is up to 1m high on its outer face, and in places rises to 0.5m above the mound's rather irregular but flattened surface within.
Within the kerb, the mound contains a large funerary chamber measuring 6.5m long, NNE-SSW, by 1.3m wide and up to 0.7m deep. Its sides are formed by a combination of large blocks and edge-set slabs, some coursed. The SSW end of the chamber is adjacent to the tallest part of the peripheral kerb, but its detailed form is obscured by dense scrub. The NNE end of the chamber, now choked by an earth and rubble fill, is considered to be the original entrance, with a slight curve to the north east required for it to open at the break in the peripheral kerb. The chamber is roofed by elongated slabs called capstones, set across the sides. At least five capstones survive, up to 2.5m long, 1.1m wide and 0.6m thick; two remain in position at the SSW end and three have partly fallen into the chamber towards the NNE end. A sixth possible capstone, or a displaced kerbstone, lies on the mound's surface rubble towards the break in the kerb.
Beyond this monument, two pairs of closely-spaced funerary cairns are situated on the summit area of Samson Hill, one pair from 120m to the north west, the other pair from 135m to the north east; all are 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 from the south west slope of the hill, extending to within 45m of this monument, and from the 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: 15426
Legacy System: RSM
AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 851, 1971,
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7395, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7396, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8714 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing