Bardsey has been noted as
a place of pilgrimage since the early years of
Christianity, but there are signs of settlements
on the island that date from earlier periods.
It became a focal point for
the Celtic Christian Church, attracting devout
monks, and it is believed that St Cadfan began
building a monastery on the island in the sixth
|Photograph by Permission
of the National Library of Wales
Abbey ruins are preserved today is the thirteenth
St. Mary’s and was in use until
the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 after
which Bardsey was left to the pirates and marauders
until the establishment of a farming and fishing
community in the mid-eighteenth century. The
well-known reference to the island as the burial
twenty thousand ‘saints’ dates from
the early middle ages, when three pilgrimages
to Bardsey were said to equal one to Rome.
The 30m lighthouse - the tallest
square-towered lighthouse in the UK - was completed
in 1821. At
the beginning of the twentieth century, the population
of the island was around 100, but in 1925 the ‘King’ of
Enlli, Love Pritchard (the title was bestowed on
successive community leaders by Lord Newborough),
led most of the remaining inhabitants to the mainland
to seek a less laborious way of life. Others began
to settle there shortly afterwards, making a living
mainly by farming and fishing.
The Bird Observatory
was opened in 1953, and the island was bought
by the Bardsey Island Trust in 1979.
Most of the houses that stand
today were built by the landowner, Lord Newborough
in the 1870s. The exception is Carreg Bach, which
is probably typical of the houses before the nineteenth
century building programme.
At the same time, a new non-conformist chapel was built.