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Location: 51°10’59"N, 4°40’9"W
Grid reference: SS135460
Area: 1,100 acres
Highest point: 466 feet
Population: 28  (2007)
Jetty and harbour

Lundy is a island belonging to Devon, lying 12 miles off the coast of Great Britain in the Bristol Channel, approximately one third of the distance between Devon and Glamorgan. It is within the Braunton Hundred of Devon.

The island measures about three miles by ¾ mile at its widest; 1,100 acres, or 1¾ square miles, and is the largest island in the Bristol Channel. Its highest point is at 466 feet.

As of 2007, there was a resident population of 28 people, including volunteers. These include a warden, ranger, island manager, and farmer, as well as bar and house-keeping staff. Most live in and around the village at the south of the island. Most visitors are day-trippers, although there are 23 holiday properties and a camp site for staying visitors, mostly also around the south of the island.

The entire island has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest[1] and it was England's first statutory Marine Nature Reserve, and the first Marine Conservation Zone,[2] because of its unique flora and fauna. It is managed by the Landmark Trust on behalf of the National Trust.

Lundy gives its name to a Shipping Forecast sea area.


Lundy granite

A few yards off the north-eastern coast is Seal's Rock which is so called after the seals which rest on and inhabit the islet. [3][4] It is less than 50 yards wide.[5]

Lundy Island lies on the borderline where the North Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel meet, so it has quite a mild climate. Lundy has cool, wet winters and mild, wet summers. It is often windy on the coast.


The island is primarily composed of granite of 50±3 to 54±2 million years[6] (from the Eocene period), with slate at the southern end; the plateau soil is mainly loam, with some peat.[1][7] Among the igneous dykes cutting the granite are a small number composed of a unique orthophyre. This was given the name Lundyite in 1914, although the term – never precisely defined – has since fallen into disuse.[8]


The name Lundy is believed to come from the Old Norse word for "Puffin Island (Lundey), from the Norse lundi for "puffin". An alternative explanation suggested has "Lund" referring to a copse, or wooded area.[9] According to genealogist Edward MacLysaght this is unconnected with the surname Lundy, which he says is from Norman de la Lounde, a name recorded in mediæval documents in the counties of Tipperary and Kilkenny.[10]

Lundy has evidence of visitation or occupation from the Neolithic period onward, with Mesolithic flintwork, Bronze Age burial mounds, four inscribed gravestones from the early mediæval period,[11][12] and an early mediæval monastery (possibly dedicated to St Elen or St Helen).

Beacon Hill Cemetery

Sketch of Beacon Hill cemetery

Beacon Hill cemetery was excavated by Charles Thomas in 1969.[13] The cemetery contains four inscribed stones, dated to the 5th or 6th century AD. The site was originally enclosed by a curvilinear bank and ditch, which is still visible in the south west corner. However, the other walls were moved when the Old Light was constructed in 1819.

Thomas proposed a five-stage sequence of site usage: (1) An area of round huts and fields. These huts may have fallen into disuse before the construction of the cemetery. (2) The construction of the focal grave, an 11 ft by 8 ft rectangular stone enclosure containing a single cist grave. The interior of the enclosure was filled with small granite pieces. Two more cist graves located to the west of the enclosure may also date from this time. (3) Perhaps 100 years later, the focal grave was opened and the infill removed. The body may have been moved to a church at this time. (4) & (5) Two further stages of cist grave construction around the focal grave.

23 cist graves were found during this excavation. Considering that the excavation only uncovered a small area of the cemetery, there may be as many as 100 graves.

Inscribed stones

Inscribed stones

Four inscribed stones have been found in Beacon Hill cemetery:

  • 1400 OPTIMI,[13] or TIMI;[14] the name Optimus is Latin and male. Discovered in 1962 by D. B. Hague.[15]
  • 1401 RESTEVTAE,[13] or RESGEVT[A],[14] Latin, female i.e. Resteuta or Resgeuta. Discovered in 1962 by D. B. Hague.[15]
  • 1402 POTIT[I],[13] or [PO]TIT,[14] Latin, male. Discovered in 1961 by K. S. Gardener and A. Langham.[15]
  • 1403 [--]IGERNI [FIL]I TIGERNI,[13] or—[I]GERNI [FILI] [T]I[G]ERNI,[14] Brittonic, male i.e. Tigernus son of Tigernus. Discovered in 1905.[15]

Knights Templar

Lundy was granted to the Knights Templar by Henry II in 1160. The Templars were a major international maritime force at this time, with interests in North Devon, and almost certainly an important port at Bideford or on the River Taw in Barnstaple. This was probably because of the increasing threat posed by Norse sea raiders; however, it is unclear whether they ever took possession of the island. Ownership was disputed by the Marisco family who may have already been on the island during King Stephen's reign. The Mariscos were fined, and the island was cut off from necessary supplies.[16] Evidence of the Templars' weak hold on the island came when King John, on his accession in 1199, confirmed the earlier grant.[17]

Marisco family

Marisco Castle

In 1235 William de Marisco was implicated in the murder of Henry Clement, a messenger of Henry III.[18] Three years later, an attempt was made to kill Henry III by a man who later confessed to being an agent of the Marisco family. William de Marisco fled to Lundy where he lived as a virtual king. He built a stronghold in the area now known as Bulls' Paradise with walls 9 feet thick.[17] In 1242, Henry III sent troops to the island. They scaled the island's cliff and captured William de Marisco and 16 of his "subjects". Henry III built the castle (sometimes referred to still as the Marisco Castle) in an attempt to establish the rule of law on the island and its surrounding waters.[19]


The island was hard to govern. Over the next few centuries, trouble followed as both English and foreign pirates and privateers – including other members of the Marisco family – took control of the island for short periods. Ships were forced to navigate close to Lundy because of the dangerous shingle banks in the fast flowing River Severn and Bristol Channel, with its 32-foot tide, the second highest in the world. This made the island a profitable location from which to prey on passing Bristol-bound merchant ships bringing valuable goods from across the sea.[20]

In 1627 Barbary pirates from the Republic of Salé occupied Lundy for five years. The North African invaders, under the command of Dutch renegade Jan Janszoon, flew an Ottoman flag over the island. Some captured Europeans were held on Lundy before being sent to Algiers as slaves.[21][22][23] From 1628 to 1634 the island was plagued by pirate ships of French, Basque, English, and Spanish origin. These incursions were eventually ended by Sir John Pennington, but in the 1660s and as late as the 1700s the island still fell prey to French privateers.[24]

Civil war

In the English Civil War, Thomas Bushell held Lundy for King Charles I, rebuilding Marisco Castle and garrisoning the island at his own expense. He was a friend of Francis Bacon, a strong supporter of the Royalist cause and an expert on mining and coining. It was the last Royalist territory held between the first and second civil wars. After receiving permission from Charles I, Bushell surrendered the island on 24 February 1647 to Richard Fiennes, representing General Fairfax.[25] In 1656, the island was acquired by Lord Saye and Sele.[26]

The Old Light
Millcombe House
Inside St Helena's Church

18th and 19th centuries

The late 18th and early 19th centuries were years of lawlessness on Lundy, particularly during the ownership of Thomas Benson, a Member of Parliament for Barnstaple in 1747 and Sheriff of Devon, who notoriously used the island for housing convicts whom he was supposed to be deporting. Benson leased Lundy from its owner, Lord Gower, at a rent of £60 a year and contracted with the Government to transport a shipload of convicts to Virginia, but diverted the ship to Lundy to use the convicts as his personal slaves.

Later Benson was involved in an insurance swindle. He purchased and insured the ship Nightingale and loaded it with a valuable cargo of pewter and linen. Having cleared the port on the mainland, the ship put into Lundy, where the cargo was removed and stored in a cave built by the convicts, before setting sail again. Some days afterwards, when a homeward-bound vessel was sighted, the Nightingale was set on fire and scuttled. The crew were taken off the stricken ship by the other ship, which landed them safely at Clovelly.[27]

Sir Aubrey Vere Hunt of Curragh Chase purchased the island from John Cleveland in 1802 for £5,270. Sir Vere Hunt planted in the island a small, self-contained Irish colony with its own constitution and divorce laws, coinage and stamps. He failed in his attempt to sell the Island to the British Government as a base for troops, and his son Sir Aubrey Thomas de Vere also had great difficult in securing any profit from the property. The tenants came from Sir Vere Hunt's Irish estate and they experienced agricultural difficulties while on the island. This led Sir Vere Hunt to seek someone who would take the island off his hands. In the 1820s John Benison agreed to purchase the island for £4,500 but then refused to complete sale as he felt that that Aubrey could not make out a good title in respect of the sale terms, namely that the Island was free from tithes and taxes.[28]

Foundations for the first lighthouse were laid in 1787 but the lighthouse was not built until Trinity House obtained a 999-year lease in 1819. The 97-foot tower, on the summit of Chapel Hill, was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and built by Joseph Nelson at a cost of £36,000.[29] Because the site is 407 feet above sea level, the highest base for a lighthouse in Britain, the fog problem was not solved and the Fog Signal Battery[30] was built about 1861. The lighthouse had two lights, however they revolved so quickly that they gave the impression it was a fixed light with no flashes detectable. These may have contributed to the grounding, at Cefn Sidan, of the La Jeune Emma, bound from Martinique to Cherbourg in 1828. 13 of the 19 on board drowned, including Adeline Coquelin, the 12 year-old niece of Napoleon Bonaparte's divorced wife Josephine de Beauharnais.[31] Eventually the lighthouse was abandoned in 1897 when the North Lundy lighthouses were built. The Old Light and the associated keeper's houses are kept open by the Landmark Trust.[32]

William Hudson Heaven purchased Lundy in 1834, as a summer retreat and for the shooting, at a cost of 9,400 guineas (£9,870). He claimed it to be a "free island", and successfully resisted the jurisdiction of the mainland magistrates. Lundy was in consequence sometimes referred to as "the kingdom of Heaven", notwithstanding its being a Devonian island rather than a distant island kingdom. Many of the buildings on the island today, including St Helena's Church and Millcombe House (originally known simply as The Villa), date from the Heaven period. The Georgian-style Villa was built in 1836.[33] Heaven built the road from the beach, and received no financial assistance for it from its main user, Trinity House. The expense of building the road, the Villa and the general cost of running the island had a ruinous effect on the family's finances, which had been damaged by reduced profits from their sugar plantations in Jamaica.

In 1957 a message in a bottle from one of the seamen of the HMS Caledonia was washed ashore between Babbacombe and Peppercombe in Devon. The letter, dated 15 August 1843 read: "Dear Brother, Please e God i be with y against Michaelmas. Prepare y search Lundy for y Jenny ivories. Adiue William, Odessa". The bottle and letter are on display at the Portledge Hotel at Fairy Cross, in Devon. The Jenny was a three-masted schooner reputed to be carrying ivory and gold dust that was wrecked on Lundy (at a place thereafter called Jenny's Cove) on 20 February 1797. The ivory was apparently recovered some years later but the leather bags supposed to contain gold dust were never found.[34][35]


North lighthouse

The north and south lighthouses were built in 1897, to take over from the old lighthouse. The north lighthouse is 56 feet tall—slightly taller than the south one; they are painted white and were automated in 1991 and 1994. The south lighthouse has a focal length of 174 feet and a quick white flash every 15 seconds.[32] It can be seen as a small white dot from Hartland Point, 11 miles to the south east. It was automated and converted to solar power in 1994.[31] Both lighthouses are run and maintained by Trinity House.[36] The northern light, which has a focal plane of 157 feet, produces a quick white flash every 5 seconds.[32] It was originally lit by a 3-inch petroleum vapour burner and oil was lifted up from a small quay using a sled and winch, and then transported using a small railway (again winch-powered). The remains of this can be still seen, but it was abandoned in 1971 and the lighthouses use a discharge bulb fed from the island's main supply.[36] In 1985 the northern light was modernised six years later and was converted to solar power.[31]

20th and 21st centuries

William Heaven was succeeded by his son the Reverend Hudson Grosset Heaven who, thanks to a legacy from Sarah Langworthy (née Heaven), was able to fulfill his life's ambition of building a stone church on the island. St Helena's was completed in 1896, and stands today as a lasting memorial to the Heaven period. It has been designated by English Heritage a Grade II listed building.[37] He is said to have been able to afford either a church or a new harbour. His choice of the church was not however in the best financial interests of the island. The unavailability of the money for re-establishing the family's financial soundness, coupled with disastrous investment and speculation in the early 20th century, caused severe financial hardship.

One Puffin coin of 1929, bearing the portrait of Martin Coles Harman

Hudson Heaven died in 1916, and was succeeded by his nephew, Walter Charles Hudson Heaven.[38] With the outbreak of First World War, matters deteriorated seriously, and in 1918 the family sold Lundy to Augustus Langham Christie. In 1924, the Christie family sold the island along with the mail contract and the MV Lerina to Martin Coles Harman, who proclaimed himself a king. Harman issued two coins of Half Puffin and One Puffin denominations in 1929, nominally equivalent to the British halfpenny and penny, resulting in his prosecution under the Coinage Act of 1870. The House of Lords found him guilty in 1931, and he was fined £5 with fifteen guineas expenses. The coins were withdrawn and became collectors' items. In 1965 a "fantasy" restrike four-coin set, a few in gold, was issued to commemorate 40 years since Harman purchased the island.[39] Harman's son, John Pennington Harman was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in Kohima, India in 1944. There is a memorial to him at the VC Quarry on Lundy. Martin Coles Harman died in 1954.

Following the death of Harman's son Albion in 1968,[40] Lundy was put up for sale in 1969. Jack Hayward, a British millionaire, purchased the island for £150,000 and gave it to the National Trust,[39] who leased it to the Landmark Trust. The Landmark Trust has managed the island since then, deriving its income from arranging day trips, letting out holiday cottages and from donations.

The island is visited by over 20,000 day-trippers a year.

Military remains

Wreck of Battleship Montagu

HMS Montagu aground on Lundy, 1906

A naval footnote in the history of Lundy was the wreck of the Royal Navy battleship HMS Montagu. Steaming in heavy fog, she ran hard aground near Shutter Rock on the island's southwest corner at about 2:00 a.m. on 30 May 1906.[41] Thinking they were aground at Hartland Point on the English mainland, a landing party went ashore for help, only finding out where they were after encountering the lighthouse keeper at the island's north light.

Strenuous efforts by the Royal Navy to salvage the badly damaged battleship during the summer of 1906 failed, and in 1907 it was decided to give up and sell her for scrap. Montagu was scrapped at the scene over the next fifteen years. Diving clubs still visit the site, where armour plate and live 12-inch shells remain on the seabed.

Remains of a German Heinkel 111H bomber

During Second World War two German Heinkel He 111 bombers crash landed on the island in 1941. The first was on 3 March, when all the crew survived and were taken prisoner. The second was on 1 April when the pilot was killed and the other crew members were taken prisoner.[42] The plane had bombed a British ship and one engine damaged by anti aircraft fire, forcing it to crash land. A few remains can be found on the crash site. Reportedly to avoid reprisals the crew concocted a story that they were on a reconnaissance mission.[43]



Lundy Cabbage (growing at Bristol Zoo)

The island has is one endemic plant species, the Lundy Cabbage (Coincya wrightii), a species of primitive brassica.[44]

By the 1980s the eastern side of the island had become overgrown by rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum) which had spread from a few specimens planted in the garden of Millcombe House in Victorian times, but eradication of this non-native plant has been undertaken by volunteers over the past fifteen years in an operation known on the island as "rhody-bashing", which it is hoped will be completed by 2012. The vegetation on the plateau is mainly dry heath, with an area of waved Calluna heath towards the northern end of the island, which is also rich in lichens, such as Teloschistes flavicans and several species of Cladonia and Parmelia. Other areas are either a dry heath/acidic grassland mosaic, characterised by heaths and Western Gorse (Ulex gallii), or semi-improved acidic grassland in which Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) is abundant. Tussocky (Thrift) (Holcus/Armeria) communities occur mainly on the western side, and some patches of Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) on the eastern side.[1]

Animals and bugs

Until 2006 the Lundy Cabbage was thought to support two endemic species of beetle. The beetles are now known not to be unique to Lundy, but an endemic weevil, the Lundy cabbage flea beetle, (Psylliodes luridipennis) has been discovered. The island is also home to the purseweb spider (Atypus affinis), the only British member of the bird-eating spider family.[45]


The number of puffins (Fratercula arctica), which may have given the island its name, declined in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with the 2005 breeding population estimated to be only two or three pairs, as a consequence of depredations by brown and black rats (Rattus rattus) (which have now been eliminated) and possibly also as a result of commercial fishing for sand eels, the puffins' principal prey. Since 2005, the breeding numbers have been slowly increasing. Adults were seen taking fish into four burrows in 2007,[46] and six burrows in 2008.[47]

A group of puffins, June 2008

As an isolated island on major migration routes, Lundy has a rich bird life and is a popular site for birdwatching. Large numbers of Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) nest on the cliffs, as do Razorbill (Alca torda), Guillemot (Uria aalge), Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus), Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), Skylark (Alauda arvensis), Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Linnet (Carduelis cannabina). There are also smaller populations of Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and Raven (Corvus corax).

Lundy has attracted many vagrant birds, in particular species from North America. The island's bird list totals 317 species.[48] This has included the following species, each of which represents the sole British record: Ancient Murrelet, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Towhee. Records of Bimaculated Lark, American Robin and Common Yellowthroat were also firsts for Britain (American Robin has also occurred two further times on Lundy).[48] Veerys in 1987 and 1997 were Britain's second and fourth records, a Rüppell's Warbler in 1979 was Britain's second, an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler in 2004 was Britain's fourth, and a Black-faced Bunting in 2001 Britain's third.[48]


Sika Deer

Lundy is home to an unusual range of mammals, almost all introduced, including a distinct breed of wild pony, the Lundy Pony. Until recently, Lundy and the Shiant Isles in the Hebrides were the only two places in the United Kingdom where the Black rat (Rattus rattus) could be found. It has since been eradicated on the island, in order to protect the nesting seabirds. Other species which have made the island their home include the Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), Sika Deer (Cervus nippon), Pygmy Shrew (Sorex minutus) and feral goats (Capra aegagrus hircus). Unusually, 20% of the rabbits (Leporidae) on the island are melanistic compared with 4% which is typical in the UK. In mid-2006 the rabbit population was devastated by myxomatosis, leaving only 60 pairs from the previous 15–20,000 individuals. Soay Sheep (Ovis aries) on the island have been shown to vary their behaviours according to nutritional requirements, the distribution of food and the risk of predation.[49]

Visiting Lundy

The Oldenburg sails into Ilfracombe harbour
  • Summer months (April to October): visitors are carried on the Landmark Trust's own vessel, MS Oldenburg]], which sails from both Bideford and Ilfracombe. Sailings are usually three days a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with additional sailings on Wednesdays during July and August. The voyage takes on average two hours, depending on ports, tides and weather.
  • Winter months (November to March), the Oldenburg comes out of service, and the island is served by a scheduled helicopter service from Hartland Point. The helicopter operates on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Private aircraft are provided for by a grass runway, allowing access to small STOL aircraft skilfully piloted.[50]

Entrance to Lundy is free for anyone arriving by scheduled transport. Visitors arriving by non-scheduled transport are charged a small entrance fee, currently (July 2007) £5.00, with an additional charge payable by those using light aircraft. Anyone arriving on Lundy by non-scheduled transport is also subject to an additional fee for transporting luggage to the top of the island.

In 2007, Derek Green, Lundy's general manager, launched an appeal to raise £250,000 to save the mile-long Beach Road, which had been damaged by heavy rain and high seas, and gives the only safe access to the top of the island, above the only jetty.[51] The fund-raising was completed on 10 March 2009.[52]

Kayaking to Lundy

Properly equipped and experienced canoeists can kayak to the island from Hartland Point or Lee Bay. This takes 4 to 6 hours depending on wind and tides.

Electricity supply

There is a small power station comprising three Cummins B and C series diesel engines, offering an approx 150 kVa 3 phase supply to most of the island buildings. Waste heat from the engine jackets is used for a district heating pipe. (cf. cogeneration.) There are also plans to collect the waste heat from the engine exhaust heat gases to feed into the district heat network to improve the efficiency further.

Staying on the island

Lundy has 23 holiday properties to choose from, sleeping between one and 14 people. These include a lighthouse, a castle and a Victorian mansion. Many of the buildings are constructed from the island's granite. All have heating and many also have wood-burning stoves with a bath or shower depending on size. Kitchens are fully equipped for those who prefer self-catering.

The island also has a campsite, at the south of the island in the field next to the shop. It has hot and cold running water, with showers and toilets in an adjacent building.


Lundy stamp of 1929

Owing to a decline in population and lack of interest in the mail contract, the Post Office ended its presence at the end of 1927.[53] For the next couple of years "King" Harman handled the mail to and from the island without charge. On 1 November 1929 he decided to offset the expense by issuing a series of private postage stamps, with a value expressed in "Puffins". The printing of Puffin stamps continues to this day. They have to be put on the bottom left hand corner of the envelope, so that the mainland sorting offices can process them: their cost includes the standard Royal Mail charges for onward delivery. Puffins are a type of stamp known to philatelists as a "local carriage label". Issues of increasing value were made over the years, including air mail, featuring a variety of people. Many are now highly sought-after by collectors.[54]

Lundy Island continues to issue stamps with the latest issues being in 2008 (50th birthday of MS Oldenburg) and 2010 (Island wildlife). The value of the early issues has risen substantially over the years. The stamps of Lundy Island serve to cover the postage of letters and cards from the island to the nearest GPO post box on the mainland for the many thousands of annual visitors, and have become part of the collection of the many British Local Posts collectors. These stamps appeared in 1970s in the Rosen Catalogue of British Local Stamps, and in the Phillips Modern British Locals CD Catalogue, published since 2003.[55] There is a comprehensive collection of these stamps in the Chinchen Collection, donated by Barry Chinchen to the British Library Philatelic Collections in 1977 and located at the British Library. This also the home of the Landmark Trust Lundy Island Philatelic Archive which includes artwork, texts and essays as well as postmarking devices and issued stamps.[56]

Labbe's Specialized Guide to Lundy Island Stamps serves as a definitive guide to the issues of Lundy Island including varieties, rarities and special philatelic items.[57]


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  55. Modern British Locals CD Catalogue, 2009 edition
  56. Philatelic Research at the British Library by David Beech
  57. Guide to Lundy Island stamps, 2008 edition


  • John Sack (2000). Report from Practically Nowhere. ISBN 0-595-08918-6. 
  • Davis, Tim & Jones, Tim (2007) The Birds of Lundy; illustrated by Mike Langman. Berrynarbor: Devon Bird Watching & Preservation Society and Lundy Field Society, ISBN 0-954-0088-7-1

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Lundy)