Lundy is the largest island in the Bristol Channel, lying off the coast of Devon, England, approximately one third of the distance across the channel between England and Wales. Lundy gives its name to one of the British Sea Areas and is one of the islands of England.
As of 2007, there was a resident population of 28 people, including volunteers. These include a warden, 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.
In a 2005 opinion poll of Radio Times readers, Lundy was named as Britain's tenth greatest natural wonder. The entire island has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it was England's first statutory Marine Nature Reserve, because of its unique flora and fauna. It is managed by the Landmark Trust on behalf of the National Trust.
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 medieval period, and an early medieval monastery (possibly dedicated to St Elen or St Helen).
Beacon Hill cemetery was excavated by Charles Thomas in 1969. 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. Early Christian enclosures of this type are known as lanns. There are surviving examples in Luxulyan, in Cornwall; Mathry, Mydrim, and Clydey in Wales; and Stowford, Jacobstowe, Lydford, and Instow, in Devon.
Thomas proposed a five stage sequence of site use: (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, a 11ft by 8ft 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 to 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.
Four Celtic inscribed stones have been found in Beacon Hill cemetery:
1400 OPTIMI, or TIMI, the name is Latin and Male. Discovered in 1962 by D.B Hague.
1401 RESTEVTAE, or RESGEVT[A], Latin, Female. Discovered in 1962 by D.B Hague.
1402 POTIT[I], or [PO]TIT, Latin, Male. Discovered in 1961 by K.S. Gardener and A. Langham.
1403 --]IGERNI [FIL]I TIGERNI, or --I]GERNI [FILI] [T]I[G]ERNI, Brittonic, Male. Discovered in 1905.
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. It is likely this was because of the increasing threat posed by the 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 been already on the island during King Stephen's reign. The Mariscos were fined, and the island was cut off from necessary supplies. Evidence of the Templars' weak hold on the island came when King John, on his accession in 1199, confirmed the earlier grant.
William de Marisco was implicated in the murder of Henry Clement, one of the king's messengers, in 1235. In 1238, an attempt was made on the king's life by a man who later confessed to being an agent of the Marisco family; William de Marisco fled to the island, where he lived as a virtual king. He built a stronghold in the area now known as Bulls' Paradise with thick walls that safeguarded him and his 'subjects'. This triggered a concerted effort to rid the then king, Henry III, of the family. In 1242, the king sent his best men to scale the island's cliff, and William de Marisco and 16 of his accomplices were captured and tried. The king built the castle (sometimes erroneously referred to as the Marisco Castle) in an attempt to establish the rule of law on the island and its surrounding waters.
A period of anarchy followed, with English and foreign pirates and privateers—including other members of the Marisco family—taking control of the island for short periods. They found it profitable to capture the many passing Bristol merchant ships bringing back valuable goods from overseas. Because of the dangerous shingle banks in the fast flowing River Severn and Bristol Channel, with its tide, the second highest in the world, ships were forced to navigate close to Lundy.
Around 1645 Barbary Pirates under command of the Dutch renegade Jan Janszoon operating from the Moroccon port of Salé occupied Lundy, before he was expelled by the Penn. During this time there were reports of captured slaves, being sent to Algiers and of the Islamic flag flying over Lundy.
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. This was the last part of the Royalist lands to capitulate to the Parliament forces, and only after a year-long siege. Richard Fiennes, representing General Fairfax, received the surrender.
In 1656 the island was acquired by Lord Say and Sele.
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 per annum 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.
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 tower was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and built by Joseph Nelson at a cost of £36,000. Because the site is above sea level, the highest in Britain, the fog problem was not solved and The Fog Signal Battery was built in circa 1861 but eventually the lighthouse was abandoned in 1897 when the North and South Lundy Lighthouses were built.
William Hudson Heaven purchased Lundy in 1834, as a summer retreat and for the shooting, at a cost of 9,400 guineas. 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." It belongs in fact to the county of Devon, and has always been part of the hundred of Braunton. 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. However, the expense of building the road from the beach (no financial assistance being provided by Trinity House, despite their regular use of the road following the construction of the lighthouses), 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.
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. 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.
Hudson Heaven died in 1916, and was succeeded by his nephew, Walter Charles Hudson Heaven. With the outbreak of World War I, 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 value in 1929, nominally equivalent to the British halfpenny and penny, resulting in his prosecution under the United Kingdom's 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. He died in 1954.
Residents did not pay taxes to the United Kingdom and had to pass through customs when they travelled to and from Lundy Island. Although the island was ruled as a virtual fiefdom, its owner never claimed to be independent of the United Kingdom, in contrast to later territorial "micronations".
Following the death of Harman's son Albion in 1968, 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, who leased it to the Landmark Trust. The Landmark Trust has managed the island since then, deriving its income from arranging day trips and letting out holiday cottages.
The island is visited by over 20,000 day-trippers a year, but during September 2007 had to be closed for several weeks due to an outbreak of Norovirus.
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 May 30, 1906. 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.
Lundy is located at (51.177191, 4.6661). It is long from north to south by wide, with an area of . The highest point on Lundy is at 142 metres (466 ft). A few meters off the southeastern coast is Seal's Rock.
The island is primarily composed of granite from the palaeocene period, with slate at the southern end; the plateau soil is mainly loam, with some peat. 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.
There is one endemic plant species, the Lundy Cabbage (Coincya wrightii), a species of primitive brassica. The Lundy cabbage is unique in that two species of beetles that feed on it, the Lundy cabbage flea beetle and the Lundy cabbage weevil, which also occur nowhere else in the world.
The eastern side of the island has become overgrown by rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum) but action is in hand to eradicate this non-native plant 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.
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.
As an isolated island on major migration routes, Lundy has a rich bird life and is a popular site for birding. 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), 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, particular species from North America. The island's bird list totals 317 species. 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). 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.
Other British Birds rarities that have occurred (single records unless otherwise indicated) are: Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Gyrfalcon (3 records), Little and Baillon's crakes, Collared Pratincole, Semipalmated (5 records), Least (2 records), White-rumped and Baird's (2 records) sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Bridled Tern, Pallas's Sandgrouse, Great Spotted, Black-billed and Yellow-billed (3 records) cuckoos, European Roller, Olive-backed Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Alpine Accentor, Thrush Nightingale, Red-flanked Bluetail, Black-eared (2 records) and Desert wheatears, White's, Swainson's (3 records), and Grey-cheeked (2 records) thrushes, Sardinian (2 records), Arctic (3 records), Radde's and Western Bonelli's warblers, Isabelline and Lesser Grey shrikes, Red-eyed Vireo (7 records), Two-barred Crossbill, Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll warblers, Yellow-breasted (2 records) and Black-headed (3 records) buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2 records), Bobolink and Baltimore Oriole (2 records).
Lundy is home to a range of unusual 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 UK 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 decimated 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.
In 1971 a proposal was made by the Lundy Field Society to establish a marine reserve. Provision for the establishment of statutory Marine Nature Reserves was included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and on 21 November 1986 the Secretary of State for the Environment announced the designation of a statutory reserve at Lundy.
There is an outstanding variety of marine habitats and wildlife, and a large number of rare and unusual species in the waters around Lundy, including some species of seaweed, branching sponges, sea fans and cup corals.
In 2003 the first statutory No Take Zone (NTZ) for marine nature conservation in the UK was set up in the waters to the east of Lundy island. In 2008 this was declared as having been successful in several ways including the increasing size and number of Lobsters within the reserve, and potential benefits for other marine wildlife, however the no take zone has received a mixed reaction from local fishermen.
There are two ways of getting to Lundy, depending upon the season of travel. During the 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.
During the 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, with flights between 12 noon and 2 pm. The heliport is a field at the top of Hartland Point, not far from the Beacon.
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. The road was built in the first half of the 19th century to provide people and goods with safe access to the top of the island, above the only jetty.
Lundy has 23 holiday properties to choose from sleeping between 1 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 wishing to self-cater.
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.
The island is administered as part of Torridge district of the English county of Devon. It belongs to the ward of Clovelly Bay. It is part of the constituency electing the Member of parliament for Torridge and West Devon and the South West England constituency for the European Parliament.
Owing to a decline in population and lack of interest in the mail contract, the GPO ended its presence at the end of 1927. For the next couple of years "King" Harman handled the mail to and from the island without charge. On November 1 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.
Lundy Island continues to issue stamps with the latest issues being in 2007 featuring owls in a souvenir sheet format. The value of the early issues has risen substantially over the years. 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.