Kerbed round cairn with central cist on Gun Hill, St Martin's


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013809

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Dec-1995


Ordnance survey map of Kerbed round cairn with central cist on Gun 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 93906 15378


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 round cairn on Gun Hill has survived substantially intact, despite some evidence for minor disruption to the cist and the relatively recent addition of the central upright slab. The prominence of this monument's original context demonstrates the important role played by landscape features in the beliefs and perception of prehistoric communities. The wider organisation of prehistoric land use and the later profound changes in landscape context are illustrated by the monument's relationship with the other surviving prehistoric funerary, settlement and ritual sites in the vicinity, including those in the inter-tidal zone of Higher Town Bay.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric round cairn with a peripheral kerb and central cist situated near the summit of Gun Hill, a small hillock on the south coast of eastern St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. The round cairn survives with a sub-circular mound of heaped earth and rubble, up to 13m in diameter and 1.5m high, located a little north east of the summit of Gun Hill. On the upper slope of the mound is a kerb of at least six irregularly-spaced slabs, edge-set or laid and measuring up to 1.2m long, 0.5m wide and 0.6m high, defining a central area, 6m in diameter. Within that area on top of the mound, is a box-like funerary structure called a cist. The cist is visible as a sub-rectangular arrangement of five slabs; the southern slab, formerly edge-set, has clearly fallen outwards and the north east corner shows evidence for some disruption, but the surviving remains define an interior measuring 1.1m east-west and tapering from 1.1m wide at the east end to 0.9m wide at the west. Within the cist interior is a large upright slab, 0.95m high and 0.6m by 0.4m across, considered to be a relatively recent addition to the prehistoric cairn, possibly to create a distinctive and highly visible feature called a daymark to aid navigation. Beyond this monument, a broadly contemporary funerary cairn is visible on John Batty's Hill, 185m to the north west, incorporated within an extensive prehistoric field system that extends to within 40m north of this monument. Broadly contemporary settlement sites are known at English Island Carn, 170m to the south west, and prehistoric settlement, funerary and ritual monuments, some now in the inter-tidal zone, are recorded from Higher Town Bay 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: 15422

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Rees, S E, AM 7 scheduling documentation for CO 993, 1975,
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 993, 1975,
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7144, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7145, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7146, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7146, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7147-9; 7302-3; 7660, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7152; 7636, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 8715 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9315 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map, SV 91 NW Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing