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.
The island 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 century.
The remains of the thirteenth century Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary can still be seen on the island. The Abbey 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 place of 20,000 ‘saints’ dates from the early middle ages, when three pilgrimages to Bardsey were said to equal one to Rome.
Read more on the early history of the island here.
The 30m lighthouse - the tallest square-towered lighthouse in the UK - was completed in 1821. The lighthouse is managed by Trinity House and in 2014 the light changed from a glass prism on a mercury base to a series of red LED lights. The lighthouse is now powered entirely by solar power.
Read more on the history of the Bardsey Lighthouse.
King of Enlli
There have been many 'kings' of Enlli recorded in history, including John Williams II pictured here.
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.
For more information about the kings of Enlli click here.
Lord Newborough & 19th Century Buildings
Most of the houses that stand today were built by the landowner, Lord Newborough in the 1870s. At the same time, a new non-conformist chapel was built.
The exception is Carreg Bach, which is probably typical of the houses before the nineteenth century building programme.
Education on Bardsey
The School House was originally the 'old chapel' building for islanders until a more formal school was established in 1875 for the twelve students on the island at the time. However, there are records of children in education on Bardsey as early as 1771. To read more about the schooling and teachers of Bardsey over the years click here.
Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory
In 1953 the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory was established to monitor the wildlife of the island. The Observatory was established by a number of supporters across Wales and the wider UK birding community. The Observatory has been based in Cristin and its outbuildings since its formation and remains an active member of the Bird Observatories Council. An account of the first years of the observatory has recently been published by BBFO and is available to purchase from the island.
To read more about the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory click here
Bardsey Island Trust
In 1978 a campaign was launched to buy Bardsey from the Hon. Michael Pearson (Lord Cowdray). The campaign was led by dedicated Bardsey enthusiasts from all over the UK and supported by many Welsh academcis and public figures, as well as the church in Wales. The island was bought in 1979. To learn more about the work of the Bardsey Island Trust click here.