Prehistoric linear boundary and cairns south west of The Bar, Bryher


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric linear boundary and cairns south west of The Bar, Bryher
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SV 88144 15093

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. The early linear boundaries on the Isles of Scilly were constructed from the Bronze Age to the early medieval period (c.2000 BC-AD 1066): closer dating within that period may be provided by their visible relationships to other classes of monument, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea level. They consist of stone walls, up to 3m wide and 1.1m high but usually much slighter, and are formed of heaped rubble, often incorporating edge- or end-set slabs called orthostats. Linear boundaries served a variety of functions. These included separating land regularly cultivated from that less intensively used, separating land held by different social groups, or delineating areas set aside for ceremonial, religious and funerary activities. Linear boundaries are often associated with other forms of contemporary field system. The Isles of Scilly contain examples of an associaton, rarely encountered elswhere, whereby certain linear boundaries directly link several cairns, entrance graves and cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments. Linear boundaries along the coastal margin of the islands are often indistinguishable from the truncated upper walls of early field systems whose remaining extent has been destroyed by the rising sea level. Linear boundaries form a substantial part of the evidence of early field systems recorded on the Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into the physical and social organisation of past landscapes and form an important element in the existing landscape. Even where truncated by the rising sea level, their surviving lengths provide important evidence for the wider contemporary context within which other nationally important monuments at higher altitudes were constructed. A substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The prehistoric boundary south west of The Bar survives reasonably well, clearly displaying its manner of construction and its relationship to the topography; despite minor displacements by wave action its extensive survival well into the inter-tidal zone confirms its overall long term stability against a considerable period of submergence. The re-use of the saddle quern in the boundary illustrates well the depth of chronology in the prehistoric settlement of the area. Despite some disturbance to their surface form, the cairns will retain their lower deposits intact and will preserve portions of the pre-submergence land surface on which they were built, forming a valuable source of early environmental data. The boundary and cairns in this scheduling complement the other prehistoric settlement and funerary features surviving from the higher ground to the inter-tidal zone on Bryher, providing an unusually extensive view of prehistoric land use across the altitude range into now-submerged levels.


The scheduling includes a prehistoric linear boundary surviving along the middle shore south west of The Bar, on the east coast of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly. Adjacent to the south west end of the boundary are two broadly contemporary cairns. The boundary is visible as a closely spaced or continuous row of boulders and smaller slabs forming a slightly curving north east-south west line which extends for 72m along the middle shore with a short break towards its south west end. The boundary includes boulders to 0.9m high and 1.5m wide but its stones average 0.6m high and include some edge-set slabs; an aggregation of rubble against the boundary due to its effect as a slight breakwater, coupled with slight displacement of some individual slabs from its line, gives the boundary an overall appearance as a linear rubble spread generally 2m wide. One of the edge-set slabs near the centre of the boundary is a re-used saddle quern, a prehistoric corn-grinding stone, neatly hollowed across one face where the grain was placed for grinding to flour by a rubbing stone. From 6m west of the boundary's south west end are the sub-circular rubble mounds of two small cairns, adjoining on an east-west axis and considered contemporary with the nearby boundary. The eastern cairn is 9m in diameter and up to 0.5m high; the western is up to 7m in diameter and 0.25m high. Wave action has clearly caused some spreading of their surface rubble, preventing close definition of their original mound forms, but no disturbance is evident to their lower rubble and the deposits beneath. Beyond this scheduling, further broadly contemporary field system remains occur from 245m to the south, in the inter-tidal zone of Green Bay, Bryher. These inter-tidal remains along the east coast of Bryher complement extensive prehistoric cairn cemeteries and associated field systems on the island's higher ground of Shipman Head Down, Gweal Hill and Samson Hill.

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:


Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7374.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7374.02, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 8815 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

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