The Old Man prehistoric standing stone, Gugh
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
- St. Agnes
- National Grid Reference:
- SV 89053 08483
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.
Standing stones are prehistoric ritual monuments dating to the later Neolithic
and Bronze Age (c.2500-700 BC). They comprise single or paired upright slabs,
ranging in height from under 1m to over 6m where still erect. They are often
conspicuously sited, though many are located in relatively sheltered settings.
Excavations have demonstrated subsurface features adjacent to standing stones,
including funerary cists, spreads of pebbles and various pits and hollows
containing human bone, cremations and domestic debris. Excavated sockets for
standing stones vary considerably in depth, reflecting variations in the
stones' heights. In addition to having a ritual function, standing stones may
also have acted as markers for routeways, territorial boundaries, graves and
meeting points. Estimates suggest that about 250 standing stones are known
nationally, of which seven examples are known to survive on the Isles of
Scilly. Standing stones are important for our understanding of ritual, land
division and land use among prehistoric communities.
The Old Man standing stone on Gugh survives well, in its original position, with only limited disturbance around its base from Bonsor's excavation. Its continuing prominence in the landscape is reflected by its early antiquarian reference. Its location relative to other prehistoric funerary, ritual and settlement monuments, including a field system, on the northern part of the island shows well the organisation of prehistoric activities and land use, which unusually is given some depth by the rare evidence for the slightly later date of the field system's construction.
The monument includes a prehistoric standing stone known as the `Old Man'
situated on the south eastern spur of Kittern Hill, overlooking the east coast
of Gugh, an island linked at low tide to St Agnes in the south west of the
Isles of Scilly.
The standing stone is visible as a slender, end-set granite slab, 2.6m long,
leaning markedly to the east to leave its tip 2.3m above ground level. The
slab has a fairly even 0.7m-0.8m width, north-south, and tapers in thickness
to the tip from a maximum 0.5m thick slightly above the base. The east face is
flat, the west face slightly convex and the tip has an irregular jagged edge.
The slab has heavily weathered surfaces, erosion of the rock's natural
jointing producing shallow lengthwise grooving on the west face. A slight
hollow 0.3m deep in the surrounding ground surface extends up to 1m from the
slab, exposing five irregular packing stones around its base.
This standing stone was one of the monuments recorded on Scilly in 1756 by the
antiquary William Borlase. The standing stone also attracted the attention of
the later antiquary, George Bonsor, who excavated around the base of
This standing stone is situated within the south eastern extent of a large
cemetery of at least 20 prehistoric funerary cairns of differing forms which
are dispersed over the island's northern hill, Kittern Hill, and its south
east spur. Many of the cemetery's cairns are linked by walls of a prehistoric
field system which can be shown to slightly post-date the cemetery and which
extends across the main summit dome of Kittern Hill from 50m north west of
this monument, where the nearest field boundary appears to be aligned upon the
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Borlase, W, Observations on Ancient and Present State of the Isles of Scilly, (1756)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Ashbee, P, 'Cornish Studies' in George Bonsor: An Archaeological Pioneer From Spain On Scilly, , Vol. 8, (1980), 53-62
Rees, S E, AM7 scheduling documentation and maplet for SI 1015, 1975,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 80 NE Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7026, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7053, (1988)
Waters, A/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7030-7032, 7054, (1988)
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