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' 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. 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 the stone. 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 standing stone.

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

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