Samson, Isles of Scilly

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Isles of Scilly

Samson - Isles of Scilly.JPG
Samson seen from Tresco

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Grid reference: SV877127

Samson is the largest uninhabited island of the Isles of Scilly, the island hundred of Cornwall. It is 94 acres in area. The island consists of two hills, North Hill and South Hill, which are connected by an isthmus on which the former inhabitants built many of their sturdy stone cottages.[1]

Samson was named after Samson of Dol, a popular Breton saint.


The twin hills of Samson were formerly associated with breasts, in a similar way as the Paps of Jura and the Paps of Anu off Ireland. There are large ancient burial grounds both on the North Hill and South Hill.[2][3]

The island was inhabited until 1855, when the Lord Proprietor Augustus Smith removed the remaining population from the island.[4] By this point, the population was found to be suffering from severe deprivation, particularly due to a diet of limpets and potatoes, and consisted of only 2 families: the Woodcocks and the Webbers. Smith then built a deer park on the island, but all the deer escaped. In recent times, the area has become a protected wildlife site. The island houses many different birds such as terns and gannets, and many wild flowers.

In 1971 the island, along with the nearby islands of Green Island, Puffin Island, Stony Island, and White Island, were designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their biological characteristics.[5]


  • 1669: One family[6]
  • 1715: Only 3 men fit to carry arms
  • 1751: 2 households
  • 1794: 6 households
  • 1816: 40 people
  • 1822: 7 households (34 persons)
  • 1851: 3 households
  • 1855: 2 families, whom Augustus Smith removed in this year

Visiting the island

Boat trips to Samson are regularly available. There is no quay, so visitors disembark to a wooden plank. The remains of the old cottages can be explored, and there are also the remains of Smith's deer park and prehistoric entrance graves.[7] There are no amenities or services available, but guided walks are led by local experts.[8]

Literary associations

The island is featured in a number of books, for example:

  • Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo, a children’s book. (In the book, Samson is under a curse that needs to be lifted.)
  • Armorel of Lyonesse by Walter Besant. Many have cited Webber's Cottage on Samson as Armorel's house.[9]
  • The Dangerous Islands, a novel by Ann Bridge


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Samson, Isles of Scilly)
Isles of Scilly

St Mary's  • St Agnes  • Tresco  • Bryher  • St Martin's  • Gugh
Annet  •
Bishop Rock  • Crim Rocks  • Eastern Isles  • English Island  • Great Ganilly  • Gweal  • Norrard Rocks  • Rosevear  • Round Island  • Samson  • St Helens  • Teän  • Western Rocks  • White Island  • Zantman's Rock