Prehistoric cairn cemetery and field system on Tinkler's Hill, St Martin's


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairn cemetery and field system on Tinkler's Hill, St Martin's
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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. Martin's
National Grid Reference:
SV 91698 16492, SV 91786 16351

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. Platform cairns are funerary monuments of Early Bronze Age date (c.2000-1600 BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble, up to 40m in external diameter though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple burials. Some examples have other features, including peripheral banks and internal mounds constructed on the platform. A kerb of slabs or edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the platform, and a peripheral bank or mound if present. Platform cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or in cairn cemeteries. In cemeteries they are normally found alongside cairns of other types. Platform cairns form a significant proportion of the 387 surviving cairns on the Isles of Scilly; this is unusual in comparison with the mainland. All surviving examples on the Isles of Scilly are considered worthy of protection.

The small cemetery of platform cairns on Tinkler's Hill survives well, the attentions of antiquarian diggers and the 1950 excavation affecting two cairns but causing only limited disturbance to their form and fabric. The cemetery shows clearly the bias towards elevated land in the siting of such prehistoric funerary monuments and it also demonstrates a typically non-random distribution of cairns across upland terrain: much the largest cairn is prominently sited close to a striking natural feature but relatively remote from known prehistoric settlement activity; by contrast the four smaller southern cairns, all but one in less prominent settings, are near the upper limits of prehistoric field systems occupying the favoured southerly aspects of the hill. This relationship between prehistoric funerary and settlement activity, and the form of field system deployed along the upper margins of the prehistoric settlement, is evident from the prehistoric field system surviving across the south of the plateau, its intermittent exposures confirming its extent across areas now largely masked by subsequent soil build up.


The monument includes a prehistoric cairn cemetery and field system on the plateau and upper southern slope of Tinkler's Hill in the west of St Martin's in the Isles of Scilly. On one of the cemetery's cairns are remains of a much later, post-medieval, maritime lookout. This scheduling is divided into two separate areas. The prehistoric cemetery contains at least five funerary cairns; the largest is located on the north western crest of the Hill's plateau, 35m south east of Tinkler's Rock, with the other four spaced 20m-85m apart across the south of the plateau. All are platform cairns whose rubble mounds rise to a flattened upper platform. The largest cairn, on the north west, has an ovoid mound, 22m north east-south west by 18.5m north west-south east, and up to 1.3m high; its platform is 11m in diameter with a slightly raised rim in which a spread of rubble and large slabs is occasionally visible. Limited excavation in 1950 revealed that the rim overlies remains of a stone-built kerb; a central hollow, 5.5m across and 0.3m deep, also derives from this episode of excavation. The cemetery's four southern cairns range from 10m to 15m in diameter and 0.5m to 1m high, with platforms 4m to 9m in diameter. The western of these cairns supports the prominent slab-built ring of a post medieval lookout, described below, but within that is a relatively recent central pit, 1.5m north east-south west by 1m north west-south east and 0.6m deep, with a large slab lying flat alongside, considered to derive from an antiquarian excavation which may have slighted a funerary structure. The prehistoric field system extends across the south and south east of the Tinkler's Hill plateau and adjacent upper southern slope. It is defined by slight turf-covered banks, 1m-2m wide and about 0.1m high, often only intermittently visible on the surface and clearest where crossed by modern paths and tracks which expose their rubble content as a distinct band about 1m wide. These exposures indicate a rectilinear layout whose boundaries are at approximate right angles to each other, roughly NNW-SSE and ENE-WSW on the south east of the plateau, and roughly NNE-SSW and ESE-WNW further west on the south of the plateau. The boundaries are considered to be the surviving upper sector of a formerly wider area of prehistoric land division serving settlement foci on the lower land south of Tinkler's Hill, where its survival is now truncated by successive later and modern enclosure around the present village of Lower Town. The field system extends onto the plateau beyond the cemetery's four southern cairns, three of which have banks running to them. Considerably later, the western of the four southern cairns was re-used to site a post-medieval maritime lookout, one of several such observation points on Scilly from which shipping movements were observed to allow pilots to be sent off promptly and also used in some cases by the Coastguard to monitor local activity. This lookout was provided with a shelter walled by large edge-set slabs, to 2m long and 1m high, forming an almost continuous oval ring with a second course of smaller slabs laid in some places. The wall measures 6m north west-south east by 5m north east-south west internally with a large gap to the south west. The shelter is built north west of centre on the cairn's platform, its outer face roughly 1.5m-2m behind the platform's southern edge. Beyond this scheduling, a further cairn cemetery associated with prehistoric field systems and settlement sites extends across Top Rock Hill and its flanks, the neighbouring upland area to the north east on St Martin's. The modern water-pipe trench, its fill, pipe and cables, and the modern borehole are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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.

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Books and journals
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Vyvyan, C C, The Scilly Isles, (1953)
Beagrie, N, 'From Cornwall to Caithness. Aspects of Brit Field Archaeology' in Excavations by Bryan and Helen O'Neil on the Isles of Scilly, , Vol. 209, (1989), 49-54
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7090.03, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7153, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.01, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.02, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.04, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.05, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7190.06, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR PRN 7141, (1988)
Thorpe, C/CAU, AM 107s for Scilly SMR PRNs 7190.03 & 7190.05, (1988)
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 11 Source Date: 1889 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Both 1889 and 1908 editions
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall sheet LXXXII: 11 Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9116 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; Cornwall (Isles of Scilly) SV 91 NW Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 6": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Young, A/CAU, Water Pipe Trench at St Martin's Hotel; Archaeological Watching Brief, 1993,
Young, A/CAU, Water Pipe Trench at St Martin's Hotel; Archaeological Watching Brief, 1993,


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.

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