History & Heritage
From shipwrecks to treasure, and from Bronze Age burial chambers to deserted villages, the history of Scilly is utterly compelling – especially as it mingles so tantalisingly with modern-day life on the islands. Scilly’s tiny land mass is home to 239 scheduled monuments, which means there is a greater density of historical sites here than anywhere else in the British Isles.
Everything on Scilly revolves around the sea… our maritime heritage is something that all Scillonian families are proud of with the traditional pastimes of flower farming, arable farming, fishing for lobsters, crabs and crawfish, and pilot gig rowing still prospering to this day.
Back in the mid-19th Century, around 200 men worked as pilots on the Isles of Scilly. With the 2018 World Pilot Gig Championships taking place this year 4th to 6th May, we take a brief look at how pilot gigs have carved through our waters throughout history.
Today, gigs (specially-designed sea-faring rowing boats with six oarsmen and a coxswain) are raced purely for pleasure particularly throughout Cornwall and the south west of England. Their
Four miles west of the Isles of Scilly in the Atlantic Ocean stands Bishop Rock Lighthouse, built in 1858 to mark a rock ledge 45 metres long and 16 metres wide – the islands’ most westerly danger.
Statuesque and majestic, it stands at the very edge of England – a pillar of strength that now protects seafarers from the dangers that lie ahead as they approach the rocky archipelago. At the time of its build, it
Exhibits of local interest from pre-history to the present day: the Romano-British brooches and coins from Nornour; the Bryher Sword and Mirror; the Civil War in Scilly; finds from many shipwrecks; model boats; collections of birds, shells and clay pipes; an old Scillonian kitchen and much, much more.
Scilly Walks is run by Dr Katharine Sawyer and offers guided walks, boat trips and slide shows to introduce you to 8000 years of archaeology and history in the Isles of Scilly. There are full day and half day visits to all the inhabited and several of the uninhabited islands.
Steve comes from a long line of boatmen: his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather before that. His brothers, Alec and Fraser are boatmen, too. “In fact, the Hicks family name on Scilly goes back some 500 years. My father was a boat builder on Scilly and one of the founding members of the St. Mary’s Boatmen’s Association.
“Scilly is a wonderful place; I feel a very strong attachment and have never wanted to
When summer visitors are enjoying beaches, sunny walks and ice-cream, it is quite a leap of imagination to think of Scilly during the winter months. Often I am asked what it’s like to live on Scilly in the winter, and I’m met by genuine surprise when I answer, “We are really busy”.
For the islands’ flower farmers, the season starts in October when the first of the scented narcissi are picked and we work,
“I first settled on the Isles of Scilly in 2002. I knew that by meeting and marrying Ben I would end up living on St. Martin’s – it came with the deal! He proposed to me on St. Helen’s. I’d been to Scilly several times growing up and I have lived in the south west and by the sea my whole life. I love the lifestyle; it suits me down to the ground.