Prehistoric entrance grave, the southern one of three, and kerbed round cairn with cist on Cruther's Hill, St Martin's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013805

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric entrance grave, the southern one of three, and kerbed round cairn with cist on Cruther's Hill, St Martin'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. Martin's

National Grid Reference: SV 92956 15126


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.

Entrance graves and round cairns are two examples within the diversity of funerary monument types known from the later Neolithic and Bronze Ages (c.2500-700 BC). They were constructed with roughly circular mounds of heaped rubble and earth, up to 40m in diameter though usually considerably smaller, often with a kerb of edge-set or coursed slabs. On the Isles of Scilly, the mounds often incorporate natural outcrops in their fabric. Both entrance graves and round cairns covered single or multiple burials but their manner of burial differs. In entrance graves, the mound contains a rectangular chamber built of edge-set slabs, coursed rubble or both, and roofed by further slabs set across the chamber, called capstones. The chamber was accessible by a gap in the mound's kerb or outer edge and often extends back beyond the centre of the mound. Excavations 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. In round cairns, by contrast, burials may be placed in small pits or, on occasion, within a small box-like structure called a cist, set into the old ground surface or dug into the body of the cairn. The burials may lack associated grave goods or may be accompanied by funerary urns, beads, knives or other artefacts. Round cairns make up a high proportion of the 387 surviving cairns recorded on the Isles of Scilly and are one of the chief forms of prehistoric funerary monument nationally. Entrance graves are much rarer; their national distribution is heavily weighted towards the Isles of Scilly which contain 79 of the 93 surviving examples recorded nationally, the remaining 14 being located in western Cornwall. Both entrance graves and round cairns provide important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation among prehistoric communities.

The entrance grave and round cairn in this monument on Cruther's Hill have survived substantially intact, with only limited disturbance evident around the chamber of the entrance grave. Such a close physical association between differing forms of funerary monument is unusual and indicates a mutual respect among their builders for those various forms. The prominent siting of this monument demonstrates the important role played by landscape features in the beliefs and perception of prehistoric communities, a point reinforced by the monument's proximity with the other prehistoric funerary monuments along the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill. The wider organisation of prehistoric land use and the later profound changes in landscape context are illustrated by the monument's relationship with the prehistoric cists and settlement sites in the inter-tidal zone to the east and west of Cruther's Hill.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric entrance grave and an adjacent round cairn with a kerb and funerary cist situated at the south east end of the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill, on the south coast of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The entrance grave and the round cairn adjoin on a north west-south east axis, straddling a natural knoll at the end of the ridge. The entrance grave is the north western of the pair and survives with a sub-circular mound of heaped earth and rubble, up to 11m in diameter but with irregular edges merging with bedrock outcrops on the north, east and south west. The mound is on a westerly slope on the knoll, rising to 2m above the adjoining ground surface on the south west but only to 0.5m above the ground level on the south east. The mound contains an intermittent kerb, 7m in diameter, formed from a combination of laid slabs and projecting bedrock outcrops and defining an uneven and overgrown shallow-domed platform. Within the platform is a sub- rectangular funerary chamber, aligned WNW-ESE, with its entrance at the ESE marking a break in the kerb. Edge-set slabs detectable along the side walls and across the WNW end give the chamber internal dimensions of 3.5m long and 1.3m wide. The chamber is unroofed but immediately beyond its north west corner is a large slab, 1.5m long and 0.8m wide, considered to be a displaced covering slab. The surface of the chamber is 0.25m deeper than the surrounding platform, while the tallest of its side slabs rises 0.75m high on the southern side of the entrance. On the south east side, at the summit of the knoll, the entrance grave adjoins the round cairn, whose sub-circular earth and rubble mound, up to 8m in diameter, extends over the upper south easterly slope of the knoll. The mound is 0.75m high from the ground level to the south east but merges with the top of the knoll on the north west side. The mound rises to a slightly ovoid kerb of edge-set slabs measuring 4.6m north east-south west by 4.5m north west- south east. The largest kerb slab, 1.6m long and 0.7m high, faces the adjoining entrance grave and is only 1.6m from the edge-set slab beside the entrance grave's chamber entrance. The kerb encircles a small bedrock outcrop against whose south east side is a slab-built box-like structure called a cist. The cist measures 1.75m long, north east-south west, by 1.2m wide internally, defined to the south east and north east by edge-set slabs up to 0.75m long and 0.65m; another slab defines the south west side. The adjoining entrance grave and round cairn in this monument form part of a linear group of four broadly contemporary funerary monuments dispersed along 130m of the summit ridge of Cruther's Hill. This is a highly prominent cairn group visible over considerable distances to the east and west. Beyond this group, a further funerary cairn is located 230m NNW of this monument, in the saddle between Cruther's Hill and Higher Town. Further small prehistoric cists are known from now submerged locations overlooked by Cruther's Hill to both east and west, while those cists to the east are also accompanied by broadly contemporary settlement sites on the sloping beach of Higher Town Bay.

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: 15418

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 992, 1975, cairn 'c'
Rees, S, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 992, 1975, cairn 'd'
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7170, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7172.04, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7147, 7302-3, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7148, 7178, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9215 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing